THE National Motor Museum Trust has acquired an important photographic album documenting the 1000-mile trial of 1900, a pivotal moment in motoring history which John Montagu, father of the current Lord Montagu, famously took part in.
This collection of photos, which was purchased in the Bonhams London to Brighton sale on October 31, covers the gruelling run of early cars from London to Edinburgh and back by the event’s official photographer, Albert Argent Archer.
This one-off event helped change the public’s negative perception of cars at the turn of the century.
Mandy Schaller, curator of photography for the National Motor Museum Trust, said: “This album of original prints by a very influential figure in early transport photography is important not just because of its coverage of the trial, but also because it depicts John Montagu competing in the event with his 1899 Daimler 12hp.”
Generous donations from Beaulieu One Hundred members helped make this purchase possible, following an urgent appeal just days before the album was auctioned. “When we discovered that the album was to be included in the sale, we had only five days to gather together the funds,” said Mandy.
Taking place at a time when few motorists would have attempted to drive more than 100 miles in a day, the 1,000-mile trial tested not only the stamina of the drivers and mechanics, but also the reliability of their cars.
Following a route that incorporated many of Britain’s landmark cities, the impressive achievement of the participants helped to sway public opinion of the motor car, which had previously been treated with suspicion and derision.
Argent Archer was appointed official photographer of the trial by its organisers, the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. His photographs of the event provide a fascinating and invaluable insight into this era of motoring, overcoming the obstacles of transporting delicate photographic equipment on the rough and dusty highways.
John Montagu was awarded a bronze medal for his participation in the event and was one of only 35 of the original 65 entrants to finish. A passionate campaigner for the cause of the motorist, he drove his 1899 Daimler in a number of events and was part of the first all-British entry in a foreign road event – the Paris-Ostend Race.
John also drove the Daimler into the House of Commons Yard, becoming the first person to do so, and gave the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, one of his first ever rides in a car. The Daimler was subsequently restored by the National Motor Museum, where it is now on display.
The album will be archived within the Museum collection and once digitised copies of the prints will be available to purchase online at http://www.motoringpicturelibrary.com.