Sir Tim Birkin needs no introduction to Bentley owners. He is simply one of the most influential figures in Bentley history, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours for the marque once (personally he won the race twice) as one of the eponymous Bentley Boys and of course will be best remembered for giving the world the Blower Bentley.
The Birkin Tour which took place from the 19-22 May in and around the seaside village of Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast was an occasion to ensure the memory of this great man continues to be honoured in the 90th year since his passing. When you look at Birkin’s achievements it is scarcely believable that he succumbed to blood poisoning as a consequence of a burn to his arm sustained on the exhaust pipe of his Grand Prix Maserati, aged just 36.
Arriving on Friday afternoon, an array of Bentleys descended upon the newly refurbished The Manor Hotel and Inn sited on the Quay in Blakeney in time for welcome drinks and a lovely three course dinner to get everyone in the mood for the weekend ahead.
It was wonderful to see such a splendid range of cars from two early 3 Litres, including one which belonged to the legendary Bentley Boy John Duff. There was a fabulous sporting 3/4.5 and a beautiful 4 litre and Chris and Jennie Guest arrived in style in their very regal Speed Six. Completing the WO line up was the fabulous 8 Litre of Oliver and Elke Treutlein who had made the journey across from Germany to join the tour.
Sadly, the only car that really was amiss from the line-up was a Blower Bentley. BDC member, Martin Overington had entered his car, but suffered mechanical failure a week before the event and despite his amazing mechanics working through the night they were unable to get the car ready in time. Chris Guest very kindly lent Martin his 4.5 and, of course, wherever Martin arrived in it over the weekend, people would stop him and joke that his supercharger had fallen off….
Classic and modern Bentley’s were represented by a stunning S1 Continental drophead, three GT/GTC models, an Azure and a lovely Mulsanne.
Saturday saw a visit to one of the private jewels of Norfolk, Sennowe Park, the stately home built by the son of the travel industry founder Thomas Cook and still owned and lived in by the family to this day. Tom Cook, showed us around his motor house which included an array of very interesting cars and the Park’s fire engine which was ordered new by the family in 1928 and still has its original tyres on. Members were very pleased to have been invited for a tour of the house too and were given a fascinating history of the Cook family by Tom’s nephew, Charlie Temple-Richards. As a private home it was really a unique, money-can’t-buy, experience.
The visit to Sennowe Park was also an opportunity for the group to meet Sir Tim’s family and at one point his grandson James arrived in their 4.5 litre with his two sisters, his son and not long thereafter, his grandson also arrived, so we had three generations of the family accompanying us on the weekend.
The afternoon was spent exploring the North Norfolk coast with several options to stop for lunch and also visits to the North Norfolk Railway and the Muckleburgh Military Collection.
On Saturday evening a light supper was served at the historic Blakeney Garage. The notion of eating supper at a garage may seem incongruous to many but the venue belongs to fellow BDC members Mark and Rachel Davenport who could not have made more effort to create a wonderful environment in which to spend the evening.
James Buxton gave a talk sharing an insight into Sir Tim’s life and the times he had in Blakeney.
On Saturday evening and Sunday we were joined by both BDC President and Chairman, Duncan Wiltshire and Phillip Hine.
Sunday morning many in the group visited Sir Tim Birkin’s grave which is in the churchyard in Blakeney. Others went for a drive and some even went to see how many fords they could drive their cars through, before we all met up for lunch at James Buxton’s farm.
Once again the Buxton, Sykes brigade (Birkin only had daughters) were out in full force and the families could not have been more welcoming or hospitable if they tried. After giving us a champagne reception on the beautiful lawns in front of their home, we moved to a fabulous stone barn, the internal walls adorned with family portraits and memorabilia of Sir Tim Birkin for a lobster lunch.
There was then a lazy depart back to the hotel to have one final dinner together at The Manor Hotel before departing for home on Monday morning.
But that wasn’t quite the end of the tour. One last hurrah was had with a coffee stop at fellow BDC member Richie Finney’s wonderful Captain Fawcett Mantiques Museum. Captain Fawcett’s produces a range of first class gentlemen’s grooming requisites and the entire operation centres around a very well set out and themed museum that is well worth a visit if you are ever passing Kings Lynn.
With the weekend over, the tour, organised on behalf of the club by Classic Grand Touring, hopefully gave all who took part a slight insight into the life and times of one of Bentley’s greatest characters, set in the beautiful surroundings of one of Sir Tim’s favourite places in England.