Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London SW1E 6HQ
Colonel Simon West is a retired artillery officer with a passion for casting and firing cannons. He runs a commercial cannon founding business “West of England Ordnance Company” He is a member of the Livery Company of Gun makers and Executive Director of the Gun Trades Association.
There will also be an opportunity to examine mid nineteenth century hand guns from a private collection, introduced by Martin Knight.
A sandwich lunch and a glass of wine will be provided.
Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London, SW1E 6HQ You are invited to join the Trustees and others at the first of a series of events focusing on arms and armour. Professor Anne Curry will be talking about After Agincourt: what Henry Vth did next. Professor Curry is a leading historian of the period, responsible for many works associated with the Hundred Years War and a key member of the Agincourt 600 project. There is also a chance to see and possibly handle some items from a private collection, with a commentary by Martin Knight, one of our trustees with a keen knowledge of arms and armour.
A sandwich lunch and a glass of wine will be provided, and tickets costs £30 per person. Please click here to book via Eventbrite.
The Arms and Armour Heritage Trust (AAHT) was established to support projects to improve our understanding of the development of arms and armour over the last 800 years. We have made grants to a wide range of projects which generally fall outside the ambit of most other distributing charities – especially to individuals and groups who have struggled to complete projects of this nature, for which funding from more conventional sources is not always available. Details of the AAHT’s activities and grants can be found on our website.
We are organising these events to raise awareness of our work and to raise funds to enable this vital work to continue. Book the event for £30 per ticket here
Trying to piece together the early history of firearms is a challenging business. We know that arquebuses were used in warfare from the later fifteenth century. However, few of these everyday weapons survive. The guns that we have from the sixteenth century are typically the luxurious presentation weapons given to courtiers and princes. Yet thanks to a grant from the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust in 2019 I was able to spend the months of February and March visiting a series of northern Italian archives to comb through their sources and try to put these artefacts in context.
Although individual archives often have substantial gaps in their records, by combining information from inventories of weapons taken by multiple Italian states we can discover a great deal about trends in arms ownership. The dukes of Ferrara, Parma and Florence all kept records of weapons held in their armouries, and in times of war surveys of wider arms ownership were sometimes taken in order to assess the state of civic defence. I spent two weeks in Florence surveying material in the archive of the Medici dukes of the city, focusing in particular on references to firearms in their wardrobe accounts, as well as examining material in the archives of earlier republican governments covering the purchase, maintenance and distribution of firearms. This along with day trips to the archives in Modena (for the dukes of Ferrara) and Parma, has given me a comprehensive picture of firearms ownership in the sixteenth century across the three ducal courts, as well as more fragmentary material for comparison on wider arms ownership and use.
For peacetime, gun licences, along with decrees on the licensing process and wider regulations around gun ownership and use, help us understand how governments tried to limit the misuse of firearms while still ensuring they could be used for legitimate purposes of self-defence and civic protection. And when people were caught misusing guns, that could lead to a police investigation: witness statements from these proceedings often shed a great deal of light on the ways guns were used, misused and more generally thought about in the sixteenth century. These were the key areas of focus for my research in the Archivio di Stato di Bologna, which has excellent surviving series of criminal records as well as legal documentation. I spent four weeks here, splitting my time between the Bologna archive and day trips to consult material in Modena and Parma.
All these centres all connected in different ways to arms producers in Gardone Val Trompia, outside Brescia, an important gun production area in the sixteenth century and indeed today. The firearms produced by Gardone artisans were used not only by the Venetian army and navy (the area was under Venetian rule), but also exported to many other European rulers, including Henry VIII. I therefore decided to spend two weeks in Brescia, following up connections to a range of records produced by both the city’s ruling officials and also members of its aristocratic families, as well as a number of rare books held in the city’s library which provide vital clues to the best approach to take in this archive research. The official export licences now held in Brescia’s state archive reveal not only who was allowed to purchase these guns, but also how many they were able to obtain in practice, illustrating some of the challenges of matching supply with demand. Together with account books and letters these documents reveal a great deal about the process of arms purchase, while legal documents in the Brescian archives also provide clues to the ownership of arms production facilities.
Over the course of my eight weeks in the archives I was able to consult material from no less than thirty-seven different archival units in Bologna, eighteen in Brescia, twenty-six in Florence, fifteen in Modena and four in Parma. I returned to the UK with over 3,300 photographs of relevant documents for analysis, and expect to produce a minimum of three major journal articles for academic publications based on these resources. I will also be submitting a grant application to fund a team of people to develop the work on a larger scale.
My first two research articles from this project are about to be submitted, and I’m always happy to talk to local history groups about my work as well as to receive enquiries from fellow researchers. You can get in touch via my website at www.catherinefletcher.info.
Professor Catherine Fletcher
Manchester Metropolitan University
“This morning is brought me to the office the sad newes of “The London,” in which Sir J(ohn) Lawson’s men were all bringing her from Chatham to the Hope, and thence he was to go to sea in her; but a little a’this side the buoy of the Nower, she suddenly blew up. About 24 [men] and a woman that were in the round-house and coach saved; the rest, being above 300, drowned: the ship breaking all in pieces, with 80 pieces of brass ordnance. She lies sunk, with her round- house above water. Sir J(ohn) Lawson hath a great loss in this of so many good chosen men, and many relations among them. I went to the ‘Change, where the news taken very much to heart.” Diary of Samuel Pepys, March 1665″
This is an important conservation project
which is also enhancing our understanding of the design and evolution of Naval
guns from a period when the Commonwealth had just fought the First Anglo-Dutch
War (1652-1654) and by the time of the Restoration aspired to become a supreme
tool of War and guarantor of Commerce.
The project focuses on 3 guns, 2 from the
wreck of the London a warship which was blown asunder by an
explosion of powder cartridges and sank in 1656, and one composite Drake gun.
It is estimated as a 5 year elapse project and is supported by funding from The
Arms and Armour Heritage Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and the Leche
The project is trialling the latest
processes for removing chloride ions from metallic relics recovered from sea
water, This will be of critical
importance to other conservation initiatives that pre-dated these techniques
developed between the 1960s and 1980s.
This will be enable evaluation of the impact on the long term stability
of items treated with earlier techniques.
The guns recovered from the London are
both very rare bronze cannon, one by gun founder Peter Gill, thought to be the
only surviving example of his work and the other bearing the Commonwealth crest
and thought to be one of a handful of
surviving examples of a bronze gun of the Commonwealth. The Drake is
helping to increase our understanding of the evolution and production methods
of this genre of solution to producing lighter weapons whilst preserving
HMS London was a 64 Gun second-rate Ship
of the Line deigned by John Taylor a built in Chatham in 1656: see https://threedecks.org
1660 Broadside Weight = 534 Imperial Pound ( 242.169 kg) Lower Gun Deck 12 British Demi-Cannon (32 Lb) Lower Gun Deck 12 British Culverin (17 Lb 5 ½ Oz) Middle Gun Deck 12 British Culverin Middle Gun Deck 12 British Demi-Culverin (8Lb – 9Lb) Upper Gun Deck 16 British Demi-Culverin
Crew Complement Date # of Men 1660 360 1660 450 Establishment for war abroad 1660 360 Establishment for war at home 1660 280 Establishment for peace
Arming of a Naval Officer
Lawson was formerly Captain of the London when in the Parliamentary Navy. In 1660 he again commanded the London as 2nd in command of the expedition to repatriate Charles II from the Netherlands Ϯ. On 3 June 1665 he was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Lowestoft, when engaging the Dutch Fleet. The wound became gangrenous, killing him 2 weeks later. He was buried at the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-East, London at night, only navy officers accompanying the coffin. By this date, in response to the growth in plague fatalities burial at night was mandated, so again compliance with this despite not being a plague death may have been expedient.
Ϯ (See “1666 Plague, War and Hellfire”, Rebecca Rideal, John Murray Publishers, London 2017).
Admiral Sir John Lawson is portrayed
wearing a buff coat over a sleeved jacket. Over this is a high quality but
relatively plain blackened breast and back-plate. The rivets securing the
liner, plated straps and hasps securing these are gilded.
Suspended from his sword belt is what is probably a ceremonial hanger distinguished by a robust lions head pommel. All elements of the hilt are also gilded. A similar style of hilt appears in other Lely portraits in the Flagmen of Lowestoft series. This might indicate a common naval pattern but could just as likely reflect Lely’s artistic preference or perhaps props.
Prior to recovery of the Gun from the London only
one cannon still marked with the Arms of the Commonwealth existed. This was the
Royal Armouries Leeds – 4.5” demi-culverin – The Commonwealth gun (1649-1653).
This cast iron cannon was found in an area which was most probably the site of
the Battle of Schveningen
fought between the English and the Dutch fleets on 31 July 1653. It seems
likely it had been shipped from the Tower to Tilbury for outfitting the Oak, one
of two English ships lost that day.
When compared to the example at Fort
Nelson we can see that the escutcheons are of a simpler design, without the
cusped upper edges (also seen on commonwealth coinage). However, there are
stylistic features common to both guns (such as a very narrow vent field – the
section within which the vent hole is found; annular groove to the rear of the
2nd reinforce moulding, above the
commonwealth arms etc.) which are found on cannon manufactured. (Nautical
Archaeology, 17.1; the Commonwealth Gun, G.M. Wilson).
The bronze London gun
appears to bear a more sophisticated representation of the Arms of the
Commonwealth. After the Restoration of Charles II Commonwealth Arms would have
been effaced hence the extreme rarity of extant pieces.
The Council of State on 22 February 1649 stated: “that the ships at sea in service of the State shall onely beare the red Crosse in a white flag”. The order was signed by Oliver Cromwell on 23 February. On 5 March 1649 the Council ordered “that the Flagg that is to be borne by the Admiral, Vice-Admiral, and Rere-Admiral be that now presented, viz., the Armes of England [Red St. George Cross on white] and Ireland [gold harp on blue] in two severall Escotcheons in a Red Flagg, within a compartment.“ (see www.crwflags.com)
Thus by March 1649 the coat of arms of the Protectorate became two escutcheons, one bearing the Cross of St George, the other the Harp of Ireland.
The London which was launched in 1656. Her cannon would most likely pre-date that year but based upon the commonwealth arms would not pre-date 1649. Whilst Scotland was reunited with England by an Ordinance of 12 April 1654, coinage of 1656 still bears the twin escutcheons charged with the English Cross of St George and the Harp of Ireland. It is possible to discern the Harp within the right escutcheon on this cannon.
The Peter Gill Bronze Cannon
Left: The Crowned Tudor rose remaining on the upper part of the barrel. Compare this with a full Charles I cypher with a chained anchor enclosing a Tudor rose. This latter appears on R. Roth’s dawings of a Bronze demi-culverin drake from the Sovereign of the Seas which is inscribed “JOHN BROWNE MADE THIS PEECE ANO 1638”. Jean Boudriot publications/ Sovereign of the Seas: The Seventeenth-Century Warship By James Sephton, Amberley Publishing 2013).
The Dutch Composite Drake gun – an attempt at producing lighter but effective naval cannon
The composite Drake was designed to deliver a lighter cannon without reducing the weight of shot or force of charge that could be accommodated. The extant pieces were produced in Amsterdam and English Ordnance records confirm purchase by the English Navy occurred. As can be seen, however, the composition has inherent potential weakness and would be prone to error in manufacture. An aspirant innovation which failed to capture volume uptake.
The location of the battle of Stow on the Wold (1646) is unknown. Historic England registered an area around 2 kilometres north of Stow on a ridge beside the village of Donnington as the battlefield area in 1995, but questioned this in a paper to its Battlefield Panel in 1999. In order to settle this, the Battlefields Trust wanted to organise a metal detecting survey to find the battlefield’s location.
The survey at Stow was originally conceived as part of a wider Heritage Lottery funded project, but this was rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Alternative finance needed to be found and the Mercia Region of the Battlefields Trust, in which area the battlefield fell, made a grant application to the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust and funding of £2460 was generously made. A further £500 was set aside from existing regional funds for the project.
The grant was used to purchase a set of surveying equipment – ranging poles, surveyors tape measures, transects and finds marker flags and finds bags. This set of equipment is now available for wider use in the Battlefields Trust. It was also used to pay a qualified archaeologist to lead the survey, for accommodation and subsistence for the survey team and to cover travelling expenses.
The survey was conducted in October 2015. Sample areas several hundred metres in length and breadth were detected at 10m intervals and the finds collected, bagged, marked and location recorded in advance of them being cleaned, measured and recorded on a spreadsheet.
Areas over the possible battlefield area were examined, though no battlefield related finds were discovered over a six day period. This provided useful negative information about the battlefield location and has led to the development of a new hypothesis that the battle was fought much closer to Stow than has hitherto been considered.
Further archaeological work was undertaken in 2018 using the equipment funded by the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust as well as the residual part of the original grant and additional funding from the Battlefields Trust. This located an area of fighting at Stow and further work is planned to establish whether it represents part of the rout or the initial stand of royalist forces.
The Mansion House, dominating as it does the beautiful St Helens Square, remained a building visibly hidden, its treasures, history and significance on the story of York being almost forgotten in a city full of antiquity and memory. The building, with its’ treasures, remained a place few visited or gained entry to as the fabric of the building slowly decayed.
Therefore, the Mansion House ‘Opening Doors’ restoration project was conceived as a response to the issues facing a grade one listed public building and to make the house fit for the 21st century. The restoration project was the largest and most comprehensive restoration in nearly three hundred years since the house was built in 1725-32. The project had four key aims;
Display of the gold and silver collections
Restoration of the eighteenth century kitchen and basements
Installation of new mechanical and engineering services and structural repairs
Oral history project to capture the memories of the people who worked and lived in the building
The outcome identified for the project was;
Greater public access and being open five days a week to public
Improved display and conservation of the collection
Reducing the carbon foot print of the building
To make the Mansion House a key attraction in the city
To provide an educational resource for children and adult learning groups
The conditions that the gold and silver and the city regalia were kept in were far from ideal as the location was cramped, did not meet conservation standards and significantly hindered public access to the objects. Because of this issue it was important to display the regalia within a protective case for security and conservation and to increase public access and knowledge of the objects.
The great trinity of regalia
Within the collection are three key pieces of city civic regalia. These are items carried before kings, queens, chocolate Lord Mayors and railways kings. These are intrinsic items of regalia that can be seen on virtually every coat of arms of the city that range from the city council arms through to the local scout groups. Items of regalia which are still used for the ceremonial procession the Lord Mayor is involved in, whether that is at full council meetings or Remembrance Sunday.
Each of the three key items were originally weapons of war and through time became symbols of authority and power.
The Sword of Sigismund
The great State sword, probably originally belonging to the holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, arrived in the city in 1439 and has been carried in ceremonial processions ever since. A Sword of international importance that has been displayed around the United Kingdom and Europe.
The Bowes Sword
This was presented to the city in 1545 by Sir Martin Bowes, a native of York who became Lord Mayor of London. It is this sword that is depicted in portraits of each Lord Mayor as they held the Bowes sword in high regard.
The Great Mace
It is hard to imagine that the Mace started out as a weapon of war before it was adapted and became a ceremonial item. This Mace dates from 1647 and incorporates parts of an earlier 1396 Mace.
The display case and grant
The display case required careful design and integration to sit sensitively within the historic dining room of the Mansion House. The dining room was chosen as the location of the display because this room was originally a meet and greet room of the mayor, their public facing ‘Office’ on the walls of which the items were displayed.
Project manager, lead architect, Historic England, Zurich insurers, City of York Council Conservation department, structural engineers and case designers were all involved in the conception, visualisation and creation of the display case. The design of the case had a number of challenging constraints: it had to be as minimalistic as possible, to compliment the historic environment of the room and yet of sufficient strength to hold the weight of the objects in place. Additionally the case could not be attached to the panelling that decorated the room. Therefore the case was going to be expensive if it was going to meet all these criteria.
The initial approach to the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust, application for a grant and the subsequent grant funding made the concept a reality. The grant meant that the great trinity of regalia would be on permanent display in a specially designed case for the first time in their history. The installation of the regalia has improved public access, has improved visitor appreciation, interaction and understanding of the items and their significance, whilst allowing the regalia to be displayed to the best conservation standards possible. The display case has enabled public engagement while allowing the regalia to keep their stateliness.
Working with the Trust was very straightforward; they had confidence in the design team and in the rationale for the display. Effective and engaging arms and armour displays, sometimes overlooked in domestic heritage attractions, would clearly benefit from the assistance of the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust, the Trust is in a perfect position to fill this niche. The Arms and Armour Heritage Trust deserves praise for the donation to allow the display to reach its full potential.
Mansion House Manager and Curator, and Restoration Project Manager
The Battlefields Trust successfully applied for and received a £1,864 grant from the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust in July 2014 for two handling collections that the Trust could use in its walks, talks and displays. The items purchased included two of a sallet, a morion, a partizan, a halberd, six arrows with different heads, a powder flask, bandolier and an inert matchlock musket. These were divided into two collections located in northern and southern England and were created to allow Battlefields Trust regions to demonstrate weapons and armour to the public as part of its charitable aims of preserving, researching and interpreting battlefields as historical and educational resources. The collections, which were focused around the Wars of the Roses and British Civil War periods, allow members of the public to get a sense of the challenges of using such weapons and armour.
They have been used extensively by the Trust, from explaining the design of a bassinet helmet on Wars of the Roses battlefield walks to demonstrating the loading and firing of a musket during Civil War battlefield talks and during school visits. Members of the public have also handled the weapons themselves; obtaining a sense of their weight and cumbersome nature and, for the head piece armour, how constricting this can be for the soldier in battle.
The provision of the grant has helped the Trust better educate the public about arms and armour and have allowed it to bring more to life the experience of battle.
In June 2013, we were musing about the forthcoming centenary of the First World War and a colleague said “I wonder what it would have been like if Facebook had existed in 1914.” From this somewhat bizarre remark grew a not‐for‐profit project which has virtually taken over our lives and continues to do”
Launched in June 2014 (1914), it tells the story of a young man – Walter Carter – from Battersea, who joins the Territorial Force in 1912 and goes to war in March 1915 as a member of 1/23rd Battalion The London Regiment. The story covers the entire War and provides not only his experiences but importantly, those of his family and girlfriend back in England. We also wanted to reference topics still hugely important today – the role of the Reserves, the effect of the War on communities, the changing role of women, and the badly injured and the mentally affected – but in a balanced way which includes the lighter moments of wartime life. Thus, uniquely, it gives a simultaneous account of the War and life at home. Whilst it is fictitious, it is meticulously researched, entirely based on fact and is continuously checked by military historians both for accuracy and authenticity.
We tell the story in real time via Facebook, Twitter and a website posting three or four times a week. Over the years the regular audience on Facebook has grown to over 23,000 – mainly younger people, which was one of our objectives, and also people from other countries.
To provide the maximum interest we wanted our characters to illustrate different aspects of the War both at home and in the trenches – for instance, Walter’s sister becomes a nurse in France.
Because Walter was a member of an infantry regiment, we particularly wanted to involve a different branch of the Army – the artillery – and so his brother Ed, initially a reluctant conscript, fulfilled that role. In order to better understand the artillery at that time, we contacted AAHT who were incredibly helpful and organised for us to visit the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, a trip we found utterly absorbing and which vastly increased our knowledge and allowed us to be accurate about weaponry. Members of AAHT have also been very helpful with bibliographies and web links.
The project has been not-for-profit from the outset and we have been totally reliant on grants primarily to pay for the researcher/writer – Nikky Pye – who has done a truly outstanding job since we started. We are enormously grateful to AAHT who gave us a most generous donation in 2015 which has helped us continue with WW1 Soldier’s Tale. It has also allowed us to take the project into schools, museums, WW1 events and notably, the 3-day commemoration of the Battle of the Somme held in Manchester last summer.
David Noble Managing Director of DNA Limited
Follow the project at
In 2015, to celebrate the 600 anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, we decided to hold a charity night to benefit a local art based charity Move Ahead, based in Outwood, which supports the brain injured.
The trust was very generous in giving us a grant so we could have Freight Companie
at the event to promote the authentic weapons and costumes of the period.
The event was a huge success and because of it about 200 people now appreciate the importance of the Battle of Agincourt and a little of what it was like to live in
The application form was straight forward and easy to fill in and the response quick. We would like to reiterate our thanks. Margaret Hines (past chair of the charity)
I have been very fortunate for the Arms & Armour Heritage Trust offering to fund my PhD research at the University of Southampton. Working under Prof. Anne Curry and Prof. Chris Woolgar from the university, and Dr. Thom Richardson formally of the Royal Armouries Museum, my project looks at the various sources commonly consulted to gain insights into medieval combat to see if the picture painted of martial arts techniques in Europe is consistent across them all. This has involved examining existing treatises on combat from the period, art sources depicting violent confrontations, skeletal remains showing signs of battle-related trauma, and finally signs of damage and wear on medieval arms and armour that were likely caused by use. With one year remaining before my work is concluded, the results I have been getting from my analyses have been very exciting.
In the last two years, I have had the rare and wonderful opportunity to travel to museums and arms collections throughout Europe and North America. Beyond visiting and examining some of the most iconic pieces of arms and armour in the world, it has given me the chance to meet with curators, collectors, and other members of the arms and armour community that I would only otherwise have encountered either by email or through chance meetings at a small handful of conferences. That freedom to travel, view collections first-hand, and meet with peers is becoming increasingly difficult and rare these days for curators and antiquaries, so I am forever grateful for having been given the chance to do so.
This work would have been impossible without the support of the AAHT. The academic study of European martial arts is still very much a fledgling discipline. Being primarily the domain of independent scholars lacking institutional backing, the time and resources to conduct such a deep- dive into the source material has to date been beyond the reach of many scholar-practitioners. The willingness of the AAHT to back my research has allowed this essential work to be undertaken, and the benefit to the wider community of fight scholars will be very great indeed.