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Brooklands - the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, constructed at Weybridge, Surrey in 1907 - was more than a great sporting arena. Brooklands was the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation, home of Concorde and the site of many engineering and technological achievements throughout eight decades of the 20th century.

Explore the stories below to discover how Brooklands helped to shape Britain and the World.

1907 - 1914 Birth of Brooklands

1914 - 1918: World War One

In 1915 Vickers started manufacturing aircraft at Brooklands and progressively extended their premises with the growing demand from military contracts. Women increasingly replaced the men in the factory who had been called away for war. The first true Vickers fighter to go into production at Brooklands was the Gunbus, the world’s first aircraft specifically designed to mount a machine gun. This was followed by the twin-engined Vimy, a long range bomber.

Alongside Vickers’ production, the output of the Sopwith Aviation Company was even more prolific. Besides a large number of prototypes, numerous Camels, Snipes, Pups and Triplanes came off the production lines in nearby Kingston and were all test flown and delivered from Brooklands. Vickers and Sopwith, together with the Martinsyde and Bleriot companies who also had factories close to Brooklands, supplied the British air forces with most of the aircraft which won air superiority over the Western Front.

Interwar years 1918 - 1939

1939 - 1945: World War Two

When the war began again in September 1939, the Vickers-Armstrongs and Hawker aircraft companies had exclusive use of the Brooklands site for military aircraft production. The Wellington was one of the world’s most advanced bomber aircraft at the start of World War Two and bore the brunt of the Allied bomber offensive in the early 1940s.

Of 11,461 Wellingtons built by Vickers by 1943, 2,515 were built at Brooklands – one-fifth of the total number. All 18 variants were developed and test flown here too. Throughout the war, Wellingtons performed an extraordinary variety of roles and the type was Britain’s most numerous and successful twin-engined bomber of that conflict serving throughout the RAF.

Britain’s most successful fighter aircraft of this era was the Hawker Hurricane, designed by Sydney Camm at nearby Kingston. It was assembled and first flown in prototype form at Brooklands in November 1935. Altogether, 3,012 Hurricanes were produced at Brooklands – one-fifth of the total built. When the Battle of Britain was fought in the summer of 1940, it was due to the tremendous production and test flying effort at Brooklands and other factories, and to the skills of the RAF pilots, that the Hurricane became the chief victor of this decisive engagement. At the time, Hurricanes equipped no less than two-thirds of RAF single fighter squadrons.

Postwar Years 

Building Brooklands Museum

In 1977 Weybridge Museum staged an exhibition 'Wings over Brooklands' curated by Morag Barton with help from British Aerospace Weybridge, the Vintage Aircraft Flying Association (formed in 1965) and the Brooklands Society. The exhibition highlighted the uniquely important role that Brooklands had played in the history of international aviation and motoring and, following its success, Morag led a move to establish a museum dedicated to the history of Brooklands.

Following British Aerospace’s announcement that they were going to sell off the most historic 40 acres of the original Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, a 99-year Lease was entered into by Elmbridge Borough Council and Gallaher Ltd in 1984 for 30 of the 40 acres of the site, for the purpose of founding a museum at Brooklands.

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