One thing we love is a day out somewhere new, with a bit of history and a decent cafe. Although we regularly pass it on the train to London, we had never been to Brooklands Museum despite it being right on our doorstep. This all changed when we went along one Saturday morning.
Tucked away, just behind Mercedes-Benz World and Brooklands Hotel, Brooklands Museum wasn’t hard to find and had plenty of parking spaces in the free car park right outside.
The main entrance was signposted and as we were there just after opening, we joined a small queue to enter the site. Having done a little research, we had pre-booked tickets for the Concorde Experience at a small extra cost for a set time in the day. Once Dave showed our virtual booking, we were given authentic boarding passes for the Concorde with the time stamped inside.
Exploring Brooklands Museum
Armed with a map of the site, we left the admissions area and made our way to the first exhibit, a short film on the history of Brooklands. What stunned us is that Brooklands was the world’s first ever race track, and played a massive part during the war effort in the 1940s too.
The next place that caught our eye was the Jackson Shed, which houses the story of the first ever British Grand Prix races in 1926-27. In this shed, we found perfectly preserved vintage cars that actually raced back in the 1920s.
Detailed boards accompany each car, telling its history and more about those who drove it. The walls are adorned with authentic vintage signs, cabinets with racing overalls used throughout the years and the evolution of crash helmets and technology used in F1 racing.
At the far end of the shed is the F1 simulator, where you get to do 3 laps of the Brooklands circuit as it originally was, whilst sitting in a genuine McLaren F1 car. We all had a go and Dave posted an impressive lap time and when we left the museum several hours later, he was still in the top 10 for the day.
The flow of the museum then took us into two of the original sheds which are filled with all manner of vintage cars, motorbikes and land speed record holding supercars.
The Fastest on Earth exhibition pays tribute to the countless speed records achieved at Brooklands, and the drivers, riders and mechanics who made it possible.
The whole site is also staffed by enthusiastic volunteers who are more than happy to impart their impressive knowledge of the vehicles to you. We were stunned to learn that each and every vehicle on display isn’t just there to be looked at: during special days throughout the year, each and every one is bought out for track days, used for the purpose they were built for and enjoyed. This even includes the priceless one-of-a-kind vehicles that would otherwise be behind ropes, never seeing a race track again.
In its own shed at Brooklands, we found the ‘McLaren Driven by Design’ exhibition. We learned about the Mclaren Senna GTR Supercar, the inspiration and designers behind it.
Both the GTR Concept and GTR Prototype are on display side-by-side for visitors to marvel at. Alongside these two supercars, we found a full-scale Lego McLaren 720s model much to Little Man’s delight!
We found the cafe more or less central in the museum. Crewed by friendly staff, it serves light bites or full meals and reasonable priced drinks. It was the perfect place for a pit stop!
The London Bus Museum
The London Bus Museum is also housed at Brooklands. Inside, we found countless actual London Buses used through the years.
With 150 years of history in a ginormous hanger, there was something for everyone. Did you know that they were originally green? The London Bus museum is the world’s largest collection of working London buses with interactive elements and most of the buses are open to sit in. Enthusiastic volunteers again opened up the history of each bus and gave a little more depth to each vehicle.
Aviation at Brooklands Museum
One thing we didn’t know about Brooklands is it’s close association with early aviation history, and that of the war effort. Once war was declared in 1939, the site was taken over by the Ministry of Aircraft Production and exclusively used for the production of aircraft for the duration.
Companies like Hawker, who produced the famous Hawker Hurricane fighter and Vickers, who made the mighty Wellington bomber, were both based at Brooklands.
Hundreds of aircraft were constructed for the RAF at the site and the museum is rightly proud of this heritage. Huge hangers at one end of the site are home to the Aircraft Factory, which gave us an insider’s view to the production methods used at Brooklands, from early aircraft made of wood and fabric, to innovative technologies that bought supersonic flight to the masses and future technologies that are only a dream right now.
The children got to use (under the supervision of a friendly volunteer) a riveting machine to make their own metal aircraft at the Tinsmith shop and used interactive stations on the upper floor to test future aircraft designs.
The amazing centrepiece of the factory is the Loch Ness Wellington Bomber with sections exposed and secrets revealed inside.
The Flight Shed is attached to the Factory and allowed us to climb inside the cockpits of real jet planes, including a Harrier that was originally used as a test plane and to sell the design to governments around the world.
The Brooklands Museum Concorde Experience
It was now time for our Concorde Experience, so we made our way to the designated area and boarded the authentic Concorde bus. We were given a brief history of Concorde and its connection to Brooklands before we were taken by our guide to underneath the massive jet for a closer look at the engines, wheels and points of note.
It was then time to board Concorde where our knowledgeable guide talked us through a gallery of Concorde history before we got to watch a film about the restoration project up to this point.
We then got to sit in the passenger cabin in genuine Concorde seats where we took off for our virtual flight, watching the Mach count increase as the sounds got louder and the seats actually rumbled as if we were actually airborne. It was a great experience and well worth the £6 supplement.
We thought we were done after Concorde but the other aircraft outside were all open to explore, in various stages of restoration or completion. Volunteers gave a little more personal history to each aircraft and bought them to life.
At the end of our day, we made our way back to the admissions hut which also houses the gift shop and picked up our staple magnet souvenir. Brooklands was such a great day out and we can’t wait to visit again in the future. They have so many special events throughout the year which will definitely be worth attending!
Find out more about Brooklands Museum over on their website. For reference, the museum address is: Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0SL