by Roy and Chris
This is a museum that I have known about for many years and finally managed to visit recently. The museum is situated in Rolvenden, near Tenterden in Kent. This is the “C M Booth” collection of historic vehicles, with the emphasis on Morgan three-wheeled cars. The entrance to the museum is through Falstaff Antiques; this shop alone is worth a visit, with lots of motoring models, books and other memorabilia for sale – you could easily spend an hour in here alone.
Talking to Mr Booth it appears that he was looking for a three-wheeler car, preferably an early Bond Minicar. He eventually found one but several bits were missing. A friend mentioned “how about getting a Morgan instead, they have three wheels” …. So that’s how the love of Morgans started! Morgans were quick for their time.
In 1960, whilst I was still living in Kent, a chap had one in Chatham; apparently he had had a serious motorcycle accident, and had moved onto three wheels. We met at the traffic lights at the bottom of Chatham Hill, which is fairly steep. I was 16 years old and on my 197 cc Norman motorcycle, and I was invincible – I was going to beat the three-wheeler up the hill! Boy was I was wrong – the Morgan flew. I met up with the guy several times after that, and I never bothered to try again!!
I walked through the museum to the back room, where I found the only motorcycle and sidecar on display. This is a 1911 Phelon and Moore – later to become Panther Motorcycles. This model has the same sloping engine as the later models. This has a 465 cc capacity sidevalve engine and a two-speed gearbox. The wicker sidecar is believed to be made by “Bramble”. The “Bramble” sidecars were made in Coventry before World War I. Amongst the other exhibits here was a 1936 Bampton caravan; this was different in that it has an extending side, which increases the width from 5 feet (approx 1.5 metres) to 8 feet (approx 2.4 metres), making quite an extra useful space. There were lots of other interesting exhibits to look at, including an old Morgan. A sign here states that Pratts Petrol was 1/3d a gallon – for younger readers that’s the equivalent today of about 6 pence a gallon!
In the larger room there is masses to see. There are several bicycles, including an 1890 Quadrant no 8 Tricycle which was found in a Skegness orchard; this machine was fitted with remote steering – all very interesting. Lots of three wheelers, mainly Morgans, on display. One, a 1924 Grand Prix model, had many extras fitted, including electric starting, front wheel brakes, a windscreen wiper and a speedo. Also on display are a few solo motorcycles; the oldest I spotted was a 1911 Premier 245 cc sidevalve model. A large selection of classic photos of the Isle of Man TT races is well-worth a look. There is plenty to see with displays in cabinets of toys, model cars and caravans. There’s lots of auto-memorabilia to see too, some of which is from the local area.
Most of the vehicles on display are in working order and several are used on the road each year going to vintage rallies and the like. This is well-worth a visit, but make sure that you phone to check that it’s open before travelling any distance; the owners endeavour to be open Monday to Saturday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, but unforeseen circumstances mean that they may be closed.
Just to make your day complete after your visit to the museum there is a public house about 50 yards away that does food!! What could be better??
Phone number: 01580 241234