Goodwood Revival Meeting

Sir Stirling Moss in an Aston Martin, before the start of a race at the Goodwood Revival Meeting (Sept 2002).  From Rich007's Flickr photostream.

Sir Stirling Moss in an Aston Martin, before the start of a race at the Goodwood Revival Meeting (Sept 2002). From Rich007's Flickr photostream.

Relaxing between ops — Reenactors at Goodwood aerodrome.  From bobfranklin's Flickr photostream.

Relaxing between ops — Reenactors at Goodwood aerodrome. From bobfranklin's Flickr photostream.

A lady and her ride.  From Autoblog's Goodwood Revival 2007 gallery.

A lady and her ride. From Autoblog's Goodwood Revival 2007 gallery.

In these days of tedious secular millenarianism, it is refreshing to see a steadfast few cling to the hope and optimism of bygone days, when technology, progress and style were friends rather than foes.   I am thinking in particular of one Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March and Kinrara, heir to the 10th Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and the entrepreneur behind the Goodwood Festival of Speed and its classy, nostalgic sibling the Goodwood Revival Meeting.

Goodwood is the family’s sprawling 12,000 acre estate, dating back to 1675.  On its grounds one may find a horse-racing track, a motor-racing circuit, a 3,000-acre organic farm, two golf courses, a 94-room hotel, an airport and a cricket pitch.  The horse racing dates back to 1801, when the third Duke of Richmond set up its first race meeting.  The track now hosts horse racing from May to October, including the famous ‘Glorious Goodwood’ meet in July which draws some 120,000 people.  In 1938 then-Lord March, Frederick Gordon-Lennox (known affectionately as Freddie March) offered land to the RAF, which constructed an aerodrome known as RAF Westhampnett.  During the war this airfield served as a fighter base and auxiliary landing field for Hurricanes and Spitfires, among others. With the arrival of peace, Freddie March—a competent amateur motor racer in the ’30s—decided to convert the airfield‘s perimeter road into a racing circuit. Legendary British racer Sir Stirling Moss, OBE—then a mere 19 years old—won his first Formula Three (500cc) race on Goodwood Motor Circuit’s first day of operation.  He would also suffer a career-ending accident there in 1966, which in turn would help precipitate the closure of the track—the owners did not want to build in chicanes to help control the speed of newer, faster cars.  Between 1948 and 1966, Goodwood Motor Circuit hosted many national and international events, including Formula One, the Goodwood Nine Hours and the Tourist Trophy races.

When the current Lord March assumed management of the estate, he immediately recognised the potential of the derelict track.  It was restored to 1966 operating conditions and in 1998, hosted its first Goodwood Revival, featuring cars from 1948 up to 1966, and aircraft from the prewar and wartime eras.  Lord March encourages participants and attendees to dress appropriate to the period, which makes the whole affair a bit of a living time capsule—and hugely popular with the public.  Despite this success the man seems rather low-key with a certain sense of noblesse oblige:

“Something one’s obligated to do, really.” There aren’t many business folk who take their responsibilities quite as seriously, or express them in such old-fashioned terms of duty, as Charles, Earl of March.

It would have been so easy for this entrepreneurial aristocrat to follow the dissolute ways of some of his peer group and, frankly, snort the lot up his nostrils. Not this earl. For that reason, at least, he is an admirable figure; and he has done more than simply stuff some lions or a fun fair on his grounds to raise cash, and views such a prospect with horror – “Lions? It would get me here,” he says, pushing an imaginary dagger to his heart. He has turned his “English institution” into a successful business.

Having spent the early part of his youth after Eton (“I hated every minute” of it) he trained as photographer and worked with Stanley Kubrick. At 40 though, in line with family tradition, he took over the management of the estate. He points out that “with a lot of these estates, you know, when the patriarch won’t go – the old guy goes out in his box, and the son’s 70 and got no energy – and it’s all over”. Thus, since the early 1990s, he has exploited the considerable assets of the Gordon-Lennox family, including their 2,800-acre estate in Goodwood, for his father, the 10th Duke of Richmond, with an almost evangelical sense of mission to defend the family’s property from predation, waste and vulgarity. And the recession, which is making its presence felt in the Sussex countryside as much as it is anywhere.

…In economic terms, what the Earl of March has done is to leverage Goodwood’s formidable competitive advantages – the things that cannot be replicated elsewhere (except by other landed families, presumably): vast (and beautiful) space and a magnificent stately home. He has also made the most of all the sporting pursuits the family has enjoyed over the years, turning them to commercial, but tasteful, advantage.

— O’Grady, Sean.  “Earl of March: A glorious example of the landed classes.The Independent, 30 July 2009.

To read mere words does not really capture the spirit of the thing, and so I heartily recommend that you visit the Goodwood Revival Flickr pool, to see it in all its glory.  Also worthy is this Goodwood Flickr set from British author, journalist and photographer Richard Gunn.  And Autoblog‘s photogallery from the 2007 Revival.

If you enjoy vintage automobiles and aircraft, and want to see them in a carefully orchestrated historic setting, I think it is incumbent upon you to visit the Goodwood Revival at least once in your life.

This year’s Goodwood Revival is from September 18th through the 20th.  I understand tickets and hotel accommodations sell out fast.


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