History Of Reg Allen
A History Of
Reg Allen (London)
1932 - Bill Crosby was born in Westminster Barracks in late April, the son of Sgt. William Crosby, Master of the Stables in the Grenadier Guards. His son would turn out to master a different kind of horse power. He lived in London all his life apart from a brief evacuation to Suffolk to stay with his grandparents during the war.
1945 - After returning to London he left school at 13, and went to work at an electro plating works.
1947 - The plating works closed and young Bill became a plumber’s mate until his National Service a couple of years later.
1949 - Bill joined the First Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps and ended his service as Lance Corporal Acting M.T. Sergeant, seeing service in Germany and Britain - ‘the best years of my life’.
1952 - Back in Civvy Street he returned to plumbing as maintenance plumber at Pritchard’s Bakery, whilst remaining a TA Reserve. A motorcycle accident kept him from lining the route for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation and for the next 5 years he was in and out of hospital - and out of work. During this time he did some work for a local motorcycle shop, Jack Demmar M/C’s and considered his career options. Motorcycles had always been a big part of his life. He repaired his own bikes and those of his friends, leaving a thick patch of oil outside the house. One youthful attempt at repairing a petrol tank took the side out of the garden shed.
1958 - Reg Allen Motorcycles in Northfields Ave. W13, came up for sale. An enthusiastic young Bill bought the “name and good will” which included an impressive neon “Reg Allen M/C” sign. After months of waiting for Mr. Allen to move out of the shop, it transpired that the premises were not part of the deal and the hunt was on for a shop and workshop to trade from.
1960 - The previous owner of the shop died and Bill purchased the whole building. Now he had the corner shop and a much bigger workshop which extended back to the yard, with direct access to the rear alley. It also had a flat above, which he moved into with his family.
1971 - Bill was sponsoring a 500c.c. Daytona ridden by Bob Biscardine and Declan Doyle in 24hr. Production races. They competed in the T.T. and raced all over Europe, winning the 500c.c. class at Barcelona. It was the racing abroad that inspired Bill to change that shop name to Reg. Allen (London). The next bike was a 750c.c production works racing Rocket 3, ridden by Yobo Bates and Bob Biscardine. When they stopped racing in the mid 70’s, the Rocket 3 was sold, only to be rediscovered in the 1990’s and bought back by Yobo Bates who had surprisingly little to do to return it to the original race trim.
1974 - Bill had been quietly hoarding some choice bikes as they came along and was approached out of the blue, by a friend asking if he would like to display them. The friend owns the Chater Scott book shop which specialises in all forms of transport literature. They had a collection of vintage cars on display in a building at Syon Park in Brentford, acting as an added attraction to the bookshop. The proposition was that Bill’s bikes would look good displayed alongside the cars. This was arranged and all worked well for a few years. However, when the area on the other side of the boundary wall was being ‘rejuvenated’, it led to the local hooligans finding a way in and causing damage to the book shop building. This, coupled with an increase in the lease, sent Chater Scott in search of a regular shop and their Syon Park premises closed in February ’79.
1975 - No. 39 Grosvenor Road came up for sale – another victim of the decline of the backstreet shop. Bill bought it and spent the Easter break knocking through into no. 41 and putting up the girder.
1976 - The lack of race classes where a British bike could remain competitive had declined to such an extent that when a keen young man called Richard Horton called in the shop, Bill was persuaded to give him limited help with his Yamaha which he used for National and Club Racing. Richard progressed from 250c.c to 350c.c with considerable success but only raced for a few years before an accident made him decide to quit while he was ahead.
1977 - Reg. Allen (London) became a Main Triumph Agent and Spares Distributor. It had been difficult to remain a totally British bike shop during the early 70’s when first bikes, then spares became harder and harder to obtain and it was probably Bill’s extensive store of second hand parts which helped in this respect. Now it all seemed worth the effort.
1978 - The 1st. August saw 10 smart, shiny, new Triumph 750 Bonnies lined up outside the shop with their new “T” registrations, waiting to be collected. The extended shop was now full of excellent new Triumphs and mail order spares were increasingly in demand.
1979 - February arrived with a suitable amount of rain and the day dawned for his bike collection to be moved out of Syon Park to the new home Bill had found in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. It was further away than he would have liked but they were heading for an otherwise ideal home with an enthusiastic minder. A friend of Bill’s, who knew of the imminent closure of the Chater Scott premises, had put him in touch with a chap who ran the ex-Roman Spa Bath House in Matlock Bath, as an Aquarium and Gift Shop. The first floor was unused and Bill’s collection seemed ideally suited to fill the space. The village had become one of those biker meeting places that spring up, probably for no other reason than the great countryside and no one showing any inclination to chuck them out. A few phone calls had tracked down the double-decker lorry that used to deliver the bikes from the Triumph factory and it duly arrived at Syon Park, backed across the grass to the building entrance and started to load the bikes. Loading completed, it soon became obvious that he lorry was now too heavy to drive off the grass unaided. There were already big hollows under the wheels and the beautifully tended lawn was looking decidedly the worse for wear. Bill sought help from the garden centre who had a small tractor – it turned out to be too small, leading to more lawn deterioration. There was speculation about unloading, moving the lorry and loading up again but this would take too long as the driver had to get back up North for another job the following day. Bill had a brain wave. He knew where to find a Scammell tank recovery vehicle! It belonged to a circus troupe and was in their winter quarters a couple of miles away. A quick ride down the road and a ‘pound note’ deal later, saw the Scammell, a young man perched on the front bumper pouring water into the copiously leaking radiator, follow Bill back to the stricken lorry. It pulled the lorry out of the mud as if it were a toy. It also added to the rearrangement of the lawn. The bikes were safely delivered to their new home and spent 3 years there, displayed in a long hall with floor to ceiling wire mesh keeping them safe and a dedicated bike cleaner keeping them smart.
1982 - The Spa bath building was sold and the collection moved to a folly called Riber Castle, overlooking the next village. It was used as a wild-life park and had become famous as being the only place that had successfully bred Lynx cats in captivity. This was fine for a while until the owner sold up. The new regime did not find enough time to look after the bikes and Bill was forced to look for a new site when a visit revealed missing parts and encroaching rust.
1983 - The closure of the Triumph factory at Meriden meant that the remaining 5 spares distributors needed to create a new, reliable source of good quality spares. They joined ranks and Reg. Allen (London), TMS of Nottingham, Roebuck M/C’s in Ruislip, Charlie’s of Bristol and Alan Jefferies Shipley, Yorkshire, formed Lectra Manufacturing, recruiting one of the Triumph men who knew the original spares suppliers to the factory. Spares were sourced, ordered, split between the group, with much exported to the U.S.A. After a few years their number gradually dwindled – Alan Jefferies falling foul of the mine closures in his area, Roebuck M/C’s leaving to sell the new Harris Bonnies and eventually TMS preferring to go his own way. With a falling demand for the quantity that Lectra had to buy, the company was closed.
1985 - Reg. Allen (London) became a Norton Rotary Dealer. Bill’s two sons were despatched to the factory for several training sessions and returned, armed with their certificates, to welcome a very different British beast to the workshop. The Nortons were certainly a radical change from the Triumphs but were, none the less, very impressive machines - particularly the water cooled ones which thrived on high mileage and daily use. The B.B.C. and Sky Television, who both had their sites a few miles from the shop, approached Bill and arranged for Reg. Allen (London) to service their fleets of Rotaries, used mainly as news despatch bikes. He had been servicing Triumphs for the A.A. and the Ministry of Defence for many years. Now the list also included the Rotaries used by the BBC, Sky and also Royal Horse Artillery who used them to escort their horses on ceremonial duties.
1988 - The mass removal of Bill’s collection from Riber Castle took place. This time there was no double-decker lorry, just a convoy of vans. The bikes were dispersed when they got home – each of his friends had an extra bike or two in their garage for a while, Bill’s own garden shed was full up and there was a whole window display in the shop sporting a big “not for sale” sign. Even so, some had to be sold but Bill refused to let any Triumphs go. He vowed that his ever-increasing collection would remain at home until he found a London site to open his own museum. He felt the capital should have its own motorcycle museum.
1989 - No. 37 Grosvenor Road is added to the Reg. Allen stable.
1997 - Bill heard about a site in Greenford, Middlesex, about 3 miles from the shop, which could make a good museum. As part of the London Borough of Ealing it was near enough to town to be accessible by road or public transport, but not so far into town to be cramped. It was an old farmyard, still hanging onto its original name of Ravenor Farm. Farming had ceased in the early 20’s and it had been used as a council depot ever since. Now in the control of an enthusiastic community group, talks were held, agreements made and plans submitted to turn the old stable block into the London Motorcycle Museum.
1999 - Over the next couple of years Bill put on two one-day displays to coincide with the community group’s fund-raising Open Days before opening officially in the newly refurbished stables on Sunday 1st. May. Guests included Ray Pickrell, Dave Croxford and Les Williams as well as local MP Steve Pound, a keen biker himself.
2000 - Reg. Allen (London) becomes Main Agent for the new Royal Enfields being imported from India by Watsonian Squire. Another new era opened.
2006 - Bill’s London Motorcycle Museum is going from strength to strength and, after 6 years there are signs that a grant is in sight to start renovating another barn at the farm, so much-needed expansion should not be too far away now.
2009 - Bill successfully negotiates a 25 year lease for the London Motorcycle museum. Back at the shop, Reg Allen (London) is now the London Agent for the new AJS motorcycles. At the end of the year Bill had a pacemaker fitted and timed at 38° before top dead centre.