In June’s article Back to the Future, Brooklands Museum director Morag Barton speaks of the desire of the Trustees of the Brooklands Museum Trust Ltd to restore as much of Brooklands as possible as it was in the 1920s and 1930s, and to create not only a static museum but a ‘living’ museum. Why is this desirable, and how is it to be achieved?
The present situation at Brooklands has developed because, with great vision, Bill Boddy led the formation of the Brooklands Society Ltd and former Brooklands driver and Society VicePresident Kenneth Evans spent five years securing preservation orders on the site. This made it possible for Elmbridge Borough Council to secure a planning gain and to form the Brooklands Museum Trust Ltd with a lease on 30 acres of Brooklands and £600,000 of rate payers’ money.
As one who was there Bill Boddy writes of Brooklands as seen by thousands of spectators between 1907 and 1939. They remember Brooklands as the most exciting place to visit in England where drivers and riders, men and women, hurtled around the top of the precipitous banking at up to 140 mph, a frightening sight even to a spectator. In the distance aircraft, brought to Brooklands by AV Roe and still a rarity then, took off and landed. From 1937 the thrills of road racing were brought by the new Campbell Road Circuit, Britain’s first purpose built road track.
A visit to the paddock enabled one to rub shoulders with the men and women who, perhaps, were making tomorrow’s headlines. Here were to be found the fastest drivers on two or four wheels, on earth or water: Sir Malcolm Campbell, Kaye Don, Eric Fernihough, John Cobb, George Eyston, and Brooklands’ fastest ladies Kay Petre and Gwenda Stewart.
The memories of spectators are fading and, in the long run, Brooklands will be remembered for its value to the nation in both peace and war. And this was very considerable. Brooklands Motor Course was the vision of Hugh Locke King. Warned that British cars did not compete against continental cars, and aware that without a site for testing, racing and record breaking they could never succeed, he decided to act. In a brief 10 months he gave 300 acres of his land and £150,000 of his money, at 1907 values, to build a great banked circuit one hundred feet wide and nearly three miles long. England led the world with the facilities; they were there for industry to use, and spectators to enjoy.
In 1967 the Brooklands Society was given permission for Brooklands personalities, cars, aircraft and motor cycles to enter the site to relive Brooklands for one day a year. (In fact, MOTOR SPORT had organised such reunions inside the track from 1963 onwards – WB.) Today it is possible to take cars and motor cycles up the Test Hill and along the Members’ Banking, now in poor condition. To bring back a live museum it is necessary to look at the large areas of the Motor Course outside the museum site. In particular the Railway Straight, which is in good condition and, like the Members’ Banking, is a listed ancient monument, presents the only practical possibility. Furthermore, the Railway Straight is, perhaps, the most famous part of the circuit as here the highest speeds were reached and the land speed record broken. The Brooklands Museum Trust raises funds to develop the museum while the Brooklands Society raises funds to maintain the Motor Course and other historic structures. Together they are the only bodies in existence to pursue the future preservation of the site and present its history. This requires negotiations with the land owners and contacts have already taken place which, one day it is hoped, will bring public access to more of Brooklands and, in particular, to the Railway Straight, in order to improve the facilities.