It was a year that changed British culture and politics for good, with The Beatles dominating the airwaves, Doctor Who beaming into our homes and the Profumo Affair rocking Westminster.
But for such a seismic year of change and upheaval, Britain in 1963 seems rather sedate in a driving instructor’s video of a journey from London to Bath, with remarkably few drivers on the road.
In what is an early form of the modern dashcam, George Eyles, director of tests at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, guides us as he takes us down memory lane in a Jaguar MK2.
On the Great West Road out of London towards the south-west, George Eyles encounters few other drivers, whereas today it is often teeming with traffic
Mr Eyles, from Gloucestershire, who would have been 53 at the time of the video, instructs and offers passing comments about other drivers in a quintessentially clipped accent.
At one point, he is even on the receiving end of a two-fingered salute after honking his horn at a lane-hogger near London Airport, three years before its name changed to Heathrow, where the M4 was being constructed at the time.
He tells the driver of the Sunbeam Rapier: ‘Giving me the V-sign. I can’t think why he should think I’m interested in his politics.’
The instructor points out London Airport which was renamed to Heathrow three years later, and the new M4
The M4 near Heathrow is one of the busiest stretches of road today, unlike in the 1960s
On what is one of the busiest stretches of road today, there are virtually no cars in the instructor’s vicinity.
Mr Eyles continues to narrate his journey towards the south-west, passing through Reading, Theale, Newbury, Hungerford, Marlborough, Calne and Chippenham.
The time capsule video allows viewers to reminisce about local life in the towns of Berkshire and Wiltshire before heavy traffic took hold.
In Marlborough, the narration describes the high volume of cars which is very little compared to today
The high streets show life moving at a slower pace, with many on bicycles and few traffic control measures.
Many have commented on the lack of speed bumps, excessive signs and roadworks throughout the pleasant journey.
At one point, a bus conductor in Theale leans out of the back of the bus to indicate it would be turning right, a practice almost unthinkable today. The bus also uses an indicator, referred to by Mr Eyles as a ‘trafficator’.
In Newbury at the clock tower, the driving instructor goes around a roundabout which has moved to the other side of the clock today
Mr Eyles approaches Bath Abbey at the end of the journey and admires the old building
Others noted the changing rules on the road, with the instructor at one point giving way to traffic from the left at a roundabout.
The old police cars and buses also evoke strong memories, as well as the beautiful cars rarely seen on Britain’s streets today.
As does the advice of the head of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, who says after overtaking: ‘Acceleration is a safety factor if you use it wisely.’
At one point, a bus conductor in Theale leans out of the back of the bus to indicate it would be turning right, a practice almost unthinkable today
Today, the roads coming out of London are often at a standstill due to the heavy traffic
Who was George Eyles?
George Eyles was born in 1910 in Staple Hill, Gloucestershire.
After working with the Metropolitan Police, he joined the Institute of Advanced Motorists when it launched in 1956.
The charity’s goal was to improve road safety and driving standards.
George Eyles (left) took a number of eminent drivers on tests including two-time Formula One World Champion Graham Hill (right)
Sir Stirling Moss (left) passed a test carried out by George Eyles despite his car running out of petrol
Mr Eyles became director of tests and he retired in 1984 after serving 28 years.
Throughout his career, he gave tests to a number of eminent figures including Graham Hill and Sir Stirling Moss.
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