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Middlesex County Automobile Club

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The Middlesex County Automobile Club is a motor club based in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.

It has its origins in early 1905 and the Club records show that a small group of young businessmen and professionals met at The Fox Hotel, Palmers Green, N. London and decided to form a motor club which they named the North London Automobile Club (NLAC).

The club committee invited Col. Henry Ferryman Bowles, M.A. M.P. J.P. to be President. Col. Bowles was to remain in office for 38 years until his death in 1943.

One of the first vice-presidents was Rupert Guinness, heir to the Guinness brewing business, ADC to King George V and an MP. Another vice-president was A. W. Gamage, founder of the famous Gamages store in Holborn.

Initially, the NLAC was affiliated to the Motor Union, a subsidiary of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC). The MU broke away from the RAC at the end of 1907 whereupon the RAC announced a scheme whereby local clubs could become associates of that club with representation on its committee. In January 1908 the NLAC changed its name to the North Middlesex AC (NMAC) and, on 1 January 1909, joined the RAC Associates scheme.

The first ever recorded motoring event took place on Saturday 27 May 1905. This was followed by a further eight such runs that year including four Friday to Sunday weekend events. The first competitive event took place on Saturday 5 May 1906 and involved what would be known today as a Production Car Trial. It was won by the Hon. Secretary, Mr. Chas Smith, in his 12 h.p. Darracq.

The first co-promoted event was a Speed-judging contest in conjunction with the Southern Car Club on Saturday 19 May 1906 for the Gamage Challenge Cup. Although this event was won by the Southern Car Club, the next three events held in succeeding years were won by the NMAC and resulted in the club retaining the Gamage Cup in perpetuity. It is today the oldest cup in the clubs collection.

On Saturday 16 May 1908 at Cat Hill (A110), Cockfosters, N. London, the club became the first such organisation to receive written permission from the Commissioner of Police to hold a motoring competition on a public road. The event was won by Alfred Alexander in his 8 h.p. de Dion, winning the President’s Cup.

In February 1910, a meeting was held at the Middlesex Guildhall. This public meeting was considered so important that the chairman of the Council made the Council Chamber available and many important personages connected with the County Council, the motoring press and the RAC were in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was to consider a proposal suggested by the Council Chairman and supported by the Secretary of the RAC, Mr. Julian Orde, that the NMAC be reconstituted as the Middlesex County Automobile Club‘……so as to become the representative motoring organisation in the county’. The resolution was passed and the MCAC came into being at the committee meeting held on 25 February 1910.

In 1911 the Kensington AC was amalgamated with the MCAC and several former officials joined the MCAC Committee.

In 1912 the Club entered a team in the RAC Associates Day at Brooklands and won The Autocar Cup in the 5-mile Relay Race. Interestingly Malcolm Campbell, who was to play a large part in the Club’s activities in later years, won the All-comers Handicap race on that day.

With the advent of hostilities in 1914 pleasure motoring almost came to a complete standstill although the Club did run a few events up to mid-1915. The Club’s standing committee during the war adopted a very patriotic attitude and did what it could for the war effort.

With the cessation of hostilities the Club quickly resumed activities notwithstanding a fall in membership by some 50% since 1914, to around 200.

By 1920 the membership had recovered to around 300 and the Club resumed its work of making known the views of county’s motorists to the Middlesex County Council. By 1926 the Club was hosting a combined Speed Trial and Hill Climb at Brooklands and these meetings attracted many well-known racing drivers of the era.

In the 1927 meeting George Eyston, (winner of the 1926 Boulogne Grand Prix in a Bugatti) won the 50 Miles Handicap race and in the Hill Climb, club member The Hon. Mrs Victor (Mary) Bruce (at one time holder of 17 motoring world records) won the Ladies Cup and Dr. J. D. Benjafield, one of the famous 'Bentley Boys' won the Kensington Cup for the fastest time, a trophy he was to win every year from 1926 to 1930 and again in 1932 (Dr. Benjafield joined the Club committee in 1927 and was active in club management until at least 1939).

At the 1928 MCAC Brooklands meeting Mrs. Bruce and Dr. Benjafield won their cups again and Capt. Archie Frazer-Nash was 3rd in the Middlesex Short Handicap.

In 1929 the Club elected Capt. Malcolm Campbell as a Vice-president and he remained a member to his death on 31 December 1948., having received his knighthood in 1931.

By the end of 1930 the Club had 852 members and was already claiming to be the second largest such club in the UK and its importance in the world of UK motor clubs was recognised by the RAC which invited the MCAC to nominate a representative to be a permanent member on its Associates Committee, one of only 5 such clubs to receive this honour.

By the 30’s the Club’s political influence was declining notwithstanding the presence as Vice-presidents of no less than 16 MPs representing all the constituencies in the County. However, its 18-member committee was organising as many as 15 events in most years. The most notable of these events was the 100 Miles Reliability Trial which was held every year without a break (except during the war) from 1907 to 1939, taking competitors in this ‘closed-to-club’ event to all points of the compass within approximately 100 miles from home..

By 1939 the Club had 806 members. The final event for the year was the Village Seeking Competition held in July which preceded the Closing Run & Speed Judging Competition scheduled for 16 September which was cancelled. The AGM was held as usual in October but the Annual Dinner Dance and Awards Presentation was cancelled. With the outbreak of hostilities the Club closed down for the duration of the war although every year at least one committee meeting and an AGM was held at which the 1939 Officers and Committee were re-elected annually en bloc. During this period of inactivity the founding President, Col. Sir Henry Bowles died in 1943 and was succeeded in March 1946 by Lord Brabazon of Tara.

By the start of 1946, there were just over 200 members, many of whom had joined solely for the benefits of RAC membership which was offered at advantageous rates. But it was clear that motoring was no longer the preserve of the privileged and influential and the appeal of motor clubs was to diminish dramatically in the post-war years. Like so many others, the Club entered into a long period of stagnation during the 50’s and 60’s with very few events being organised due in part to petrol rationing, but most significantly to the introduction of new laws which severely reduced the ability to promote road rallies. As a result many clubs closed down.

But the MCAC survived, by holding social functions and a few road events as and when petrol supplies allowed. These were supplemented by gymkhanas, driving tests and, towards the end of the 60’s, production car trials.

The second President, Lord Brabazon, who had been so active and supportive in the clubs affairs, died in 1964 and was succeeded by The Marquess of Donegall who was the senior Vice-president and who instituted the annual Donegall Award.

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