Is the Brooklands Racetrack Britain's most haunted?
Words: James Barnett
With Halloween rapidly approaching and with Calum’s most recent escapade in his Rover Metro 115SD on the infamous “Test Hill” down at Brooklands’ racetrack in Weybridge (landing with CCFS on the 13th of November), we wanted to follow-up with a little automotive history and an intriguing ghost story.
Paul Stewart from Brooklands Museum kindly shared a lot of information with us about the track in its heyday and since, however, given the time of year - the story that stuck with us was the one about Percy Lambert – a British racing legend from the early part of the twentieth century.
Percy Lambert was best known for achieving a land speed record of 103.84mph with his 4.5 litre side-valve Talbot in February 1913– the first time anyone had driven over 100 miles in an hour.
What made this most remarkable at the time was that other vehicles that had attempted the same record (and failed) were reportedly far bigger 9.1 - 15 litre racing cars.
Percy was due to get married later that year and therefore promised his fiancée that he would give up racing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to Peugeot beating his original record, a few months later he decided to get behind the wheel again to make another attempt – sadly dying in an accident caused by a burst tyre on Brooklands race course. Spiralling through the air and landing with force, in a car with no protection, well beyond stopping speed, Percy passed away as he was rushed to hospital.
Tragic given that a mere 2 weeks before he was to marry and give up racing…
The incredible thing is – Percy actually managed to average over 110mph for the first 20 laps on the day of his death – which meant, had things not ended in disaster and his untimely demise, he would have beaten his original land speed record.
Percy is buried at Brompton Cemetery in London in a streamlined coffin – curiously morbid given that it was built to resemble the car he died in…! His epitaph reads:
“A modest friend, a fine gentleman and a thorough sportsman. The first man to cover 100 miles in one hour. Killed by accident at Brooklands Motor Racing Track whilst attempting further records. October 21st, 1913.”
There have been numerous sightings of a ghost in full racing kit – leather coat, cap and goggles, pacing the track and strolling into a large hangar – known as “The Vatican” – where Percy used to store his Talbot race car.
Other sightings claim to have seen him racing his car along the now disused race track, sometimes accompanied by the roar of an engine.
Whilst Percy Lambert is by far Brooklands’ most famous ghostly visage there have been reports of others – many of which are reportedly far grislier to behold!
Here are just a few of them:
· A young local boy reportedly needed medical treatment following a run-in with a man staggering around with a semi-dismembered head hanging off. It’s believed that the man could be Captain Toop – who crashed in a Peugeot in 1924.
· Ghosts of airmen and ground crew who worked at Brooklands during World War 2 (when it was converted to accommodate the RAF and disguise the track so that the German pilots had no landmark to identify their location) have been encountered.
· Reports in the early hours of the morning of hearing cars roaring along the racetrack and the sounds of crashes – including splintering wood.
· Doors around the site opening and closing by themselves.
Whether the sightings of the ghosts and ghostly goings on are real or figments of an over-active imagination – it does make for interesting reading and for discussions.
Do you have a spookily good motoring story to tell for Halloween? Have you had an experience or encounter down at Brooklands that you would like to share?
We want to hear from you!