24 May 2015
SIG: Archaeology and Heritage
A small unassuming hut, now a listed building, stands on the edge of the aircraft park. It’s billed as the world’s first flight ticket office, and as early as 1911 intrepid visitors could book a pleasure flight to take in the spectacle of motor racing here. This is the key to Brooklands, the British birthplace of both motor racing and aviation. The first purpose built racing track was built here at enormous expense by a local landowner in 1907, and aircraft manufacture and flying commenced in the early years of the 20th century.
Flight Booking Office (1911)
For our visit, the group congregated in the cafeteria, and then dispersed for an initial look round the site before meeting up for a fascinating introduction to the site’s history and exhibits from a regular guide. Participants then spent the rest of the day exploring the museum, having arranged to meet up again for lunch, thus providing a social focus to the day.
Original racing circuit - member's bank and member's bridge
There was much to photograph. The steeply banked section of the original racetrack, spanned by the Members’ Bridge, was an early subject for the cameras. A short section of the original finishing straight led towards the clubhouse of 1907, which evoked the atmosphere of the early days when Brooklands was part of the British social scene. Clustered round this were the original sheds where racing cars were maintained, tuned and prepared for racing. Inside could be found various displays of racing cars, from the massive 24 litre Napier-Railton through to more modern Grand Prix cars, and also bicycles and motorcycles. Also displayed was the interior of a typical racing shed from the early days, and a reminder that speed king Malcolm Campbell operated from Brooklands in its heyday.
Racing sheds from ca. 1920s
As early as 1908 an Avro biplane made pioneer flights here, and a replica could be seen on display. Famous names such as Sopwith, Hawker and Vickers all built planes at Brooklands, and many examples were displayed in a 1940’s wartime hangar or outside in the aircraft park. Inside examples included a Wellington bomber in course of restoration, a replica Vickers Vimy biplane, and a Hawker Hurricane. Outside were familiar examples of commercial aircraft built at Brooklands in the postwar era, including the Vickers Viscount and VC -10 (in less conventional guise as the Sultan of Oman’s personal jet). The star was perhaps the first British production Concorde, much design and manufacture for this having taken place at Brooklands.
Replica B.A.E. SE5a
Archaeology & Heritage group members have a range of interests, but no-one could doubt that this was true heritage – examples from the history of British motor racing and aviation displayed on a site with evocative remains of its exciting past.
Feature photo: First British production Concorde
Text and photographs by Mike Sasse