You don’t have to be interested in historic aircraft, vintage cars, racing cars (ancient and modern), motorcycles, buses and bicycles to enjoy a day at Brooklands Museum and the London Bus Museum. The exhibits are guaranteed to evoke images of days gone by: of personal nostalgia if you’ve reached middle-age, or a profound sense of yesteryear if you’re younger. And if you’ve a great interest any of the museum’s themes then you may need to visit more than once to take in all the details.
The exhibits are many and varied, but are not the only stars of the show: at every turn we met museum volunteers, all very keen to add details and explain technicalities. They have a real passion for the exhibits (why else would they freely give two or three days each week?) and in many cases are retired motor or aircraft mechanics, pilots or flight engineers. So they know what they’re talking about!
Brooklands was the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation and the site of many engineering and technological achievements throughout eight decades of the 20th century. The Brooklands Museum Trust’s aim is to conserve, protect and interpret the unique heritage of the Brooklandssite.
Brooklands was the location of both the world’s first purpose-built motorsport venue with the first purpose-built banked motor race circuit in the world, opened in 1907. It was one of Britain’s first airfields, with the first flight in 1908. It was Britain’s largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918. Among companies assembling aircraft here were Sopwith, Hewlett and Blondeau, Blériot, Martinsyde, Hawker and. Vickers. The Vickers factory became part of the new British Aircraft Corporation in 1960 and went on to design and build passenger aircraft as well as major parts for Concorde.
Accessibility to wheelchairs and persons with restricted mobility
Brooklands museum occupies a 30 acre site with many period buildings, hangars and concourses. They include the Clubhouse dating from 1907: it’s the red brick building with the green dome on top!
The staff is very keen to make the premises accessible and its exhibits visible to wheelchairs and people with restricted mobility. They were very helpful to me during my visit.
Three wheelchairs and a motorised buggy are available for use by visitors. The museum asks that you call in advance to book these.
People with reduced mobility may find it tiring to visit all exhibits. My estimation (using Google Earth) is that we travelled about 1¼ miles (2 Km) within the site, including wandering among some of the aircraft outdoors and the bus museum. We didn’t visit everything.
Around the site
Visitors are given a site map. We made scant use of the map during our visit. This was a mistake: we discovered afterwards we’d missed some buildings, notably the Acoustics Building (which houses the Concorde Simulator), the Stratosphere Chamber and Balloon Hangar (housing pioneer aircraft and aero engines).
Brookland Museum’s historic vehicles collections (from cycles to giant racing cars) are housed in several period buildings including former workshops. Ramps have been constructed as necessary to make these buildings wheelchair accessible. The entrance to the Malcolm Campbell Shed has a small raised “lip” at the entrance door where a lone self-propelled wheelchair user may require assistance. Once inside there is level access throughout and into the housing historic racing cars and motorcycles. The ERA Shed leads in turn to the Brooklands Cycle Exhibition and the Raleigh cycle display: the latter are is reached by slopes up, then down, which I managed easily in my wheelchair.
An exhibition about Grand Prix motor racing in the Jackson Shed begins with cars from the earliest days of motor racing, right up to examples from recent years including Woking-based McLaren. Wheelchair access is problem-free throughout.
The Sunbeam Café (within the Clubhouse Building) provides excellent food from a small menu and is very good value. Level wheelchair access is available from the front of the building and the Museum recommends disabled visitors use this.
- If, despite the advice, you enter the cafe from the yard at the back there is a double-door where a lone self-propelled wheelchair user will require assistance: the slope provided up to the entrance is rather steep and there is a raised lip at the doorway. The doors open outwards. The gap provided after opening just one of the two doors was only slightly wider than my wheelchair; some wheelchair users may need both doors opened for them. Exiting from the door down the slope requires care by the wheelchair assistant, especially if they also have to hold the door open.
Once inside the Clubhouse Building, the floors are level throughout.
Concorde is exhibited upon a tarmac apron, enabling you to pass underneath. Access to the interior of Concorde is via steps and there is an additional charge.
The Wellington Hangar is flat after a shallow ramp up. This housed the Wellington bomber recovered from Loch Ness, a replica Tiger Moth and Vickers Vimy, and many other exhibits.
London Bus Museum
The entrance fee to Brooklands Museum includes entry to the London Bus Museum which relocated to modern, purpose-built premises within the Brooklands Museum site in 2011. The premises have a flat level floor.
The LBM is operated by the London Bus Preservation Trust and has the largest collection of working historic London buses in the world.
The displays are organised in a timeline sequence starting with horse-drawn buses of the late 19th century, into the early motorbus era before World War 1.
Some bus exhibits may be “open” to the public: it’s worth trying to step up onto a bus platform if you can manage it!
For more information visit the London Bus Preservation Trust’s websiteat www.londonbusmuseum.com.
These are provided in three places:
At the Clubhouse. This isn’t alongside the other toilets within the Clubhouse but accessed from the outdoor walkway on the southern side of the building. There is a shallow slope up to the door. It requires a RADAR key: this can be borrowed from the reception office at the front of the Clubhouse building if you don’t have one. The toilet is spacious and fully equipped.
At the Jackson Shed (which houses the Grand Prix Exhibition). It doesn’t require a RADAR key. I didn’t use it during my visit.
Inside the London Bus Museum.
Arriving by car
For travel details see the “How to Get Here” page on Brookland Museum’s web site www.brooklandsmuseum.com
Brookland Museum recommends disabled visitors to use the Campbell Entrance off Brooklands Road (NOT available to non-disabled visitors).
You may park in the small car park in front of the Clubhouse – that’s the building with the circular viewing turret – then purchase tickets from the reception office in the Clubhouse.
The brown road signs pointing to Brooklands Museum direct you to the visitors’ car park, via the Brooklands Trading Estate. The car park is just past Mercedes-Benz World. If you decide to park here, a few disabled spaces are provided. Cross the road to take the path leading to the main visitor entrance, which has ramped access.
Getting there by bus
Service 436 between Weybridge and Woking town centres operates every 30 minutes on average. Brooklands Museum is served by the stop at Mercedes-Benz World. It also calls at the railway stations at Weybridge, West Byfleet and Woking. The bus stop serves buses travelling in both directions (towards Weybridge or Woking) so, when you leave, make sure your bus is going the right way!
Click the following link for timetables: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/buses-and-trains or visit Traveline at www.traveline.org.uk
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Updated 11 April 2012, 10 May 2012