The world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit was built at his own expense and on his land by Hugh Locke King and opened in June 1907 after just nine months work, at the enormous cost of £150,000 – several millions today. Even before being opened it was used to establish a 24 hour record which stood for 17 years – S F Edge averaged almost 66 mph on his Napier. The record breaking continued with Percy Lambert becoming the first person ever to travel over 100 miles in an hour, averaging more than 103 mph in a Talbot in 1913. Victor Hémery broke the world land speed record at 125.95mph in 1909, with L G “Cupid” Hornsted setting the first two-way record in 1914 at 124.1mph, both in “Blitzen” Benzes. Kenelm Lee Guinness (who founded KLG spark plugs) drove the 350hp Sunbeam at 133.7mph in 1922 – the last time the record was set on a circuit. The circuit remained the only permanent motor racing venue in the UK until 1933, and was used for racing and testing throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, with such great personalities as Count Zborowski racing his Chitty Bang Bangs, and Tim Birkin, Malcolm Campbell and Henry Segrave regularly winning on Bentleys, Sunbeams and Talbots. Thomson & Taylor, based at Brooklands, designed and built several Land Speed Record (LSR) cars including Campbell’s Blue Birds. The last of Campbell’s cars, whose body was built in the Brooklands shed Campbell had formerly used as a showroom, captured the Land Speed Record at 301.1mph in 1935 on Bonneville Salt Flats. Another Thomson & Taylor car built at Brooklands and designed by Reid Railton for John Cobb, The Railton Special, took the LSR in 1938, 1939 and 1947 when he achieved an average of 394.20 mph and exceeded 400mph on the return run.
The Outer Circuit Record was the most prestigious at Brooklands and was notably held by Kaye Don in the Sunbeam Tiger, then Tim Birkin in his blower Bentley and finally by John Cobb in the 24 litre Napier-Railton at 143.44 mph. .
Motorcycle racing and record attempts were prominent at Brooklands in the 1920s and ‘30s, with Noel Pope being the fastest ever around the Outer Circuit on two wheels at 124.5mph in 1939. Cycle racing was also active here starting in 1907 but especially so in the 1930s. The track was closed with the outbreak of war in 1939 and the banking was breached with the production of the Vickers Valiant ‘V’ bomber in 1951.
From the beginning, pioneers were drawn to Brooklands circuit. In 1908 A V Roe attempted to become the first Englishman to fly in a powered aeroplane of his own design. In 1909 Locke King created one of Britain’s first aerodromes in the middle of the Brooklands track. Pioneers and aircraft companies soon arrived, took premises and offered flying lessons. In 1911 Hilda Hewlett was the first woman to gain a British pilot’s licence and the world’s first flight ticket office opened. Tom Sopwith was one of those who took premises in the new Flying Village of wooden aeroplane sheds – which quickly became a base for pioneering aviators. The Sopwith Aviation Company was formed in 1912 with flight sheds at Brooklands and offices and premises in nearby Kingston on Thames. Harry Hawker became Sopwith’s test pilot and colleague. In 1914 the Brooklands-built Sopwith Tabloid biplane won the Schneider Trophy and was the prototype of all future single-seater fighters. Vickers started five decades of Brooklands-built aircraft manufacture with the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c biplane in 1915, followed by 1,650 SE5A fighters. The first true Vickers fighter was the Gunbus, the world’s first aircraft designed to mount a machine gun. The twin-engined Vimy bomber pioneered long distance flights across the world in 1919-20. After WWI, aircraft production was scaled back and Vickers made many other products as well as a broad range of civil and military aircraft. The Wellington bomber, which incorporated Barnes Wallis’ geodetic construction, was designed by Vickers and 2,515 were built at Brooklands. Barnes Wallis worked at Brooklands on the “Dambuster” weapons ‘Upkeep’ and ‘Highball’ and “Earthquake” bombs ‘Tallboy’ and ‘Grand Slam’.
Sopwith Aviation was restructured in 1920 and reformed as H G Hawker Engineering then Hawker Aircraft at Brooklands and Kingston. This company became a specialist fighter aircraft producer and as part of Hawker Siddeley, produced most of the RAF’s inter-war fighters and the Hurricane, which played a decisive role in winning the Battle of Britain in 1940.
After WWII the Vickers-Armstrong’s Viking, Viscount and Vanguard airliners and Valiant V-bomber were followed by the Vickers VC10 – the largest airliner produced in the UK – all produced at Brooklands. The British Aircraft Corporation, which incorporated the Vickers, Bristol, English Electric and Hunting aircraft companies, was the UK partner of France’s Sud Aviation (later Aérospatiale) on the Concorde project. Although many British and French factories were involved, more of Concorde was designed and manufactured at Brooklands than at any other site.
British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) was formed with the merger of BAC and Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1977, and operated a major factory at Brooklands until closure in the late 1980s.
Between 1908 and 1984 over 18,600 Brooklands-designed, manufactured or assembled aircraft of many types from A V Roe to BAC 1-11 had their first flights out of Brooklands.
The Brooklands Museum Trust displays collections of historic racing cars and motorcycles, aircraft including Concorde and the London Bus Museum on a site at the North East corner of the Brooklands circuit. The Brooklands Automobile Racing Club clubhouse is a listed building at the heart of the museum site. It is surrounded by preserved buildings of the original Motoring Village and aircraft factory, which house the various collections. The Stratosphere Chamber adjoining the Clubhouse, was a research facility designed by Barnes Wallis for testing aircraft structures at simulated high altitude and climatic conditions.
Brooklands Museum is between Weybridge and Byfleet, just a few minutes from Junction 10 of the M25 and the A3 London-Portsmouth trunk road. Leave the A3 at the Painshill junction and follow the A245 towards Byfleet - look out for the brown ‘Brooklands Museum’ signs. The main visitor entrance is reached via Brooklands Drive and Mercedes-Benz World. The postcode for satnavs is KT13 0SL
The nearest railway station is Weybridge (less than a mile away).
A local bus serves Woking, Sheerwater, Byfleet, Mercedes-Benz World/ Brooklands Museum and Weybridge Station.
Alcock, John, Sir & Arthur, Whitten (1969) 'Our Transatlantic Flight' (William Kimber & Co., Ltd., London, ISBN 718302214).
Andrews, Charles and Morgan, Eric (1988) ‘Vickers Aircraft since 1908’ (Putnam).
Barfield, Norman (1997) ‘The Archive Photographs Series - Vickers Aircraft’ (Chalford Publishing Co., Stroud, Gloucs, ISBN 0-7524-0606-X).
Belton, Gerry (2007) ‘All the years at Brooklands’ (Centennial Publications, Wiveliscombe, Somerset, ISBN 978 0 9546798). Well-illustrated history of motorcycle racing at Brooklands 1907-39.
Bird, Roger (2012) ‘The Birth of Brooklands’ (self-published).
Blackmore, L K (1993) ‘Hawker - A Biography of Harry Hawker’ (Airlife).
Boddy, William, MBE (2001) ‘Brooklands – The Complete Motor Racing History’ (MRP Publishing, Croydon, ISBN 1 89987056 3).
Bowyer, Chaz (1986) ‘The Wellington Bomber’ (William Kimber).
Bramson, Alan (1990) ‘Pure Luck - The Authorised Biography of Sir Thomas Sopwith’ (Patrick Stephens).
Cooksley, Peter (1987) ‘Wellington - Mainstay of Bomber Command’ (Patrick Stephens).
Fozard, John (1991) ‘Sydney Camm and the Hurricane’ (Airlife, Shrewsbury).
Gardner, Charles (1956) ‘Fifty Years of Brooklands’ (Heinemann).
Gardner, Robert (2006) 'From Bouncing Bomb To Concorde - The Authorised Biography of Sir George Edwards, OM' (Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Glos., ISBN 0 7509 4389 0).
Georgano, G N (1995, 2nd edition) ‘Brooklands – A Pictorial History’ (Dalton Watson Fine Books, Loughborough, Leics., ISBN 1-85443-129-3). First published 1978.
Godden, John (1988) ‘British Aerospace Presents - 75 Years of Aviation in Kingston 1913-1988’ (British Aerospace, Kingston-on-Thames).
Goodall, Michael (1995) 'Flying Start - Flying Schools and Clubs at Brooklands 1910-1939' (published by Brooklands Museum).
Jarrett, Philip (2008) ‘Trials, Troubles and Triplanes - Alliott Verdon Roe's Fight To Fly’ (Ad Hoc Publications, Ringshall, Suffolk, ISBN 978 0 946958 65 8).
Johnson, Howard (1981) ‘Wings Over Brooklands’ (Whittet Books).
McSwein, Donald (1993) ‘Brooklands Aircraft – All Aircraft First Flown at Brooklands Including All Aircraft Manufactured or Assembled at Brooklands’ (unpublished research paper, copy held in Brooklands Museum Library).
Mortimer, Charles (1974) Brooklands and Beyond’ (Goose & Sons Publishers Ltd, ISBN 0 900404 23)
Murray, Iain (2009) ‘Bouncing-Bomb Man – The Science of Sir Barnes Wallis’ (Haynes Publishing, Yeovil, ISBN978 1 84425 588 7)
Murray, Iain (2011) ‘Dam Busters 1943 onwards (all marks and models) – Owners’ Workshop Manual' (Haynes Publishing, Yeovil, ISBN 978 0 85733 015 4)
Pulford, J S L (1996) ‘The Locke Kings of Brooklands Weybridge’ (Walton & Weybridge Local History Society in association with Brooklands Museum).
Scott, J D (1962) 'Vickers – A History' (Weidenfield & Nicolson, London)
Smith, Ron (2002) ‘British Built Aircraft – Greater London’ (Tempus Publishing, Stroud, Glos., ISBN 0 7524 2770 9).
Smith, Ron (2004) ‘British Built Aircraft – Volume 3: South East England’ (Tempus Publishing, Stroud, Glos., ISBN 0 7524 2993 0).
Stansfield, Andy (2008) ‘100 Years of Motorsport – A British Sporting Century’ (Ammonite Press, Lewes, Sussex, ISBN 978-1-906672-03-4).
Sweetman, John (1990) ‘The Dambusters Raid’ (Arms & Armour Press).
Tuffen, H J and Tagg, A E (1988) ‘The Hawker Hurricane: Design, Development and Production’ (Lecture papers given on 18/11/1985, published by the Royal Aeronautical Society Historical Group).
Venables, David (2007) ‘Brooklands – The Official Centenary History’ (Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Somerset, ISBN 978 184425 329 6).
© Compiled by Julian Temple, Brooklands Museum, June 2013