Leisure & Travel
by Aspect County

Birthplace of British motor racing

With the aim of promoting Bexhill-on-Sea as a fashionable new resort, the 8th Earl De La Warr secured the town’s place in history by hosting Britain’s first automobile races on the 19th May 1902. The event, hosted by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, was an enormous success and attracted international attention, as the first motor racing seen in the country. 

The route followed a 1km track, along the Bicycle Boulevard on the seafront, with a flying start from the top of Galley Hill and the existing cycle chalet was taken over and used for official timekeeping of the event. Today, markers can be seen along East Parade to indicate the start and finish points of the race. 

Hotels and restaurants were full to capacity, the smell of paraffin filled the air and bystanders lined the street as the puffing and chugging motors steamed past in sprint races from east to west. More than 200 entrants, from across the continent, competed in the inaugural meeting and the races were won by French driver Leon Serpollet in a steam driven Easter Egg car, a replica of which can be seen in the Bexhill Museum.The car reached an astonishing speed of 54 miles an hour, at a time when the national speed limit was 12 miles per hour and was witnessed by the thousands of spectators who flocked to Bexhill to observe the unique spectacle. 

It was a true success so much so that a few years after the event, in 1906, a plan was devised for a circuit almost reaching Beachy Head. Unfortunately, the plans didn’t come to fruition and the motor racing circuit was moved to the new Brooklands circuit in 1907. However, a series of motoring events did take place in the lead up to the first Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring, an annual event that took place every year from 1990 to 2002

Bexhill Motoring Events

May 19th races held by Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland.

September 24th, held by Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. Dorothy Levitt competes, and event is watched by Rudyard Kipling and family from his car.

Bexhill Automobile Meeting on De La Warr Parade 1st-3rd August 1904, Automobile Ball at Kursaal on 4th

Speed Trials held by Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland.

Motor Reliability Trials in March held by Crystal Palace Automobile Club. Whit Monday Speed Trial held by Crystal Palace Automobile Club, S.F. Edge and Dorothy Levitt competes.

Kent and Sussex Light Car Club amalgamated with Kent Automobile Club, West Parade 15th October.

Kent Automobile Association Speed Trials, West Parade. 16th October, the only female entrant Miss Ivy Cummings wins her class and is the 3rd fastest driver overall.

Concours d’Elegance (car show) on De La Warr Parade.

Concours d’Elegance (car show) on De La Warr Parade.

Concours d’Elegance (car show) at De La Warr Pavilion.

Concours d’Elegance (car show) in Egerton Park.

Veteran Car Club Rally.

Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring.

With thanks to the Bexhill Museum.