Curator Chris celebrates thirty years of driving museum success
When Chris Lowe walked into the Lakeland Motor Museum as a teenager in 1993 to start a temporary summer job - he had no idea of the role the popular attraction would play in his life.
Thirty years since starting that “temporary” job he is now Curator of the award-winning museum and marking three decades of overseeing its stunning collection of vintage and classic cars, motorbikes and automobilia.
“I don’t tell my bosses this but if I won the lottery I would still come into work every day!” says Chris.
“I love the sheer variety of working here. Today I was mending a 1930s slot machine. Tomorrow I might have to go to the other end of the country to pick up a classic vehicle. I enjoy meeting and talking to people, fixing and making things, every day is different.”
Chris got the job that has been his life’s work by complete chance.
Chris in 2000 with one of the museum’s automobilia exhibits and today on his 1952 Norton Dominator 500cc motorbike at the museum
“My mum was working in the Grange-over-Sands tourist information centre back in June 1993 when Edwin Maher, who had just started looking after the Lakeland Motor Museum collection, walked in.” explains Chris.
“He was handing out leaflets for the museum, which was then based at Holker Hall, and asked if anyone knew any youngsters looking for summer jobs. My mum stuck her hand up and volunteered my services!”
From the start, Chris was a perfect fit.
“I already had an interest in classic vehicles thanks to an elderly neighbour who had a 1952 Jaguar XK120 in British Racing Green. He used to take me out in it and scare me witless! But I loved the car and my passion for classic vehicles started to grow.”
He went on to take a degree in automotive engineering – while still working every spare moment at the museum and was then offered a permanent position as museum assistant. The rest is history.
So, after thirty years, which is his favourite vehicle?
“Oh, that is a really hard question,” he laughs: “It is like being asked to pick your favourite child! I think I would have to say the rare SS Jaguar 100 we have at the museum which I think is one of the most eye-catching Jaguar cars ever made.”
What he doesn’t know about the museum collection isn’t worth knowing. Indeed, some of the vehicles on display are his own.
He has a particular liking for the post-war period of the 40s and 50s. “It was like a new start,” he says: “There were lots of new ideas coming forward and it was an exciting time. I’ve got a Norton Dominator 500cc motorbike from 1952, a Series One Land Rover from 1955 and a Jaguar Mark IX from 1961.”
You can tell he’s fascinated by vehicles of all sorts just by asking a simple question. Like “How long have you and your partner Ellie been together?”
“It’s about 20 years,” says Chris: “It was the year I got my Transit van – 2003!”
That love of vehicles, along with the knowledge stored in his head about all things automotive, is what makes him an invaluable member of the Lakeland Motor Museum team.
Les Micklethwaite MBE, chairman of the Lakeland Motor Museum, says: “I first met Chris in 2006 when Winander Leisure purchased the museum which at that time was operating from premises at Holker Hall.
“It was an amazing collection amassed over many years by Lancashire entrepreneur Don Sidebottom. Chris knew so much about the collection we knew it was important he joined our organization.
“His knowledge of motoring memorabilia in general was immediately striking. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of every form of transport ever developed. He’s never stumped and often enlightens visitors with facts they never knew about items they owned!”
Les adds: “Chris was instrumental in making the move from Holker Hall to the current purpose-built riverside site at Backbarrow a great success. I can safely say that without Chris’ input the site at Backbarrow would not have been developed in either the timescale or within the budget that it was. On a personal note I would like to say I am proud and lucky to be both a friend and his boss.”
So, what does the future hold for the 46-year-old dad of two? Chris says he looks forward to continuing to develop the museum as a key visitor attraction in the Lake District.
“It’s a fascinating place for people of all interests and ages – you don’t need to have a love of classic vehicles to enjoy looking around. There really is something for everyone.”
One thing is clear – his continued efforts to make the Lakeland Motor Museum a key part of every visitor’s Lake District stay is a true labour of love.
“I work where people go for pleasure and I live where people come for their holidays. How lucky am I?” says Chris.