Studland Motor Road

The UK's first motorway is unclassified, tolled and links a small Dorset village to a chain ferry. Sounds rather improbable, yes, but we don't make claims like that lightly.

It wasn't until 1949 that the Special Roads Act provided the legal framework for motorways, and most history books will tell you that while the likes of Lord Beaulieu sought legal powers for motorways much earlier than that date, none were ever granted. But that's not quite true. In 1923 an act of Parliament was passed to enable the building of the UK's first road that was reserved solely for the use of motor vehicles. And so was formed...

The Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company

Just how did this corner of Dorset come to have the UK's first motor road? And just why exactly do all the signs in Studland refer to a "toll ferry"?

A look around this unique and unassuming road - one that shows no sign of being a part of Britain's road history.

Page 1 of 3

With thanks to Jonathan Winkler for suggesting the Studland Motor Road as a topic that might reward further research. It certainly did!

In this section

What's new

South London's lost motorways

Completing the story of London's epic Ringways, we've just published the Southern Radials, five more motorways that never saw the light of day.

To the north east!

Two new additions to our collection of Opening Booklets take us to Darlington and Middlesbrough.

The ghost junction

The only UK motorway that didn’t connect to ordinary roads finally got its own interchange in 2019. But it's not open, because it still doesn’t touch any ordinary roads.

Share this page

Have you seen...

Emergency Diversion Routes

Those funny black and yellow symbols are everywhere - and they might just get you back on track one day.

About this page

Published2 October 2010

Last updated13 August 2018