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Scottish Automobile Club Sign, corner of Lennox Street and Oxford Terrace, Edinburgh

A Category C Listed Building in Inverleith, Edinburgh

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9563 / 55°57'22"N

Longitude: -3.215 / 3°12'53"W

OS Eastings: 324236

OS Northings: 674367

OS Grid: NT242743

Mapcode National: GBR 8JD.89

Mapcode Global: WH6SL.LK85

Plus Code: 9C7RXQ4P+G2

Entry Name: Scottish Automobile Club Sign, corner of Lennox Street and Oxford Terrace, Edinburgh

Listing Name: Scottish Automobile Club Sign, on the corner of Lennox Street and Oxford Terrace, Edinburgh

Listing Date: 24 March 2021

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407408

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52580

Building Class: Cultural

County: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Inverleith

Traditional County: Midlothian

Description

Circular cast iron sign erected between 1900 and 1917, comprising a saltire surrounded by inscription 'Scottish Automobile Club'. The sign is situated at the corner of Lennox Street and Oxford Terrace. It is unpainted and mounted on a post around two and a half meters high.

Historical development

The Scottish Automobile Club was founded in 1899 to promote automobilism in Scotland. Founder members included William Douglas Weir, 1st Viscount Weir. The club motto was 'Gang Warily' and the organisation promoted the responsibility of automobile ownership, as well as the benefits gained by motoring and touring to Scotland's economy. Membership of the club grew steadily, and in 1912 numbered 1,826 members, ranging from car owners to chauffeurs.

In the early 20th century regulations for road safety and management were starting to be established. Responsibility for road signage passed to highway authorities in 1903 and the 1909 Roads Development and Improvement Funds Act saw the beginning of standardisation for road signs. However, no guidelines were issued until 1921.

The Scottish Automobile Club erected their own signs from around 1900. The design of this sign indicates that it was produced before 1917 when the club became known as the Royal Scottish Automobile Club.

Statement of Interest

Architectural interest

Design

The sign, which sits on a tall pole, is characteristic of the Scottish Automobile Club's designs for the period prior to 1917 and prominently displays the organisation's crest. Holes in the pole indicate that it likely also had other attached signs which informed motorists of upcoming hazards or used for directions. The Scottish Automobile Club's signs were painted red, with lettering in white and black however the original paintwork has now faded. Although mass produced, it is of good quality cast iron construction which was also typical of road signs at the time. The lack of secondary signage and the loss of original paint has not adversely affected the sign's design interest.

Setting

The sign is located in the New Town Conservation Area. This is likely to be the original location, installed on a sharp bend in the road in a residential part of Edinburgh's New Town. It was common for affluent urban areas to be early adopters of 'automobilism', prompting the need for road safety signage in this particular part of Edinburgh.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

The Scottish Automobile Club erected their own signs from around 1910. The design of the sign indicates that it was produced before 1917 when the club became known as the Royal Scottish Automobile Club. This Scottish Automobile Club Sign is an early example of a road sign in Scotland erected in the early years of car ownership and motoring.

It is also an extremely rare survival of a road sign as not many examples from this era have remained in their original roadside location due to changing regulations. The website flickr shows a number of Scottish Automobile Club signs still in situ in 1975, but it is likely that very few still survive (2020). At present we do not know of another surviving Scottish Automobile Club sign at a roadside location.

Social historical interest

The survival of this early road sign is of significant social interest for what it shows about motoring, road safety and car ownership in the early 20th century. The Scottish Automobile Club thrived in the decades following its founding in 1899, becoming the Royal Scottish Automobile Club in 1917 and taking up substantial and elegant headquarters on Blythswood Square (listed at category B, LB32976) in Glasgow in 1926.

Membership was broad, ranging from car owners to chauffeurs. The club creed was 'Gang Warily' and it promoted social responsibility and expounded the benefits gained by motoring and touring to Scotland's economy through tourism and business.

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