When you think of the Isle of Man, the first thing that comes to mind is almost always the Tourist Trophy (or TT) races. Even if you’re not interested in racing, or even in motorcycles, it’s the kind of world-famous race that’s inextricably intertwined with that place. Think Monaco and the Monaco Grand Prix (Formula One), or Daytona and the Daytona 500 (NASCAR), or Indianapolis and the Indy 500 (IndyCar) and you’ll have the right idea.
If you follow Iconic Motorbikes on social media, and you’re reading this close to when I’m writing it on 7 June 2023, then you’ll know that Abhi and Adam from Iconic are currently on the Isle of Man and attending the 2023 TT. For an island that lives and breathes motorcycle road racing history, there aren’t just the current contenders to appreciate as they roar around the Mountain Course at blistering speeds. There are also historic gems, such as the Leece Museum in Peel—which the Iconic guys take us on an impromptu tour of in this video.
It’s a tiny little nook of a place, comprising two floors that are packed cheek by jowl with invaluable gems from the Isle of Man TT’s history. There are plenty of bikes, of course—from Rudges to Hondas to Nortons to Tritons (that’s a Triumph engine in a Norton featherbed frame) and more. In fact, the entire bottom floor area, which looks like a tunnel as you walk in (more on that in a minute), is absolutely filled with bikes. Written descriptions of each bike are carefully printed out and hung up above the bikes they’re talking about, so you can gain valuable historical insight as you peruse.
There are memorabilia as well, from race suits and helmets worn by TT heroes of years past, to modern T-shirts and postcards. The postcards, books, and T-shirts are for sale (with proceeds to support the museum), but two extremely special things hanging up shortly after you walk into the Museum are not.
What are these two things? The first is a black-and-white print, framed and signed, that depicts the original Honda racing team that came to the Isle of Man and started all the wheels turning in Soichiro Honda’s brain. The second is a recreation of that original print, also shot in black and white, with the Honda Factory IOMTT effort from a few years back. In that photo, you’ll see the likes of John McGuinness MBE, Steve Plater (who is now on IOMTT commentary duty in 2023), and the one and only Guy Martin. That print, as well, is signed and framed.
Back to the tunnel! If you’re watching Iconic’s video and wondering why the bottom floor of the museum looks like it’s in a tunnel, that’s because it is. We’ll let the official Manx Museums page tell the story:
“Situated in Peel’s old courthouse, [the Leece Museum is] mostly contained in two rooms across two floors. On the ground floor there’s a display of Classic motorcycles, but more interesting than that, we’d suggest, is that they’re housed in the infamous ‘Black Hole’ where convicts were held for crimes such as drunkenness, prostitution, livestock theft, and murder, alongside those poor souls marked for transportation to the Colonies.”
At any rate, if you’re planning your visit to the Isle of Man and you want to visit the Leece Museum in Peel for yourself, it’s located in the Old Courthouse, East Quay, Peel. It’s open every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but it’s staffed entirely by volunteers—so for that reason, you may occasionally find that it is not open during its purported opening times. Admission to the museum is free of charge, although there is a fuel tank just inside for visitors to submit donations to help keep the museum running. Some memorabilia are also available for sale, which helps with the Museum’s upkeep.