SEGRAVE, Sir Henry (1896-1930)
Plaque erected in 2009 by English Heritage at St Andrew's Mansions, Dorset Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 4EQ, City of Westminster
World Speed Record Holder
Sir HENRY SEGRAVE 1896-1930 World Speed Record Holder lived here in flat No.6 1917-1920
Sir Henry Segrave was both a racing driver and a world speed record holder. He won two full Grand Prix races between 1923 and 1924, and broke the world land speed record three times and the world water speed record once, becoming the first person to hold both records concurrently.
A NEED FOR SPEED
Henry O’Neal de Hane Segrave was born in Baltimore, USA. Educated at Eton and briefly at Sandhurst Military College, he was soon commissioned in the Royal Warwickshire regiment, and saw action in France during the First World War. In October 1915 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, eventually achieving the rank of major, but was twice shot down and wounded. ‘I was a rotten pilot,’ Segrave later recalled. ‘I always seemed to make a mess of landing.’
From a young age, Segrave had an interest in cars and motorcycles and he started motor racing soon after being demobbed. It was while living at 6 St Andrew’s Mansions, Marylebone – a ground-floor flat in a large Victorian block – that he made his first outing at the Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey in the spring of 1920. After winning several races there, he joined the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq team in 1921. A mere two years later he won the French Grand Prix at Tours, becoming the first Briton to win a major international motor race for 21 years. He was also the first British driver of a British-built car to win in continental Europe.
This success was followed by a win at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1924 at San Sebastian. His racing successes multiplied, and in 1926 Segrave broke the land speed record when he reached 152.33mph in his four-litre Sunbeam at Southport Sands, Lancashire.
Although Segrave retired from Grand Prix racing in 1927, he continued to make world record attempts. He achieved a land speed record in March 1927 (at over 200mph) in his double-engined, chain-driven Sunbeam at Daytona Beach, Florida. Two years later, Segrave attained yet another land speed record, of 231.36mph over the mile, achieved in the British-built Irving-Napier Golden Arrow. He was knighted in May 1929.
In 1927, Segrave began racing boats, and on 13 June 1930 piloted Miss England II in an attempt on the water speed record at Lake Windermere. He reached 98.76mph, beating the previous best by 6mph. However, disaster struck on a further run, when his boat capsized after hitting a floating object. He suffered a punctured lung and – though conscious when rescued – died shortly afterwards, aged 33. His ashes were scattered over the playing fields at Eton from his self-designed monoplane.