An urban view — 08 November 2016

Every post-war adolescent remembers the grainy black-and-white footage of Donald Campbell’s doomed attempt to break his water speed record on Coniston Water on 4th January 1967.

Despite dying on that day [see video below] he remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year.

In his attempts to break speed records he was following in the steps of his father, Malcolm.

Malcolm Campbell who between 1924 and 1935 broke the land speed record nine times, becoming on 3rd September 1935 the first person to drive a car over 300 mph on Bonneville Salt Flats driving the last of his four Bluebird cars a 36.7 litre supercharged Rolls-Royce R V12 producing 2,300bhp.

Malcolm Campbell was by all accounts pretty astute with money. A favourite maxim of his was:

Never trade with your own money. Always use that of others . . .  I’d spoken to them and they’d agreed it wasn’t my debt over the phone, but weeks later I’m getting an even more threatening letter.

 

He seemed to have applied this maxim when building the Bluebird Garage on the corner of Beaufort Street and King’s Road. Completed in 1923 which, it was claimed at 50,000 sq ft, to be the largest garage in Europe.

Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell

It brought a new level of style and sophistication to the fledgling motoring public. Separate waiting rooms for ladies and their chauffeurs, a writing room, overnight accommodation for lady motorists and a library, with room for 300 cars plus 7,000 sq ft of workshops.

The venture folded in 1927 and investors lost all their money, except Campbell who had applied his investment criteria to the Bluebird Garage, even though it was rumoured he had built his famous Bluebird record-breaking vehicles on the premises.

Finding an alternative use for the Bluebird Garage proved difficult as the vast expanse of windows facing King’s Road belied the problem that the building was deep with few windows on the other three sides.

Donald-Campbell

Donald Campbell

In the 1950 it became an ambulance station eventually being taken over in the 1980s as a market known as The Garage gaining a reputation for drugs and alcohol abuse and at one time the scene of a shooting.

In 1997 Sir Terence Conran purchased the Art Deco shell turning it into the famous restaurant we find today.

Pictures:
Malcolm Campbell in his LSR-setting Bluebird of 1935, probably taken at Povey Cross Cottage © The Short Axle Blog
Featured image Bluebird Garage c1930 © F1buzz
One of a series of stamps issued by the Post Office commemorating Donald Campbell’s achievements.

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