Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,658 pages of information and 235,430 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland

From Graces Guide
1904. Headquarters at 119 Piccadilly.
April 1907.
Advertising sign.

1901 Founded by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland as a 'popular' arm and the Motor Vehicle Users' Defence Association merged in to it.

1907 Disassociated from the Automobile Club

1908 November. Annual dinner.[1]

1909 Incorporated the Aeroplane Club, forming a new aviation section[2]

1910 November. Resolution to amalgamate with the Automobile Association and to become the Automobile Association and Motor Union.[3]


THE Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland was formed early in the year 1901. The rapid growth of the automobile movement rendered it necessary to form an organisation which would include all automobilists under one banner. In 1904 a revised constitution was adopted, in which provision was made for representation upon the General Committee of all clubs joining the Union, as well as for motorists joining it in an individual capacity. The success of the new scheme was immediate, and at the present time all the principal organised bodies of automobilists in London and the Provinces are included in the membership of the Motor Union. The growth of the Union in this direction is shown by the following statement

Number of Automobile Clubs and Organisations included in the Membership of the Union

  • 1903: 10
  • 1904: 27
  • 1905: 40
  • 1906: 64

The growth of the membership has been equally rapid, as the following figures indicate:—

  • 1903: 3,088
  • 1904: 5,136
  • 1905: 7,255
  • 1906: 11,250

The subscription for individual members joining the Union is £1-1s. and the capitation fee payable by Clubs joining the Union is 5s. per member.

The principal advantages of membership of the Union are declared to be as follows:—

1. Legal information and advice free of charge in connection with the use of Motor Vehicles.

2. Financial support (a) in legal proceedings arising out of the use or ownership of motor vehicles, when the questions involved are of importance to motorists generally; (h) in appeals to Quarter Sessions against convictions, when such convictions are not justified by the evidence.

3. The services of competent solicitors appointed in the principal centres, who will for a special and reduced scale of fees undertake legal cases for members.

4. The right to be consulted on general questions affecting the rights and privileges of automobilists, including legislative questions.

5. Information free of cost with regard to the best routes from place to place at home or abroad, assistance in planning tours, and advice as to the purchase of suitable maps, guides, etc.

6. Information as to Customs formalities and duties, and the driving regulations of foreign countries.

7. The benefits of a system now organised to inform automobilists where they can secure, when on tour, good hotel and garage accommodation, adequate supplies of petroleum spirit, and the services of competent repairers.

8. A copy weekly post free of the Automobile Club Journal and Motor Union Gazette,' the organ of the Automobile Club and of the Motor Union.

9. A copy annually post free of the Automobile Handbook, which contains, amongst other things, particulars of the laws and regulations relating to motor cars, lists of hotels, repairers, electric charging stations, toll bridges and ferries, &c., the driving regulations and Customs arrangements of the principal European countries, &c.

10. Members may obtain, for a small fee, expert advice respecting the purchase of or repairs to a car.

11. Admission to such functions organised by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland as may be prescribed from time to time by the Committee of the Club.

12. Admission free to the principal Motor Car Exhibitions in London and the provinces.

13. Information and advice generally in connection with automobile matters.

14. A Motor Union insurance policy.

15. The advantage of special hotel arrangements.

16. Apart from these personal advantages, automobilists, by becoming members of the Union, support and share in the direction of an organisation for the purpose of (a) opposing public and private Bills introduced into Parliament and local bye-laws embodying proposals restrictive of automobilism; (b) negotiating with local authorities for the improvement of the roads and the removal of dangerous corners; (c) protecting its members from the imposition of illegal bridge tolls and excessive charges for the conveyance of motor vehicles by rail; (d) improving hotel accommodation throughout the country; and (e) generally undertaking such work on behalf of automobilism which can only be discharged by a strong and united body representative of all automobilists within the United Kingdom.

The Chairman of the Motor Union is also Chairman of the Automobile Club, and this office is at present held by the Hon. Arthur Stanley, M.P.

The following distinguished automobilists are Vice-Presidents of the Union:

The Secretary is Rees Jeffreys, and the offices of the Union are at 1 Albemarle Street, Piccadilly, London, W.

One of the most important branches of the Union's work is that performed by the Legal Department. The protection of its members and the defence of the rights of motorists is one of the chief objects of the Union. The enactment of the Motor Car Act of 19°3 resulted in many enquiries from members in all parts of the country as to their liabilities under the new regulations. All these were promptly dealt with.

The Union has done much to discredit in the eyes of the public and the authorities, the system of enforcing the speed limit by timing motorists on straight stretches of open country roads. It has assisted many members in defending charges brought under this section of the Act, with successful results. In those cases in which motorists have been convicted of offences in connection with the use of a motor car, and the decision has appeared to be against the weight of the evidence, the Union has assisted an appeal to Quarter Sessions. It is interesting to note that out of eighty-three appeals which have so far been taken under the Motor Car Act to Quarter Sessions, thirty-four have been entirely successful and the convictions reversed, seven have been partially successful — that is to say, the decisions were upheld but the penalties reduced, and in forty cases the convictions have been confirmed.

Of the remaining two cases, one failed on a technical point, and the other was abandoned.

In addition to giving legal information and advice, it may here be mentioned that, in cases involving the general interests of automobilists, the Motor Union renders financial assistance. In order further to assist its members in this connection, the Union has appointed a large number of leading solicitors experienced in motor law, who will for a special fee undertake the defence of members.

Valuable work is being performed by the Motor Union in opposing applications of Local Authorities for reduced limits of speed, when such applications are of an unreasonable character. Immediately notification is received of the intended application, the Union communicates with its correspondents and the prominent automobilists in the district, meetings are arranged, and a definite plan of action decided upon. The Union has on several occasions been able to induce the Local Authorities to withdraw their applications upon the case against the limits proposed being put before them. In those cases in which enquiries have been held, the Union has been represented, and successfully argued against the restrictions asked for.

The Royal Commission on Motor Cars appointed last year furnished another opportunity to the Union of rendering yeoman service in the cause of automobilism. The Union, in concert with the A.C.G.B.I., collected evidence and statistics from all parts of the United Kingdom respecting the use of motor vehicles, and was able to ensure that full and correct evidence was laid before the Commission respecting the administration of the Motor Car Act.

The organisation of new clubs is a work to which much attention is devoted. The Motor Union has been responsible for the formation of several new automobile clubs, and does everything possible to increase the membership of those already in existence. All members of affiliated clubs are also facto members of the Motor Union.

The Union is helped to no small extent in its work for the general benefit of the movement by the Honorary Local Correspondents. These gentlemen are appointed from among the members of the Union, and their services are of great value in the work of organisation, and in procuring information on various subjects.

A notable example of the usefulness of the Union, and one which bears testimony to its excellent organisation, is to be found in connection with the recent General Election. It was deemed expedient at a conference of automobilists to record, so far as they were known, the answers of Candidates for Parliament to the four following questions:-

1. When the Motor-Car Act of 1903 comes before Parliament for renewal, will you vote for the abolition of all artificial speed limits, as such limits are calculated to relieve drivers of their responsibility to drive at all times and under all conditions with caution and consideration?

2. Will you vote for an amendment providing that the endorsement of licenses shall be confined to serious offences, and be within the discretion of the magistrates?

3. Will you support a measure requiring the universal lighting of all vehicles after dark, so that they show a white light in the direction in which they are travelling and a red light in the contrary direction?

4. Will you support a Bill giving effect to the principal recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Highways, and establishing a Central Authority to advise and assist the local road authorities?

The Local Correspondents of the Union were able to ascertain from members and others in their respective districts the views of Candidates so far as they were declared, and to forward them to the Central Office. The views received show that the new House of Commons is far more sympathetic to the automobile movement than was its predecessor.

Arrangements have been made under which members of the Union are able to obtain information and assistance in connection with motor-car touring. Advice as to routes, roads, hotels, &c., is freely given. Particulars regarding the transport of automobiles can be obtained from this department, and also information with reference to Customs formalities and duties, and the driving regulations of foreign countries.

Insurance is another matter in which the Union has been able to secure special advantages for its members. An arrangement has been entered into with a well-known insurance company, which provides for the issue of a special policy to members of the Motor Union. Members insuring under this policy have the benefit of a special arbitration clause, which provides that if any dispute should arise between the assured and the Insurance Company, such dispute shall be referred for settlement to a Committee of three chosen from among the members of the Motor Union.

The Motor Union endeavours as far as possible to assist the secretaries of the affiliated clubs in the preparation of their club programmes, and as an instance it may be mentioned that the Union has arranged a list of lecturers who have kindly undertaken to lecture on various subjects to members of the clubs included in the membership of the Union. The lectures given under the auspices of the Union have proved exceedingly interesting and have been much appreciated. A collection of lantern slides has been formed, and these slides are available to all members. It is being added to from time to time, and is the most complete collection of slides existing on the subject.

Arrangements have been made by the Motor Union, whereby the services of the engineer of the A C.G.B.I. are secured to the Union at a moderate scale of charges. Members can have the benefit of expert advice in connection with the selection or purchase of a car, or with regard to derangements of mechanism. A number of members of the Union have taken advantage of this arrangement, which has proved to be a very valuable one.

The official organ of the Union is the Automobile Club Journal and Motor Union Gazette. It is published weekly, sober It is published weekly and is sent, post free, to all members. It contains information on all important matters occurring from time to time in connection with automobilism, and particularly on points of interest to members of the Union.

The Union publishes annually, in conjunction with the The Automobile Handbook. This book, which is a valuable addition to any motorist's outfit, contains reliable information with regard to the laws and regulations relating to motor cars; lists of recommended hotels and repairers in various places; particulars as to the driving regulations, Customs duties, &c., in foreign countries; list of toll bridges and ferries, &c. Members generally have testified to the usefulness of this publication. New features are introduced into each issue, and the book is regarded as one of the spares ' which should be carried by every automobilist when touring.

The question of the training of professional drivers is a matter which is now being thoroughly investigated by the Union. Many complaints have been received respecting certain schools, which for a small fee offer tuition in driving and repairing. From the complaints received by the Union it appears that some of these schools do not give the training that is required, and which they advertise, and many youths are induced to part with their savings for a course of lessons which are of no practical value. The Motor Union is doing all in its power to stamp out these bogus establishments, and to encourage the provision by municipal authorities and others of institutions in which useful instruction shall be given.

The encouragement of the commercial and public service motor is a matter to which the Union has devoted much attention. The Motor Van, Wagon and Omnibus Users' Association is the section of the Union particularly charged with looking after the interests of this side of the movement. As a result largely of the efforts of the Association, the Local Government Board Orders regulating commercial vehicles have been modified to suit modern conditions, and the Association also placed the case for heavy motors before the Royal Commission on Motor Cars.

The strength of the Motor Union lies in its broad and representative basis. All classes of users of motor vehicles are represented upon it, and it speaks with authority for all parts of the United Kingdom. The General Committee of the Union is, in fact, the great Council of British automobilism, and so long as it continues to receive the support of automobilists generally, the Union will succeed in securing for the people of this country in increasing measure the advantages resulting from the use of the self-propelled road vehicle.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Autocar 1908/11/28
  2. The Times Dec 10, 1909
  3. The Autocar 1910/02/03
  4. Motors and Motor-driving. Published in 1906