As Brooklands celebrated its 110th anniversary, so a plan to protect the hallowed track came together
While the section of the old Brooklands circuit under the stewardship of the Brooklands Museum is in fine fettle, many other parts are in such poor condition that Historic England has placed them on its ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. They will now be protected.
In an effort to arrest the decline, Historic England has joined forces with Brooklands Museum, Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey Council and hosted an event to explore ways of safeguarding those parts of the track within the boundaries of private and business properties, as well as those on wasteland.
The event, held on 6 July – and which also celebrated the 110th anniversary of the first race at Brooklands – brought together owners and tenants with a responsibility for a piece of the historic site, to offer advice and support on how they can best maintain their section of the track. On offer was an ‘owner’s guide’ containing practical tips and instructions on how to manage each area of the circuit.
Historic England’s Heritage at Risk principal adviser for the south-east, Clare Charlesworth, had this to say: ‘While part of the track sits within Brooklands Museum, other parts are now within residential gardens, public parks and industrial and retail units. We hope that, by bringing together all those who act as guardians or neighbours to this amazing piece of history, we will be able to foster new relationships and take practical steps to improve the condition and maintenance of the site.
‘We appreciate that many owners may not understand the importance of the site and will not have experience of managing a scheduled monument. We wish to provide general guidance on the simple steps needed to maintain the structure and more detailed help where this is needed.
‘Together we hope to ensure that the Brooklands Motor Racing Track will remain a physical reminder of our engineering, entrepreneurship and enterprise. And that this unique site, which has seen world records broken, held the first British Grand Prix and hosted a major construction site for some of Britain’s most famous aircraft, will be well protected and cherished for another 110 years.’
To help create a suitable framework for the conservation of the wider Brooklands site, Historic England has furnished the Brooklands Museum with a grant of more than £30,000 to create a Conservation Management Plan. Elmbridge Borough Council is consulting on this plan and asking for input from residents.
Meanwhile, Heritage Lottery-funded work has been continuing in and around the museum. On 17 June, as part of Brooklands’ Double Twelve Motorsport Festival, the finishing straight was reopened, 110 years to the day after it first hosted daring young men in their racing machines. The straight has been hidden from view since 1940 when it was covered over by a Bellman hangar; that hangar, which will be relocated upon its return, is currently being restored in Wales.
Words: Brett Fraser // Archive photography: Historic England Archive