Gainsborough antiques dealer to sell historic Donald Campbell speed record documents

editorial image

An antiques dealer is looking to sell a hoard of historic documents about a British world record breaker.

Paul Drewett, who trades from the Guardroom at Hemswell Antique Centres, near Gainsborough, is seeking buyers for a folder of papers relating to a planned record attempt by daredevil pilot Donald Campbell.

Hemswell managing director Robert Miller said: “These documents could be of national interest. They are a fascinating insight into the life of a British hero.”

Mr Campbell died in 1967, while attempting to break his own water speed record in Bluebird, on Coniston Water, Cumbria.

In the two decades before, he broke eight world speed records on water and on land—and he remains the only person ever to have set both records in the same year, 1964.

Two years prior to that, he signed a contract with BP Trading, outlining a proposed attempt on a land speed record in Australia that year and a request for a £20,000 loan.

The record attempt never took place, but the contract and detailed plans turned up at auction in London more than half a century later, almost by accident.

Paul bid for and bought a seven-foot model boat, a red concept version of the famous Bluebird.

As he was loading up his van, the porters handed him a basket which was part of the same lot, but which had been left under a table and had been overlooked by bidders.

Buried at the bottom of the basket was a folder which had come from a deceased estate.

Paul said: “I was as shocked as anyone that they were there. When I realised what they were I kept the documents because they could be historically important to the nation.”

Paul is seeking a suitable custodian for the papers, but believes they could be worth several thousand pounds.

They include detailed costings to deign and build an automobile to carry the world’s land speed record to beyond 400 miles per hour.

The designs are annotated with handwritten notes from the Norris Brothers Ltd of Burgess Hull, Sussex, who worked as designers with Donald Campbell.

They also offer fascinating details such as the likely salaries for mechanics, designers and project managers in Australia, and estimated costs of trials, as well as a record atempt by the Bluebird on the Utah Salt Flats, USA, in 1960.

The folder includes proposals for a Sunday newspaper to pay for the rights to a six-part serialisation of Donald Campbell’s story, and a reference from Donald Campbell on behalf of Phillip Villa, who was a member of the Bluebird Operational team.

n Interested buyers can contact Paul on 07890 970855.