During WW2 Silverstone was a bomber station and it was pressed into service as a motor racing circuit in 1948. The three prewar British circuits, Brooklands, Donington Park and Crystal Palace were all out of commission and ex-military airfields offered ready-made road surfaces, other basic facilities such as drainage systems, and they were usually a long way from densely populated areas.
Numerous airfields were used for racing in Britain. Some hosted only a handful of meetings, while others (Snetterton, Croft, Goodwood and Thruxton among them) became established fixtures. Silverstone was chosen for special attention by the British Racing Drivers' club because of its location - it was within easy reach of both London and the Midlands. It was a clear sign that British motor racing was set on reaching a wider public than had been the case prewar.
The first Silverstone circuit was formed by using a combination of runways and perimeter tracks, and the second layout in 1949 did the same, but arrived at a different layout. Other, shorter, circuits were constructed for club events.
In 1950 came a layout which was unchanged until 1974 and, with the main circuit (2.927 miles), came a shorter Club circuit which shared the same start/finish straight. The names of the corners came from local associations: Stowe from adjacent Stowe School; Becketts from a one-time chapel dedicated to St. Thomas Beckett, and so on.
In its early days, Silverstone was considered to be a merely a medium-fast circuit, but it emerged as a high-speed venue when cornering speeds and engine torque increased. A chicane was added at Woodcote Corner in time for the 1975 Grand Prix (the length increased to 2.932 miles) but even so, in qualifying for the 1986 race, Keke Rosberg (Williams-Honda) was able to lap at a shade over 160 mph.
Silverstone first ran the British GP as a Championship event in 1950, indeed it was the very first WC race. Between 1955 and 1962, Aintree hosted the race on five occasions and, between 1964 and 1986, Silverstone alternated with Brands Hatch. After 1986, it was awarded the British GP on a long-term basis and the BRDC became sufficiently secure to carry out a development programme.
An additional corner, Bridge Bend, was added just before Woodcote for 1987, and the chicane was removed. This altered the length to 2.969 miles. A major revision of the layout was undertaken for 1991 which tamed the awesomely fast Maggotts curve and Stowe and Club corner and added a sequence of bends prior to Woodcote. These revisions increased the length to 3.247 miles and remained in force until 1995 when further details were made which decreased the overall length of a lap by a few yards leaving it at 3.210 miles.
From the 1970s, Silverstone has had on site its own industrial estate people by companies devoted to various aspects of motor racing.