A Vintage year for Goodwood
PUBLISHED: 15:45 16 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:32 20 February 2013
As the man in charge of the Goodwood estate, the Earl of March and Kinrara, heir to the Duke of Richmond, is literally lord of all he surveys. But what is he doing with his family's priceless legacy?
As the man in charge of the Goodwood estate, the Earl of March and Kinrara, heir to the Duke of Richmond, is literally lord of all he surveys. But what is he doing with his familys priceless legacy?
As he tells Simon Irwin, he is enhancing its sporting heritage and now branching out into popular culture with his latest venture, Vintage at Goodwood.
The Gordon Lennoxes have been in Sussex for a very long time, since 1697 in fact, when the 1st Duke of Richmond acquired extensive landholdings for hunting.
Ever since, the family has pursued its interest in sport and provided a living for hundreds of people on the estate and its associated activities.
And what activities they are. The current mix includes Goodwood Racecourse, the Festival of Speed, the Revival meeting, the golf course, the aerodrome and its latest event, Vintage at Goodwood.
Not forgetting, of course, the fact that the Earls love of motor sport and the Festival of Speed meant that he knew the right people when Rolls-Royce was looking for a home for its new factory.
The Earls love of fast cars dates back to the original Goodwood motor racing circuit where he was taken by his grandfather, the 9th Duke, who opened it in 1948 on the perimeter track of the former Second World War airfield RAF Westhampnett. It closed in 1966.
He said: Ive always been mad about cars, something I very much caught from my grandfather. He was always taking me to the racetrack when I was a boy. The drivers all stayed here. We had a great cocktail party on the Saturday night of the Easter meeting.
During that time he saw and met most of the gods of the motor racing world in its impossibly glamorous and dangerous era in the 1960s. Immortals like Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart were regulars at the Sussex circuit and Lord March met them all.
Sadly, some of these legends are no longer with us but others are now regulars at Goodwood events together with the modern giants such as Lewis Hamilton who wowed the crowds at last months Festival of Speed by doing donuts, spinning his Formula 1 car round and round in a cloud of tyre-shredding smoke.
The Earl is keenly aware of his family history and the connection with Goodwood that goes back 10 generations and feels it is his duty to continue its traditions.
I think everybody is trying to do the best they can in the time theyre here. Obviously the long term plan is it continues with a member of the family living here and working here. One is just trying to make sure that one continues with that lineage.
A lot of the families here have been here as long as my family has been here so its a kind of community.
Goodwood has been a centre for the sporting passions of the Dukes of Richmond since they arrived in 1697 for the hunting. Later came the first organised games of cricket, then public horseracing then the golf, motor sport and flying.
The current Duke took over from his father the 9th Duke when he was 40 and the Earl took over from his father when he was about that age too.
My father is 80 now. He took over at 40 from my grandfather and I pretty much took over at 40 and that was a very good plan of my father. My father did brilliantly to enable that to happen because so often it doesnt happen. If you take over when youre 70 you cant do anything.
The Earl took over running the estate and moved into Goodwood House in the mid-1990s. The Duke now lives at Molecomb, a house on the estate originally built by the 3rd Duke for his sister, Lady Sarah.
He built on the work of his father, Ive had the easy bit really. My father had been a great entrepreneur. When I came here I looked at what could generate some return beyond the traditional estate activities.
I thought, hey, what about the track? Could we get the track reopened? It hadnt been used since 66. Fortunately, knowing that I loved cars and motor racing, I had been asked to be President of the BARC (the British Automobile Racing Club) a year or two before. The BARC ran Goodwood in the 50s and 60s.
The plans met some local resistance and, keen to do something with a motorsport theme, the Earl hit on the idea of the Festival of Speed.
We thought well do something here. So I asked a few people with nice cars and was very much helped by Robert Brooks of Bonhams and Doug Nye the journalist and a few friends, Lord Cowdray was involved right in the beginning for instance and Eddie Norfolk as well. So it was a bit of a Sussex thing in that sense.
We were told we would get 2 or 3 thousand people and I was hoping for, if I was really optimistic, for sort of 10,000 because we marketed it quite heavily. Anyway we got 20,000 and then we realised we had something that people got really excited about and we were pushing on a bit of an open door.
As the success of the Festival grew, the Earl got his wish to revive the race circuit with the launch of the Revival meeting in 1998.
The Revival is all about how it used to be in the 50s and 60s, everyone comes dressed accordingly. It looks fabulous, people feel they are actually in it which is a great thing, they are actually making a contribution.
At first, I was very worried that the Revival would kill the golden goose, kill the Festival of Speed, but thankfully they are very, very different and they have just fed off each other.
The Revival is the biggest historic race meeting in the world, the Festival is the biggest car culture event in the world. Between those two events we get around 300,000 people over three days.
He is delighted that the motorsport events have brought an iconic marque to Sussex with Rolls-Royce now based on the estate.
And the whole Rolls-Royce thing has been a great thing for us too. That all came out of our relationship with BMW which came out of the Festival of Speed.
I had dinner with a friend of mine who was in charge of the Rolls-Royce project in Munich and he had to split from Bentley and he had to find somewhere very English and felt right for Rolls-Royce and with all the sports here. It was a very interesting marketing decision and its been great for us and I hope its good for them. And its a very, very good relationship.
It amuses me that if Im in California or something and I see a Phantom, I know its come all the way from here. Every single one has come out of those gates.
Vintage at Goodwood
Now the Earl is launching his latest new venture Vintage at Goodwood, billed as a celebration of all that is best about British popular culture. And definitely not just a music festival.
We felt the whole vintage fashion thing had a huge amount going for it and we felt that music and fashion had got separated and we felt if you could actually bring the music back with the fashion, how good would that be?
So then we met up with Wayne Hemingway who had a similar kind of idea and he came to see me and we decided to do it together. I thought hes got such great experience in a lot of these areas and hes very well known and we got on very well, I thought it would be a good partnership and so its turned out to be.
The thing about Vintage is its about looking at whats made Britain great creatively over the last 50 years in music, fashion, film, art and design in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and its about looking at that lineage and how does that relate to the future?
Its looking through that window of the past into the future. Having bands that are much more current and showing how theyve been influenced by David Bowie for instance.
The thing Im most worried about is that its seen as a music festival. Its not a music festival. This is a kind of happening. This is a celebration of all thats best about British popular culture, like a mini Festival of Britain.
And all the strands of it are important. Music, art, fashion, film and design theyre all important. And what Im worried about, and its happening already, is that everyone talks about as just another festival. The trouble is theyve all really got to experience it before we can really show them why we think its so different.
Just the architecture, the way the things going to be laid out, the experience you have on site, forget about what youre going to hear, the visual experience will be entirely different to anything else.
And there are all these different eras going on together so youve got the 40s torch club, the tiki bar, the rockers caf, the 80s warehouse, youve got the Northern Soul from the 70s, so youll be able to go into any of those and have that experience.
Among other developments keeping the Earl busy are the Goodwood Hotel now back in the hands of the estate and the new cheeses being developed on the farm!
Find out more
Vintage at Goodwood is 13, 14, 15 August.
Goodwood Revival is 17, 18, 19 September.
Horse racing at Goodwood is 27-31 July (Glorious Goodwood); 12, 26, 28 and 29 August; 7, 11, 12, 22 September; 10 October
For more information on any Goodwood activity visit www.goodwood.co.uk
For pictures of this years Festival of Speed and to read about Simon Irwins day there, visit sussex.greatbritishlife.co.uk