Brooklands Museum, Surrey, Revs Up For Centenary Celebrations

By Ruth Owen | 06 June 2007
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photo of a silver-coloured vintage racing car

This 24-litre Napier-Railton will star in the centenary celebrations. Courtesy Brooklands Museum

Brooklands, the birthplace of British motor racing and aviation, will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with a centenary festival running over the weekend of June 16–17 2007.

On the Saturday, re-enactments of past races on the legendary Brooklands racetrack and test hill will take place. Sunday June 17 marks the exact date of the centenary, and a procession of Brooklands’ cars and motorbikes will re-enact the first ever lap, while a flying display takes place overhead.

Throughout the weekend vintage cars, motorcycles and bicycles will be on display and visitors will also have the chance to climb on board decommissioned aircraft and get nostalgic for supersonic passenger flight at the Concorde Experience.

Brooklands was the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit. It was commissioned by Hugh Locke King, a motoring enthusiast who had been to an international motor racing event and was disappointed to find that there were no British entries.

When he returned home he remarked this to his friends who were influential in the motoring industry, who told him Britain could not compete at that level because there was nowhere in this country that British cars could be tested or raced.

photo of an old biplane in flight

The Vickers Vimy replica that will lead the aviation display. Courtesy Brooklands Museum

Locke King duly donated the land and capital necessary to build the racetrack, enlisting Colonel HCL Holden of the Royal Artillery to design a 2.75 mile, 100 foot wide hard-surfaced circuit that included two banked 30 foot high sections.

The track included two long straights, one running for half a mile beside the London to Southampton Railway, and the other to be the finishing straight.

On June 17 1907, after nine months of work, the Brooklands Motor Course was officially opened, although it was still unfinished. The first official race was held on July 6 1907.

Soon after the racetrack opened, aerospace enthusiasts realised that Brooklands produced a sheltered, wind-free environment perfect for testing new aircraft.

The great British aviation pioneer, Alliott Verdon Roe, made his first successful attempts at powered flight at Brooklands in 1908 and subsequently Brooklands became a major centre for aircraft design, construction and flight-testing throughout much of the 20th century.

sepia tinted vintage photograph of a procession of old fashioned cars on a race track

The opening parade from 1907 will be recreated over the weekend. Courtesy Brooklands Museum

In the First World War Brooklands was commandeered by the War Office and a Military Flying School was established and racing discontinued. Brooklands became the leading aircraft production centre in Britain.

After the war motor racing restarted in 1920 and in August 1926 the RAC organised the first-ever British Grand Prix there. The race was won by Major Henry Segrave, driving a Talbot. The same year Hugh Locke King died and his wife Ethel took over management of the Brooklands Estate.

By the Second World War the aerodrome was again requisitioned by the government to produce aircraft including the Hurricane fighter plane and the Wellington Bomber. However when peace returned the changes made had been too severe for Brooklands to return to motor racing and the track was sold to aircraft manufacturers Vickers.

The Brooklands Museum Trust was formed in 1987 with the aim of creating a motor and aviation museum situated on the most historic part of the original racetrack.

As well as the weekend festival, events celebrating the centenary will be running throughout the year – visit the Brooklands Museum website for more details.

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