Robert 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.’