Putting colour into the Brooklands atmosphere
They may be a little faded and somewhat simplistic in style, but these paintings offer us some rare first-hand colour images of motor racing at Brooklands before the First World War.
They are part of a folio of work done by Margery Balfour-Browne, the daughter of a wealthy Scottish family who was plainly an enthusiast for the new sport of motoring. With the family owning houses in Eaton Square and in Scotland, travelling was part of her life, and she recorded her experiences in watercolour and in several albums of photographs.
Owned by a private collector, the 14 paintings in the group will be on display in the Coachmakers Gallery at the Brooklands Museum from May 9 until October, as part of the Elmbridge Cultural Festival. Seven of them are of Brooklands scenes and the remainder of various motor journeys around the UK. The exhibition also includes related period motoring items.
What is so special about them is the depiction of car and clothing colours, so often the subject of arguments over black and white photos, and the sheer emptiness of the Brooklands estate in the background. The paddock image shows the infield completely unoccupied, while the Test Hill picture gives an idea of the sweeping views you would once have had from its slopes.
Sadly, Margery Balfour-Browne did not live to see any post-war racing: she died, aged 34, in the ‘flu epidemic of 1919.