Arts and crafts
If it is jousting, falconry, horses, rare farm animals and a craft village you want to see, Peter de Savary has them all at Littlecote theme-park near Hungerford. To which he has added a motor museum.
On May 23 we were invited to attend between 1.30pm and 4pm to learn about all these personally-owned cars and try any two we cared to name (we chose the T46 Bugatti and 540K Mercedes-Benz). Cigar-smoking de Savary arrived by helicopter during the afternoon but did not make contact, and the cars we had hoped to sample remained very definitely static. The main building was shut until a champagne reception at 6pm, the gods of television hampered our inspection of the few cars in the smaller hall, and no catalogue was forthcoming. Astonishingly low-ebb public relations — having driven 293 miles to attend we were, like Queen Victoria, not amused.
Littlecote Museum houses some 21 cars, only three of which are vintage. They range from a fine 1919 Rolls-Royce brought back from India to a 1989 imitation SS100 by Stedman, flanked by E-type and XK120 Jaguars. All are said to be in running order, but the only ones we saw move were the Royce, an open 41/4/ Bentley and the earlier of two Delahaye 135Ms.
Some museums show little old cars which appeal because “Look dad, you used to have one of those”, others feature racing and high-performance cars; the immaculate Littlecote collection falls somewhere in between, although for some its Ford Thunderbird, Cadillac Eldorado and pre- and post-war Delahayes will appeal.
Excellent backdrops and dummy figures enhance the exhibits, which include impressive open PII and PIII Rolls-Royces. But a man with a pistol guarding an Aston Martin DB5 was a bit tactless so close to Hungerford, and the video behind the Jaguars showed Hawthorn and Bueb winning that tragic 1955 Le Mans. Moss and DSJ in the 300SLR Mercedes-Benz figure large above a more demure 300SL roadster, and a Brooklands theme backs an M-type MG with non-standard long-tail body.
Both halls are dimly lit, reminiscent of a chamber of horrors or a ghost train. Littlecote Museum is open from 10am to 6pm daily until October 1. What did we enjoy most? A ride on the 15in-gauge steam railway and an excellent cream tea at The Bell in Hungerford while waiting for some thing to happen! WB