Crystal Palace 50th anniversary

Coronation Trophy

Fifty years ago, on April 24, 1937, a purpose-built motor racing circuit was opened in the grounds of the Crystal Palace Exhibition Centre at Sydenham in south-east London. This ambitious project was brought about by a newly founded organisation called the Road Racing Club, led by racing driver WG (Bill) Everitt and Harry Edwards, who became Clerk of the Course.

The two-mile circuit was ideally suited to “voiturette” racing, rather than Grand Prix racing, and the first event was won by Pat Fairfield, driving the latest 11/2-litre ERA.

1937 being the year of the coronation of King George VI, the opening meeting saw 20 cars entered for the Coronation Trophy race. As the circuit was compact and twisty, the entry was divided into two heats of 20 laps each, with a final for the first five in each heat, run over 30 laps.

The works ERA team dominated proceedings, with Fairfield winning heat one, Raymond Mays heat two, and Fairfield winning the final after Mays retired.

The opening of this road-racing type circuit brought motor racing to the very doorsteps of many South London enthusiasts, among them a youthful DSJ, who spent all his pocket-money on his bus-fare, entrance fee and programme. The accompanying photographs, taken from our archives, give some of the flavour of that opening meeting. DSJ