Coventry Transport Museum

COVENTRY TRANSPORT MUSEUM

The history of the manufacture of bicycles, motor cycles, motor cars and commercial vehicles in Coventry, England goes back to the mid 19th century.   Since then around 475 bicycle and tricycle makers, 161 car manufacturers and 116 motorcycle manufacturers have operated in and around Coventry.    The first exhibits (cycle) were donated to the city in 1937 and in 1952 the first motor cars were included in the collection.  The collection was exhibited at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum but when this became too small, a specialist museum was opened in the centre of Coventry in 1980. 

During both World Wars, vehicle manufacturers came under the control of the national government in England and switched from transport to the manufacture of munitions, vehicles, aircraft and equipment for the war effort.  During World War I Hillman, for example, produced three-ton class A motor transport lorries and supplied two-seater cars to the Russian government.    On 14-15 November 1940 Coventry was devastated by prolonged German bombing which went from 7.20pm to 6.15am - 515 bombers dropped 36,000 bombs on the city.  More than 550 people died, more than 850 severely injured and 4,300 homes destroyed.  Coventry's 14th century St Michael's Cathedral was destroyed by one of the many fires that raged throughout the city.  A third of the city's factories were destroyed including those of Daimler and Humber-Hillman.

The museum covers the period from the mid 19th century to the present day and is on two floors.  The museum's collection is too big for the available space with approximately 40% in storage.    The museum's website www.transport-museum.com has an excellent resource called The Wiki which provides stories of the companies, factories, people and vehicles that made Coventry's transport industry 'the greatest in the world'. 

(Article prepared with the assistance of the museum's website and "Coventry Transport Museum - Your Journey Starts Here").