At centre top the orange covered licence is from 1926. Issued by a County Council it is a simple single-fold piece of high-quality card. Opening it up the driver's details are on the LH side and the blank RH side is headed "Endorsements" in Old English lettering. Moving clockwise are licences from 1961, and 1974 both issued by County Councils. The dark red one from 1974 is quite nice little item in cloth covered-card with a reinforcing scrim on the hinge.
Some time after 1974 licencing was taken away from County Councils by the DVLC and economies started to appear. . . The fourth licence illustrated, from 1977, consisted of a single sheet of A4 paper in pink and green, cleverly formatted to be folded 4 times to fit into a neat plastic pouch (also supplied) and resulting in a durable item scarcely larger that the earlier versions.
The final licence on the right with which all present day drivers are familiar, needs no description. It is euphemistically named the Photocard Licence and every time I come across it I feel the need of a good rant. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against the idea of a plastic credit card-sized licence with one's photo on it. It is a very good idea, but apparently, at the time it was mooted, the technology was either too expensive or just not up to storing all the data needed on a plastic card.
At this stage one would have thought an obvious solution would have been to keep the earlier licence and added a decent sized photo to it, as in the manner of a passport. But no, instead of rethinking and backtracking (perhaps it had gone too far and too much money had been spent) they compromised by keeping the inadequate card with a vanishingly small photo and supplementing it with an A4 sheet of flimsy paper on which all remaining data could be stored (including endorsements), i.e. we were to be saddled with an inconvenient marriage of 15th & 20th century technologies giving us two items to look after instead of just one. When they were first issued, this problem of keeping them together was obviously forseen and a special plastic wallet was supplied, but this has long since been discontinued and the driving public has been left to shift for itself.. . .
To compound the annoyance the licence holder is sternly warned that neither part of the licence is valid by itself and both parts must be produced together whenever required.
Well thanks a lot! I hope the Government Minister responsible for pushing this dog's breakfast through feels ashamed of himself - but I doubt it.