Few would disagree with the view of a Harpenden Town Councillor that Harpenden Common is ‘the jewel in the town’s crown.’ The vast tract of common grassland sweeping you into the town centre from the south is home to a golf club, two cricket clubs, a football club and the occasional fair and circus. Yet this Green Flag Award-winning area still provides acres of recreational space for residents and visitors.

Since 1994, for one day a year, this idyllic scene is interrupted for a few hours for what has become one of the biggest mid-week classic car shows in Britain. Classics on the Common was the brain-child of classic car enthusiasts John Tibble, then landlord of the Carpenters Arms, and Peter Madden, a Harpenden resident and Metropolitan Police officer. The first year’s show attracted 125 cars. In 2023, our 29th year, upwards of 1,000 classics vehicles, motorcycles and scooters arrived on Harpenden Common from all over the UK. According to senior Rotary sources, the event can be seen from space!

And there’s never any shortage of admirers. Thousands of spectators spend hours admiring the mouth-watering collection.

For our show a classic vehicle has to be at least 25 years old but we usually have one or two from around a century ago, such as a 1913 model T Ford and a 1916 Stanley Steamer. Every decade following is well represented, too, from Rolls Royces and Maseratis to Austin A40s and Morris Minors. We’ve even had a Sinclair C5. We like to encourage diversity and invite some ‘supercars’ to the event.

In 2009 Harpenden Village Rotary Club took over responsibility for organising and running the show and in 2016 the charity Rotary in Harpenden took over. Rotarians are no strangers to running events and, although we have over 40 members, we need another 50 volunteers to help make the day a success.

We are very grateful to have our numbers boosted by members of our associated club, Harpenden Village Inner Wheel. Other helpers include Harpenden Round Table, 41 Club and Harpenden Lions Club. Volunteers from the principal charities supported by the show get involved in bucket collections during the day. Also, we could not put on the event without the active support of friends and family. Our gratitude goes also to our sponsor, Harpenden Town Council, and the police and emergency services for their continued support.

At heart, Classics on the Common remains a community event. Its charity fundraising is significant, too: since Rotary took on organising the show in 2009, £384,000 has been distributed to local, children’s, national and international charities.

Classic vehicle owners make a donation to enter and, although there is no entry charge to the public, spectators have always responded generously when approached with collecting buckets.

We encourage local businesses linked to the motoring market by having stalls where they can sell their products or by taking banner advertising. In recent years, local motoring companies have been able to take space to display their newest models.

In 2020 we had an enforced holiday through Covid but we came back with a bang in 2021. Despite having to delay the show until September we were treated to amazingly good weather and, thanks to the huge generosity of our spectators and supporters, we raised over £33,000. This enabled Rotary in Harpenden to donate sizeable sums to our chosen charities.

In 2022, with the show back to its traditional date in late July, vehicle numbers caught up with pre-Covid attendances at nearly 1,100. And spectators surpassed themselves: their generosity led to funds raised for charity reaching £40,000.

The combination of inflation and late-afternoon rain caused our fundraising to fall to £34,000 in 2023, but that is still our third best year for charity donations. See report and photos below.

We encourage all classic entrants who are UK taxpayers to tick the Gift Aid box on the Ticket Application form. This allows us to claim from the taxman an extra 25% of the value of their entry fee donation, without any extra cost to them, and increase the amount we are able to donate to charity.


‘Iconic event has gone from strength to strength,’ was said of Classics on the Common in a recent issue of Practical Classics.

Don’t we know it!

Uncertain weather forecasts gave way to our normal mode of bright sunshine which brought out thousands of spectators to Harpenden Common where Rotary in Harpenden had organised a wonderful show of classic and exotic vehicles.

Classics on the Common is a multi-layered event: a showcase for classic cars, a day out for local families enjoying the special and valuable amenity of Harpenden Common and a fund-raising event for charity through which Rotary has raised more than £350,000 over the years. Adding to that are the commercial benefits enjoyed by the businesses in the town.

Austin, Morris, Wolseley, Vauxhall and Riley mixed with a 1926 Sunbeam Tourer, Model A Ford, SS Excalibur Phaeton. American classics like Cadillac, Chevrolet and Chrysler all made a good showing. A phalanx of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys lent serious class to the event. Modern supercars like McLaren, Ferrari and Aston Martin completed the array. We are very lucky to have such a loyal following who bring their cherished vehicles every year.

We continue to encourage local car businesses to have stands at the show and they had a very successful time. Autojumble stands made a first serious appearance and novelty was added with an Isle of Man TT motorcycle simulator.

‘Our owners and exhibitors once again made this 29th running of Classics on the Common a special event that is so close to the hearts of Harpenden people. May I thank most sincerely all the volunteers who put so much into making it a success, involving hours of work and organisation.

‘We would also like to thank Harpenden Town Council and the police for their help and assistance. Our spectators have again been immensely generous and we will be distributing proceeds, £34,000, to Wheathampstead Community Group, St. Luke’s School, Redbourn, Pump Aid and other good causes.’

Liz Jack, event organiser

We know money is not everything, and getting involved practically can be very rewarding. If you would like to join us in Rotary, please go to hvrc.net where you can find details.


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