The first recorded journey of a motor car in England was made 126 years ago this month by a Datchet resident, the Honourable Evelyn Ellis, in his 1895 Panhard-Levassor.

Ellis lived at 'Rosenau' on Southlea Road. During time in France and Germany, he became interested in the motor industry and wanted to see it established in England.

One great obstacle here was the 'Red Flag' Act which restricted steam-powered vehicles from driving more than 4mph on public roads, and he planned to defy this Act in the hope that it would be repealed.

In June 1895, Ellis purchased his motor car, powered by a Daimler engine, for £200 from the Paris firm of Panhard-Levassor. He took it across the Channel and then on to Micheldever Station in Hampshire.

From there he drove to Datchet on July 6, 1895 with another motoring pioneer, Frederick Simms, who recorded their journey: "We made good progress on the old London coaching road; but not without anxiety as to how the horses would behave towards their new rivals but, out of 133 horses we passed, only two little ponies did not seem to appreciate the innovation.

"On our way we passed a great many horse-drawn vehicles of all kinds, as well as cyclists. It was a very pleasing sensation to go along the delightful roads at speeds varying from three to 20 mph, and our iron horse behaved splendidly.

"We arrived at Mr Ellis's house at Datchet at 5.40pm, completing our most enjoyable journey of 56 miles, the first ever by a petroleum motor carriage in this country, in five hours 32 minutes, exclusive of stoppages and at an average speed of 9.84 mph. Whole villages turned out to behold, open mouthed, the new marvel of locomotion. 

"Coaches were delayed to enable their passengers to look at our horseless vehicle, and cyclists would stop to gaze enviously at us as we surmounted hills with ease. Mr Ellis's motor carriage is a neat and compact four-wheeled dog-cart with accommodation for four persons. Consumption of petroleum is little over a halfpenny per mile; there is no smoke, heat or smell, and it runs with no vibration."

Ellis was never actually stopped by the police but the 'Red Flag' Act was repealed in 1896 and celebrated by the first Motor Car Tour to Brighton, or the 'Brighton Run', when the speed limit was raised to 12mph.

Evelyn Ellis was one of the first directors of the new Daimler Motor Company, launching Britain's motor industry in 1897.

Local historian Janet Kennish is president of the Datchet Village Society and author of several books about Datchet. For more information, see and

The annual re-creation of The Ellis Journey from Micheldever to Datchet will resume in 2022. For details, visit