Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum

| 14 Jul 2021
Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum

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The Lakeland Motor Museum was originally founded at Holker Hall in 1978, but it moved to its current home at the nearby Old Blue Mill in Backbarrow, Cumbria, in May 2009.

Not only does the museum feature a fascinating variety of more than 140 vehicles, but it also has one of the largest collections of motoring memorabilia on display in the UK, including an amazing 270 pedal cars.

Many of the exhibits are displayed with period shop frontages in the background, part of the ‘Memory Lane’ feature that references the Leven Valley’s industrial history.

There is also a faithful recreation of a country garage, which is based on the former Leck’s Garage (Backbarrow) Ltd that was operated by George and Kathleen Newby. It closed in the early 1980s as a result of the village bypass.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
The eclectic collection lines up roughly in date order as it snakes around the small venue

“Around half of the cars and motorcycles and almost all of the other items are owned by the museum,” explains operations manager Chris Lowe.

“This allows us some cycling of exhibits. We are constantly trying to change, improve and add more without having it overly crammed.”

Vehicles on display begin with a French-built 1899 Gaillardet tricycle, powered by an 800cc single-cylinder engine, and include something from every decade after that.

TVR enthusiasts will revel in viewing Trevor Wilkinson’s TVR Number 2, the marque’s oldest survivor, which was originally used for competition before being registered for the road in 1952.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
The Campbell Bluebird Exhibition has its own building as a tribute to Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell – this is a replica of the 1935 Blue Bird

Housed in a separate building is the Campbell Bluebird Exhibition, which has moved around the Lake District for the past 25 years.

Full-size replicas of the 1935 Blue Bird car, 1939 Blue Bird K4 boat and the 1967 K7 jet hydroplane built specially for the BBC film Across the Lake pay homage to the family’s various Land and Water Speed Record attempts.

There’s also the 1997 Bluebird Electric 1, driven by Sir Malcolm Campbell’s grandson, Don Wales, to a British record of 137mph in 2000.

It is accompanied by period film footage detailing the record attempts, plus Donald Campbell’s 1954 Land-Rover Series One 86in and 1937 4¼-litre Bentley with Standard Steel Park Ward bodywork, both finished in Bluebird Blue.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
This Series One was owned by Donald Campbell until his death in 1967 (left); this is a 1930 5mph dodgem car

Rare microcars include a 1964 Peel P50, ’65 Peel Trident and ’59 Mk1 Scootacar, while there is also a ’37 Jaguar SS100.

The Motor and The Autocar tested this example when it was new, and by contesting the 1937 RAC Rally it helped Jaguar win the manufacturers’ team prize.

Another Jaguar of note is a 1955 XK140 fhc with extensive rallying history in the hands of GHF ‘Bobby’ Parkes.

Among the other highlights is a 1921 Citroën Type A 10CV, complete with wooden pick-up bodywork and side-facing seats, and a ’29 Fiat 509A two-door, four-seater saloon. Built at the Lingotto factory, the car has remained in the same ownership for more than 40 years.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
You can see this 1913 Star 12HP at the Lakeland Motor Museum

Some of the more unusual exhibits include a 1930s dodgem car that was once used on a concrete race track at a fairground in New Brighton, Merseyside, and an electric-powered Auto Red Bug buckboard cyclecar built in 1920s America.

There’s even a 1966 Amphicar and glassfibre ’56 Vincent Amanda water scooter, powered by a 200cc twin-cylinder engine. The Amanda was found on the Isle of Man and the rare survivor was restored by one of the museum’s directors.

There is also a 1963 Humber Hawk Estate Series III that has covered only 45,000 miles from new, and lived a life towing caravans and making deliveries for its owner’s hardware business.

It was stored in a heated and sealed garage in North Yorkshire and wrapped in blankets, which have ensured it remains in excellent original condition.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
A 1927 Dennis fire engine from Johannesburg (left); 1935 Singer 9HP Le Mans in Special Speed spec, with twin SUs, was part of the Ruddy Trials Team

“A visit here is very much an experience for the whole family,” claims Lowe. “We have something to appeal to everyone, no matter what your particular field of interest.

“There’s plenty to keep youngsters happy, too, with a children’s quiz and interactive exhibits such as period driving-test skills and slot machines that were rescued from Blackpool amusement arcades in the 1950s and ’60s by the museum’s founder, Donald Sidebottom.

“We also have an Isle of Man TT section, with many ’bikes that once raced there, plus a fine selection of push-bikes, motorcycles and scooters, the earliest being a Grigg and an ABC Skootamota from the ’20s.”

The exhibits are well laid out, roughly in order of date of manufacture, with the main exhibition hall filled with natural light. Underfloor heating ensures that the museum remains warm in the winter months.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
Also in the Campbell Bluebird Exhibition is this replica of the 1967 Bluebird K7 jet hydroplane

Mannequins dressed as police officers, Women’s Land Army members and other military personnel add further authenticity to the exhibits.

The focus on the services extends to the cars, too, such as a police-spec 1960 MGA that was one of approximately 50 supplied for traffic patrol use. The museum’s example served with the Lancashire Constabulary and retains its blue light and bumper-mounted siren.

Each exhibit has an informative A4 board, handily recording details of the model along with the car’s individual history where known.

Classic & Sports Car – Classic shrine: Lakeland Motor Museum
This Austin A35 has an endearing roofrack

“Visiting the museum by road, sail or rail couldn’t be easier,” enthuses Lowe. “We offer combined tickets with Windermere Lake Cruises and the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway, with a bus link available during the main season.

“We are a popular rendezvous for classic car clubs, who meet here on a regular basis, and there’s plenty of space for parking, while the café’s patio doors open on to spectacular views across the River Leven.”

Home to some intriguing exhibits with great attention to detail, this celebration of motoring in the Lakes is well worth a visit.

Images: Paul Bussey

Please note exhibits are subject to change

The knowledge

  • Name Lakeland Motor Museum
  • Address Old Blue Mill, Backbarrow, Newby Bridge, Ulverston, Cumbria LA12 8TA
  • Where Exit the M6 at J36 on to the A590 and follow the brown tourism signs. From Windermere, take the A592 to the A590
  • How much? Adults £9.50; children from 5-15 years £5.70, under 5s free; families (two adults and up to three children) £27.50
  • Opening hours 9:30am-5:30pm (4:30pm after 31 October) daily, except 25 December
  • Tel 01539 530400
  • Web


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