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Our History

While Kop Hill is one of the oldest Hill Climb venues in England, it is especially significant in being the site of the last competitive hill climb on the public highway.

The climb was originally one of several throughout the Chilterns, established in 1910, with some of the first races recorded in our archives.

Throughout the next fifteen years, Kop Hill became a major event on the motor sports car and motorcycle calendar. Many famous drivers and riders ran up the hill, such as Malcolm Campbell in his 12hp Talbot Blue Bird, Raymond Mays in his Bugatti, Henry Segrave driving the 2 litre Grand Prix Sunbeam, Count Zborowski in the 8 cylinder Ballot and Archie Frazer Nash, in his KimIl.

Of these, the wonderfully name Count Zborowski recorded the fastest time in a car. His GP Ballot, an aero-engined monster, achieved 26.8 seconds to race the competitive section of 2,709 feet. The motorcycles were even faster: in 1925 Freddie Dixon posted a time of 22.8 seconds on his 736cc Douglas, an average of 81mph!

However, by the start of 1925 concern was growing over the risk of accidents to spectators at public road events. Worrying precedents were being set, for example at a recent court case where an onlooker injured by a competing motorcyclist had been awarded damages. Public road speed events had already been banned in Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire, but a solution seemed to be at hand. A bill was in preparation to go before Parliament to permit the closing of public roads for motor competitions, as had already been passed in Northern Ireland and Isle of Man.

Against this backdrop, the 1925 Kop Hill event saw an inexperienced driver strike a spectator, who had refused to back away from the course despite being asked to do so by a marshal, breaking one of his legs. At this point, and with several more runs to take place, the RAC steward stepped in and stopped the meeting.

A week later a statement was issued by the Auto-Cycle Union: Following the decision of the Competitions Committee of the RAC declining to grant permits for any high speed contests on the public highway, the Competitions Committee of the A-CU has passed the following resolution: 'That this Committee having carefully considered the difficulty of ensuring the safety of the public at motorcycle speed competitions on the public highway, involving an excess of the legal limit of speed, is of opinion that until the conditions are changed all such competitions, whether "open or closed", are prejudicial to the interests of the sport.'

With that, so ended Kop Hill as a speed event, as did all speed events on public roads.

You can find out more about the winners in the early years, including contemporary reports of the races, in the archive section of this site.