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Norton Museum Collection: New Affiliate

The Norton Museum Collection has become the fifteenth museum to affiliate with the BMCT. The museum, in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, is the culmination of a lifetime’s work by the founder, Dennis Norton. And that’s a clue - this is NOT a museum of Norton motorcycles! There are motorcycles present, however. Two of them, to be precise, both are Banshees, made in Bromsgrove, and they’re believed to be the only two survivors of the marque in the world.

Dennis Norton started collecting interesting objects in 1949 when he was given a Miller No.1 carbide lamp while working at what was then the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge. That was enough to spark Dennis’s interest in collecting, and he soon began to concentrate on items from the local Bromsgrove area. Local crafts included nail and button making, glass, and the world-famous Bromsgrove Guild, which was known for the decorative features that adorned important buildings all over the world - the gates at Buckingham Palace and Liver Birds atop the Royal Liver building in Liverpool are examples of their work. The collection also represents the lives of the local people through hundreds of artefacts from toys and wirelesses to haberdashery and jewellery.

Initially based in a redundant school building outside Bromsgrove, the ever-expanding Norton Collection became so popular that a new home had to be found, leading to Dennis acquiring and restoring a derelict Georgian house on Birmingham Road, Bromsgrove. The Collection continued to grow, but as it prospered the local council took an interest and bumped up the rates! Unable to meet the Council’s demands Dennis sold the property and eventually the Norton Collection, by now a registered charity, re-located to the Coach House next door, where it has been ever since.

BMCT members will of course be particularly interested in the two Banshee bikes present in the museum. The first is the 1922 Villiers-engined solo that until recently formed part of the BMCT’s display at the Sammy Miller Museum and now on loan to the Norton Collection.  The other is an interesting sidecar combination with a Barr & Stroud sleeve-valve engine and a custom-made aluminium bodied sidecar, made for local a local shoe shop and used by them for shoe repair collections and deliveries in the 1920s. Interestingly the BMCT’s bike was owned by Dennis Norton 35 years ago, but he sold it to buy the sidecar outfit!

The Banshee factory was originally based in Hull, but because of transport difficulties between there and the Midlands, where most of their components came from, they re-located to Crown Close in Bromsgrove in 1920.

A major donor and friend of the museum is the present Home Secretary and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid, seen in our photo with Dennis Norton, admiring the BMCT’s Banshee Villiers.

The Norton Collection Museum is at 26 Birmingham Road, Bromsgrove B61 0DD, and is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The founder, Dennis Norton BEM will happily arrange group visits at other times. Phone him on 01527 919531.

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