Gallaher's Brooklands

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Last month Gallaher Limited celebrated at Brooklands the reinstatement of 100 metres of the Members’ banking, previously destroyed. The contractors, Kyle Stewart, who are building the Gallaher five­storey office block that is rising on the Members’ Hill at a cost of £12 million, used 400 cubic metres of concrete and remaking this little bit of the banking took about 2½ times as long as it took to build the entire Track in 1906/7. It has cost Gallaher £70,000.

The last piece of new concrete was laid appropriately by Morris Goodall and for the benefit of the Press photographers Mike Goodall was impersonating the late Mr H. F. Locke King, Ann Huckings, dressed up as Dame Ethel Locke King, and two “period” workmen with their horse-and-cart represented the hundreds of navvies who had toiled on the Track 79 years ago. An audio-visual explanation was shown which, rather unkindly to the Brooklands Society and others, said that “volunteers had made occasional attempts to clear the Track of undergrowth and debris but the Brooklands story has been a well-kept secret for many years, so that the current restoration plan will open up the dramatic history to a new generation.” After which a small assembly of vehicles drove over the new bit of banking staging fake “races” for the cameramen. MGs, with a 1931 Montlhéry Midget, blown Kl Magnette, 1932 J2 and a very smart 1934 PA, predominated, but a rare 3½-litre Bentley Carlton dh coupe with lady passenger m white overalls and helmet and a Calcott light car joined in and I was kindly given a lift in Vernon Balls’ 2-litre open Lagonda. Motorcycles included the ex-George Brown racing Douglas, a 1914 single-speed TT Replica Ariel, etc.

Lunch was served in the’ Paddock Clubhouse which Gallaher has restored so well, just in time one gathers, as it was in a sorry state, the total bill being well over £300,000. Here is another example of Locke King foresight, because the building covers an astonishing 20,000 sq ft, or nearly a third-of-the-area of the aforesaid new Gallaher office-block, so that it will be ideal as the nucleus of the new Brooklands Museum which Gallaher, in conjunction with Elmbridge Borough Council, expect to open next year. Geoffrey Church, Weybridge Project Director, addressed the guests, saying that when Cobb took the ultimate Brooklands lap-record at 143.44 mph this took less than 1 min 10 sec and he did not intend to talk for any longer than that. He said how delighted Gallaher was that work on the Museum project has the blessing of the Elmbridge Council and he hoped that more of the banking may be relaid, towards the old Railway straight. Councillor M. R. Bygraves endorsed this, emphasising the historic role and saying he hoped it would be possible to resume driving-test meetings within the Museum site.

Exhibits are being assembled, at present with an aviation bias, with that salvaged Wellington bomber due the next day from Loch Ness, but the four motorcycles on loan comprised a 1911 Bradbury, a Rover, a 1937 Triumph and a 1939 825 BSA and among the many bicycles was a Dursley Pedersen. We were told that a new Members’ bridge may span the new bit of banking by next year, the Royal Engineers being interested. Morag Barton, the Museum Co-ordinator, was thanked for her help with vital historical research and I gleaned a few new Brooklands fragments from the visit, such as that Mr Locke King stood 6 ft 2 in tall and used to mingle with the workmen who built the Track, accompanied by his poodle called John (these workmen were said to be from Yorkshire but I thought they were mainly Irishmen, although we know the Hennebique bridge was the work of a Yorkshire company), that around 1918/20 there was still a windmill near the aerodrome, and that engine-changes to a Vickers Victoria involved having a Morris Commercial truck in attendance. – W.B.

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