Herefordshire History


As so often in the columns of Motor Sport there are fascinating snippets of motoring history, sometimes even “concealed” among the paragraphs describing present-day machinery! Your mention of by-passing the city of Hereford by using the old Roman road and thereby missing that stretch of the Whitecross road on the Brecon exit from Hereford, over which one of the last public-road speed-trials took place early in 1925, prompted me to dig out my copy of the programme for that event.

Organised by the Western Centre of the ACU, it was held on Saturday 4th April, 1925. It was primarily a motorcycle event, there being 56 entrants in the Solo Classes and 32 in the Passenger Classes, in which category the five four-wheelers were included. These comprised one each of Austin, Horstman, Talbot, Morris Cowley and Bugatti. The event had been planned and entries accepted before the RAC’s ban on such events, imposed after the debacle at Kop the previous week-end. Reference to local Hereford papers of the period confirmed that the RAC’s decision caused much heartburn at the ACU headquarters when pointed out that at such short notice it was impossible to inform all the entrants of any cancellation, and it was decided to seek the co-operation and consent of the Hereford Police, the Mayor, and Watch Committee to allow the event to take place as planned despite the ban. The “true sporting instincts” (to quote the local papers version) of these bodies were heartily praised when they decided to allow the event to take place. Scheduled to begin promptly at one pm the start was in fact delayed, but the wide grass verges and the road gave the spectators a splendid view, and in contrast to the irresponsible crowds at Kop, the Herefordians were orderly.

Fastest solo man was JP Riddoch on a 998 cc Zenith, who crossed the finishing line, “at well over 100 mph”, in 19.0 sec, but Vic Anstice ran him close with a time of 19.4 sec on a 746 cc Douglas entered by the makers. Thc inimitable George Dance, Sunbeam-mounted as usual, ran in both the Solo and Passenger Classes but, for once, was not able to gain ftd. “Wally” Handley put up a time of 27.8 sec with his 250 cc Rex-Acme, Hereford tuning-wizard H Minton managed 26.0 sec with a New Imperial and also ran his own Minton Special (248 cc) in the Solo Classes and CAC Birkin, brother of the later-to-be-renowned Sir Henry (“Tim”) Birkin, rode a Cotton. Among the seven Morgans entered were HFS himself, George Goodall and Clive Lones, while not surprisingly perhaps, the Bugatti of F Taylor comfortably beat Wilfred Swiffen’s Horseman. All good fun indeed. Perhaps the Editor might vary his route out of Hereford by taking the Rotherwas road where, on entering the city of Hereford, one passes along the “straight mile” that was the site of earlier Hereford Speed Trials in 1922 and 1924. Despite some more recent building, it is still easy to imagine the machines of the time in flat-out competition.

Arising out of the picture of the late Gordon Brettell’s “smallest single-seater ever fitted to a large man”, I enclose a photograph of a GN Special single-seater that was for a time run by one of two keen motoring brothers in the Ludlow area. This must run the Brettell car close in this respect. The two brothers used to race one another regularly over the public roads in the district, having chosen two alternative routes that they could use depending on the degree of police awareness! Almost unbelievably the GN in this condition was on occasions driven right into Birmingham, its intrepid driver, whether by skill or by sheer good luck, I wouldn’t care to say, managing to avoid unwelcome attention from the authorities every time.

AB Demaus, Tenbury Wells