Everyone has a story.
Thanks to their 200-strong collection of British classic motorbikes, Bill Crosby and his wife Philippa have plenty to tell.
Since May 1999, visitors from all over the world have marvelled at their collection housed at the London Motorcycle Museum in West London, which they run with the help of a group of trusted volunteers.
The museum doesn’t look like a museum – at least not in the conventional sense.
There are certainly no clinically arranged exhibits here; though this is probably due to the fact that the collection is shared between a converted stable block and a 19th Century barn.
Philippa gives our group a guided tour of the museum rather than leaving us to passively experience the exhibits through laminated information cards .
She introduces our group to the oldest bike in their collection, which was manufactured in 1902 by a North London company, ‘Ormonde’. It’s an early example of the bicycle to motorbike metamorphosis.
1902 – ‘Ormonde’
Walking further along the ramp, Philippa points out this relatively developed model of motorbike manufactured by ‘Calthorpe’.
1915 – ‘Calthorpe’
Philippa describes it as rather ‘busy’.
“You couldn’t just get on it and ride!
“Yes, there was a lot to do before that.”
She also tells us that there was no suspension on these earlier bikes so you were in for a bumpy ride.
Fortunately, 1923 brought about a more advanced bike manufactured by ‘Wooler’ a company which ceased trading in 1959 and was based behind the famous Hoover building in Greenford.
Philippa remarks that this one is a little less busy.
The gas light has disappeared and we are now spoiled with electronics. Oh and suspension.
1923 – ‘Wooler’
Dad’s Army fans
Moving to the other side of the ramp and all is present and correct with the 1150cc ‘Brough Superior’.
The laminated information card confirms it is the actual bike that featured in episode 40 of Dad’s Army back in December 1971– ‘Battle of The Giants’.
1933 – ‘Brough Superior’ – this bike featured in the BBC classic, Dad’s Army
As we leave the stable block, Philippa points out an early 1960s ‘Matchless AFS’, which means nothing to most of us. It means nothing, until she drops in the fact that this is the bike that actor Todd Carty (Mark Fowler) rode in an episode of EastEnders.
“Mind you, you could only see the rear tyre as he sped off,” says Philippa.
1960s – This ‘Matchless AFS, G3’ played a supporting role in EastEnders
We leave the stable block and soon arrive inside the aptly named ‘Triumph’ barn.
19th Century converted stable barn at London Motorcycle Museum is home to over 100 Triumph motorcycles.
Here, Triumph bikes are ingeniously squeezed in where space allows, as the photo below testifies.
Triumph motorbikes parked left right and centre.
Philippa draws our attention to what appears to be an ordinary push bike – a Triumph of course.
This is how they all started life.
She asks: “Have you heard of a hedge find?
Responding to a few blank faces she smiles and explains:
“Years ago if you’d had an accident while riding, you’d ditch the bike on farmland. A farmer would come across the bike and would use it to fill in holes in his hedge, hence ‘hedge find’.”
1909 Triumph 550cc
The brief specification (see photo above) confirms that it is a 1909 Triumph 550cc and we are assured that this is the condition in which the bike was found; although Philippa confides that she couldn’t quite remember in which hedge they found this one.
“Somewhere in the Shires,” she says, cheerfully.
Riding full circle
Philippa briefly regales us with a story about the bike directly opposite us, perched on a shelf.
Apparently, a married couple, Richard and Mopsa English, left the Triumph factory in Coventry on “Tommy the Triumph” and embarked on a round the world trip. That was back in 1982.
Triumph Thunderbird 650cc
Philippa says: “Ironically, when they returned to Coventry in 1985, they found the Triumph factory had closed for good.”
However, they recorded their memoirs in a book titled: “Full Circle” which you can just see in the corner of the photo above.
As we leave the barn, Philippa points out that the Triumph brand is still going strong.
“Bruce Anstey, who’s a popular figure in the racing world, recently won the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) race on this bike.
As you can see, it’s no hedge find.
Triumph Daytona 600cc
Open: Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays; 10am-4.30pm.
Transport: Tube – Central Line (Greenford); Bus: E10.