Thursday, 29 September 2011

Internal Combustion

This is the second in a series of adventures I've been sent on, by and for The King's Ginger. I'm following the life, loves and hobbies of King Edward VII, spinning you all an entertaining yarn or two, and, since this is of course primarily a fashion blog, showing lots of pictures of me in frocks. Here we go again...tally ho!

It's a well-known fact that old Bertie was really, really keen on motoring. He would make his way all around the country in his beloved horseless carriages. Upon his coronation in 1902, he owned no fewer than four Daimlers, but he was introduced to his cutting edge hobby while still the Crown Prince, in the 1890s, by *deep breath* John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, who was himself a pioneer of early motoring. He was the very first person to drive a car into the yard at the Houses of Parliament, don't you know! But while his legacy, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu does indeed have a much wider range of historical automobilia, it's a long way away for a semi-crippled half-marathon survivor. Conveniently though, there is another right on my own doorstep, which is actually a much older and even more suitable venue for a Ginger-themed jaunt! So it was there that I limped off to this week to investigate his Majesty's love of horseless carriages.

Brooklands was a motor-racing circuit and aerodrome, built by the very regal-sounding Hugh Locke King in 1907, the very same year that our hero awarded the Royal Warrant to the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. I've actually visited the Royal Automobile Club with Miss Minna, and it's very grand. Quite right that I should visit too, since I've been paying my RAC fees for years! Anyway, as well all know by now, The King's Ginger was actually invented by the King's own physician, who was worried about his Majesty going out driving his horseless carriage in the fresh air. The idea was to ward off the cold, and any germs; as well as sharpening his senses. The latter seems rather doubtful since KGL is an extremely strong libation, as I've discovered to my... inebriation... before. Luckily, not very many people could afford a car at the time. That, and they went very slowly.

The Clubhouse that you can see me posing in front of above, was the first building to go up. It now contains a rather amazing room, which is themed on one of the most famous lady racing drivers of the 1930s, the thoroughly remarkable (not to mention personal idol of mine) Dame Barbara Cartland. More on this later. How do you like my new racing suit, by the way?

There were so many fascinating things to see, do and read in the museum. From real horseless carriages to sleek 1930s cars and even modern F1 beasts. Unfortunately, the real Edwardian treasures were quite hard to photograph, hidden away in corners or behind glass.

The top of these two magnificent machines is a 1910 AC Sociable 3-wheeler. I like to think of it as a very early Reliant Robin, as made famous by Trotter's Independent Traders. But the bottom one is fascinating. 'Daisy' was owned by Ethel Locke King (wife of Hugh), and she is a 1904, Siddeley 2-seat Tourer. She was also the very first car to ever be driven round the Brooklands track, when it opened three years later, and took part in the London-Brighton Run in the 1930s, and was being driven up until the 1960s! She's a wonder to behold, as, I'm sure, was Ethel herself. Pity all you can really see in the photo is a reflection of my dear old mum.

Being a keen cyclist, these old penny farthings and particularly the Racer at the top fascinated me. As I inspected the label and realised with amazement that it dated to 1901, a chap about my age passed by and remarked, "looks exactly like something you'd find chained up in Shoreditch, eh?". Indeed. The archetypal O.G. fixie! If only I could borrow it for the next Tweed Run!

We then went to investigate the Clubhouse, paying particular attention to the Sunbeam cafe, the deco sunburst-windowed canteen in which we had a meal of scampi and chips that would have pleased Bertie. And then we hit my favourite bit, the Ladies' Reading Room. Now known as the Barbara Cartland Room!

All done in pink and unashamedly girly (as you would expect), it's filled with pictures of Dame Babs looking glamorous in the 1930s, amazing furniture and also information about the intrepid racing ladies of yore. I especially enjoyed the picture of Miss Muriel Thompson (any relation, Naomi?), winning the Ladies Bracelet Handicap in 1908. We couldn't vote... but we could still burn rubber (...if we were wealthy and/or married to a male racing driver... technicalities)!

I found several examples of lovely Edwardian clothing, accessories and ephemera.

Hats, a menu from the 1907 opening day, a driver's coat. All in such amazing condition after more than 100 years. Marvellous.

There was only one thing left to do, and that was to go and examine some planes. I looked pensive in front of some very spindly Edwardian planes. Edward was the first monarch to have any association with aviation (indeed it hadn't been long invented!) when he travelled to Paris in 1908 to meet and observe the Wright Brothers. But the King loved his food, so he never got to have a go at flying himself... these rather rickety contraptions would have been unable to carry him!

And then I marvelled at the WWII ones. It actually humbles me to think what the young men had to endure on bombing missions. But since this is a story about the era of King Ed, I thought I'd finish off with a go on the 1907 racetrack that made Brooklands a part of motoring history (and also an amazingly clear target for German bombs in WWII. Whoops.

The banked track at Brooklands fell into disuse decades ago. Strangely enough, the big Tescos nearby is practically built on a section of it, and despite having seen it hundreds of times over the years, I never actually realised it was a racetrack. I'm a bit slow like that. Anyway, while I wanted to have a go, I was clearly not going to be allowed to do it in a car, so there was only one thing for it. A swig of revivifying King's Ginger...

And she's off (slowly and in a very apt turn of phrase, you could say gingerly, due to my poor tortured gams)!

In a race of me against me, I most definitely won. And that was my whirlwind adventure to Brooklands. If you've stuck with my little story this far, here is a reward for you (other than the enjoyment of my rather amazing writing of course...). I promised this last time, but didn't follow up on it... this time I vow there will be a King's Ginger giveaway next week. Keep your ginger-loving lugs to the ground, for it shall appear right here forthwith. Until then, have a lovely day.

Chin Chin!

Fleur xx


  1. Looks like an interesting place, might give it a go one day, it's not so very far from me either!

  2. Love your outfit! That looks like such a fun place to visit.

  3. What an interesting looking place, love this kind of thing. I can't drive but I love old cars.

  4. I live about 20 minutes away from Beaulieu car museum and I have just been told by my lovely other half that when you go and buy a ticket for the day you can do a charity payment and then you can have a years free membership to go and visit when ever you want.
    It is such a beautiful place and the good thing about it is as well as the car museum you can also look round Lord Montague's house and there is also an abbey and a museum all about WWII. It is so interesting. They are always updating and putting new displays out so it's so worth a visit

  5. Love the Barbara Cartland room! Where are your overalls from?

  6. We went to Brooklands about 5 years ago, it was part of the Hot Rod Hayride weekender and they put on an hill climb event there. Fabulous place, so interesting and well worth a visit. Kaye x

  7. The outfit is darling, partiularly the shoes!

  8. Hello there, I found your blog about 2 months ago but then my computer crashed(boo). Now I have a new one up and running so I can finally comment(woot). I absolutely love the bicycles in the pictures and of course your lovely jumpsuit. I would love to go to any of the events you have posted in the past, but alas I live in the states. Love your blog!

  9. I really love your outfit! I just had to save a copy of one of the pics in my inspirational folder on my computer... But of course, if I make my own version I make sure to link back to you! This was my first visit to your blog, but it sure wont be the last. Thank you! /Fanny

  10. Your outfit and your hairdo really emphasize how you really love vintage things. It's really fun to to look back at the things that people used to do, used to wear and used to love.


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