C.O.W.S Club History
By John Hughes - A founding member
Craven Old Wheels Society was started by Neil Stronach who was the landlord of the Black Horse Hotel in Giggleswick, Settle North Yorkshire. Near the end of 1975 he placed an advert in the Craven Herald looking for like-minded people who were interested in old vehicles. A group of enthusiasts met at the Red Lion Hotel in Skipton with the purpose of forming an old vehicle club. At this stage the club had no name, various suggestions were made including the 30's to 50's Club. One of the new enthusiasts asked if he could be a member as he owned an early Model T Ford! - of course he could was the reply. The name Craven Old Wheels Society was decided upon and it was agreed that the club would cater for all types of old vehicles - and that you did not need to own a vehicle to be a member.
Over the years club members vehicles have included cars of all ages, commercial vehicles, fire engines, buses, motorcycles, pedal cycles, etc. Since those early beginnings there has been a monthly meeting. During its life time the club has met at various venues only having to move on to a new base due to venues closing or the club having grown too large for the room available.
C.O.W.S have attended many local shows, carnivals and Galas including: Settle Gala, Langcliffe Carnival, Crosshills and Glusburn Gala, Crossroads Gala, Malham & Gargrave Shows to name but a few. Gargrave Show is still attended by C.O.W.S members today.
One of the more notable events we were asked to attend was a press day at the site of the new Lakeland Motor Museum at Holker Hall. The gentleman who was opening the museum had organised a Press Conference to announce plans for the new museum - but he had no cars for the photo shoot. A few members came to his rescue and turned up with their cars. They were all thanked by being wined & dined at Holker Hall restaurant. After hearing the exciting new plans for the museum and photos taken C.O.W.S members were asked if any of them were willing to lend cars for display in the museum. As a result of this some of the vehicles from the club were put on display. The Hughes family, some of the founding members, also supplied some pushbikes, signs and a collection of 500 model cars which are still in the Lakeland Motor Museum today.
The club has always held an annual rally. The first annual rally was held at Barden Tower near Bolton Abbey and was wholly organised C.O.W.S right down to the booking of stalls, hiring of toilets, etc. The rally proved very popular but we outgrew the site due to limited access, especially for commercial vehicles which also shared the same access gate as the visiting public this resulted in long tailbacks. An opportunity came along for us to hold our annual rally at Broughton Hall, Skipton again wholly organised by the club. Within a few years the Broughton Estate introduced the Broughton Game Fair and the event organisation was passed on to them although the C.O.W.S rally was still part of the main attraction and at its height this event attracted up to 200 cars. When the Broughton Game Show finally ended the venue for our annual rally was transferred to Roberts Park in Saltaire. It was decided recently by C.O.W.S to hold our annual rally at Townley Park in Burnley in conjunction with Burnley Classic Vehicle Show.
In addition to the annual rally, C.O.W.S also held Sunday runs to various locations across the North. The first ever Sunday Run was to the Boars Head Hotel in Long Preston with about ten vehicles attending. In the early years some of the runs started from the Youth Hostel at Stainforth, near Settle as this was where my parents were the wardens. The venue was an ideal start point as there was a large "U" shaped drive. It made an impressive site with all the cars parked outside. In those days many of the vehicles taking part were from the 1930's to the 1950's. As time went by more adventurous club runs were put on, visits included: Southport, Lytham St Annes, Bowness, Sizergh Castle and the Lakeland Motor Museum.
There is a weekend run to Whitby to raise funds for the R.N.L.I. This event started in Skipton on Saturday morning arriving in Whitby to park on the pier for the afternoon followed by an overnight stay. On the Sunday morning the cars were again displayed on the pier. The club was also involved in the early organisation of The Bradford to Morecambe Run and The Peter Black Rally, both very popular events.
Other events organised by club members have been: Coach trips to places like the Classic Car Show in Birmingham, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, Scarborough Fair, the RAF Museum at Hendon and even a few trips over the Channel, a shopping trip to Belgium, an excursion to Germany and a trip to visit the Schlumpf Collection in France.
When the club started most of the membership came from the Craven area and initially probably had around 20 members. The club now has members from much further afield and current membership is 160. When the club first started the only way to keep members in touch was via the newsletter. The first ever newsletter was hand written as a one page sheet and then photocopied and sent out to members. In those early years of the newsletter production we were very lucky in having a talented artist in the club. For every newsletter he did a ink drawing of a member's motor car for the front cover. Having your car appear on the front cover was regarded as quite an honour.
The Hughes family took over the newsletter. It was a very manual process of typed stencils, an ancient Gestetner roll printer that covered everything including the paper in ink. This all required collating, stapling, hand writing addresses and a trip to the Post Office. There were many late nights. Today we still have a hard-working newsletter editor although the technology has changed with the copy being typed into a computer, and emailed to the printer We even have colour pictures. It is however still a thankless task.
This article is really only a brief insight into what the club has been up to since 1975 and has only covered a few aspects of the club's life. Like all organisations Craven Old Wheels Society has had good times and also not so good times. Club membership is increasing and there is "new blood" driving the club forward for years to come. As one of the early members of the club I am proud to be a member of Craven Old Wheels Society.
Below are a collection of a few photographs and club magazines collected by John over the years: