Registration marks – the early years   
 in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland from 1903.

The late 1880's and early 90's saw the development of the internal combustion engine as a means of power for a self-propelled road-going vehicle.  The Locomotives on Highways Act 1896 permitted the use of the faster and lighter petrol driven motor vehicles on public roads and by the early 1900's interest in the motor car was increasing as the number on the roads exceeded 5000.  They created problems for other road users as horse-drawn carriages were still in use, and there were the early motor-cyclists and pedal-cyclists, animals being driven by herdsmen as well as many pedestrians still unaware of road-safety procedures.   Although few regulations existed offences occurred and it was often not possible to identify the vehicle or the driver involved.   

The Motor Car Act 1903, enacted on 14 August 1903 and becoming effective on 1 January 1904, provided the principles for the means to identify both cars and drivers.  The details were in the Motor Car Act 1903 (Registration and Licensing) Order issued to the County Councils and County Borough Councils in England and Wales on 19 November 1903.  Similar Orders were issued to the Councils in Scotland and Ireland. 

Owners were now required to register all motor vehicles at a cost of twenty shillings (£1.00), five shillings (25p) for motor-cycles, and to display registration marks in a prominent position.  Drivers were required to have a licence renewed annually for the sum of five shillings (25p).

County Councils and County Borough Councils were given the powers to be Registration and Licensing Authorities and required to keep a register, in the prescribed format, of registered vehicles and licensed drivers, to be updated for change of ownership, when vehicles were scrapped, and for change of address, also to make this information available for use by the police.

A system of registration marks was created so that the County Council or County Borough Council where the vehicle was first registered could be identified from the list of letters set out in the First Schedule Part 1 of the Order 1903.  In his book Riden[1] states that these were allocated to Councils in descending order of population established by the 1901 Census.  However, neither the Act, nor the Order, explains this to be the basis for the system, so it is not possible to know where the authority for his statement comes from.  However, Moss [2] does not mention this in his brief history of registration marks.

Registration marks for England and Wales:
Twenty four single letters, omitting 'I' and 'Q' to avoid confusion with 'J' and 'O', and 'Z', were allocated to County and County Borough Councils: [3]

A – London CC;  B – Lancaster CC;  C – West Riding of Yorkshire (Wakefield);  D – Kent CC;

E – Stafford CC;  F – Essex CC;  H – Middlesex CC;  J – Durham CC;  K – Liverpool CBC;  L – Glamorgan CC;

M – Chester CC;  N – Manchester CBC;  O – Birmingham CBC;  P – Surrey CC;  R – Derby CC;

T – Devon CC;  U – Leeds CBC;  W – Sheffield CBC;  X – Northumberland CC;   Y – Somerset CC.

It is necessary to realise that County and County Borough Council boundaries were then much different than nowadays as old counties have been amalgamated and cities expanded.  The London CC was more aligned with the Cities of London and Westminster; Middlesex CC covered much of the area north of the River Thames and bordered with Essex CC to the east; south of the Thames, Surrey CC stretched northwards and Kent CC which extended westwards, were the administrative Counties for areas long since absorbed into the London conurbation.  Similarly the counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Durham, Glamorganshire and WR of Yorkshire covered most of the urban and fringe rural areas now well within the major cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Cardiff and Sheffield. 

The first two-letter marks allocated:

AA – Southampton CC;  AB – Worcester CC;  AC – Warwick CC;  AD – Gloucester CC;  AE – Bristol CBC; AF – Cornwall CC;  AH – Norfolk CC;  AJ – Nth Riding of Yorkshire;  AK – Bradford CBC;  AL – Nottingham CC;
AM – Wilts CC;  AN – West Ham CBC;  AO – Cumberland CC;  AP – East Sussex;  AR – Hertford CC;  AT – Kingston-upon-Hull CBC;  AU – Nottingham CBC;  AW – Salop CC;  AX – Monmouth CC and  AY – Leicester CC.

BA – Salford CBC; BB – Newcastle-upon-Tyne CBC;  BC – Leicester CBC;  BD – Northampton CC;  BE – Lindsey (Lincs) CC;  BF – Dorset CC;  BH – Bucks CC;  BL – Berks CC;  BH – Bucks CC;  BJ – East Suffolk CC;  BK – Portsmouth CBC;  BL – Berks CC;  BM – Bedford CC;  BN – Bolton CBC;  BO – Cardiff CBC;  BP – West Sussex CC; BR – Sunderland CBC;  BT – East Riding of Yorkshire;  BU – Oldham CBC;  BW – Oxford CC;  BX – Carmarthen CC and BY – Croydon CBC. 

CA – Denbigh CC;  CB – Blackburn CBC;  CC – Carnarvon CC;  CD – Brighton CBC; CE – Cambridge CC;  CF – West Suffolk CC;  CH – Derby CBC;  CJ – Hereford CC;  CK – Preston CBC;  CL – Norwich CBC;  CM – Birkenhead CBC; CN – Gateshead CBC;  CO – Plymouth CBC;  CP – Halifax CBC;  CR – Southampton CBC;  CT – Kesteven (Lincs) CC;  CU – South Shields CBC;  CW – Burnley CBC;  CX – Huddersfield CBC and CY – Swansea CBC.

DA – Wolverhampton CBC;  DB – Stockport CBC;  DC – Middlesbrough CBC;  DE – Pembroke CC;  DF – Northampton CBC;  DH – Walsall CBC;  DJ – St Helens CBC;  DK – Rochdale CBC;  DL – Isle of Wight CC;  DM – Flint CC;  DN – York CBC;  DO – Holland (Lincs) CC;  DP – Reading CBC;  DR – Devonport CBC;  DU – Coventry CBC;  DW – Newport (Monmouth) CBC;  DX – Ipswich CBC;  DY - Hastings CBC.

EA – West Bromwich CBC;  EB – Isle of Ely CC;  EC – Westmorland CC;  ED – Warrington CBC;  EE – Grimsby CBC;  EF – West Hartlepool CBC;  EH – Hanley CBC;  EJ – Cardigan CC;  EK – Wigan CBC;  EL – Bournemouth CBC;  EM – Bootle CBC;  EN – Bury CBC;  EO – Barrow-in-Furness CBC;  EP – Montgomery CC; ET – Rotherham CBC;  EU – Brecknock CC;  EV - Essex CC;  EW – Huntingdon CC;  EX – Great Yarmouth CBC and EY – Anglesey CC.

FA – Burton-on-Trent CBC;  FB – Bath CBC;  FC – Oxford CBC;  FD – Dudley CBC;  FE – Lincoln CBC;  FF – Merioneth CC;  FH – Gloucester CBC;  FJ – Exeter CBC;  FK – Worcester CBC;  FL – Soke of Peterborough CC;  FN – Canterbury CBC; FO – Radnor CC;  FP – Rutland CC.

Riden mentions that during 1904 some Dorset motorists objected to 'BF' and by the December the Local Government Board [4] had been persuaded to remove 'BF' and issue 'FX' to Dorset CC instead.  Motorists were given the opportunity to retain or exchange their 'BF' mark.  'BF' is only now, since 2006, being re-allocated by DVLA for older vehicles.

The first registration marks with one letter followed by one or two numbers were issued from December 1903, many being retrospective for cars already on the road.  A Circular sent to the Local Councils asked them not to issue numbers beyond '999' for any mark with the provision that they would be allocated further sets of two letters once the issue of their first allocation of letters had been completed.  In practice the Councils issued one and two letter marks with numbers up to '9999', which provided the much needed extension of the registration system beyond that initially envisaged with the 1903 Act, even though additional sets of two letters were allocated up until 1920 to those Councils meeting the greatest demands.

Riden states that an anomaly occurred as soon as the system was introduced in 1903 as some Councils, without mentioning which, used analogous systems to register cars and motor-cycles resulting in the same registration mark being issued to a car and a motor-cycle, and that this problem continued until it was resolved by the Roads Act 1920.  However, the Motor Car Act 1903 clearly states "… and every such council shall assign a separate number to every car registered with them."  The Order 1903 states at Part III Article XXI that "Except where the contrary intention appears, the expression 'motor car' in this Order includes a motor cycle."  So how did the anomaly, if it existed, occur?

Additional marks were required.
After the Order attached to the Roads Act 1920 the registration system was continually extended to 'YY' as many Councils were allocated several pairs of letters to meet the demand caused by the ever increasing number of vehicles appearing on the roads in the 1920's and 30's.

FR – Blackpool CBC;  FT – Tynemouth CBC;  FU – Lindsey (Lincs);  FV – Blackpool CBC;  FW – Lindsey (Lincs);  FX – Dorset CC; FY – Southport CBC.
GC – London CC;  GF – London CC;  GH – London CC; GJ – London CC;  GK – London CC;  GL – Bath CBC; GN – London CC;  GO – London CC;  GP – London CC;  GR – Sunderland CBC;  GT – London CC;  GU – London CC;  GV – West Suffolk CC;  GW – London CC;  GX – London CC;  GY – London CC.
HA – Smethwick CBC;  HB – Merthyr Tydfil CBC;  HC – Eastbourne CBC;  HD – Dewsbury CBC;  HE – Barnsley CBC;  HF – Wallasey CBC;  HG – Burnley CBC;  HH – Carlisle CBC;  HJ – Southend-on-Sea CBC;  HK – Essex CC;  HL – Wakefield CBC;  HM – East Ham CBC;  HN – Darlington CBC;  HO – Hampshire CC;  HP – Coventry CBC;  HR – Wiltshire CC;  HT – Bristol CBC;  HU – Bristol CBC;  HV – East Ham CBC;  HW – Bristol CBC;  HX – Middlesex CC;  HY – Bristol CBC.

NB: 'I-' marks were issued in Ireland see below.
JA – Stockport CBC;  JB – Berkshire CC;  JC – Caernarvonshire CC;  JD – West Ham CBC;  JE – Isle of Ely CBC;  JF – Leicester CBC;  JG – Canterbury CBC;  JH – Hertfordshire CC;  JJ – London CC;  JK – Eastbourne CBC;  JL – Holland (Lincs);  JM – Westmorland CC;  JN – Southend CBC;  JO – Oxford CBC;  JP – Wigan CBC;  JR – Northumberland CC;  JT – Dorset CC;  JU – Leicestershire CC;  JV – Grimsby CBC;  JW – Wolverhampton CBC;  JX – Halifax CBC;  JY – Plymouth CBC.
KA – Liverpool CBC;  KB – Liverpool CBC; KC – Liverpool CBC; KD – Liverpool CBC;  KE – Kent CC;
KF – Liverpool CBC;  KG – Cardiff CBC;  KH – Kingston-upon-Hull CBC;  KJ – Kent CC;  KK – Kent CC;  KL – Kent CC;  KM – Kent CC;  KN – Kent CC;  KO – Kent CC;  KP – Kent CC;  KR – Kent CC;  KT – Kent CC;  KU – Bradford CBC;  KV – Coventry CBC;  KW – Bradford CBC;  KX – Buckinghamshire CC;  KY – Bradford CBC.
LA – London CC;  LB – London CC;  LC – London CC;  LD – London CC;  LE – London CC;  LF – London CC;  LG – Cheshire CC;  LH – London CC;  LJ – Bournemouth CBC;  LK – London CC; LL – London CC; LM – London CC;  LN – London CC;  LO – London CC;  LP – London CC;  LR – London CC;  LT – London CC;  LU – London CC;  LV – Liverpool CC;  LW – London CC;  LX – London CC;  LY – London CC.
MA – Cheshire CC;  MB – Cheshire CC;  MC – Middlesex CC;  MD – Middlesex CC;  ME – Middlesex CC;  MF – Middlesex CC;  MG – Middlesex CC;  MH – Middlesex CC;  MJ – Bedfordhire CC;  MK – Middlesex CC;  ML – Middlesex CC;  MM – Middlesex CC;  MN – Isle of Man;  MO – Berkshire CC;  MP – Middlesex CC;  MR – Wiltshire CC;  MT – Middlesex CC;  MU – Middlesex CC;  MV – Middlesex CC;  MW – Wiltshire CC;  MX – Middlesex CC;  MY – Middlesex CC.
NA – Manchester CBC;  NB – Manchester CBC;  NC – Manchester CBC;  ND– Manchester CBC;  NE – Manchester CBC;  NF – Manchester CBC;  NG – Norfolk CC;  NH – Northampton CBC;  NJ – East Sussex CC;  NK – Hertfordshire CC;  NL – Northumberland CC;  NM – Bedfordshire CC;  NN – Nottinghamshire CC;  NO – Essex CC;  NP – Worcestershire CC;  NR – Leicestershire CC;  NT – Shropshire CC;  NU – Derbyshire CC;  NV – Northamptonshire CC;  NW – Leeds CBC;  NX – Warwickshire CC;  NY – Glamorganshire CC.
OA – Birmingham CBC;  OB – Birmingham CBC; OC – Birmingham CBC;  OD – Devonshire CC;  OE – Birmingham CBC;  OF – Birmingham CBC;  OG – Birmingham CBC;  OH – Birmingham CBC; OJ – Birmingham CBC;  OK – Birmingham CBC;  OL – Birmingham CBC;  OM – Birmingham CBC;  ON – Birmingham CBC;  OO – Essex CC;  OP – Birmingham CBC;  OR – Hampshire CC;  OU – Hampshire CC;  OV – Birmingham CBC;  OW – Southampton CBC;  OX – Birmingham CBC;  OY – Croydon CBC.
PA – Surrey CC;  PB – Surrey CC;  PB – Surrey CC;  PD– Surrey CC;  PE – Surrey CC;  PF – Surrey CC;  PG – Surrey CC;  PH – Surrey CC;  PJ – Surrey CC;  PK – Surrey CC;  PL – Surrey CC;  PM – East Sussex CC;  PN – East Sussex CC;  PO – West Sussex CC;  PP – Buckinghamshire CC;  PR – Dorset CC;  PT – County Durham;  PU – Essex CC;  PV – Ipswich CBC;  PW – Norfolk CC;  PX – West Sussex CC;  PY – Yorkshire NR.
RA – Derbyshire CC;  RB – Derbyshire CC;  RC – Derby CBC;  RD – Reading CBC;  RE – Staffordshire CC;  RF – Staffordshire CC;  RH – Kingston-upon-Hull CBC;  RJ – Salford CBC;  RK – Croydon CBC;  RL – Cornwall CC;  RM – Cumberland CC;  RN – Preston CBC;  RO – Hertfordshire CC;  RP – Northamptonshire CC;  RR – Nottinghamshire CC;  RT – East Suffolk CC;  RU – Bournemouth CBC;  RV – Portsmouth CBC;  RW – Coventry CBC;  RX – Berkshire CC;  RY – Leicestershire CBC.

NB: 'S-' marks were issued in Scotland, see below.
TA – Devonshire CC;  TB – Lancashire CC;   TC – Lancashire CC; TD – Lancashire CC; TE – Lancashire CC; TF – Lancashire CC; TG – Glamorganshire CC;  TH – Carmarthanshire CC;  TJ – Lancashire CC;  TK – Dorset CC;  TL – Kesteven (Lincs) CC;  TM – Bedfordshire CC;  TN – Newcastle-upon-Tyne CBC;  TO – Nottingham CBC;  TP – Portsmouth CBC;  TR – Southampton CBC;  TT – Devonshire CC;  TU – Cheshire CC;  TV – Nottingham CBC;  TW – Essex CC;  TX – Glamorganshire CC;  TY – Northumberland CC.
UA – Leeds CBC;  UB – Leeds CBC;  UC – London CC;  UD – Oxfordshire CC;  UE – Warwickshire CC;  UF – Brighton CBC;  UG – Leeds CBC;  UH – Cardiff CBC;  UJ – Shropshire CBC;  UK – Wolverhampton CBC;  UL – London CC;  UM – Leeds CBC;  UO – Devonshire CC;  UP – County Durham;  UR – Hertfordshire CC;  UT – Leicestershire CC;  UU – London CC;  UV – London CC;  UW – London CC;  UX – Shropshire CC;  UY – Worcestershire CC.
VB – Croydon CBC;  VC – Coventry CBC;  VE – Cambridgeshire CC;  VF – Norfolk CC;  VG – Norwich CBC;  VH – Huddersfield CBC;  VJ – Herefordshire CC;  VK – Newcastle-upon-Tyne CBC;  VL – Lincoln CBC;  VM – Manchester CBC;  VN – Yorkshire NR;  VO – Nottinghamshire CC;  VP – Birmingham CBC;  VR – Manchester CBC;  VT – Stoke-on-Trent CBC;  VU – Manchester CBC;  VV – Northampton CBC;  VW – Essex CC;  VX – Essex CC;  VY – York CBC.
WA – Sheffield CBC;  WB – Sheffield CBC;  WC – Essex CC;  WD – Warwickshire CC;  WE – Sheffield CBC;  WF – Yorkshire ER;  WH – Bolton CBC,  WJ – Sheffield CBC;  WK – Coventry CBC;  WL – Oxford CBC;  WM – Southport CBC;  WN – Swansea CBC;  WO – Monmouthshire CBC;  WP – Worcestershire CC;  WR – Yorkshire WR;  WT – Yorkshire WR;  WU – Yorkshire WR;  WV – Wiltshire CC;  WW – Yorkshire WR;  WX – Yorkshire WR;  WY – Yorkshire WR.
XA – London CC:  XB – London CC:  XC – London CC:  XD – London CC:  XE – London CC:  XF – London CC:  XG – Middlesbrough CBC;  XH – London CC:  XJ – Manchester CBC;  XK – London CC:  XL – London CC:  XM – London CC: XN – London CC:  XO – London CC:  XP– London CC:  XR – London CC:  XT – London CC:  XU – London CC:  XV – London CC:  XW– London CC:  XX – London CC:  XY – London CC.
YA – Somerset CC;  YB – Somerset CC;  YC – Somerset CC;  YD – Somerset CC;  YE – London CC; YF – London CC; YG – Yorkshire WR;  YH – London CC; YK – London CC;  YL – London CC;  YM – London CC;  YN – London CC; YO – London CC;  YP – London CC;  YR – London CC;  YT – London CC;  YU – London CC;  YV – London CC;  YW – London CC;  YX – London CC;  YY – London CC.

NB: 'Z-' marks were issued in Ireland, see below.

The end of two letter marks.
By the early 1930's the two letters with four numbers format had been fully used in areas of high demand despite several pairs of letters being allocated to those Councils, where a set of two letters had often lasted less than two years.  From July 1932 (Staffordshire - ARF) some Councils were able to issue registrations where the original pair of letters was preceded by another letter, commencing with 'A', giving the format of three letters followed by numbers 1-999.  With numbers to '999' often being issued within two to four months the preceding letter became 'B', then 'C', 'D' et seq.   With three letter marks the second and third letters identify the issuing authority; eg. ARL is RL - Cornwall CC.

Post-war marks.
As early as 1953 many Councils in areas of high demand had used all their allocated letters, up to 'Y', for their three letter marks.  A new format came into use when these Councils placed the number, again using 1-9999, before one (only D, E, F, H, K, N, R, U and W as above) and/or two letters.  There were then two formats in use, three letters followed by 1-999 and also 1-9999 followed by one or two letters, but by the early 1950's the system was again saturated by demand as both of these formats were nearly exhausted in many areas.  However, Councils in areas of low demand had not yet finished issuing the earliest two letter marks not having reached '9999'.

Marks considered to be objectionable.
As well as 'BF', after December 1904, not every combination of two or three letters was issued as some would form marks which were considered to be objectionable, mainly GOD and WC, although BRA, VD and WOG appeared. 

Special Issues.
Local Councils retained some individual numbers and sequences of letters for special issue, eg. GPO a London CC mark was issued to the GPO for many years.  Other marks were kept as a stock for later issue to a vehicle of that age.  Since the earliest days of registration there has been a market for prestigious marks and many have been held back over the years and are now being sold by DVLA. 

Later registration marks.
In September 1953 Middlesex CC, although issuing 'H' preceded by four numbers, began issuing marks with three numbers preceding three letters, and this format was used by all Councils until late 1964.  Between 1963 and 1965 another system, now with a suffix letter denoting the year of registration, was introduced to meet the continually rising demand as family, and company, vehicle ownership increased.  These marks are unlikely to relate to pre-war Austin Sevens.


Registration marks for Scotland:
Although the majority of new 'Sevens' were registered with Councils in England and Wales, there are surviving 'Sevens' which were first registered elsewhere in the UK.   The Motor Car Act Registration and Licensing (Scotland) Order 1904 set out the marks for identifying vehicles registered in Scotland.  These included the letters 'G', 'S' and 'V', however there is again no obvious system for allocation, so the Census 1901 may have again been the basis for allocation.   Hence, the pairs of letters allocated to the Scottish Councils in December 1903 went beyond the 'FP' issued to the Councils in England and Wales. 

Burgh Councils and County Councils were given the powers to be Registration and Licensing Authorities and single letters were allocated to: G – Glasgow BC; S – Edinburgh BC and V – Lanarkshire CC. 

Two-letter marks were issued from Dec '03/Jan '04 unless stated otherwise:

AG – Ayrshire CC from Nov '25; AS – Nairn CC and AV – Aberdeenshire CC from Sept '26.  

BS – Orkney CC.  CS – Ayrshire CC from May '34.  DS – Peeblesshire CC; ES – Perthshire CC.  

FG – Fife CC from Mar '25 and FS – Edinburgh BC from Apr '31.  

GA, GB, GD, GE from Mar '28 and GG from July '30 – Glasgow BC; GM – Motherwell & Wishaw CC from Jan '20;
GS – Perthshire CC from Jan '28.    

HS – Renfrewshire CC.   JS – Ross & Cromarty CC.

KS – Roxburghshire CC.   LS – Selkirk CC.  MS – Stirlingshire CC.  NS – Sutherland CC. 

OS – Wigtownshire CC.  PS – Zetland CC.   RG from Nov '28 and RS from ? – Aberdeen BC.

SA – Aberdeenshire CC; SB – Argyllshire CC; SC – Edinburgh BC in Oct '27; SD – Ayrshire CC;

SE – Banffshire CC; SF & SG – Edinburgh BC; SH – Berwickshire CC; SJ – Bute CC; SK – Caithness CC;

SL – Clackmannanshire CC; SM – Dumfriesshire CC; SN- Dunbartonshire CC; SO – Morayshire CC;

SP – Fife CC; SR – Angus CC; SS – East Lothian CC; ST – Inverness CC; SU – Kincardine CC;

SV – Kinross CC; SW – Kirkudbrightshire CC; SX - West Lothian CC; SY – Midlothian CC. 

TS – Dundee BC.  US – Govan CC which issued 1-529, then Glasgow BC issued 530 onwards from Mar '33.   

VA – Lanarkshire CC from July '22 and VD from May '30; VS – Greenock CC.

WG – Stirlingshire CC from Nov '30.  WS was issued by Leith CBC from 1904 to 1920 then by Edinburgh CBC from June '34. 

XS – Paisley BC.  YJ – Dundee BC from Jun '32; YS was issued by Partick BC issued 1-39 from Jan '04 then Glasgow BC issued 40-9999 from Jan '35.

As several of the Councils administered areas of lower demand they continued to issue two letter marks until the end of 1964 and even then some did not issue marks to 9999.   Bute CC was only ever allocated one set of letters and the last mark, 'SJ 2860', was issued in December 1963; Nairn CC reached 'AS 4097' by Dec '64; Orkney CC was able to issue 'BS 7777' and 'DS 6396' was the last mark from Peebles CC, both in Dec '64.  Sutherland CC reached 'NS 5683' by June '64 and for Zetland CC the last mark issued was 'PS 4080' in Dec '64, whilst Kinross issued 'SV 3722' in Dec '63, over sixty years after registration began.   

The Councils meeting the higher demands completed the issue of two letter marks to 9999 and the three letters preceding three numbers format appeared in the mid-1930's with Dumfriesshire issuing 'ASM' between June '33 and Feb '35.  Fife issued 'AFG' from Oct '34 to July '35 and Glasgow issued 'AGA' from Sept to Nov '36 with Edinburgh's 'ASC' appearing in Oct to Dec '36.  In most of the other areas three letter marks did not appear until 1955 to 1964.  


Registration marks for Ireland:
The County Councils and County Borough Councils were given the powers to be Registration and Licensing Authorities under a similar Order within the Motor Car Act 1903.  The first marks were allocated by listing the Councils in alphabetical order, and were in the format 'I-' issued in Dec'03/Jan '04 with additional marks in the styles of '-Z' and 'Z-' allocated to meet later demand.   The only single letter mark was 'Z' allocated to Co Dublin CC and issued from Mar 27.  The two letter marks were issued from Dec '03/Jan '04 unless stated otherwise. 

AI – Co Meath CC; AZ – Belfast CBC from Feb '28.  

BI – Co Monaghan CC; BZ – Co Down CC from Apr '30.  

CI – Co Laoighis (or Laois) CC; CZ – Belfast CBC from May '32.  

DI – Roscommon CC; DZ – Co Antrim CC from Mar '32.  

EI – Co Sligo CC; EZ – Belfast CBC from Oct '35.

FI – N. Riding of Tipperary CC; FZ – Belfast CBC from Jan '38. 

HI – S. Riding of Tipperary;

IA – Co Antrim CC; IB- Co Armagh CC; IC – Co Carlow CC; ID – Co Cavan CC; IE – Co Clare CC from Sept '22; 

IF – Co Cork CC; IH – Co Donegal CC; IJ – Co Down CC; IK – Co Dublin CC;

IL – Co Fermanagh CC; IM – Co Galway CC; IN – Co Kerry CC; IO – Co Kildare CC; IP – Co Kilkenny CC; IR – Co Offaly CC; IT – Co Leitrim CC; IU – Co Limerick CC; IW – Co Londonderry CC;

IX – Co Longford CC; IY – Co Louth CC and IZ – Co Mayo CC.  

JI – Co Tyrone CC; KI – Co Waterford CC; LI – Co Westmeath CC; MI – Co Wexford CC;
NI – Co Wicklow CC;  OI – Belfast CBC; PI – Cork CBC; RI – Dublin CBC;

TI – Limerick CBC; UI – Londonderry CBC from Aug '04;  WI – Waterford CBC. 

XI – Belfast CBC.  YI – Dublin CBC. 

ZA – Dublin CBC from May '33; ZB – Co Cork CC from Apr '35;
ZC – Dublin CBC from Feb '37 and ZI – Dublin CBC from Apr '27.

The remaining marks in the '-Z' and 'Z-' styles were issued later.

Most of the Irish Councils did issue marks with numbers into the c 9000's and several moved on to the three letters preceding three numbers format, commencing A - -, in the 1950's and early 60's.  'ARI' was issued by Dublin CBC in May to June '54 and S. Riding of Tipperary issued 'AHI' from Sept '54 to May '55. 


Registration marks on pre-war vehicles is a fascinating subject without even entering the domain of block allocations to large nationalised organisations, or blocks of numbers that were only issued for use on motorcycles, commercial vehicles or cars.  Some now have a high market value because they are rare as not many were issued and few of those are likely to have survived on the original vehicle.  How many historic vehicles, for example, retain an original 'SJ' mark from Bute CC? 

Pre-war marks are now much sought after as personalised plates as people want their initials with a low number, or with the Irish 'I' in the letters.   Such is the need for modern-day status symbols that owners try to manipulate the plate lay-out, or read numbers as letters to form a name, in what has become a contrived market.  Other marks are much cherished, having been in a family for decades and transferred on to every new car.   Many 'Seven', and other classic vehicle, owners are of course pleased to own, and will forever retain, the original mark with their vehicle which is linked to the year of manufacture.

This article is as comprehensive as possible, but may contain inadvertent errors due to lack of, or sometimes conflicting, information found in the sources of reference.

More up-to-date information on surviving archives can be found at


Motor Car Act (Registration and Licensing) Orders 1903;

The RAC Guide and Handbook 1962-3;

Glass's Index of Registration Numbers 1929-1965, published by Glass's Guide Service Ltd.

[1] Riden, Philip (1952) 'How to trace the history of your car: a guide to motor vehicle registration records in the British Isles.'   2nd Edition.   ISBN: 1898937257.  Pub:  Merton Priory Press, Whitchurch, Cardiff CF14 1DD.  (Now out of print but should be available in local reference libraries).

[2] Moss, Dave (2003) 'Number plates: a history of vehicle registration in Britain.  Shire Publications Ltd., Cromwell House, Church Street, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire HP27 9AA. 

[3] County and County Borough Council names are as given in the Order 1903.

[4] The Local Government Board was a Central Government Department.


This article, written by Doug Castle, originally appeared in CA7C Seven Focus in June and July 2006.


See also:

Cornish Registered Sevens

Does my Seven still exist?

Old Style Number Plates

Paint Your Plates

Paint Your Own Number Plates

Temporary High Reflective number plates for 'Sevens'