Humber museum

Twilight over the Humber


Enjoy them while you can

On the back of a quiet industrial estate in Hull, you can find treasure. There, lying dormant in a large warehouse lie more than 20 classic cars, cars that were constructed to be the very best machines of their day. Cars that hold significant historical importance to our motoring history, but also the history of our people. Cars that will soon be absent from our shores, quite possibly never to return.

In that warehouse lies the world’s largest collection of Humber cars. It is pure coincidence that the Humber name has ended up within a stone’s throw of the Humber river, as the company behind the construction of the cars was based in the Midlands and takes its name from its founder – Thomas Humber.

Humber is the man that cyclists can thank for coming up with the modern design we are familiar with today. His 1868 ‘safety bicycle’ formed and still form the foundations for what bicycles have become in our time, and his company – Humber Limited – was heavily into the new business of motorcars by the turn of the century. As for the bikes, well, in 1932 the complete set of trademarks for them were sold on to Raleigh.

Humber centenary

While Humber as a brand may not be familiar to many, in its time it was one of the world’s great luxury car manufacturers, competing with the likes of Rolls-Royce and Daimler to produce the very best road transport money could buy. The collection of cars found in Hull feature a number of vehicles formerly owned by hugely important clients such as the Queen Mother and Baroness Rothschild, but perhaps the most precious is stored at the back, unrestored and ready and waiting to be returned to its former glory.

Found in a scrapyard years ago, this particular Humber Snipe belonged to Edward VII and Wallis Simpson in the early 1930s and offers superb levels of privacy and comfort. When Allan Marshall (the owner of this fabulous collection) discovered it, he found with it a record player complete with Nat D. Ayer’s ‘If you were the only girl in the world’ as well as a complete picnic set. A tiny rear window and a privacy curtain to cover it ensured that the Snipe’s passengers were never spotted or snapped.

Allan Marshall is a man any car enthusiast can lose hours talking to. It was his father who began the collection of Humber’s that became his dominant passion, and it is he who over the last several decades has made the cars once built to satisfy royals available to hire as wedding cars. They’ve become hugely important to the local community and have been used to carry more than one generation of brides to their marriage ceremonies. Until recently, Allan was still using his glorious 1954 Pullman – with a coach-built body by Thrupp and Maberly in these most important of days, but the time has come for Allan to sell, and sadly, this means that his entire collection is likely to go to Asia or the Middle-East.

Humber warehouse

At this point, I could tell you about the car in that garage that Stirling Moss drove from Oslo to Lisbon, the time one was used to ferry a potato delivery to a chippy or go into detail about the car that the Queen Mother requested a modification for, but I’m too angry.

There has been no effort to keep this collection – historically and culturally important – within the UK. These cars are part of our collective history, crafted and then owned by people of great importance, used within the local community to bring happiness to people. No effort whatsoever has been made to help keep these beautiful machines and their incredible stories within our borders, and the likelihood is that we will see these cars depart our land forever by the end of July 2019. Despite Allan’s time, work and effort in preserving these cars and trying to get them recognised, he has been largely ignored. He – like all of you reading this post, I’m sure – would love to see them stay and be available to people, so we can share the stories and get up close and personal with history. Instead, this country (and let’s be honest, the numerous motoring establishments that have more than enough resources to help) is happy for them to be whisked off for a basement price to a far-flung private collection never to see the light of day again. It is offensive to me that this is being allowed to happen, as I’m sure it is to all passionate British motoring enthusiasts, or anyone interested in our history for that matter.

Allan has kept every thank you letter or card from the brides grateful for his service and guest books full of visitor messages. There are pictures, documentation, parts… Within that warehouse, 20 of the finest British cars of the 20th century are waiting for you. Around £250,000 will be enough to secure them, a staggering amount considering the stories, engineering and quality that each machine possesses. They belong here in the UK for all to enjoy. Instead, we’re likely to never see them again.

There’s no website, and the councils appear to have neglected to direct people there, but you can find the museum at Regalex Limited, Dalton Street, Cleveland Street, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU8 8BB – or, if you’ve got what3words, then you’ll need bonus.across.jelly

Enjoy them while you can, because this truly is Twilight over Humber.

Humber photo