The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

When 20th Century Fox came to Redhill, Nottingham

A little piece of local history today from a story related to me by an elderly neighbour and family friend in Redhill many years ago who is sadly, no longer with us. It concerns a Mr. George Brough, the owner of the Brough motorcycle company of Nottingham, manufacturers of the legendary ‘Brough Superior’ motorcycle. George significantly at one juncture also held the world speed record for the motorcycle of around 130mph. Bikes ran in George’s blood as his father, George senior had developed the Brough name into two-wheeled legend and passed the business on to George junior.

te lawrence

T. E Lawrence ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and Brough Superior

Just around the corner from my home in Redhill, Nottingham is situated a small cul-de-sac enshrouded in trees called Pendine Close which is accessible directly from the main A60, Mansfield Road. The close contains a small handful of good-sized homes which were built, on memory, in the 1960s. An attractive address and situation certainly but seemingly otherwise unremarkable, However, it’s the very large original home at the end of the close, ‘Pendine House’ in what was originally its own land, that is of interest being the former home of George Brough.

I’m reliably told that Pendine House was named after Pendine Sands, the seven-mile long beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay on the south coast of Wales. This was the area famously chosen by Brough for his motorcycle record attempts.

Interestingly, it was said that George had some extremely well-known friends due to his fame in the motorcycle industry of the day. My old friend and neighbour related to me that none other than Irish playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw was a friend of Brough’s and a regular visitor to Pendine House. He also told tale, quite casually, that George was a friend of the then boss of 20th Century Fox and thus counted several top Hollywood movie stars as friends and visitors to his attractive home in Redhill. One quoted to me was the huge star and master actor, Orson Welles, who was apparently a good friend.

welles and shaw

Visitors: Welles and Shaw

Another famous name, and a well-known association, was T. E. Lawrence, the famed ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, who would visit Redhill and take Brough Superiors for a high-speed spin around the local country lanes. It is recorded that Lawrence died on a Superior. It is fascinating to me to conceive of these world figures as visitors to a home a minute or two from my own front door.

According to Wikipedia (no written evidence available) George Brough attained the world record in 1928 in Arpajon, France. The same source offers the following about Lawrence’s demise:

“A few weeks after leaving the service, aged 46, he was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham (now run by the National Trust and open to the public). The accident occurred because of a dip in the road that obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars of his motorcycle. He died six days later.”

The image on the left shows George Brough with his hand on the shoulder of racer and Austrian sales rep, Eddie Mayer, sat on a Brough motorcycle outside his factory on Haydn Road, Sherwood, Nottingham. On the right, in a similar setting, Brough (standing) converses with T. E. Lawrence ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

From available sources, it appears that George Brough led an exciting and colourful life before dying at seventy-nine years old. Fame, fortune and furiously fast motorcycles were his life. He certainly brought a little colour into the local community in Redhill too.

June 7, 2008 - Posted by | Times Gone By | , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Hi,
    nice article – just two small corrections:
    The guy astride the Brough on the 1st of the two pictures at the bottom is Austrian Brough sales representative and racer Eddie Mayer. George is the guy on the left, putting his hand on Eddie’s shoulder.
    I guess you are right in saying the George led an exciting and colurful life, but he only died at the age of 79.
    Cheers Wilfried

    Comment by Wilfried | June 18, 2008

  2. Hi Wilfried.

    Thanks very much for the corrections, I’ll straighten those out. I see that George only died in 1969 and realise I must have then been a neighbour of his.

    Thanks for the interest and the info.

    Stu

    Comment by Stuart | June 18, 2008

  3. I live in Sydney, My grandmother came from Nottingham. There is the potential of an interesting story if you can find a record or George Brough, Mr Lawrence and Ernest West. Let me know?????

    Comment by Michael Clarke | December 19, 2008


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