VIEWERS can now learn how Bexhill became the birthplace of British motorsport thanks to a motor heritage trail of five full-colour display boards.
A cavalcade of historic vehicles headed by Bexhill Museum’s replica of the Serpollet steam car which won the 1902 Bexhill Motor Trials turned the heads of Diamond Jubilee weekend crowds on Saturday, June 2nd. Supporters were conveyed by an old London double-decker bus.
The heritage trail project has been led by Bexhill Chamber of Commerce and Tourism in association with the Society of Bexhill Museums. The leading sponsors are Alastair Hazell and his mother Irene.
Brian Storkey, the “voice” of the Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring which for 13 years from 1992 marked the Motor Trials’ historic significance by drawing 60,000-plus crowds annually to De La Warr Parade, gave a potted history at each of the launch day’s stopping points. The first illustrated board is near the Galley Hill start-line for the trials.
Having seen motor racing on the seafront at Nice, the 8th Earl De La Warr sought to publicise newly-emergent Bexhill-on-Sea by hosting a similar event. Britain was then subject to a blanket 12mph speed limit. But De Le Warr Parade was the Earl’s private cycle track.
M. Leon Serpollet had just taken the world land speed record at Nice and hoped to better it at Bexhill. He was thwarted by track conditions, but still won the event and took the British speed title. The event attracted 200 pioneer motorists and a 30,000 crowd.
The second display board is sited opposite The Sackville apartments, which house a photo gallery dedicated to the series of Motor Trials held between 1902 and 1906. A cycle chalet which formerly stood on the lawns was used to time the Edwardian motor trials. Irene Hazell’s late husband, Brian, was a leading organiser of the Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring. Alastair owns the Discover Bexhill website which publicises the town. On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, executive committee member Ainsley Gill made a presentation to mother and son.
The third display board is by the Sailing Club. From there the cavalcade made its way to Bexhill Museum. The accredited, voluntarily-run independent museum was enlarged in 2009 by the addition of a costume and social history gallery and a motor heritage gallery which houses the Serpollet replica.
Unveiling the fourth heritage display board, which is on the museum wall, Society of Bexhill Museums chairman John Betts thanked everyone involved with the heritage trail project and dedicated the board to the museum’s volunteers.
The fifth display board is sited at the Cooden Beach Hotel, which houses a Motor Trials photo-gallery. Sackville and Cooden Beach Hotel owner James Kimber unveiled the board.