Speed at Madresfield

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In 1925 the ban fell on speed events on public roads, brought to a head by the accident to a spectator at Key hill near Princes Risborough (non-fatal, contrary to some reports) which was the last straw on the camel’s back in a situation which had been simmering for some time. Racing cars, like early aeroplanes, had an understandable fascination for the public, and it was the ever-increasing interest on their part, and consequently their growing numbers that sounded the death-knell, at the behest of the RAC acting on behalf of the Government, of speed events over public roads, ironically just when a Bill was before Parliament which might have permitted the closing of such roads for speed events, as was, and is, permissible in Northern Ireland and the loM but not in Britain.

With such public-road speed trials and hill-climbs popular all over the country every summer weekend, the ban put the Clubs into a turmoil, as they searched for places where they could continue the sport over private roads. The RAC issued the ban on April 2nd, 1925, but two days later two further public-road fixtures took place, it being thought presumably that it was too law to cancel them, or perhaps the news of their illegality had not reached the then remote places involved. Anyway, on April 4th, 1925, speed-trials were held on the now-busy Whitecross road out of Hereford, towards Brecon, and at Tavistock on the tame day another speed-trial was held, over the Brentnor road. Both were over half-a-mile, the former over a tarmacadam surface, the latter from a flying-start. In the former event F. B. Taylor’s Brescia Bugatti made FTD in 25.8 sec; at Tavistock J. A. Joyce in the sprint ohc AC was quickest, in 19.8 sec. It was the intention of the York & District MC to defy the RAC with a hill-climb at Sutton Bank on April 10th but so many onlookers turned up, perhaps aware that this might be their last chance to see racing machines unleashed up the famous hill, that the event was soon abandoned.

It is rather interesting that while all the frenzy to find private roads for the remainder of the 1925 and subsequent speed events was in full cry, two clubs in England had used such courses long before the ban tell. Apart from some seaside venues and racing over sands, the Midland AC had been using Shelsley Walsh since as far back as 1005, as is well known and was celebrated this year but what is not so generally realised is that the Worcester MC had been using the drive of Madresfield Court, near Upton-on-Severn, by permission of the Earl of Beauchamp at least since 1921. As this venue is still used annually by the VSCC for driving tests which are staged on the same long straight Gloucester Drive leading from the Upton-to-Worcester road from lodge gate to mansion, by permission of Lady Beauchamp, and as the venue is not far from Malvern where the VSCC had its Golden Jubilee last year, it may be of interest to look briefly at the speed-trials there.

The road was narrow and undulating but it was flanked for its entire length by wide grass verges, with the long lines of trees set well back from the drive, as is the case today, and although some drivers found the bumps hazardous, it was possible to get a half-mile tinted section there. In 1921 this was tackled from a flying-start and R. J. Sully’s HE was fastest, in 28 sec from an Essex, and a Morgan three-wheeler driven by H. F. S. Morgan himself took the 1½-litre class with a time of 31 sec. Much the same pattern prevailed the following year, the event run off rather oddly on a Thursday, and being the combined effort of the Worcester MCC, the Worcestershire MC and the Gloucester MC & LCC, the Earl an interested spectator. Raymond Mays set FTD in his Bugatti in 25.6 sec, or some 70 mph, winning the STD Cup and the class winners were Brunwick’s Bugatti and R. Brown (Hillman), Boston’s Vauxhall being second to Mays. Two three-wheelers took part, a Morgan and a New Hudson, but in later years this event was well supported by Morgans, the factory being just down the road and Robin Jackson living with his mother in Malvern, and the Morgan and Jackson cups were competed for. In 1922 Mays won the remaining classes.

In 1923, again on a Thursday, the course was now a ss kilometre, with ample pull-up area, but in those days had a loose surface, the competitors sending up trails of dust, until a thunderstorm arrived, to spoil times in the sidecar classes. H. W. Cook in the Vauxhall “Rouge et Noir” was quickest, in 34.2 sec, the only car to beat Mays’ 1½-litre Bugatti. Two runs only were allowed each entrant but Capt Brittain (BSA) hedged his bets by entering 10 classes and Capt Marendaz, with an eye on the formula, had five up in his Marseal. Harvey drove one of the new ohs, Alvises, H. F. S. Morgan a Morgan-Anzani and Wilmot a Mowgli-ohc ON. It was much the same in 1924, with 26 classes, Dr Benjafield’s racing 3-litre Bentley fastest in 37 sec, Harvey’s Alvin doing 38.4 sec, the Hon Brian Lewis’ Fraser Nash taking the amateur award after a re-run when he tied with Boston’s Horstmann. Clive Lanes’ Morgan-Blackburne won the members’ 1,100 cc class, beating Bean’s Morgan in the experts’ 1,100 cc class. I am not sure in which direction these events were run, but think it may have been from the lodge towards the mansion, as there is mention of Ron Horton aiming for a narrow gate at the end of the drive with his Morgan swinging wildly on the loose surface, which sounds more likely to have been going towards the house than the road.

The 1925 speed trials saw Archie Frazer-Nash make FTD and win the STD cup in his single-seater Frazer Nash, in 32.2 sec, beating Joyce’s AC (32.6 sec) and Harvey on the FWD Alvis (33 sec). Waite’s blown A7

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