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Homepage. This page: A rare surviving programme for this speed meeting held in a park in Brighton.

Brighton Hill Climb, 1948.

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It's probably fair to say that most car people with even the merest dribble of Castrol R coursing through their veins, will have heard of the Brighton Speed Trials. Fewer will be those who've heard of the town's Motor Rally, organised just like the Speed Trial by the BHMC (Brighton & Hove Motor Club).
More obscure still is the Brighton Hill Climb, an event that took place in the grounds of Stanmer Park in just one year - 1948 - and to which the programme on this page relates. In the late 1940s, members of the BHMC sat around the table at their HQ at Madeira Drive Arches, and drew up plans for a hillclimb meeting. The original idea was to hold a meeting at Clayton Tunnel Hill, but this scenario never progressed beyond the drawing board. Happily, alternatives were then considered which led to the sole hillclimb to be held at Stanmer Park in Brighton, scheduled for June 5th, 1948 following a day of practice held on Friday the 4th.
The cover of this original programme (price: one shilling, or five pence) features an illustration of a generic front-engined single-seat racing car at speed, while on the back cover there's an advertisement for A.S. Tilley Garage Ltd, an establishment that has already been mentioned on the site here. At the time, Tilley's was an agent for Rover, Singer, MG, Morris, Wolseley and Armstrong-Siddeley cars, plus Morris Commercial vehicles.
A clue to the amount of background organisation that such a meeting entails is given on page three, where thanks are given to the Mayor, the Town Clerk, Borough Engineer and Surveyor Mr. D.J. Howe Esq., the Corporation's Publicity Department, the local Water Works Engineer, the Police, Stanmer Park officials, St. John's Ambulance, and not forgetting the many members of the BHMC and marshals who volunteered their time to see the event become a success. At a time when motorsport was slowly being revived, and new circuits were being created from the remains of former wartime airfields, there was definitely an appetite for new meetings within the ranks of competitors and enthusiastic spectators alike.
Cover of the 1948 programme

The classes.

Class One, which had two runs allocated to its entrants, was for members of the BHMC only. A wide variety of car types were entered, ranging from sub- 1 litre cars such as a 995cc Fiat, 847cc and 939cc MGs, and a lone 747cc Austin 7, through various Frazer Nashes, Bugatti, and specials (such as the Orlebar and Jaguette), to heavyweights represented by the likes of 4.5 litre Bentley, a 4.5 litre Lagonda, and J.R.M. Boothby's J.B.M. special (3917cc). Certainly an eclectic mix.
Class Two cars were from the 500cc and under stable, a category that was rapidly growing in popularity in the early post-war years. The entry list in this class was populated by rear-engined Coopers, a pair of 497cc Marwyn single-seaters, the 499cc S.M.S., and K.W. Smith's "500 Special". Drivers included names that would be familiar to many race go-ers in the late 1940s, including Eric Brandon, John Cooper, and a certain Stirling Moss who was starting out in his racing career. Entrants in this class would also be able to make two official timed runs.
Cars of 501cc to 1,100cc populated Class Three. MGs and Austins pre-dominated, although further interest in the category was afforded by a lone HRG, and the 1089cc Appleton Special.
Class Four, 1,101cc to 1,500cc, had some bona-fide racing cars in its line-up, including three ERAs (driven by P. Whitehead, E. Pool and G.E. Ansell), A.A. Baring's 1,496cc Maserati, the Norris Special, C.K. Mortimer's Maserati, and B. Tye's 1,488cc Alta to name just a few of the catalogued ten cars entered.
More famous drivers and cars were sprinkled throughout the extensive list of Class Five (1,501cc to 3,000cc) runners. Names familiar to enthusiasts of post-war motor racing include P.J. Stubberfield (Bugatti), T.A.D. Crook (Alfa Romeo), J.E.G. Fairman (Bugatti), R.F. Salvadori (Alfa Romeo), K. Hutchison (Alfa Romeo), K. McAlpine (Maserati), F.R. "Bob" Gerard (ERA), and racer-later-journalist John Bolster, driving "Bloody Mary". To see these cars being driven in anger at close quarters, must have been quite something for the fortunate visitors to Stanmer Park in June 1948.
The heady odour of Castrol R racing oil and burning rubber, coupled with dazzling displays of driver dexterity, could also be guaranteed when the competitors in Class Six rolled up to the starting line. This class catered for cars of over 3,000cc engine capacity. Once again the J.B.M. Special is included, as is Butterworth's A.J.B. Special, Lance Macklin in the "Fuzzi", Ian Metcalfe in the Barnato-Hassan Bentley, and running as car number 85, the final listed entrant, R.D. Poore in his ex-Scuderia Ferrari/Hans Ruesch Alfa 8C-35.

The course.

Stanmer Park is located on the main Brighton to Lewes road. Pedestrians attending the hillclimb would, after passing through the Lodge gates, find the car and coach park on their left-hand side, while to the right was the area for visiting bicycles and motorcycles. The paddock area would then be encountered, positioned just before the start line.
The climb itself used just under one mile of the Park's roadway, the drivers setting off at speed in the direction of the "Dog's Leg" left-hander, before passing in front of Stanmer Hall's doorstep, negotiating a right-left bend before the sharp left at "Church Corner". They'd then accelerate briskly in the direction of "Stable Bend", a right-hander, before a short straight that led to the S-bend named "Orchard Twist". All that was required then was to nail the throttle, hang on, and aim the car along the final uphill (1-in-9) straight to the finish line. The map below shows the course in detail.
Course map
The final straight run to the finish reads as being fairly straightforward. However Bob Gerard, winner of Fastest Time of the Day, came a cropper and bent his car after the finish line, so perhaps the stopping area was a little marginal in terms of size. For whatever reason, no more hillclimbs were held here.

The route of the hillclimb today.

A look at Google Earth reveals that the route used in the 1948 hillclimb is still there, within the grounds of Stanmer Park just off the A270, and if the will was ever there to re-run a meeting here then I suppose it could, in theory at any rate, happen again, although I doubt that any organiser trying to re-create this meeting would get the encouragement and enthusiasm for it from the authorities that the original did, in the tough years following WW2. The Streetview below shows the area where the start line would have been.

View Larger Map
The rapid run into Church Corner must have been a true test of braking efficiency. I doubt that the owner of the Freelander shown in the next Streetview realised that they were stopped at a bend used in motor racing's past. Cars approached from the left and turned a hard left, before heading off down the road ahead in the direction of Stable Bend.

View Larger Map
If anyone has any photos of cars competing at this meeting, I'd be very interested to see them if possible.
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