Brooklands was a major centre for aircraft design, construction and flight testing for most of the 20th century. From A V Roe’s first trials here in 1907-08, through many decades of manufacture by such companies as BAC, Bleriot, British Aerospace, Hawker, Sopwith and Vickers, no other place in Britain, possibly even in the world, has seen such achievements. Some 18,600 new aircraft of nearly 250 types were first flown, manufactured or assembled at Brooklands.
In June 1908 A V Roe made significant taxying and towed flight trials in his Roe 1 Biplane at Brooklands and at Lea Valley in 1909 he became the first Englishman to fly in a powered aeroplane of his own design. In 1909 the BARC arranged for an area in the middle of the Track to be cleared to create one of Britain’s first aerodromes, enabling Louis Paulhan to give Britain’s first public flying demonstration that October. Soon other pioneers were attracted to Brooklands. The best known of these was Tommy Sopwith who learned to fly here in 1910 and subsequently formed and led first the Sopwith and later the Hawker aircraft companies which produced the majority of Britain’s fighter aircraft in the 20th century.
The Daily Mail Circuit of Britain Air Race
In 1911 the world’s first Flight Ticket Office was built in what soon became known as the Brooklands Flying Village. Here groups of simple wooden sheds housed many of the greatest pioneers of British aviation from 1910 to the outbreak of World War One. These were immortalised in the 1960s film ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’ which was based around The Daily Mail Circuit of Britain Air Race held at Brooklands in 1911.
Brooklands has a unique history of flying training – not only were some of the very first flying schools in Britain formed here from 1910 onwards, but this was also the principal centre for British flying training up to the start of World War One.
In the 1920s and '30s hundreds more men and women learned to fly here too – notably with the Brooklands School of Flying and the Brooklands Flying Club. The latter’s fleet of de Havilland Gipsy and Tiger Moth biplanes, all in a distinctive red, black and silver colour scheme, are well remembered from this era.
The aerodrome also became a regular venue for air races, flying displays, dawn patrols, fly-ins and open days. A splendid art deco Brooklands Aero Clubhouse was designed by the young British airport architect Graham Dawbarn and opened in May 1932 as a lively new social centre for Brooklands aviators. The parent company, Brooklands Aviation Ltd, was led by the legendary Captain Duncan Davis and also operated flying clubs at Lympne, Shoreham and Sywell Aerodromes in the 1930s.