Bodiam Hill Climb

When I was young, in the early 1960s, one of the highlights of the year was the annual Bodiam Hill Climb.  This was held in October after hop picking had finished.  Bodiam Castle car park was used as the pits (I think visitors to the Castle had to park in the fields around the Castle).  I can't remember where the Hill Climb spectators parked but would suspect it was in one of the New House Farm fields near the river.  The Hill Climb course was 670 yards long and started somewhere between the Castle Inn and the thatched cricket pavilion and ran along the New House road, turning right at the bottom of Knowle Hill and finishing near the top of the hill by Knowle Cottages. 

Recently Anthony Breeds has been in contact with me and gave me the following comments on the Hill Climb:-

I took my grandchildren to the Bodiam Classic Car Show a couple of weeks ago and was reminded of the time the area from the Castle Inn, along past the cricket ground and up the hill towards New House Farm? was used for the Bodiam Hill Climb.

I've sent you some photos of vehicles taking part in 1964 and copies of programmes (also details from the 1964 programme).  Some of the photos of the vehicles taking part may not be of good enough quality to use but I'm sure there will be some interest in them.  Perhaps someone has more to contribute.

I won't incriminate myself and explain how we got into the spectators' area but at least I bought a programme. The races were very exciting with cars starting near the cricket pavilion (I gather now a house), raced along the lane, turned sharp right (avoiding a telegraph pole) and raced up the hill.

Cars taking part covered the whole range from for example an Austin A40, lots of Minis, right the way up to 4 litre Jaguars.  There were even classes for sports and racing cars with I remember especially many Lotus and Elva cars.

Here are the photos and programmes from Anthony (plus one from Martyn Lawrence).

Cars waiting at the end of the course to return to the pits in 1962.
No. 65 D.J. Basset, Wells Ford Special 1172 c.c.
No. 54 John Mew, Lotus-Junior 1098 c.c.
No. 50 H.A.W. Baird, Cooper-Junior 1100 c.c.
In the background is No. 59 Roy Pierpoint, Lotus 15-Climax 1962 c.c. sports racing
A report of the 1962 meeting can be found here.

Lister Jaguar

This photo was supplied by Martyn Lawrence.  It must have been taken after Guinness left Bodiam as there are no hopgardens in the background.

John Brimm has supplied this photo of a competitor returning to the pits via
the public roads
This photo shows a competitor coming out of New House Farm at Mutton
House Corner.  Note the two cyclists mixing with the cars. 
Photo supplied by John Brimm

Another photo from John Brimm showing a competitor returning to the pits

My brief memories of the Hill Climb are as follows:-

I remember the Bodiam Hill Climb very well.  One of the highlights of the "Bodiam Boy" 's year.  The first priority was how to get in without paying.  My favorite place to stand was at the end of the short straight from the cricket pavilion to where the road beared slightly right before the sharp right hander to go up Knowle Hill.  From this point you could see the fast cars take off over the slight hump by the cricket pavilion and hopefully watch them come a cropper at the right hander at the bottom of Knowle Hill.  You could also watch them go up the hill.

They used to have practice in the morning and start for real about 1pm. Cars that were taxed for the public roads would return to the Castle car park via the public roads but un-taxed cars would be held at the dairy and would come back down the track in a group to return to the pits.

Here is a link to another website that has some Bodiam Hill Climb information -

Julie Dowsing has provided me with some press cuttings for the 1986 Hill Climb.  These can be found here - Bodiam%20Hill%20Climb%201986.pdf

Rupert Lloyd Thomas's site on the history of Bodiam Hill Climb can be found here -