Norwich Castle

Due to the generous donation received from the AAHT, Norwich Castle has significantly supplemented its collection of replica medieval arms and armour. Previously, visitors to the castle have found the arms and armour talks to be one of the most engaging events held at Norwich Castle, with 90% of visitors rating it as excellent in 2015 and 92% in 2016. Thanks to the AAHT’s grant the Arms and Armour Talks received an incredible 98% excellent rating last year (2018).

Swords aren’t always pretty

The additional equipment that the AAHT grant allowed us to produce has filled significant gaps in the timeline of the evolution of medieval arms and armour. As a result, we have been able to depict a range of historic soldier’s equipment across different strata of feudal life throughout the middle ages. Visitors of all ages, interests, backgrounds and genders have been able to understand the variety of equipment that was used and develop a greater emotional connection to the past. Importantly, we have also used examples of skeletal remains to ground the talk with the reality of medieval warfare, revealing the true, terrifying effects of the weaponry to highlight why evolving designs of armour were essential to surviving the medieval battlefield.

Norwich Museum at Night
Discussing converted farming tools

The Arms and Armour Talks have been enjoyed by thousands of visitors since the collection was improved and have featured throughout the summer holidays and at all the major public events held at Norwich Castle such as Heritage Open Day, Museums at Night, and televised on Children in Need!

We have received heartfelt feedback from visitors who have really begun to appreciate the skill, science and engineering that can go into making arms and armour – or the hurried conversion of farming tools to makeshift weapons. Visitors can now appreciate the sense of panic that peasants would feel as trained and armoured knights charge towards them, or the feeling of invulnerability that a full harness of armour could provide. We have received wonderful stories from children who have been inspired by the collection and adults who have taken their new-found interest to the next level by taking up blacksmithing.

Hands on with a 140lb longbow

The benefits of the improved Arms and Armour collection have been felt beyond the public Arms and Armour talks. Summer schools, scout groups, home educators, and youth groups have all requested arms and armour sessions as part of their visit to Norwich Castle. The daily tours of the castle now use the hand-crafted 140lb draw weight longbow to engage with visitors, dispel myths, and help them to appreciate the incredible strength that would have been required to use this iconic weapon. School groups have been requesting additional sessions on medieval arms and armour to begin their topic on medieval history. Our upcoming outreach program, ‘A Knight Out’, will be taking the show on the road to thousands of people at events across the country next year. The improved arms and armour collection now features proudly in the visitor experience of Norwich Castle.

The grant received from AAHT has allowed all of this to happen, fascinating people with the history of arms and armour, which we shall continue to do for years to come.



Arms and Armour in Shropshire Museums

Image: Guy Wilson cataloging part of the firearms collection
The collections are stored in Ludlow and access was sometimes restricted – Guy Wilson cataloging part of the firearms collection

In 2011, the former photographer for the Royal Armouries, Jeremy Hall, died after a short illness. He had been the museum’s photographer from the 1960s until his retirement in 1996 and during those years produced wonderful images of the museum’s collections. Following his retirement he moved to his family’s home just outside Ludlow and became a volunteer at Ludlow Museum where he started to catalogue their collection of arms and armour – work cut short by his sudden death. Following his funeral, a number of his former Armouries colleagues decided that, as a memorial to their friend and colleague, they would complete the work he had Image12started. It was agreed that the work of cataloguing would be done for free –

An important, and rare, 12 bore single barrelled 'scent-bottle' percussion shotgun by Forsyth & Co, about 1822, with drtail of lock. (SHCMS: H.11001) (Shropshire County Museum Service)
An important, and rare, 12 bore single barrelled ‘scent-bottle’ percussion shotgun by Forsyth & Co, about 1822, with drtail of lock. (SHCMS: H.11001) (Shropshire County Museum Service)

everyone waiving their usual fees for carrying out this type of work. However, money was required to support travel to and from Ludlow and for setting and printing the text. The Arms and Armour Heritage Trust awarded us a grant towards these costs. Importantly, this enabled the catalogue to include an image of every piece, almost 300 in total, and to print in full colour. Without the Trust’s support, the publication would have been much simpler, in black and white and less useful to both the arms and armour scholar and the general public.

Image8The book, Arms and Armour in Shropshire Museums, has now been published and is available from Basiliscoe Press – ISBN 978-0-9551622-4-4

AAHT Supports New Historic Weaponry Exhibition at Stow on the Wold

4610367578_469x352Robert Hardy, star of All Creatures Great and Small and more recently Harry Potter, confessed to an audience in Stow-on-the-Wold that he communicates with the ghosts on ancient battlefields.

The veteran actor was at Stow’s St Edward’s Hall on Thursday 29th May 2014 to perform the official opening of the town’s new permanent exhibition of historic weapons and armour. When handed the microphone to begin his speech, he announced in booming tones, to laughter from the crowd, ‘I don’t believe I need this.’

Hardy, who is President of the Battlefields Trust, joked with his audience that he might be able to pinpoint the exact site of the 1646 battle of Stow which is regarded as something of a mystery.
‘As a supposed expert,’ he said, ‘when I walk a battlefield, I always know exactly where the fighting took place from the ghosts of the past that I meet.’

Then, flanked by members of the Sealed Knot Society in full Civil War costume, he unveiled a plaque to inaugurate the exhibition in the lobby of Stow’s library. On display are several pieces of seventeenth century armour, a musket, two pike staffs and a gigantic broad sword.

Tim Norris, Chairman of the Stow and District Civic Society, which jointly with the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust funded the new theft-proof display cabinet, said: ‘This is the first time in fifty years that Stow has had a permanent secure location to show off its wonderful collection of Civil War weaponry and armour.’

Stow acquired its valuable collection of military paraphernalia in 1948 from a Captain Christie Crawfurd. He had visited the town with his wife in the 1930s. She became ill there, and he was so struck by the kindness of the people of Stow that he bequeathed his collection of historic artefacts to the town. Until now there’s been no way of safely displaying them. A few items were on show in St Edward’s Hall, but during the Stow Festival in 2011, two civil war helmets were stolen.

It was this theft however, that prompted the Stow Civic Society to commission the new secure museum display case.

‘This is a great collection,’ said Robert Hardy, ‘and it’s important for it to be on show to the public.’