The Mitchell Motor Works and Garage
An early motor works and garage of which, at the time, it was claimed to be the world’s largest of its kind.
114 Wardour Street, London W1F 0TS.
In the early days of motoring, the temporary or longer term storage of a car was something of a problem. As Kathryn Morrison and John Minnis point out, open-air parking, as we know it today, carried a certain level of risk as most vehicles were open or soft-topped, and could not be locked; making them vulnerable to the weather and accidental or deliberate damage. Moreover, leaving a motor car unattended on the road could be regarded in law as an obstruction.
So, the ‘garage’ was invented – a place to keep, store or ‘stable’ the motor car, on a short or long term basis.
Opened in November 1906, to coincide with the Motor Exhibition at Olympia, the Mitchell Motor Works and Garage was not amongst the first purpose-built garages, but it did claim to be “the largest in the world”.
Advertisements in the London press made reference to the 70,000 sq ft of storage space that was available, capable of accommodating up to 500 cars.
Built on four floors, the main building, surrounding a large central courtyard, was made of reinforced concrete, with jack-arched floors, a brick skin, and large metal-framed windows. An electric car lift was fitted at the southern end of the courtyard.
The garage also published a pocket guide for motorists, entitled ‘Motor Roads to London’, designed to help visitors find their way both into and out of London. It did also, of course, encourage readers to avail themselves of some of the services offered by the garage.
“The machine shops, replete with the latest designed tools, are capable of any repair and the reproduction of any broken part.
“In the heart of the West End of London, within easy reach of over twenty theatres and the leading hotels, the garage should prove a great boon to motorists.”
The Mitchell Garage remained in business until 1917. By September of that year it had been taken over by Shaw & Kilburn, for many years one of the main Vauxhall dealers in the country. The Wardour Street address remained the company’s headquarters and showrooms until at least 1959.
In 2024, the main garage building was a luxury hotel, with some of its external features retained; and the former entrance on Wardour Street a fashionable café and restaurant – with the outside walls painted a very bright pink!
With thanks to the Richard Roberts’ Archive for their help in the preparation of this article.
• Carscapes: the motor car, architecture and landscape in England, Kathryn A Morrison and John Minnis, English Heritage 2012.
• Motor Roads to London, The Mitchell Works & Garage, 1907.