Club History

  • The history of the Royal Automobile Club is the history of motoring in society, which is charted through the Club’s heritage collections. Established by Frederick Simms in 1897 as the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, the Club is the oldest motoring institution in the United Kingdom and the second oldest in the world. In 1907 the Club received a Royal Charter from King Edward VII.

  • Heritage Overview

    The history of the Royal Automobile Club is the history of motoring in society, which is charted through the Club’s heritage collections. Established by Frederick Simms in 1897 as the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, the Club is the oldest motoring institution in the United Kingdom and the second oldest in the world. In 1907 the Club received a Royal Charter from King Edward VII.

    Simms was a manufacturer, inventor and enthusiastic driver, we therefore house collections that encompass meeting minutes, journals, engineering drawings, architectural plans and a variety of manuscripts from the formation of the Club to the present day.

  • Library and Archive

    Alongside an extensive archive which is situated at Westminster Archive Centre, our Pall Mall Clubhouse also contains a Library with approximately 5,000 publications covering every aspect of motoring. The Library also holds extensive collections of motoring journals and reference materials. Other collections include paintings, trophies and ephemera.

  • Historical Club Events

    The Club still stages a number of events whose lineage can be traced to the formative years of the automobile, such as the Veteran Car Run, 1000 Mile Trial and Tourist Trophy. Our collections are particularly strong in these areas.

  • The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is an annual event forming part of London Motor Week.

    The event commemorates the Emancipation Run which took place on 14 November 1896. The original event celebrated the repeal of the Red Flag Act when it was no longer a requirement for drivers to have a person walking in front of the vehicle waving a red flag to warn of its approach. Motoring enthusiasts were finally able to demonstrate what the automobile could achieve at faster speeds and rapid technological progress was made.

  • In 1900 the Club organized the 1000 Mile Trial to demonstrate the viability of the automobile as a new, reliable mode of transport. The success of the event greatly aided the British motor industry by highlighting ways in which manufacturers could improve their designs and by creating demand for this new mode of transport. It also increased an appetite for touring, leading to the Tourist Trophy, which is still the oldest continuously competed for motoring event.

  • The Club also houses an impressive selection of trophies, many of which are still awarded, including the British Grand Prix Trophy, the Dewar and Segrave Trophies.

  • The Royal Automobile Club organized the first Pre-War and Post-WWI Grands Prix at Brooklands. It also organized the first international Grand Prix d’Europe and was responsible for the formation of the British Motorsports Association. Our Library holds a good selection of motoring racing publications.

  • Clubhouses

    The Pall Mall clubhouse opened to members in March 1911. Designed by Messrs Mewes and Davies, who also designed the Ritz Hotel, it had innovative features such as an air filtration system to cope with the London soot from coal, electric lighting and a Post Office.

    Woodcote Park, Surrey, was acquired by the Club in 1913 for golf and large car gatherings to take place. There has been a house on the site since the 18th century and our archive contains plans pertaining to both clubhouses, which still run active events programmes.