From the Archives - The 1900 Autumn Tour

Between 10 – 12 October this year the Club is holding an Autumn Tour for members, just as our predecessors did in 1900. The first ever Autumn Tour took place from the 5 – 10 October 1900, and encompassed towns and villages between London and Monmouth. Among the drivers and vehicles that participated were S.F.Edge in a 16 hp Napier, Mark Mayhew on a Renault Voiturette and Alfred ‘custard’ Bird, with his family in a 12 hp Panhard. One of the most intriguing cars was Reverend Arundell Whatton’s Canello-Durkopp.

Vehicles departed from Horse Guards Avenue at 2.30pm for Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Following an overnight stay in Wallingford, Saturday 6 October seems largely to have been spent at the Kings Head Hotel, Cirencester before departing for Monmouth where cars were able to dwell for the next three nights. Interestingly an Orient Express was placed at the disposal of the Club Secretary for the first day of the journey, rather than brave the traffic out of town.

On Monday 8 October, the participants were invited to luncheon by Lord and Lady Llangattock, owners of The Hendre country estate and parents to the Hon. Charles Rolls, who also took part in the tour. The lunch party was entertained in a dining room strewn with bunting and images of pioneering motorists around the walls emblazoned with the motto “Welcome and Success to the Automobile Club”. This image shows the cars driving away from The Hendre on the return trip to London.

Not all the cars managed the trip in one piece. The ascent from Circencester to the top of Birdlip Hill comprised of a series of rises over a course of 10 miles. It was a dangerous descent with a one in seven gradient, that only the best drivers with the sturdiest brakes could manage. Mr Reynolds and Claude Crompton ensconced in a Peugeot voiturette were unable to control their car. Poor Claude Crompton managed to jump to safety before the car hit the worst stretch, but Mr Reynolds carried on with the pretence of steering before eventually sustaining heavy bruises. The car was reduced to ruins and its sorry carcass was towed to Circencester by the Reverend in his Canello-Durkopp.

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