Visit to the Foulkes-Halbard Collection on 10th May 2016
Karl Foulkes-Halbard welcomed us to the Collection and started by showing us round Filching Manor – strictly a twin solar Wealden hall – originally built in 1450 for William Parker. Karl thinks that the front door is original, which makes it one of the oldest front doors in private ownership. The main hall is filled with antique furniture and a collection of arms and armour, including several halberds – Karl assumes that his family name means that they must have been halberdiers at some point in the past.
After we had seen the Manor, we walked over to the Campbell shed. As the name suggests, this houses a number of items that had belonged to Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald, together with Leo Villa (who had been mechanic to both Campbells). Karl’s father, Paul, had been a friend of Leo Villa’s and Leo had given or sold many of the items to him. The mementos included overalls, steering wheels from Bluebird record breakers, wind- and water- tunnel models of Bluebirds, the Metropolitan- Vickers Beryl gas turbine engine which had originally powered the K7 Bluebird in which Malcolm Campbell died while trying to break the water speed record on Coniston Water (for that run, the Beryl had been replaced by a more powerful Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engine).
Slightly more friendly is the Parliament Clock hanging from the railing protecting the mezzanine floor. In addition to the main hall, we looked into two side rooms, again furnished with some beautiful period items as well as cabinets filled with motoring memorabilia. Karl was on hand to discuss the provenance of any of these pieces, and told us that, after his father had bought Filching Manor, they discovered that it had previously been owned by one of their ancestors, as well as William Cavendish (Prime Minister briefly in the 1750s).
Finally, we visited the two motor sheds at the top of the site. The first housed a variety of vintage, veteran and classic machinery – a mix of bicycles, motorcycles, cars and boats. The latter included a replica of Donald Campbell’s K7 Bluebird (made for a TV programme) and the Agfa Bluebird II in which Gina Campbell broke the Women’s World Water Speed Record at 122.8 mph before an attempt to raise the record later that day resulted in an accident uncannily similar to the one that killed her father. Fortunately, she survived, albeit with two broken collar bones.
Other vehicles on display include a veteran, chain-drive Grand Prix Mercedes and a Peugeot with a splendid serpent horn. The second shed contains the highlight of the tour – the K3 Bluebird that Sir Malcolm Campbell took to 130.96mph on Lake Maggiore in 1938. Karl and his team have been working to restore the boat for more than 20 years. The hull is 70% original, although the magnificent Rolls-Royce R Series racing engine has been replaced by a Rolls- Royce Meteor – slightly less powerful but, although Rolls-Royce would be willing to maintain the R Series engine, Karl explained that it would need to be rebuilt after each run at a cost of £100,000 a time! The restored K3 Bluebird was tested at nearby Bewl Water in 2012 and Karl has taken it up to 50mph. If all goes well, he hopes to take the boat back to Lake Maggiore next year to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first record run on that lake.