The Secret History of the Motorway


This feature is part of the celebration of:

50th anniversary of motorways

So, what was the first motorway in Britain to open?

Well, the usual answer given is the M1, logically enough.

However, the first motorway to open wasn't the M1 at all, or its siblings the M10 and M45, all of which opened on the same day, in November 1959. Nope, it was the M6 (and M55!) Preston Bypass, which opened on 5 December 1958.

In order to celebrate this fact, we're going to take a look at the history of motorways in Britain, from the initial false starts prior to World War II to the modern "dirty word", via the exciting times of the early contruction phase and the downturn of the mid-1970s.

It's a story that starts much, much earlier than people might imagine, and it's one of twists and turns of fate, of official disinterest then policy, of public enthusiasm and hatred.

So where do we start?

Way, way back in the last years of the nineteenth century...

Early Struggles >>


The Secret History of the Motorway



Early Struggles

Indifference to Acceptance

The Tide Turns

The Special Roads Act

The Preston Bypass

The M1, M10 and M45

The Motorway Age

Plans, Big Plans

Low Priority

Last Hurrah

Much Ado About Nothing Much

What of the Future?




Maps and Plans


Further Reading


See Also:

50 years of Motorways