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28th February 2005

British Bike Industry Archive Moves To New Home

You know how you always meant to sort out those dusty boxes of fading paperwork? Spare a thought for the VMCC, then. They've just accepted 2.5-tonnes of priceless archive material dating back to the days when the British bike industry led the world...

When the last remnants of the Meriden Triumph company finally shut up shop in the early 1980s, all of the factory's records could so easily have been lost. As the receivers worked through selling off spares, machinery, buildings and trademarks it would have been easy to overlook the paperwork, particularly as its historical value wasn't necessarily recognised at the time. But the NVT archive contained more than just the day to day admin of Triumph's worldwide business - it also held the remaining records (such as factory dispatch records and technical drawings) from those marques which had disappeared earlier, including Ariel, BSA, Norton and Villiers among others.

RealMart's expenses receipts needed sorting out every week if he was to keep on top of his accounts...

Happily, the Science Museum took custody of the factory records at the time, and has stored them safely ever since. The records have been available to those historians who've needed the information for their research - RealClassic's Dave Minton, for example, spent many hours digging through the details for his recent Triumph book.

I'm a bit worried about the archive of pink table cloths...

In the autumn of 2004, however, it was announced that the collection would be moved to a new home with the UK's Vintage Motor Cycle Club.

The VMCC already housed the world's foremost motorcycling library with a dedicated, full time researcher, and the organisation has pledged that it will 'ensure that these unique historical documents will be preserved for the benefit of both VMCC members and motorcyclists worldwide.'

So in January 2005, the great removal took place - 2.5 tonnes of material was collected from the Science Museum's storage facility in west London, and carefully delivered to the VMCC's HQ, Allen House.

The VMCC have offered their grateful thanks to Robert Sharpe, Curator at the Science Museum (seen here with the Triumph dispatch records), who has been pivotal in accomplishing the transfer of the documents.

Triumph 650 Stuff on

James Hewing, signing the offical document yesterday...James Hewing, national secretary of the VMCC, signed the official documents to confirm receipt of the archive. He expressed some of the excitement which must be echoing around the whole organisation. 'The drawers are full of fantastic material!'

Now the real work begins, to sort seven pallets of paperwork and wade through drawer after drawer of files which were simply yanked out of the filing cabinets two decades ago, so that the information can be identified and catalogued and finally made available to those who'd like a greater under-standing of the old industry - or perhaps just offered to owners who'd like to know more about their individual machines. VMCC Librarian Annice Collett will have her hands full for quite a while...

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