Farnham Remembers Hawthorn

This Sunday, if you have a chance, please head for Farnham for a celebration of the life of Britain’s first Formula 1 world champion, Mike Hawthorn.

A free-to-attend event will be staged when the roads are closed and a vast array of racing machinery will hit the streets of the attractive market town that became home to the Hawthorn family. While the viewing opportunities will be free, please bring plenty of sending money as the event, marking the 60th anniversary of Hawthorn’s title, will be raising funds for local children’s charities via the Hedgehogs charitable organisation.

The S&G cannot attend but will try and post a report with a little help from the organisers. It should be an unmissable event – and you can even follow our guide to find the TT Garage, plus all of Hawthorn’s favoured haunts and hangouts in the town.


Revival revives pre-66 parking

There is some good news for the traditionalists, as the Goodwood Revival has announced the return of infield parking for pre-1966 cars only at this year’s event.

This very pretty Porsche will be out among the Mondeos and Imprezas in 2013

This very pretty Porsche will be out among the Imprezas in 2013

In a crowded marketplace it’s clear that any event must grow to survive. The Revival has consistently managed to stage one of the most staggering displays of historic racing in the world – and added a host of other retro attractions.

In its first few years, parking within the circuit was reserved for cars built before 1966 – the year in which Goodwood closed as a race track and meant that the period ambiance was kept as closely as possible to that of the circuit’s heyday. In recent years the ambiance has become less of a recreation of Goodwood’s own past and more of a three day fancy dress party – with around 80 per cent of the 135,000 visitors choosing to wear costumes – and this has included giving prominence to post-1966 vehicles.

But not in 2013.

A press release from Goodwood states that the ‘new’ Revival infield car park – known as the Hawthorn Infield Parking – allows owners of pre-1966 vehicles the option to become an integral part of the Goodwood Revival.   This new 200 vehicle daily capacity, pre-1966 vehicle park, will be located inside the Goodwood Motor Circuit perimeter at the Revival, positioned on the inside of circuit, along the Lavant Straight.

The Stag and the TR6s won't get admittance to the pre-66 area

The Stag and the TR6s won’t get admittance to revived pre-66 parking

Parking in the pre-66 car park will cost £70 for Revival Friday and £90 per day for Revival Saturday and Sunday. The Hawthorn Infield Parking is an additional attraction to the Goodwood Revival, and customers will still need valid general admission tickets in order to gain entry into the event.

One suspects that Mike Hawthorn, who famously scaled fences and breached bushes to get into Goodwood without paying, would be pretty amused by the idea!

Another Goodwood watering hole

The Spread Eagle Hotel in Midhurst was one spot where the discerning fan could grab themselves an autograph or share a pint with the heroes of the day after a day’s racing at Goodwood. Then there was The Bricklayer’s Arms.

The Bricklayer’s Arms in Midhurst has a few tales to tell

It was here that Mike Hawthorn and the Members would often stop in for a tipple or nine after a day at the circuit – and usually manage to get away without paying before they headed to the chip shop. It was here, too, that Mike’s father Leslie downed his last pint before crashing fatally on the way home from tending Reg Parnell’s Ferrari at the Whit Sunday meeting in 1954.

Generally the clientele of the Bricklayer’s Arms read like a who’s who of motor sport in the 1940s to the 1960s and it’s well worth dipping in for refreshment if one happens to be in the area. There’s even a rather beautiful motorbike restoration business across the road – of which the ghosts doubtless approve.

An array of classic motorcycles flanks the beer garden on West Street

The world’s most expensive Grand Prix car

Auction house Bonhams is cock-a-hoop after the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it sold the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio Mercedes-Benz W196 that was originally gifted to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

Bonhams auctioned the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 at Goodwood

Bonhams auctioned the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 at Goodwood

The headline figure stands at £19,601,500 (which is what the £17,500,000 hammer price comes to with commission), making this car the most expensive ever sold at auction, the most valuable Formula One car ever sold and the most valuable Mercedes ever sold to boot.

It is a mark of how special this car is that it attained such a sum. As a rule, single-seat racing cars go for relatively modest sums compared to their sports and GT brethren. The rationale is simple: if you can’t drive it to the pub or put your friends in it, it’s not going to make top dollar.

The social side of classic car ownership is a major selling point

The social side of classic car ownership adds enormous value

People buy classic cars as an investment but also to show them off: to get the buzz of being at the wheel and to bask in the awe, envy and admiration that their carriages inspire. That is why the Ferrari 250GTO remains the powerhouse of the classic era – its unique beauty and racing pedigree ensure that values continue to climb, yet this is also a car in which Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason used to take his daughter to school.

The Mercedes therefore falls short of the $35 million mark set by the ex-UDT Laystall team GTO last year… but not by much. Since that time the pale green Ferrari has been a regular attendee at historic events, but whether or not the Mercedes follows suit is open to question.

With a price of $35 million in 2012, the UDT Laystall 250 GTO is still king of the hill

Reaching $35 million in 2012, the UDT Laystall GTO is still king of the hill

A single-seat racing car can only be driven on a track, which means either competing with it or hiring a venue for a private track day. Otherwise it must either be kept hidden away in a private collection or loaned to a museum – neither of which fulfils the basic criteria of ownership.

The ultimate fate of the W196 00006/54 is unknown, but it seems likely to be leaving British shores. The vendor was the Emir of Qatar, who acquired it from the German industrialist Friedhelm Loh about eight years ago, and it was snapped up by an unnamed telephone bidder calling from overseas.

Presumably it will now go back into storage or private display. If money were no object then it might possibly be used in historic events alongside the many other 2.5-litre F1 cars such as the Ferrari 246 Dino, Maserati 250F, Cooper T53 and even the lesser spotted Vanwall.

Fifties Grand Prix cars like this Aston Martin sell tickets for historic races

’50s cars like this Aston Martin sell many tickets for historic races

Yet this is a car with some fairly unique engineering in it – desmodronic valve gear and fuel injection feature on its straight-eight engine, which was engineered to ensure power take-off from the centre of its crankshaft to minimize vibration. Ground-breaking technology is unreliable. Add the passage of 60 years and it becomes impossible to place great strain on the components.

It would doubtless require significant restoration work to make 00006 a full-blown runner – but this is not a problem in itself. Since the auction, much has been made of the car’s patina – but the peeling paint and scratches are not a legacy from its time with the Mercedes-Benz Rennabteilung – in fact the damage is more modern than that.

The chips and dings have all occurred since 00006 retired from racing

The chips and dings have all occurred since 00006 retired from racing

Photos of the car at its first race at the Nürburgring show the slightly hurried and unfinished look of the open wheel body which was pressed in to service. Contemporary reporters were amazed by the difference between the carefully sculpted streamliner bodies with which the W196 debuted and labelled the open wheeler ‘unhandsome’.

Indeed, Mercedes had been forced to introduce the open wheel cars earlier than planned after a disastrous race at the British Grand Prix, meaning that the team arrived too late to take part in the opening practice session.

Fangio restored German pride at the 'Ring

00006 and Fangio restored German pride at the ‘Ring

When they did take to the track, however, Fangio and chassis 00006 recorded a time of 9m 50.1s – shaving two seconds off the 1939 lap record set by the supercharged 3.0-litre Mercedes of Hermann Lang.

The race was in many ways an all-Argentinean affair, dominated by Fangio’s Mercedes and a valiant challenge to its supremacy by Froilán González in the outclassed Ferrari 625. Both men were in no small part inspired by the death of their young compatriot Onofre Marimon in practice, whose fatal accident at the Wehrseifen bridge prompted the works Maserati team’s withdrawal.

Fangio's race pace was modest, but he triumphed in Germany

Fangio’s race pace was modest, but he and 00006 triumphed in Germany

González led at the start and then chased Fangio once the Maestro had got past – but was soon swallowed up by the other two Mercedes of junior driver Karl Kling and pre-war legend Lang in a one-off appearance. These two men indulged in a spirited battle for second place in which the ring-rusty Lang ultimately spun at the Hatzenbach and exited to a hero’s salute from the crowd.

Kling then set off after Fangio and began to reel him in – to the enormous and obvious displeasure of his team boss, Alfred Neubauer. Kling passed Fangio but during his furious drive he had clipped one of the banks and broken the transmission mounting, requiring a lengthy stop for repairs which let Fangio claim the first home victory for Mercedes in 15 years.

Fangio then won again with chassis 00006 at the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten, beating the Ferrari of González. The race was something of a non-event in which the margin of victory was almost a full minute after many of the fancied runners dropped out – but it did seal Fangio’s second world championship title.

Victory at Bremgarten ensured the 1954 title for Fangio

Victory at Bremgarten ensured the 1954 title for Fangio

The maestro then received a new chassis and 00006 was next seen at the season-ending Italian Grand Prix in the hands of Hans Herrmann. Fangio won by a lap from Hawthorn’s Ferrari, González and Umberto Maglioli sharing the third-placed Ferrari another lap behind and Hermann trailing home fourth a further lap in arrears.

00006 was then held back as a test hack through 1955, when the season was truncated by the catastrophic accident at Le Mans. It re-emerged for the final race of the ‘silver arrows’ in Formula One – the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. Team leader Fangio and his young apprentice Stirling Moss had use of the fully streamlined cars for the flat-out sweeps of the Villa Reale, but the open-wheel chassis 00006 was made available for Karl Kling.

Kling and 00006 are third in the W196 train behind Fangio and Moss

Kling and 00006 are third in the W196 train behind Fangio and Moss

It was another fiery and wayward performance by Kling, who ran a strong second behind Fangio’s Stromlinienwagen until the prop shaft let go, due to a rare error by Neubauer’s engineers. With that ‘Don Alfredo’ Neubauer tearfully drew a veil over the competition department at Unterturkheim and the 14 W196s went into retirement.

Fangio and Moss help Neubauer put the legendary 'silver arrows' to bed

Fangio and Moss help Neubauer put the legendary ‘silver arrows’ to bed

Chassis 00006 was delivered to the Daimler-Benz Exhibitions Department in December 1955, having been fully refettled. It stayed with them for more than a decade, being taken to exhibitions and public appearances around Europe and being used for tyre testing. A Daimler-Benz Museum archive document records that – as of November 5, 1969 – “Car should be available at any time for R. Uhlenhaut for testing purposes”.

On May 22nd, 1973 it was presented to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire, England.  It was then sold after many years in order to fund the museum’s John Montagu Building, being bought by historic racer and collector Sir Anthony Bamford of JCB Excavators in a deal brokered by Adrian Hamilton, son of Le Mans winner Duncan Hamilton.

Sir Anthony Bamford bought the W196 from Beaulieu

Sir Anthony Bamford bought the W196 from Beaulieu

Bamford sold the car to French collector Jacques Setton. It then passed to Herr Loh, who in 1999-2000 ran it in such events as the Monaco Historic Grand Prix and the Goodwood Festival of Speed with Willie Green at the wheel. The car was then re-sold  to Qatari ownership.

Now, in 2013, this old stager has set a new benchmark for cars at auction – but are there any more such valuable Grand Prix racing gems out there? It must be doubtful. There are certainly cars in existence that would trouble the Richter scale if they were to see the light of day – but they remain tucked up far away from the public gaze. Perhaps once again a car built at Unterturkheim has set the bar higher than any rivals can match.

Off to her new home - 00006 as she is today

Off to her new home – 00006 as she is today

On the way home from Goodwood…

In the heady days when Easter Monday meant Goodwood and the sight of Grand Prix and sports car machinery at full chat, one place where autograph hunters had a happy time of it was the Spread Eagle in Midhurst. For drivers travelling from afar this was a decent spot to rest one’s head, while for others it was simply the favourite watering hole on the road back towards London.

The Spread Eagle remains a picturesque spot

The regular crowd included the likes of Leslie and Mike Hawthorn (and Mike’s celebrated Members), Duncan Hamilton, Tony Rolt and the rest of the cream of British racing talent of the era. Arguments would be thrashed out and wounds would be licked, ale would be savoured and then everyone would head for home – although possibly with a detour to the Bricklayer’s Arms on the way.

The local charms are clear to see in the Spread Eagle

Hawthorn’s Surrey Part 4: The final journey

And so we arrive at the A3 Guildford by-pass. This is a grim stretch of road at the best of times: the commuter belt’s blocked artery which invariably spreads rush hour misery across the highways and byways in every direction each weekday morning.

In 1959 this stretch of road was much narrower: 60 feet wide with two lanes in each direction and minimal protection between them. On the morning of 22 January it was raining hard and the wind was gusting on what was then a very exposed hilltop – it was not a good day for a fast drive.

The A3 as shown in British newspapers on 23 January 1959

The A3 as shown in British newspapers on 23 January 1959

On this particular day the reigning Formula One world champion, Mike Hawthorn, was off to the Cumberland Hotel in London where he was due to judge a charity motor scooter event with the holiday camp magnate Billy Butlin. He was then due to go to Mayfair and meet Louise Collins, who had just returned from her tour of the USA with Peter Ustinov in Romanoff and Juliettaken in haste to escape the sorrow of her husband’s death at the Nürburgring the previous summer.

After that, the plan was to meet up with former Le Mans winner Duncan Hamilton and sign the deal to bring his old racing friend in as an official partner in the T.T. Garage business before ending the day at the Hog’s Back Hotel for the annual dinner of his local Motor Agents Association.

Hawthorn at the T.T. Garage with his ill-starred Jaguar 3.4 saloon VDU 881

Earlier that morning another garage proprietor, the racing team owner Rob Walker, left his home near Frome in Somerset to drive to his garage in Dorking. He was at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL convertible – which he took in place of his ‘gullwing’ coupe because it handled better in wet weather conditions.

The route would take him through the centre of Farnham and staff at the T.T. Garage later recalled him honking his horn as he went past at around 11.30 – the time when Hawthorn was getting ready to set off after calling in at the Duke of Cambridge. Whether Hawthorn leapt into his Jaguar 3.4 and set off in pursuit or merely drove off as usual depends upon whose account one is reading.

All accounts agree that the white Mercedes and the green Jaguar converged at the junction with the A3, where they had to wait to turn on to the northbound carriageway. Walker later said that it was only here that he realised that it was Hawthorn who was tailing him, and that they then accelerated hard through the gears as they drove past the garage of another racer, John Coombs.

Looking back towards the Hog's Back, Hawthorn's path in blue

Looking back towards the Hog’s Back, Hawthorn’s path in blue

At this point the road takes a gentle left curve and Hawthorn, on the outside, reportedly ran a little wide but pressed on into the gentle right-hander.

The picture immediately above is the scene today. The green line marks the carriageway as it was in 1959 and the Blue line is Hawthorn’s path in the outside lane. The white building in the top left of the frame is the old Coombs Garage, itself quite a landmark in motor racing history.

At this point all seemed well as theroad flowed through into a right-hand bend and Hawthorn, holding the lead, let the tail slide out about ‘half a bonnet length ahead’ in Walker’s account. “…I thought, ‘Oh that’s just Mike playing around,'” Walker said years later. “But then he hit the curb and the Jaguar spun through 180 degrees and suddenly we were facing each other.”

Going in to this right hand bend, Hawthorn's Jaguar began to go sideways at approx. 100mph

Going in to this right-hander, Hawthorn’s Jaguar went sideways at 100mph

 The picture above looks down as the first left-hand bend flows into the right-hand bend. Again, the 1959 carriageway is marked with the green line and Hawthorn’s trajectory in blue.  It was at this point that Hawthorn’s fate was sealed.

Walker jumped on the brakes while the Jaguar hurtled into the opposite carriageway, clipping the tail of a truck which deflected it into one of the bollards in the central reservation, tearing off its front bumper. The rest of the car careered backwards right across the road, mounting the shallow verge and striking a young tree squarely right between the front and rear passenger doors, wrapping itself around the trunk while pulling the tree up by the roots.

The Jaguar rocketed backwards across the oncoming carriageway and hit the tree here

The Jaguar rocketed backwards across the oncoming carriageway and hit the tree approximately here

It was a sickeningly violent impact. Walker managed to pull up almost level with the Jaguar and dashed across the road. At first he couldn’t find anyone in the wreckage, but then found Hawthorn’s body lying full length across the rear seat. He breathed twice more and then all went still: Britain’s first world champion was dead.

Word got out fast. Duncan Hamilton was in Guildford on the telephone to the BRDC secretary, John Eason Gibson. Eason Gibson paused to take a call on the other line and it was John Coombs with news of the crash. By his reckoning it took Hamilton five minutes to reach the scene and help extract Hawthorn’s body from the wreck.

Hawthorn’s Jaguar, VDU881, as it came to rest after uprooting the tree which had almost bisected it

Almost immediately the area was filled with police and press. Duncan Hamilton formally identified Hawthorn’s body at 4.30pm and was then whisked off to London to pay tribute to his friend on the BBC at 6pm. Britain went into frenzy.

Conjecture and conspiracies about the cause of the accident continue to be bandied about to this day. Many theories revolve around Hawthorn’s car, registration VDU 881, with which he had won a memorable touring car battle with Tommy Sopwith’s similar entry the previous summer. The 3.4 saloon was the property of Jaguar and had been much tinkered-with in development while in Hawthorn’s care – making it a ‘Merc eater’ in its driver’s estimation.

VDU881 on its way to victory at Silverstone

VDU881 on its way to victory at Silverstone in 1958

It has been suggested that either an experimental hand throttle or radiator blind had been fitted. Road tests carried out stated variously that the car itself had a notoriously stiff throttle action and that the car was wearing experimental Dunlop Duraband radial tyres which did nothing for its wet weather handling.

No evidence was ever presented that these modifications were on the car at the time of the crash. Photos show one of John Coombs’ transporters loading the sorry-looking remains of the car at the crash site, taking the car back up to the garage where it was inspected the following day with Jaguar’s racing manager ‘Lofty’ England present.

VDU 881 is loaded up and taken away

VDU 881 is loaded up and taken away by the investigators

“I went down to Guildford the day after the accident and saw the car with the engineer,” England later said. “The car had hit the tree going sideways and wrapped itself round the tree, splitting the body on one side. In spite of this the steering still went to both locks and the wheels (front) were in track, tyres all inflated and brakes all working.”

Once the inspection was complete, VDU 881 was taken back to Jaguar and the remains disposed of. The coroner’s inquest was dispensed with as quickly as possible, recording a verdict of accidental death.

Was there a conspiracy of silence, as has been intimated over the years? No. Racing drivers, engineers and team owners were simply all too familiar with fatal accidents. Nothing was ever going to bring Mike back, so everyone moved on as quickly as possible with as little interference from the authorities as possible.

Ultimately a crash of this magnitude only occurs when a chain reaction of circumstances take place. The high winds and driving rain were a factor. The Dunlop Duraband tyres were also a factor. Possibly there were mechanical issues with the car. Whatever the circumstances were, however, the fundamental truth is that Mike Hawthorn died while driving inadvisably fast in foul weather conditions.

Yet even had he not done so, the even greater tragedy is that the days of Britain’s first world champion were drawing to a close. This part of that day dates back to 1954, that appalling year in which Hawthorn first lost his father in an avoidable road traffic accident, and then suffered serious burns after crashing at the Syracuse Grand Prix.

Leslie Hawthorn’s grave in Farnham’s cemetary

It was after returning to the UK later in 1954 for further treatment to his Syracuse burns that Hawthorn’s kidneys became of interest to the medical profession. At the end of the season he went in to Guy’s Hospital in London telling everyone that he was having a kidney stone removed – although in fact it was the entire kidney.

Hawthorn never admitted it, because his racing licence would have been withdrawn on the spot, but he had a degenerative kidney disease. By late 1958 his remaining kidney was also in a chronic state. Although kidney transplants from both living and dead donors had been taking place since 1950, these procedures were in their infancy and there was as yet no means of suppressing the body’s urge to reject these new organs. The prognosis was dire.

Whatever fundamental ailment was doubtless exacerbated by the plentiful supply of drink taken by Hawthorn at every opportunity, but then clearly his choice was to live out his days in a brief, bright burst rather than hold out tremulously.

Despite his extrovert nature, Hawthorn knew he was ill

Despite his extrovert nature, Hawthorn knew that he was ill

The plans that Mike Hawthorn had made to marry Jean Howarth, race aeroplanes and ensure the ongoing success of the T.T. Garage would inevitably have been cut short – and he knew it. At the time of his death, the surgeon who had operated on him at Guy’s had given him 18 months at the longest.

As it was, he was buried five days after the accident in the cemetery on Farnham’s West Street, close to his father’s resting place. His mother Winifred, who had returned to Farnham after her husband’s death in 1954 to take over management of the T.T. Garage, also rests just behind her son.

Mike Hawthorn’s grave complete with title-winning Ferrari

The grave is well kept by the combined efforts of the local council, local enthusiasts, visiting fans and even one of Mike’s childhood girlfriends, who still pops by… presumably to make sure that he’s not getting into more trouble. \

As we have seen, much of Hawthorn’s Surrey is still here to be found, although not always, perhaps, how the man himself would have wanted it. Jean Howarth remains an incredibly beautiful woman, who eventually moved on from the loss of her first fiancee to marry another hellraising Grand Prix driver – Innes Ireland.

Immediately behind the crash site on the A3 is the Onslow Arboretum, where on January 22nd 1999 a hawthorn bush named Quickthorn was planted level with where the Jaguar came to rest. On January 22nd 2009 the bush hosted luminaries from the era in another dedication ceremony: this time placing a plaque. Sadly, this was looted within weeks.

The 'Quickthorn' buch planted in Hawthorn's memory in 1999

The ‘Quickthorn’ bush planted in Hawthorn’s memory in 1999

So ends this tour of Mike Hawthorn’s Surrey. He was a controversial figure in life, one who is significantly harder to define than many of his contemporaries – and even they have difficulty in pinning him down. “I liked Mike a lot and he liked me,” Sir Stirling Moss reflected not long ago. “At least I think he did. I hope he did, anyway… but you never really knew him.”

Hawthorn was one of the bright young things who galvanised the British motor racing community and inspired more than half a century – and counting – at the forefront of Formula One. The stories of that generation of Hawthorn, Moss, Peter Collins, Tony Brooks, Stuart Lewis-Evans, Roy Salvadori et al will continue to crop up throughout the Scarf & Goggles in years ahead, with a mixture of hilarity, tragedy and achievement quite unique to this remarkable group of young men.

For now, however, this particular tour of Mike Hawthorn’s stamping grounds is over…

Hawthorn’s Surrey Part 3: Oddments

Practicing for the 1958 British GP

Practice for the 1958 British GP

The little series of features about what remains of Mike Hawthorn’s Surrey here on the Scarf & Goggles is intended as background to a man who will feature repeatedly in stories to come – and yet who could easily be written off as a one-dimensional caricature.

When following the route of Mike and the Members from Farnham to Tilford, for example, it was amusing to have a quick look at the forecourt of the specialist car dealer: Hawthorns ‘The Racing Legend’. As you can see, despite the name and location of the showroom, it’s covered in what the 1958 Formula One world champion referred to as ‘Kraut cars’.

Hawthorns’ garage in Farnham – not quite the T.T. Garage

As his ex-girlfriend Moi Kenward recalled in Mon Ami Mate, Mercedes-Benz was a subject upon which Hawthorn was particularly strident. “We were upstairs at the 1955 Earls Court Motor Show when someone told Mike that Sir Jeremy Boles was buying a gullwing Mercedes,” she recounted.

“‘He’s not buying a ****ing German car! Come on – let’s get down there,’ he said.” A somewhat bemused group of onlookers subsequently witnessed Hawthorn ranting at the Mercedes staff and Sir Jeremy – albeit too late to stop him from handing the cheque over.

Of course, Hawthorn’s passionate dislike of Mercedes was ultimately to play a part in both of the biggest tragedies of his life: the 1955 Le Mans disaster and his own death on the Guildford by-pass in 1959. Wartime scars were very evident 60 years ago, however, and national prestige depended heavily on the success of one country’s racing cars against those of another. In many ways, Hawthorn saw himself as a member of the British Foreign Office rather than an itinerant sportsman.

Since his death, meanwhile, Mike Hawthorn’s life has been commemorated in several ways – although a great many more have been declined. Perhaps the most popular is the locally-brewed beer that is light but strong at 5.3% and named in honour of the Farnham Flyer – although perhaps it would be a benefit if they could spell his name right!

A pint of Hawthorn(e) meets the end of the day very well!

Despite this little faux pas, the pub which serves this estimable pint was well known to the Hawthorn family, being about a mile north of their original home in Farnham. The Ball and Wicket – know in some quarters as the ‘Ball and Socket’ – has expanded to incorporate a well-regarded bistro and is independently-owned by the brewery responsible for the commemorative tipple, and made for a welcome pause to catch up on one’s notes.

Time for a pause at the ‘Ball and Socket’

Hawthorn’s Surrey Part 2: The Members’ Trail

Hawthorn went fast to enjoy more time for beer...

Hawthorn went fast to ensure more time in the day for beer…

If one is preparing to follow in the wheeltracks of Britain’s first Formula One world champion, Mike Hawthorn, around his stamping grounds in Surrey then a stout constitution is required. The villages in this part of the world are thick with hostelries, which were the number one choice of entertainment for the young racer and his gang of friends known amongst themselves as ‘the Members’.

At the age of 17 Hawthorn was apprenticed to Dennis Bros. in Guildford – the renowned manufacturer of trucks, ambulances, fire engines, buses and military vehicles. It was while here that he gathered the Members around him – like-minded souls who would share Hawthorn’s passions for the ‘three Bs’: Bikes, Boozing and Birds.

The former Dennis Bros. factory site is now an anonymous business park

Although Hawthorn had inherited plenty of engineering savvy from a childhood spent in his father’s workshops, this brought precious little benefit to Dennis Bros. in exchange for his salary. More often than not Hawthorn was to be found riding his motorbike around the perimeter wall or planning his next expedition with the Members. He once took off in a brand new truck only to discover that none of the panels were actually bolted in place, causing the thing to disintegrate around his ears.

Not very much would detain Hawthorn in this neck of the woods today

Playtime was altogether more interesting to Hawthorn. It was never really agreed what his gang were Members of, but there were one or two badges of belonging. The first was that everyone addressed each other as ‘Bo’ and the second was that they all wore ties. Hawthorn took to wearing a bow tie gifted to him by a girlfriend, prompting one of the Members to ask if they should all adopt similar accessories.

“No, you bloody fool,” Hawthorn was reported to have said in Mon Ami Mate. “It’s a bow tie, not a Bo tie!”

After a week at work (and providing that there was nothing going on at Goodwood, where they would eagerly head and squeeze through the fence and enjoy a free day out), the Members would convene on a Saturday at The Bush hotel in Farnham town centre.

The Bush Hotel in Farnham was the Members’ meeting place

The Bush was a handy, central spot to be but perhaps the number of ‘ordinary’ folk about in town on a Saturday morning curtailed the Members’ hi-jinks somewhat, so they would saddle up their motorbikes and head south.

Driving out past the railway station, their aim was for Tilford. Here you will find an idyllic little village with a generous green over which presides the Barley Mow pub. The friendly locals and sparse traffic which typify the place today mean that it is all too easy to imagine the Members coercing their favourite landlord to stay open all afternoon as they sat around discussing the three Bs over yet another round.

Small wonder that the Members could spend whole days at the Barley Mow

There’s a collection of Hawthorn-related photos and cuttings outside the Gents’ loo, although there’s no mention of the fact that this was the place where his beloved boxer dog, Grogger, met his maker after bounding out to welcome a car.

A mile or so down the road from the Barley Mow is the Duke of Cambridge Hotel, which is actually across the border in Hampshire and thus offered slightly later closing time for the rambunctious regulars. Today the Duke of Cambridge has one of the best pub menus in the area and getting a table can be a problem unless you book far in advance.

Hawthorn’s second home, the Duke of Cambridge, is a gastronomic delight today

Even the doting Bishops would not always flout legal closing time, however, and Surrey had a much earlier finish to the evening than neighbouring Hampshire. So it was that the Members would wobble unsteadily onward for a nightcap. Quite often this would mean traversing the woodland lanes to get down to the Frensham Ponds Hotel, where they could usually sweet talk the staff into pretending that they were residents.

The Frensham Ponds Hotel enjoys an idyllic setting with plenty of boats to enjoy

If getting down to Frensham was a bit of an issue then the final destination for the Members would be The Bluebell in Dockenfield, today nestling near the fantastic Alice Holt adventure forest on the road back up to Hawthorn’s home in Rowledge. Organising a lock-in at this secluded spot would have been a doddle, and the snug little bar is more than welcoming to this day.

The Bluebell feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere – but is full of friendly faces

From there, Hawthorn would have gone back to the family home, Merridale, in Rowledge – usually with a Member or two in tow. It’s a challenging drive today, uphill on a single-track road with a surface which resembles Passchendaele at its worst, but if the Members were feeling any bumps in the road then probably they would feel that it had been an unsatisfactory day’s drinking.

I followed their path back to the village but at that point drew a blank. Nobody in the Post Office, the village shop or the butcher’s could recall a house being called Merridale – or ‘Merry Hell’ as Hawthorn preferred it. There was a reason for Hawthorn’s black humour – and, perhaps, the wild roving and companionship he created among the Members. It was the wrench of his parents’ separation.

Leslie Hawthorn was a racer, a drinker and a ladies’ man and as Mike reached adulthood his mother called time on family life. She moved in to a flat in Farnham and then took a job as a receptionist in London and Merridale was clearly anything but merry – often empty as Hawthorn Sr enjoyed his second bachelorhood – meaning that his son doubtless felt the need to take his mates and a dose of good cheer home with him.

It’s also perhaps worth noting that of the seven founding Members, four of them didn’t live to see their 30th birthday. Simon Hayter died first in a road accident on the A3 not far from where Mike Hawthorn himself would perish. Another road accident claimed ‘Black Mike’ Crossley while in Germany and Peter Poppe went on to fly jets in the RAF, being killed while flying a Gloster Javelin while supporting a Search & Rescue operation over the sea during the Malayan emergency.

But in the early ‘Fifties, Hawthorn was on the cusp of life as an international jet-setter… and while the Members and their haunts would remain central to his life whenever he was in England, he had many more adventures in store.