1896: The restrictive ‘Red Flag’ Act, which had required a man to walk in front of every vehicle, was repealed ‒ the birth of motoring in the UK.
1896 (14 November): The Emancipation Run, the precursor to the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, was organised to celebrate the passing of the Locomotives on the Highways Act. Thirty pioneer motorists celebrated the first legal journey on English roads and new motoring freedom.
1900: Claude Johnson organised the 1000 Mile Trial, putting British motoring on the map. A large number of cars travelled the length and breadth of the country in a reliability trial, which brought home to ordinary people what a ‘horseless carriage’ was and what it could do.
1903: The Motor Car Act was passed into law. The Club had vigorously campaigned for this, long having had the interests of the private motorist at heart. This act (now held at Bristol Record Office) increased speed limits and removed other restrictive legislation.
1905: The Club organised the first Tourist Trophy (TT) race, today the oldest motoring race to run regularly. In the same year, the Club became the governing body for motor sport in Britain and introduced driving certificates, the responsibility for which would not be taken over by the government for another 30 years. An associate membership of the Club was also established, and guides on bicycles, then motorcycles and vans, were gradually introduced.
1911: Club turnover rose to £970,000, from £385,000 the previous year, because of a huge influx of new members, all paying 25 guineas a head to join and an annual subscription fee of 10 guineas.
1913: Woodcote Park near Epsom racecourse was purchased as the Club’s ‘country headquarters’. Located on the site of a twelfth century abbey, it was a mansion built in 1679 by Richard Evelyn (brother of diarist John), and mentioned in his diaries by Samuel Pepys.
1914–18: During World War I, both clubhouses were put at the disposal of the armed services. Pall Mall became practically an officers’ club, and the British Red Cross Society used a part of it. By September 1918, the Club had provided bed, breakfast and baths for 228,125 officers and served around two million meals.