BSM Amnesty

BSM searches for motoring archive

  • Appeal launched to uncover more about BSM’s history
  • Photos available of recently discovered BSM memorabilia
  • People asked to bring forward old branded items in donation amnesty

The UK’s oldest driving school is launching an appeal to recover important pieces of motoring memorabilia.

BSM, which was founded in 1910, has a rich history and a unique place in the heart of the UK’s motoring story, but over the years many branded items from BSM’s history have left the company’s ownership.

It is believed these items include original BSM ‘L’ plates and driving simulators from the early 1900’s, as well as old training manuals, documents and photographs.

Mark Peacock, head of BSM, said: “Since BSM was acquired, just over a year ago now, we have worked hard to grow the brand. We’re now looking into the heritage of BSM as it’s an important part of the business and the history of the brand, so we’d like to try to recover its historic memorabilia.

“Our recent research has uncovered a number of objects including an original certificate of motoring competence from 1917 as well as a 1935 driving manual.

“But from our photo archive we know that there are a great deal more BSM related historic artefacts and we would love to at least know where they are. “BSM is the UK’s most experienced driving school and objects from its history form a very important part of wider UK motoring history.”

The objects already uncovered show just how much our attitudes, roads and driving has changed since 1910, and also how some things have stayed very similar.

One early document highlights the benefits to women of taking a driving course: “Some wives have told us that they have been able to persuade their husband to purchase a car after having shown him, by taking a BSM course, that they can, in fact, drive and drive capably.”

Other early documents refer to the ‘painful process of reversing or parking the car’ and the ‘neglect or incorrect usage of various road signs’.

Old video footage also gives an insight into early driving tests, like this one http://ow.ly/9YqG8 created in 1935 after BSM was asked by the government to develop the first compulsory driving test.

And here http://ow.ly/a4rD8 you can see an old advert for BSM starring Formula One racing driver Jim Clark. The whereabouts of the original film reels for these are unknown but would be a welcome addition to the archive.

If you have any old BSM branded items that you would be happy to donate to or be catalogued in the motoring archive please email details to amnesty@bsm.co.uk

Objects uncovered so far (images available on request)

  • 1910-1935 driving instruction manual
  • Original 1917 course of driving instruction certificate and scroll holder
  • Historic photographs and posters
  • Three training books thought to be from the 30’s and 40’s
  • Various marketing collateral from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s

Overview of BSM’s history:

1910: Stanley Roberts begins teaching in a Spyker from a garage rented by his mother at 65 Peckham Rye, He offers a ‘popular course of mechanism and driving’ and introduces students to ‘ladies and gentlemen needing chauffeurs’. The chauffeur course lasts 4 days and places emphasis on ‘personal service, correct procedure, discretion and behaviour’.

1914 -1919: BSM is appointed to run war emergency courses and begins teaching the army to drive.

1934: Ministry of Transport asks BSM to develop first Compulsory Driving Test, costing 7shillings6d

1935: UK’s first pass certificate (No 000001) is awarded to BSM learner Mr Beene from Kensington on March 16th.

1939-1945: BSM pauses teaching civilians and joins the war effort, training D-Day drivers and thousands of service staff

1945: BSM introduces the vehicle adaptations that enable disabled ex-service personnel to drive

1957: Founder Stanley Roberts’ special assistant Denise McCann becomes the first BSM chairwoman and MD of BSM

1959: BSM begins teaching in colleges and schools

1968: BSM teaches Twiggy and Mary Quant to drive

1973: BSM is bought by Mansion House for £2million

1978: BSM signs deal with Rover to provide Triumph Dolomites as a majority of the fleet

1993: BSM floats on the stock market and the Vauxhall Corsa replaces the Austin Metro as the new fleet vehicle.

2009: Sienna Miller passes her test with BSM

2011: Acromas buys BSM.