Vehicular History of Brougham

Brougham Hall has an interesting and varied vehicular history, starting in 1837, with the production of the first Brougham carriage, designed by the first Lord Brougham, one time Lord Chancellor of England. This particular carriage was the first to have elliptical springs. When Lord Brougham took his design to his coach builder, Messrs Sharp and Bland of South Audley Street, they advised him that it would “never find popular appeal”. Fortunately Lord Brougham was not a man to take “no” for an answer. He persevered and his carriage became the veritable Volkswagen of horse-drawn carriages.

A Brougham carriageOn 14 October 1905, King Edward VII enterprised the first motorcade, by a British Monarch, in the north of England, setting off from Brougham Hall at 11.25am, along a 54-mile stretch of road that had been hand-swept to ensure that the King did not get a puncture. At every intersection a policeman pointed in the direction that the King should go. A 40hp plum coloured Mercedes had been bought down from Balmoral, specially for the purpose, and various other motorcars joined in the motorcade, at Brougham Hall.

Ninety years later, the fourth Lord Brougham purchased two eight litre Bentleys. Only 100 of these vehicles were ever made. At the time of purchase, they were £1,850 each. Both these cars are still in existence. The Chairman and owner of Bentley Motors, Wolfie Benarto, was a regular visitor to house parties at Brougham Hall and attended the fourth Lord Brougham’s marriage at St Margaret’s Westminster, on 21 April 1931, just three months before Rolls Royce bought Bentley Motors for £125,275. 

In 1942, Winston Churchill commandeered Brougham Hall, along with Lowther Castle and Greystoke Castle, for the development of an extraordinary weapon. This was a tank which was equipped with a 13 million candlepower white arc light which had a strobe operating at a frequency which had the effect of blinding the enemy temporarily. These tanks, made from Grants, Matildas and Churchills were without any offensive weaponry other than the light.  The intention was to move forward in a V formation of 154 tanks comprising three squadrons of 50 tanks and a headquarters squadron of 4 tanks, commanded by a Lt. Col. The light had a range of 1,000 metres. In the event, the tanks were never used as had been intended. However, they were used to illuminate the Rhine for the Remagen crossing on 5 March 1945 and for mopping up operations in Mesopotamia and north Eastern India, where the Japanese were attempting to cross the border from occupied Burma.  

After the War, the army camp at Brougham was turned into a displaced persons camp. Thereafter, it was commandeered by the Ministry of Supply and used as a petrol dump. On 16 May 2004, Brougham Hall was honoured by a visit from the Rolls Royce & Bentley Enthusiasts’ Club, who were celebrating the centenary of Mr Royce meeting Mr Rolls, for the first time, in the Midland Hotel in Manchester.

The picture above shows a Brougham Carriage which the Brougham Hall Charitable Trust acquired at the beginning of this century and which is on view in the Old Smokehouse.