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Private speed trial courses in England


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#1 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 13:46

Rivers-Fletcher's book refers to Earl Howe having the driveway of his stately home adapted to make it suitable for testing his equipe of racing cars ; smoothing the surface, banking the bends etc.

Does anyone know where the good Earl resided at the time and what remains/became of the modified private course?

I recall mention that family pressure prevented him opening it up for proper events. I've often wondered why, in the days after public-raod events were banned and only Brooklands Southport and Shelsley were left in operation, one or more of the landed gentry who competed there did not build suitable courses on their own estates? In the 20s and 30s the amount of actual work to be done was minimal - no armco, safety fencing or run off areas, and the public of the day were used to coping with the most primative of 'facilities' (if any!) Likewise no-one was quoting 'Elf n Safety or sticking noise meter's in the ground, yet the available courses were usually fairly prefunctory , lacking in length and in features. Dancers End had but one corner, the original version of Westbrook Hay, likewise, many others were just near-straight line afairs (Lewes, Brighton etc)

Howe had vast wealth and lands, as did Montagu, Malcolm Campbell , if he'd chosen could have bought up enough farms to create his own Nurburgring and so many Lords, Baronets, Earls and 'Honorables' feature in entry lists of the time it beggars belief no one stepped up to the plate.


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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 14:15

According to "Who's Who" 1936 His Lordship's address was Penn House, Amersham, which is still the home of the present Earl. The approach from the south would presumably be the road in question.

http://www.pennhouse.org.uk/

http://maps.google.c...house, amersham

I've seen a photo somewhere of His Lordship's cars lined up outside the main gate - could even be in one of Rivers' books!

#3 Allan Lupton

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 14:27

It seems even more obvious that a few speed event courses could have been based on the estate roads of the well-off racers in theinter-war years when we can remember a large number of post-war courses of that kind.
Westbrook Hay, as you mentioned, plus Great Auclam, Harleyford Manor, Gurston Down, Tewin Water, Wiscombe and Loton Park some of which are still with us seem to fit the description.
I don't know where Francis, Earl Howe lived, but the present Lord Howe lives in Penn House, between Beaconsfield and Amersham in Buckinghamshire, and from the OS map and Google Earth it seems to have a reasonable drive from the Beaconsfield diresction with a corner, some swerves and a bit of gradient to it.
it's at 51°38'31.31" N 0°39'43.10" W

#4 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 14:49

O/T: Although Great Auclum is primarily known as a post-war course, the first meeting was actually in July 1939 (postponed from May): contemporaneous previews and reports refer variously to it as Burghfield, Burghfield Common or even Mortimer.

#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 15:01

The course does get a brief mention on the Penn House website, the implication perhaps being that it's comparatively unaltered?

The final main addition came fifty years later: in the 1930’s the fifth Earl Howe, who was a prominent motor racing driver, built the mile-long drive to the house, suitably banked, for his personal enjoyment and convenience.

http://www.pennhouse...house/house.htm

#6 David McKinney

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 15:03

I thought Earl Howe's cars were prepared at Welwyn (or the Garden City)? Perhaps his private test road was there?

#7 Sharman

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 16:03

Just as a matter of interest. Was Francis Penn, Northern Editor of Autosport, any kin to Francis Penn, the Earl Howe?

#8 Allan Lupton

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 17:50

O/T: Although Great Auclum is primarily known as a post-war course, the first meeting was actually in July 1939 (postponed from May): contemporaneous previews and reports refer variously to it as Burghfield, Burghfield Common or even Mortimer.

Was it the same course?
In the feature on GA in the Hants & Berks MC 60th anniversary book it is said " at the first meeting in 1947 organised by H&B . . " which can be read either way (as the first GA meeting or the first H&B meeting at GA) and it does not refer to a prewar history. However in Charles Bulmer's piece on H&B early years in the same book he says it had been used twice for sprints before the war. Probably the same course therefore.
Inasmuch as it was Neil Gardiner's drive and he added a banked corner for his own amusement (and to terrify his guests, accourding to Bulmer!), as much as anything, it's not quite O/T

Edited by Allan Lupton, 23 September 2011 - 17:54.


#9 Allan Lupton

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 17:54

Just as a matter of interest. Was Francis Penn, Northern Editor of Autosport, any kin to Francis Penn, the Earl Howe?

Penn wasn't the most relevant name Lord Howe had, even if he was Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon, so referring to him as Francis Penn, the Earl Howe wouldn't be too correct.

#10 Sharman

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 18:10

I can't be certain Allan but I believe he referred to himself in everyday life as Francis Penn: the Earl that is. T'other one called himself Frankie

#11 Tim Murray

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 18:35

As Allan has pointed out, the family surname was Curzon, not Penn. Hence all his children, including Earl Howe's youngest daughter Lady Sarah-Marguerite Curzon who married Piers Courage, had Curzon (not Penn) as their surname. Full genealogical details here:

http://thepeerage.com/p1066.htm

#12 fuzzi

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 19:04

Earl Howe (the Motor Racing one) was born at Gopsall Park in Leicestershire.

His father sold it in 1919 to Lord Waring (of Waring and Gillow furniture). Waring then disposed of the park, probably for tax reasons to the Crown Estate in 1927 and in 1931 he passed on the house and remaining land.

Although not owned by Earl Howe, it was used for speed trials between 1927 and 1933 (some times referred to as Shakerstone). In 1932 a race course proposal was floated for Gopsall Park and Earl Howe was on the board of the company involved,it seems to have failed through lack of funds.

I came across a mention somewhere that Earl Howe lived in Surrey pre World War II. I must try and find the reference.

Edited by fuzzi, 23 September 2011 - 19:06.


#13 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 19:05

Was it the same course?
In the feature on GA in the Hants & Berks MC 60th anniversary book it is said " at the first meeting in 1947 organised by H&B . . " which can be read either way (as the first GA meeting or the first H&B meeting at GA) and it does not refer to a prewar history. However in Charles Bulmer's piece on H&B early years in the same book he says it had been used twice for sprints before the war. Probably the same course therefore.
Inasmuch as it was Neil Gardiner's drive and he added a banked corner for his own amusement (and to terrify his guests, accourding to Bulmer!), as much as anything, it's not quite O/T

The club listed in Motor Sport as running the 1939 event was the Sporting ODC (who they?). I'd suggest Mr Bulmer is wrong in saying there were two though: it was originally on the calendar for May 27th, but was rearranged for June 24th, by which time the Frazer Nash and Frazer Nash-BMW clubs were also involved. They'd actually had a "speed event" at Reading listed on the calendar for June 3rd, so presumably this revised date combined the two.

For once, Wikipedia is remarkably well-referenced on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia....peed_Hill_Climb

#14 fuzzi

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 19:10

I have June 1938 for the first meeting at Great Auclum organised by theSporting ODC the meeting does not seem to have been reported in the motoring press.

The Frazer Nash and BMW club ran the next meeting on 24 June 1939. PW Neale set btd in his bodyless AC-enfined Special with 27.0sec.

#15 RS2000

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 20:35

The club listed in Motor Sport as running the 1939 event was the Sporting ODC (who they?).


Sporting Owner Drivers Club, based , I thought, a bit north and east from Great Auclum. Ran most forms of club motor sport and were active until quite recently, or still are (haven't checked MSA club list).

#16 Allan Lupton

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 21:15

The club listed or Sport[/i] as running the 1939 event was the Sporting ODC (who they?).

Sporting Owner Drivers Club, based , I thought, a bit north and east from Great Auclum. Ran most forms of club motor sport and were active until quite recently, or still are (haven't checked MSA club list).

Again Charles Bulmer can help: he referred to the "Reading-based Sporting Owner Drivers' Club (SODC) was showing no sign of post-war revival" as one of the reasons for founding Hants & Berks. By the time I knew the SODC it was Dunstable-based and that's the club RS2000 remembers, and for Julian's benefit it was they who ran a team hillclimb in Woburn Park in the 1970s.
They don't seem to be in the RAC MSA list but are in the AEMC list and LCAMC list.

Edited by Allan Lupton, 23 September 2011 - 21:17.


#17 Robin Fairservice

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 21:20

On August 12, 1961 I attended a hill climb event at Great Auclum, which was organised by the Hants & Berks Motor Club. I have the program still as it was tucked into a photo album. All my others went when we reduced our belongings prior to moving to Canada. I see that the trophy for FTD was named the Neil W. Gardiner Trophy. From the notes that I made, I believe that David Good made FTD with his 1100 cc Cooper JAP.

#18 RS2000

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 22:17

By the time I knew the SODC it was Dunstable-based and that's the club RS2000 remembers, and for Julian's benefit it was they who ran a team hillclimb in Woburn Park in the 1970s.
They don't seem to be in the RAC MSA list but are in the AEMC list and LCAMC list.


I think even the LCAMC is now defunct (sadly, as a former CofC of one of the "Great Cotswold Road Races" that was once a round of it's very seriously contended rally championship).


#19 Allan Lupton

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 07:55

I think even the LCAMC is now defunct (sadly, as a former CofC of one of the "Great Cotswold Road Races" that was once a round of it's very seriously contended rally championship).

Not in your league, but, for an LCAMC Club, in 1964 I and my co-Clerk were probably the last people allowed to Clerk a course in Burnham Beeches before it became a blackspot - possibly cause and effect :o

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#20 RS2000

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 18:47

Not in your league, but, for an LCAMC Club, in 1964 I and my co-Clerk were probably the last people allowed to Clerk a course in Burnham Beeches before it became a blackspot - possibly cause and effect :o


The Beeches had certainly gone before my time, although I think, from reading some old reports when I first got involved, that South Bucks MC's August Moon in 66 (CofC Mick Hayward?) may have been the last LCAMC round (and last rally?) to use it. Probably set the final seal on it being a permanent Blackspot!
Was reading somewhere recently (may have been Stuart Turner's Pat Moss biography) of an event that used a lap system there - probably illegal under even the pre-65 rules...


#21 Allan Lupton

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 21:31

The Beeches had certainly gone before my time, although I think, from reading some old reports when I first got involved, that South Bucks MC's August Moon in 66 (CofC Mick Hayward?) may have been the last LCAMC round (and last rally?) to use it. Probably set the final seal on it being a permanent Blackspot!
Was reading somewhere recently (may have been Stuart Turner's Pat Moss biography) of an event that used a lap system there - probably illegal under even the pre-65 rules...

Must ask Stuart next month at the filmshow!
We had a succession of half-mile sections using pretty well all the roads in the four 1km. squares that were possible without using any twice. Rusty memory says five sections but I can't now work out how we got in more than four, even before the organisers' well-known generosity of distance.

#22 P0wderf1nger

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 19:59

I've often wondered why, in the days after public-raod events were banned and only Brooklands Southport and Shelsley were left in operation, one or more of the landed gentry who competed there did not build suitable courses on their own estates?

Hello Simon

Madresfield Court, home to Earl Beauchamp (and the model, it is claimed, on which Evelyn Waugh based Brideshead and Lord Marchmain) is only 15 miles or so from Shelsley. Certainly by 1922, a sprint along a dead-straight road on the estate, Gloucester Drive, was being held there.

I understand the VSCC still use it for events today, but as to how long past 1925 the Madresfield sprints continued, I’m afraid I can’t say.

Sorry I can’t be of more help.

Paul

#23 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 10:03

Thanks for all the info.
I guess I was more intrigued by the situation that arose after the RAC's 1925 speeds events ban on public roads. The sport, which was thriving, was almost killed off overnight - a calendar showing hundreds of annual events for 1924-25 became reduced to a proverbial handful in 1926 yet in the resulting vacuum there was no rash of new courses appearing on estate land owned by motor sporting-types. As crowds were often huge (Kop, Shelsley etc) and growing year-on-year as mass transport improved, and even if not for sporting reasons, one could envisage the landowners being able to capitalize on such events with very little up-front cost required. But it didn't really happen.
There is if course the old English problem of a ruling class that was predominantly horse-obsessed and vehemently opposed to anything related to motoring. Perhaps peer-pressure (quite literally in this case!) meant the risk of being ostracized in 'polite society' for associating with these scurrilous motoring 'types'?


#24 David McKinney

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 12:05

The daughter of Sir Ronald Gunter (Brooklands Bentleys and shared a Lagonda at Le Mans in 1935 with Benjafield) used to be a customer of mine. She told me that her father used to invite his friends to "race" on the roads of his country estate in Yorkshire. Perhaps the ultimate expression of "the right crowd and no crowding"? Just keep the racing amongst a priviledged few and don't tell anyone else about it.

Sir Ronald Gunter's Yorkshire property was Wetherby Grange, and was used for sprint events in the '30s


#25 RCH

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 12:12

Sir Ronald Gunter's Yorkshire property was Wetherby Grange, and was used for sprint events in the '30s


Oh right, she gave me the impression it was very much a private thing. But then she wouldn't even have been in her teens at the time and apparently, since her parents were divorced, rarely visited.

#26 Robin Fairservice

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 16:21

At the west end of Herne Bay, Kent, there is an estate, Stud Hill, that I think was developed in the 1930's for holiday cabins, which has all of its streets named after car makes.

#27 RTH

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 10:14

I thought Earl Howe's cars were prepared at Welwyn (or the Garden City)? Perhaps his private test road was there?



Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin had a factory unit in Welwyn Garden City Broadwater Rd ( and it is still there now a Topps tiles shop) which was financed by Dorothy Paget where they received Bentleys in the late 20s from Cricklewood and converted them in to supercharged 4 1/2 litres.
So I wonder if there was a connection with Lord Howe if he had work done there ?

pictures

http://forums.autosp...p;hl=tim birkin

Edited by Twin Window, 02 October 2011 - 11:29.


#28 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 10:38

Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin had a factory unit in Welwyn Garden City Broadwater Rd ( and it is still there now a Topps tiles) shop) which was financed by Dorothy Paget where they received Bentleys in the late 20s from Cricklewood and converted them in to supercharged 4 1/2 litres.
So I wonder if there was a connection with Lord Howe if he had work done there ?

pictures

http://forums.autosp...p;hl=tim birkin



Howe & Birkin shared a Le Mans victory (1931) in the former's Alfa Romeo.

#29 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 10:44

My late father told me that they planned a circuit and "tested it" one evening after a BMC&LCC meeting and submitted a plan to the council. I think it got a mention in an Autocar or similar magazine.



This would have been on park roads up on Durdham Downs I guess? Stoke Road, Ladies Mile, Circular Road?
http://maps.google.c...r...mp;t=h&z=15



#30 arttidesco

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 10:54

My late father told me that they planned a circuit and "tested it" one evening after a BMC&LCC meeting and submitted a plan to the council. I think it got a mention in an Autocar or similar magazine.


There are still young people testing the Clifton Downs circuit most evenings IIRC  ;)

#31 David McKinney

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 15:08

Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin had a factory unit in Welwyn Garden City Broadwater Rd ( and it is still there now a Topps tiles) shop) which was financed by Dorothy Paget where they received Bentleys in the late 20s from Cricklewood and converted them in to supercharged 4 1/2 litres.
So I wonder if there was a connection with Lord Howe if he had work done there ?

Thanks, Richard - perhaps I was thinking Birkin rather than Howe


#32 Ted Walker

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 07:01

But not in 2.3 Alfas,Frazer Nashes, Mgs etc. (if so I will be there tonight !!!!! )

#33 arttidesco

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 07:43

Re post 44. But not in 2.3 Alfas,Frazer Nashes, Mgs etc. (if so I will be there tonight !!!!! )


Last time I passed it was mainly the GTi brigade, these days you might see the odd Mito or MGF I imagine :rolleyes:

#34 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 15:09

This thread seems to have been retitled and moved ....

#35 David McKinney

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 15:59

Yes it has, as most of the discussion wasn't about Earl Howe or his driveway