Brighton Veteran Car Run celebrates pioneering women motorists

Brighton Veteran Car Run celebrates pioneering women motorists

Image: RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run meet, Waterloo Place 1904 - The Autocar's coverage of the first meet (credit: Autocar)


In a major announcement on International Women’s Day (8 March), this year’s RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run – entries for which open next week – will celebrate the milestone 120th anniversary of the genesis of The Ladies’ Automobile Club.

At the dawn of the 20th century, a number of Britain’s prominent society women sought to form a club in which to share their interest in motoring, as the existing clubs did not admit women. With Lady Cecil Scott Montagu as its driving force The Ladies’ Automobile Club was conceived in 1903 and by 1904 had become a Limited Company with more than 300 members with its headquarters at Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair. 

The Royal Automobile Club, which has organised the revered Veteran Car Run since 1930, was also integral in the early success of The Ladies’ Automobile Club. Then, as the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland before it received Royal patronage in 1907, the Club was a great supporter of The Ladies’ Automobile Club and by the start of 1904 an official affiliation was agreed by the Executive Committee.

In the summer of 1904, The Ladies’ Automobile Club held its first outdoor event in the shadows of what is now the Royal Automobile Club’s clubhouse on Pall Mall. On the Thursday 9 June no fewer than 56 vehicles – including electric, steam and petrol powered pioneers assembled at the Athenaeum Club on Waterloo Place and Carlton House Terrace. 

The colourful cavalcade then drove via Pall Mall and Hyde Park to the Ranelagh Club in Barn Elms for afternoon tea. So striking was the spectacle of so many elegantly dressed women driving en masse that the King and Queen watched them go past from a window in Buckingham Palace.

Now, 120 years later, on Sunday 3 November the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run will honour that landmark occasion when participants once again travel in front of Buckingham Palace and head down The Mall en route to Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge and onwards to the Sussex coast. 
“The anniversary not only provides us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate The Ladies’ Automobile Club but also to acclaim the major – yet too often under-acknowledged – roles women have performed in both motoring and motorsport ever since,” confirmed Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club. “To that end, we will be expanding this year’s theme across many of our other events during the coming months including our Summer Run in July and throughout London Motor Week in the autumn which, of course, concludes with this year’s running of the unique RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.” 

As to the  posterity of The Ladies’ Automobile Club, once women were admitted to more motor clubs it was eventually absorbed into the Royal Automobile Club during the 1920s. By then, however, it had made a significant impression in recognising women as motorists in their own right for the first time – and it is that important achievement which will be lauded on this year’s very special edition of the world’s longest running motoring event. 

Entries for the 2024 RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run open next week on 13 March with considerable savings for ‘early birds’ confirming their participation before 7 July. Entries finally close on 18 September.  

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