Circuit type: Permanent oval and road courses
Brookland is, in essence, where the story of motorsport at permanent racing venues really begins. The world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit was opened in 1907 on a marshy piece of country estate in Weybridge, Surrey, by wealthy English industrialist Hugh Fortescue Locke King, who wanted to establish a venue for British cars to be tested and raced.
The result was a circuit famed for its high speeds and a motto of: 'The right crowd and no crowding'. Brooklands went from strength-to-strength, holding numerous speed record attempts, the very first British Grand Prix and a host of 500-mile races.
It had a variety of layouts, including the Grand Prix circuit, which featured temporary chicanes on the start finish straight, to give a 'Continental' flavour to races. The fearsomely fast outer circuit held relatively few races in comparison to the other layouts, but was the mainstay of speed trials and testing. It was popular with early car manufacturers because vehicles could be driven flat out all the way round for an indefinite amount of time.
Races on the full oval began on the finishing straight, before bypassing it at Vickers and onto the Members Banking.
The Mountain Course was another fast blast around part of the oval track, although this time in reverse, with cars traversing the Members Banking in a clockwise direction.
The circuit was the brainchild of clerk of the course A. Percy Bradley and had a lap record speed of 84.31 mph, set by Raymond Mays in an ERA in 1936. The last ever race on the circuit was won by well-known band leader Billy Cotton.
By the 1930s, however, Brooklands had to share the limelight with Crystal Palace and Donington Park but it was war that finally sounded the death-knell for the circuit. Taken over by the Air Ministry, the circuit found a new role with the establishment of the Vickers and Hawker aircraft factories, which spent the war churning out Hurricanes and Wellington Bombers.
Large sections of the track were disguised from German bombers by planting trees in the concrete, which left a hefty repair bill post-war that would prove too great to allow racing to return. The circuit was sold to Vickers Armstrong in 1946 and the Brooklands Owners Club (later to become the BRDC) found a new home at Silverstone - ironically itself an wartime airfield.
The end of any possibility of Brooklands ever returning as a racing circuit came definitively in 1951, when a section of the Byfleet Banking was removed to allow Vickers Valiant V-bombers to be flown out to Wisley airfield.
The Vickers factory became part of the new British Aircraft Corporation in 1960 and went on to design and build the BAC TSR2, One-Eleven and Concorde. The factory contracted in size in the mid-1970s and finally closed in 1988-89.
Further indignities came in the 1980s when areas were reclaimed as car parks and later office space, while the Members Banking now ends sharply, sliced away by a supermarket, although it has at least been done in such a way as to emphasize what little is left.
Latterly, events have conspired to be kinder to Brooklands. In 1987 the site become home to the Brooklands Museum, which is dedicated to the site's motoring and aviation heritage. A popular recent addition to the collection of aircraft is the first production Concorde.
The remaining sections of track, meanwhile, were placed under a Preservation Order in 2001 which will prevent their further destruction.
The central area of Brooklands, including the hard runway and remaining racetrack, was sold to DaimlerChrysler UK Retail in early 2004. A Mercedes-Benz museum and performance demonstration centre has now been constructed in front of the remaining banking. A test course in front is located alongside the remaining parts of the former Campbell course, including the Clubhouse turn. The facilities also include a conference centre, hotel and a Mercedes-Benz showroom.
As part of its expansion, the Brooklands Museum welcomed the London Bus Museum (formerly the private Cobham Bus Museum) to purpose-built facilities on the site in 2011. The museum displays 35 historic London buses dating back to the 1870s, together with associated artefacts, and is run by the London Bus Preservation Trust.
More recent works have included the £7 million Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Race-Track Revival Project. Heritage Lottery Funding was secured to dismantle, fully restore and relocatie the 1940 Bellman Hangar away from the circuit’s Finishing Straight, building an adjacent two-storey Flight Shed with stores and workshop on the ground floor. This has allowed the restoration of the north end of Finishing Straight. The latter was completed in time for the 110th anniversary of the Track opening in June 2017 and the rest of the project was finished and officially opened as the Brooklands Aircraft Factory by HRH Prince Michael of Kent on 13 November 2017.
The remaining sections of Brooklands can be found in Weybridge, Surrey, England. London's main airports are all within easy reach (Heathrow is only a few junctions further up the M25 motorway).
Portions of the banking are today bisected by the A318, while a housing estate sits on the former Vickers/BAC aircraft factory site. Fortunately, the excellent Brooklands Museum tells the tale of the historic venue extremely well, while the neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World at least keeps alive some contemporary fast transport options.
The Brooklands Museum is between Weybridge and Byfleet in Surrey. Just a few minutes from Junction 10 of the M25 and the A3 London-Portsmouth trunk road. Follow the brown ‘Brooklands Museum’ signs until you reach the entrance to Mercedes-Benz World, marked by our Concorde Gate Guardian. The main visitor entrance of the Museum is reached via Brooklands Drive - follow the road around the back of the Mercedes-Benz World building until you reach the Museum car park.
More details at: www.brooklandsmuseum.com.