The Norwich Traffic Club was born on 25th January, 1933, the date of the preliminary meeting at Langfords Restaurant at which it was founded with 31 members. Mr Lionel A. Carey had previously suggested the idea of such a club to Messrs. Charles Watling, H. G. Bloxham. S. Brierley, W. A. Porter and W. J. McDonald, all of whom were at the first meeting.
The Club came into being at the time when transport problems were assuming greater importance than ever before, and there was a need for some common ground on which responsible managers could meet irrespective of the forms of transport in which they were engaged.
Mr Charles Watling became the first President with Mr H. G. Bloxham as his deputy; both retained an active interest and a warm affection for the club for the rest of their lives. The first Committee meeting on the 31st January 1933 drafted the original rules and, starting with the first ordinary meeting on the 15th February, there followed the regular pattern of monthly meetings with two visits of transport interest each year, with an annual general meeting. From the start the club’s policy ensured that every form of transport would always have adequate representation on the Committee and that half the elected Committee would be changed annually. Thus did it provide for a constant stream of new blood.
By the end of the first year, the original membership of 31 had become 65, in spite of rigidly applied qualifications. In the words of the first President this was not so remarkable as the fact that it included so many names well known in East Anglia. By the end of 1934 the net figure was 78, and by 1938 it had risen to its pre-war peak of 120. This increase was not achieved by the relaxation of the standards laid down at the Club’s inception. It was not (and is not) the Club’s policy to increase its membership for the sake of numbers.
In 1934 Mr F. R. D. Walter was elected to the newly created office of Hon. Solicitor and served in this capacity continuously for over 30 years.
In the same year a sub-Committee co-operated with Norfolk County Council on the problem of Weak Bridges (under the 1933 Act) and Mr Watling presented the club with its presidential Badge which is still in use. It also entered the publishing business and in the succeeding two or three years supplied tens of thousands of Road and Rail Traffic Act record forms to its Road members.
The following year the Eastern Area Licencing Authority invited the Club to a joint conference to consider the working of the 1933 Act, a fact widely commented on in the national and technical press, and a copy of the report which followed was well received by the Minister. Shortly afterwards the Club was accorded official recognition by the Ministry of Transport as one of the organisations it might consult from time to time.
1936 was noteworthy for Mr Charles Watling’s trip on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary conveying greetings from the Norwich Traffic Club to the Traffic Club of New York, by whom he was royally entertained. In this year the club affiliated to the Norwich Chamber of Commerce and commenced the practice of occasional joint meetings with other Norwich organisations such as the Rotary Club, Engineering Society, Institute of Motor Trade, Aero Club, etc..
The early meetings of the Club were nearly all held at Langfords Restaurant, but in 1937 the increasing membership necessitated a larger room and there was a move to the Gladstone Club; later the Castle Hotel became the venue until the outbreak of war.
The highlight of 1939 was the holding of the National Congress of The Industrial Transport Association in Norwich. The Traffic Club acted as hosts to the Congress and took part in its meetings and social functions.
When War came many members were called to the fighting services and civil defence, while others gave full-time or part-time services to Government Departments, particularly on duties connected with transport. It was, therefore, necessary to suspend Club activities, but by early 1941 it was found possible to resume luncheon meetings for members within reasonable distance of Norwich. At the end of hostilities the Club had active membership of only one less than at their commencement.