Sunday 31 October 2021

Motoring Milestone: The 125th Anniversary of the Historic Emancipation Run.

This year’s RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (Sunday 7 November) marks a very special milestone in motoring and lifestyle history: The 125th anniversary of the historic Emancipation Run.
It was on 14 November 1896 that a group of enthusiastic early motorists set off from London to Brighton to celebrate the passing of the Locomotives on Highway Act which increased the speed limit from 4mph to 14mph and laid the ghost to the need for vehicles to be preceded by a man waving a red warning flag. The new government legislation was an epoch-defining watershed, effectively ending centuries of horse-drawn transport and giving motorists the freedom of the road.

“It was a seminal moment in time,” explains Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, the organisation which has curated what is now the world’s longest-running motoring event since 1930. “The new law was a life-changer in so many ways – it totally transformed the perspectives of social mobility and personal freedoms and, of course, spawned exciting new industries. It’s this key turning point in our history that was originally hailed by those visionary trailblazers on the very first Emancipation Run and which we continue to celebrate today. Nevermore so than in special anniversary years such as this.”

To mark the momentous occasion, more than 320 pioneering ‘horseless carriages’ from the dawn of motoring will leave Hyde Park in London at sunrise (07:06am) on Sunday morning and make the same 60-mile journey as those prophetic early motorists had done 125 years earlier from the capital city to the resort town of Brighton on the Sussex coast.
Magically encapsulating the sights, sounds and smells of the past, every vehicle dates back to pre-1905 – some powered by embryonic combustion engines, others by steam and electricity as ambitious engineers accelerated innovation. 

Several of the makes represented ­­– such as Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, Daimler, Vauxhall and Mercedes – will be familiar to today’s motorists. But there are plenty of long-forgotten marques there, too: Napoleon, Yale, Dennis, Flint, Maxwell, Star, Lambert and Gladiator to name but a few. The oldest car lining up in Hyde Park will be an intrepid single-cylinder 1894 Benz. 
As ever, the historic event’s unique charisma has attracted a large number of well-known personalities and international entries with more than 50 participants travelling from overseas to be part of this year’s celebrations.
Notably, the fastest man on Earth, Andy Green OBE, will be debuting his newly acquired steam-propelled 1904 Stanley. The World Land Speed Record holder, however, will be travelling at somewhat subdued speeds when compared to the 760mph he topped in Thrust SSC back in 1997 to become the first person to break the sound barrier on terra firma!

After the symbolic pre-dawn tearing up of the red flag, Green will be among the hordes of remarkable cars and well wrapped-up crews being flagged away from Hyde Park as the sun rises at 7.06am.
Preceded by a number of plucky veteran cyclists and motorcyclists, three- and four-wheelers will depart for the coast at first light to the delight of the hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the route to cheer on the hardy participants.

After leaving Hyde Park (the traditional starting point since 1936), the veterans will drive through Admiralty Arch, down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace and onto the Mall, before heading down Whitehall to Parliament Square. 
Then, to alleviate congestion and give participants a more pleasurable drive out of the city, the route will split into two with half the field crossing Westminster Bridge and taking the traditional A23 route via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham. The other half will cross the Thames via the neighbouring Lambeth Bridge and then follow the A3, A24, A217 and A236 over Clapham Common and then through Tooting and Mitcham. 

The two routes will then merge once again on the A236 north of Croydon with all cars reunited as they head south through Surrey.
Adding extra interest, the route between Croydon and Redhill also includes the A. Lange & Söhne Regularity Time Trial; the only competitive element of the event which requires drivers to get as close to a chosen average speed as possible.

After Burgess Hill, the Run tackles the scenic but demanding roads through the villages of the Sussex South Downs, passing through Hassocks and Clayton where pubs will be raising funds for Ben, the charity dedicated to supporting the people of the automotive industry.
The route thereafter joins the A23 for the final run into Brighton and the welcome finish – plus a hard-earned hot toddy courtesy of Aberfeldy single malt whisky – on Madeira Drive.

Aside from the start, timings are approximate. The first car is due at the Madeira Drive finish shortly after 10am while, to be sure of a finishers’ medal to celebrate a punctual arrival at Brighton, participants need to make it to the seafront before the 4.30pm curfew.

Aside from the paddocks at Hyde Park and Madeira Drive, the organisers have suggested the following locations as popular viewing points:
  • 6:45am                           Ceremonial Tearing of Red Flag, Hyde Park, London
  • 7:06am                           The start, Hyde Park, London
  • 7:06am – 8:25am           Constitution Hill, London
  • 7:06am – 8:25am           The Mall, London
  • 7:06am – 8:25am           Whitehall, London
  • 7:15am – 8:35am           Westminster Bridge, London
  • 7:15am – 8:35am           Lambeth Palace, London
  • 7:15am – 8:35am           Clapham Common, London
  • 7:15am – 8:35am           Lambeth Palace, London
  • 7:30am – 9:55am           Mitcham, London
  • 7:40am – 11:10am         Coulsdon High Street, London
  • 7:44am – 11:10am         Merstham, Surrey
  • 8:00am – 11:40am         Redhill, Surrey
  • 8:30am – 2:15pm          Handcross High Street, Sussex
  • 8:35am – 2:20pm          Staplefield village, Sussex
  • 8:55am – 2:40pm          Cuckfield High Street, Sussex
  • 10:06pm – 4:30pm        Brighton, Sussex
“Seeing all these lovingly maintained cars is more than a spectacle – it’s a piece of living history; a reminder of the fearless motoring pioneers who, literally, paved the way for all of us,” concluded Cussons who will be driving a 1901 Mors entered by the Royal Automobile Club.

The RM Sotheby’s Veteran Car Run brings the curtain down on the Club’s annual London Motor Week – seven days filled with a whole range of functions and events to suit all motoring tastes topped by the free-to-view Regent Street Motor Show plus the prestigious RM Sotheby’s London Sale auction on Saturday 6 November. Some events are open to the public while others are invitation only.

Further information on all the participants entering this year’s milestone 125th-anniversary event, as well as full route and other details, are available on the official website:

Also included is a link to the shop where a limited edition signed poster commemorating the 125th anniversary Run and accompanying postcard pack are available via the ‘motoring’ section navigation.

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