History…. but not as we know it!

7 July 2014

Sometimes history can take many forms and this weekend, I decided to take in some motoring history at the Atwell Wilson Motor Museum in Calne. I first visited shortly after I moved to Wiltshire in 2011 and was amazed at the collection of cars, motorcycles, mopeds, push bikes, a fire engine, a milk float, and much more.

The museum is named after Richard and Hasell (nee Wilson) Atwell. The couple lived in the Calne area their entire lives – marrying in 1973 – and started their original collection with the purchase of a 1937 Buick Albermarle, which still remains a part of the Museum collection. A 1934 Vauxhall 14/6 and 1931 Singer Junior – don’t they make sewing machines?! – arrived shortly after and the collection continued to grow. Supplying one of the cars for a cousin’s wedding provided the inspiration for creation of a Wedding Car Hire fleet in 1972.

In 1981, the collection was brought together under one roof with the completion of the smallest of the three buildings. Following the construction in 1989 of what is now the Main Hall, the Museum – unofficially first known as the Downside Motor Museum – was forged. In 1997, a Charitable Trust was formed to take over the operation of the Museum, followed shortly by the formulation of a support group of volunteers known affectionately as ‘The Friends’ (new members are very welcome!).

The most recent expansion occurred in 2003 with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and I was staggered by how many changes had been implemented since I first visited in 2011/2012.

Many of the vehicles have a full history – family history and service history – with them and one of the vehicles is reputed to have been used by Her Majesty Queen Mary. A Daimler EL24 (1938), registration ELE 604 was rescued from a disused theatre in Bristol and the Museum would love to find evidence of the royal connection, after all the TLC they have put into restoring her to her former glory. Anyone able to help with this mission?

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