Fifteen miles to the south of London is the home of British motorsport and aviation; Brooklands. Motor racing took place here from 1907 to 1939 and aviation developed on the site at the same time – right up until 1989. At one time, Brooklands was the most prolific aircraft factory in Europe.
In the 1930’s, my father remembered going to Brooklands (on an Indian 500 with sidecar) to watch the motor cycle racing with his father. Today, the entire site including the race track, factories and club-houses is a giant museum. Brooklands will take your breath away.
A tour takes you through many of the many buildings on site. The must-sees are a Concorde aeroplane and Vickers VC-10 (both of which you can board, the Flight Shed of historic aircraft and a world-class collection of racing cars from the early years to the present day. And if you love London buses, come here to see the world’s largest collection.
It’s a thrill to walk a large section of the track and imagine the atmosphere on race day back in the roaring twenties. And to walk up Test Hill (main photo), used to conduct acceleration and braking tests, from 1909.
There is a long list of ‘notables’ and ‘firsts’ at Brooklands. It is the location of Malcolm Campbell’s workshop, the location of the design office for the WWII ‘Bouncing Bomb’, where the first plane to fly across the Atlantic was built (a Vickers Vimy). And even the world’s first flight ticket office, operating in 1911.
A tremendous feature of Brooklands is the freedom to interact with (e.g. climb aboard) the exhibits, watch restorers at work and adopt a hands-on approach. The staff are predominately volunteers so will spend as much time as you have explaining what you’re looking at. It is one of London’s lesser-known visitor attractions – and a top ten by our reckoning.