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Over the years, the UK has used several systems of vehicle registrations, and some of the number plate area indicators invoke a touch of nostalgia.

UK Number Plate Systems

When number plates were first introduced in the UK in late 1903 and early 1904, They featured one or two letters and up to four numbers with the letters indicating the place in which the car was registered. Many people logically assume that ‘A 1’ was the first registration number to be issued, but that honour went to ‘DY 1’ when it was issued in Hastings in November 1903. ‘A’ was the letter assigned to London registered vehicles with ‘A 1’ being the capital’s first number plate issued in December 1903.

These early registrations are the most sought after for personalised number plates, with the shortest letter and number combinations fetching the highest prices. As the number of cars on the roads increased, a new system was introduced in 1932 with an extra letter in front of the area code, such as ‘BHJ 89’ or ‘AJN 808’. When these combinations began to run out in 1953 the system was reversed, putting the numbers in front of the letters, for example ‘123 AHR’.

In 1963, the system changed again with a suffix letter used as an age identifier which told you in which year the car was first registered. An example of one of the first using this format would be ‘AHJ 123A’ while one of the last might have been ‘BJN 999Y’. The DVLA took over vehicle registrations from local councils in 1974 and in 1983 prefix number plates were introduced, such as ‘A123 AJN’ and ‘Y999 BHJ’.

The current vehicle registration system was introduced in 2001 with the age identifiers changing twice a year. The first two letters represent the area in which the vehicle was registered, two numbers indicate the car’s age, followed by three randomly generated letters.

Nostalgia for Old Area Number Plates

In the early days, most of the cars seen driving around the UK’s cities and towns would be easily identifiable as being registered in the local area, and there is now a renewed interest in the old number plates. Local newspapers in Warrington, Cheshire and Newport in South Wales are asking readers to send in pictures of their old vehicles displaying the towns’ local registration numbers.

Warrington number plates featured the letters ‘ED’ and the Warrington Guardian has already received a significant response. They have pictures of old buses with the registrations ‘EED 9’ and ‘GED 391’. The town’s mayoral car proudly displays the rare ‘ED 1’ private number plate.

The South Wales Argus has also piqued the interest of its readers in Newport. The city’s vehicle registrations included the letters ‘DW’. Photos have been sent in with cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles with number plates such as ‘YDW 356’, ‘JDW 89’, ‘BDW 731C’ and ‘3555 DW’. The mayor’s car displays the number plate ‘NDW 1’.

At CarReg, you can find historical Warrington plates such as ‘4 ED’, ‘7266 ED’, ‘ED 9830’ and ‘A17 OED’. If you’re nostalgic for an original Newport personalised number plate, we can offer ‘9 DW’, ‘DW 111’, ‘A21 ODW’ and ‘B1 ODW’ among others. Just enter the letters in the search box on our website and your choices will appear.