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PRESCOTT - THE STORY 

Before 1938

The records of the estate go back to the mid-13th Century. The estate location is in the mid-west area of England, in the beautiful ‘Cotswold Hills’, just north of the historic city of Cheltenham, and about 100 miles west of London. The Manor of Prescott and other lands surrounding it changed hands several times and became owned in the mid-19th Century by the Earl of Ellenborough's estate. In the intervening years the estate changed hands again and Prescott was put up for sale in the mid-1930s by the then owners, the Gloucestershire Dairy Company.

The Bugatti Owner’s Club was already running hillclimbs on various dusty loose-surfaced courses in the south of England since 1931. It was about 1936 when it was agreed that the Club really needed to have its own course - the objections of local residents to the existing venues were getting stronger all the time. It seemed that the ‘unique sounds’ of un-silenced Bugatti’s on a summer afternoon, was not what local residents wanted!

A couple of venues were considered, but dismissed for various reasons; the majority were to do with local objection. However in 1937, Tom Rolt, who was a V.S.C.C. member and lived nearby Prescott at Stanley Pontlarge became aware of the proposed sale of the estate. He knew the estate well and realised its potential as a hill climb venue. The V.S.C.C. had only been in existence for some three years at that time and were not in a position to purchase, so the idea was passed on to the Bugatti Owners' Club.  Colonel Godfrey Giles with Eric Giles acquired the Prescott House and Estate and then offered it to the Club for the purpose of creating a permanent hillclimb course, but giving the VSCC the rights to run one completely independent event a year, which they have done every year to date.

1938

The very first meeting on April 10th 1938 was for BOC members only and was more like an ‘informal opening of our new property’! The second event on May 15th, one month later, saw the first official FTD by Arthur Baron in a Bugatti Type 51 with a time of 50.70 [he did a 49.60 in practice!], his car had twin rear wheels, second was Jack Lemon Burton in a single rear wheel Type 51 with 50.74! So the scene was set. The next meeting, on July 3rd, was the first ‘open’ meeting with other clubs invited, and with a ‘practice’ day on the Saturday. There was a tremendous tussle between Bugatti, Alta, ERA and Frazer Nash, with George Abecassis in the Alta winning FTD with a thrilling 47.85. 
The first VSCC meeting was held on 27th August 1938, times were a bit confused as there were no RAC timekeepers and there was an unofficial time of 47.62 set by a ‘special’, the Freikaiserwagen, with GN chassis and Morgan independent front suspension. But officially a s/c 2 litre Bugatti 35C driven by T. Grimshaw made FTD with 50.74. 
To give some comparison to more recent times; in 2015 the “short” course record was set by James Baxter in ERA R4D at 39.68 secs. 

Since 1938

The Second World War ended all activities at Prescott in September 1939, and the course remained unused until 1946, when the course was reinstated and events started again.
In 1960 the original course was extended by the introduction of the 1127 yards ‘long’ course, by the development of the Ettores loop.  This course is used now for all events except the VSCC weekend. The ‘short’ course was the original driveway from the Gretton Road up to the Prescott Manor house - suitably resurfaced to cater for cars being driven at speed, as opposed to carts and carriages - and is 880 yards long. 
The course itself is technically very demanding, from the slightly uphill start, a full blast over 110 mph [in a Gould] under the footbridge to a sweeping left hander and onto the long 180 degree right hander at Ettore’s, then down-hill and up-hill to the famous Pardon Hairpin, a climbing left hander that then leads into The Esses, a tight left hander, up to ‘Semi-Circle', a long right hander which you approach looking at only the sky! then onto the finish, and unlike most other venues, back to the paddock via the return road. 
The facilities we provide visitors are under constant review and improvement, to make the experience and attractiveness of the venue more appealing to visitors. 

From the Archives

This article has been produced from the Club Archives.  A great resource that is available to Members.

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Prescott Speed Hill Climb,
Gotherington
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire
GL52 9RD

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