Ride Through History On Board the Ascot Taxi Service, QLD’s First Motorised Fleet

Did you know that the first taxi service in Queensland was established on Racecourse Road in Ascot? Once a quiet street with a handful of houses in the 1880s, Racecourse Road became a busy hub when the Ascot Taxi Service opened in 1919.

Two mechanics, Edmund William Henry Beckham and Edward Roland Videan, only had one vehicle and a common dream when they started the Ascot Taxi Service.

Within five years, their fleet had grown to four cars: three Willys Knight tourers and an Overland, the first sedan taxi in Brisbane.

Photo Credit: Black and White Cabs

The motorised vehicles completely replaced the hansom cab, the popular form of horse-drawn carriers from the previous century.

Motorised taxi services during this time didn’t have any way of checking the mileage for each trip other than for the driver to calculate the fare manually based on a fare scale. Despite the challenges, the birth of the state’s first motorised taxi service was a welcome and exciting change.

Moving to Fortitude Valley, Thriving Through Changes 

As the business progressed, the Ascot Taxi Service moved to a new site in Fortitude Valley in the 1930s, where the company flourished despite the arrival of the Yellow Cab Company from Chicago in the United States. 

Ascot Taxi Service and its new owners opened a two-storey, art-deco headquarters on Barry Parade, displaying its fleet of black taxi limousines. Its focus was on “taxi-tourist” trade and they were a popular choice for wedding hiring and similar events.

Drivers were required to wear uniforms, enhancing the prestige of the service. It was also the first company to introduce two-way radio in taxis in Queensland in the 1950s.

Ascot Taxi Service headquarters
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

Barry Parade had other motor businesses, all built prior to World War II, such as the Phillip Frank and Co, New England Motor Company, and the OK Rubber Company.

The businesses became the centre of the motor trade in the city but over the years, as the city developed and infrastructure grew, people’s needs changed.

In the 1990s, Ascot Taxi Service became Q Cabs before merging with and becoming part of Black & White Cabs, which continues to operate from its head office at the Brisbane Airport.

In 2017, the Ascot Taxi Service building was demolished to make way for apartment development. The building’s last known occupant was Valley Radiator Services.

From Ascot Taxi Service to Ascot Motor Garage: The Evolution of Racecourse Road

Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

The Ascot Motor Garage was a landmark and such a big part of the evolution of Racecourse Road in the early 20th century. It was set amidst some of the most expensive houses in Brisbane in large blocks of land are found. 

By the time the taxi service moved out, however, Racecourse Road’s business landscape had changed, with general stores, fresh food supplies, and establishments for butchers, bakers, confectioners, chemists, and a laundry shop now dotting the neighbourhood. 

Photo Credit: Google Maps

Eventually, other modern establishments set up shop on the busy boulevard with lovely Poinciana trees that bloom beautiful red flowers at Christmas time. Here, medical and dental clinics, salons, banks, and boutiques, as well as dozens of eateries, have made the area a high-end lifestyle hub. 

More than 130 retail shops have graced Racecourse Road. Blocks of land have been redeveloped in the neighbourhood that the Ascot Taxi Service’s vehicles once traversed.