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.
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.