In the village of Stockton-on-the-Forest, just outside the city of York in North Yorkshire, England, is a little slice of motorcycling heaven—The Craven Collection of Classic Bikes. Opened in 1994 by racer, wrencher, and known Yorkshireman Dick Craven, the collection is a love letter to more than a century of British motorcycling and motorcycle culture. Our man Tom visited the collection this past weekend and was kind enough to send over a slew of pics from his trip. Let's check 'em out.
Located in a series of old sheds and barns behind Craven's handsome little country home, the museum consists of around 250 bikes and countless bits of racing and riding memorabilia. Of the bikes in the museum's collection, at least 230 are British made and span an era running from 1918 to 1987. Craven also has a very respectable Japanese collection, some Continental bikes—Beemers, Guzzis, etc.—and even some four-wheeled vehicles in there. Along with the machinery, nearly every available space is stuffed with knick-knacks and tchotchkes and the whole place looks like an antique motorcycle shop got upended into your granddad's workshop. In other words, it's perfect.
As for the man himself, it sounds like he's had a hell of a fun life. According to the "The Name is Craven" section on the museum's website—an extremely charming relic of late-90s/early-aughts web design—Craven grew up with and on motorcycles. He bought his first bike, a '36 BSA M20, at the age of 15 and from there kept trading up and up until, around 1963, he got his hands on a '55 BSA 650 sidecar rig. He immediately stripped the bike down and took it sprint racing.
The Man himself—Dick Craven.
From sprint racing Craven got into sidecar and grass track racing where acquitted himself very nicely at tracks all across rural England. He retired from racing in 1971 and started a business repairing cars. He never gave up on bikes, however, and over the years amassed quite a tidy collection. He opened his museum in 1994 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Craven's is my kind of collection. Wall-to-wall cool bikes—nearly every single one of which runs—load-bearing knick-knacks, and so much history packed into a small space that it distorts time itself. He has military bikes in here, police bikes, weird little things no one's ever seen before, and even props from popular television shows—including a wild radiotelephone-equipped Beezer that was featured on the show Heartbeats. I could probably lose myself for a week in there.
Gallery: Craven Classic Bike Collection
If you're in the area and would like to check out Craven's Collection, and why wouldn't you, he's open Sundays and Mondays from Easter to the first of October from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Admission is £7.50, but kids under 12 are free. Since this is a personal collection housed on the owner's property, it would probably behoove you to call ahead even during the museum's hours of operation, just to make sure someone's there.