World's First Traffic Lights | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


The World’s First Traffic Lights – Westminster, London, 10 December 1868

What the Victorians did for us…

On 10 December 1868, the first set of traffic lights in the world were erected outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.

To mark the day, here’s a fascinating newspaper story (published on 8 December 1868) that reports on the installation of the signals, as well as explaining why these new traffic signals were needed.

historical newspaper report on traffic lights
London Standard | 8 December 1868

We are also very luck to have an illustration of the ‘new street semaphore,’ as it was called then, from our title the Illustrated Times. It would be a while before the term ‘traffic lights’ caught on, but this was another example of Victorian ingenuity which helped shape the world we know today!

Illustrated Times | 16 January 1869

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