Richard and Hasell Atwell lived in the Calne area their entire lives, starting 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 arrived shortly thereafter 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 always welcome.
The most recent expansion occurred in 2003 with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. On October 10th, both Trustees and Friends alike watched proudly as local MP Michael Ancram unveiled a plaque to commemorate the completion of a wholesale change and “re-opening” of the Museum.
After the deaths of Richard and Hasell Atwell the present Charitable Company was formed in 2010.
Since 1990 the collection has included vehicles on special loan. This allows exhibits to be changed periodically, which encourages regular visitors to return to the Museum. Effort has also been made to provide related data, so that visitors can enjoy not only what is on display, but also discover a wealth of knowledge, technical detail, and in some cases, humorous, historical or little-known facts relating to the exhibits.
The contents are varied, from a number of everyday classics, to rare cars and lorries. Amongst these are a 1934 Alvis Speed 20, 1938 Daimler EL24, 1936 Rover 14hp Sports/Saloon and a 1951 Dennis Fire Engine. Richard Atwell has always had a strong interest in North American cars, so there is an interesting array of Ford, GM, and Chrysler products from across “The Pond”.
There is also a good variety of rare motorcycles, carrying the legendary names of Ariel, Brough, BSA, Douglas, Triumph, Velocette and Indian, to name but a few.