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Brooklands Track’s Leading Lady Stars in Surrey Museums Month

Special Exhibition at Brooklands Museum highlights the Contributions of Dame Ethel Locke King to Motor Racing and Hospitals in Surrey

Dame Ethel Locke King, who was instrumental in the construction and running of the Brooklands Race Track, is the subject of a temporary exhibition being held at Brooklands Museum in April to mark Surrey Museums Month. The theme of this year’s Museums Month (an annual event held by the Surrey Museums Partnership in conjunction with 43 of Surrey’s museums and galleries to celebrate and unearth the hidden history of the county) is “Surrey Women”.

Ethel, who was a member of the wealthy Gore-Brown family, took over the supervision of the development of the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit after the stress of building it affected the health of her husband, Hugh Locke King. Her family also came to the rescue, loaning funds to pay off debts caused by the construction. On 17th June 1907, she led the inaugural procession of cars on to the track in her open Itala car.

During World War One, in her role as Assistant County Director, she was responsible for establishing and organising 15 auxiliary military hospitals, including in her own home at Brooklands House (now Brooklands College), and managing 700 volunteers in 19 Voluntary Aid Detachments. For her work during the war she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1918. After Hugh Locke King’s death in 1926, Dame Ethel continued to play an active role in the Track company until its sale to new investors in 1936, and lived in a smaller house on the estate until her own death in 1956.

The setting for the exhibition dedicated to Dame Ethel is the Billiard Room in the Edwardian Clubhouse at the heart of the Museum. On display in the Motoring Village nearby is Ethel’s 1904 Siddeley two-seat tourer car called "Daisy" which, it is claimed, was the first car to ever drive around the Track. Finding the car’s exact location at the Museum forms part of the Brooklands Easter Trail (until 23rd April) and also of the Surrey Museums Month trail, which highlights an object at each participating Surrey museum related to their chosen Surrey woman.

Surrey Museums Month is a county-wide initiative with exhibitions, events and activities taking place at a number of museums. There is an i-spy trail with a featured object from each participating museum. Visit to find our object and kickstart your i-spy challenge. The family who have spotted the most objects wins a prize! See www.surreymuseums.org.uk for more information.

Ethel Locke King (right) in her Red Cross uniform with one of the nurses at Brooklands House.

Ethel Locke King (right) in her Red Cross uniform with one of the nurses at Brooklands House.

Ethel and Hugh Locke King leading the opening parade in their Itala, 17th June 1907.

Ethel and Hugh Locke King leading the opening parade in their Itala, 17th June 1907.