The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds


On Sunday we headed up to Leeds in West Yorkshire for another visit to the Royal Armouries Museum. It’s a 70 mile journey from where we live near Newark and took us about an hour and twenty minutes. We’ve been to the museum a few times now, and it’s always an enjoyable visit – and despite (or perhaps because of) it being only January, the place was pretty busy.

The Royal Armouries is the UK’s national museum of arms and armour and one of the most important museums of its type in the world. The core collection has its origins in the country’s working arsenal in the Tower of London, as far back as the Middle Ages. The collection of approximately 75,000 items – excluding 2,7000 on loan – is housed and displayed at three sites: the collection’s historic home at the Tower of London, the purpose-built building in Leeds, and at Fort Nelson, near Portsmouth in Hampshire.

Situated close to the city centre, the museum is among many buildings built in the same era (mid 1990s) which saw a rejuvenation of the area now known as Leeds Dock. The actual Leeds Dock forms the junction of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the Aire-Calder navigation. Good views of these waterways and the connecting lock, can seen from the different floors inside the museum:

The exhibits are spread over five floors. Once through the main entrance, the ground floor consists of main passage through to the Hall of Steel. To either side of the passage are a theatre and meeting rooms as well as the first of two cafes (the other is on the second floor) and the souvenir shop:

At the far end of the ground floor is the Hall of Steel, a steel and glass tower described in the guide book as ‘the architectural centrepiece of the Royal Armouries’. The stairs to the different floors circle around inside it (and through which the best views of the waterways can be had).


The displays around the central stairwell are excellent and consist mainly of weapons and armour from the 17th century.

Floor 1 consisted of the Education Centre, Library and Wellington Suite – so we hurried on to Floor 2:

Looking down at the ground floor from floor 2.

Floors 2 and 3 are all devoted to War, with displays of weapons and armour over time and how they changed. This is the entrance to the War Gallery on Floor 2:

There are far too many exhibits to show or talk about here, but I’ll show a few of them. The  exhibits in the following set are all connected to Henry V111. His suit of armour is always a talking point (re.the codpiece) as is the horned helmet that was given to him by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian 1 (1459-1519) after the defeat of the French at the Battle of Spurs.

The next set is a mixture of other items and displays of interest on Floors 2 and 3. The mounted men from the central display are all men of arms from different countries and times:

On Floor 4 is the fascinating Oriental Gallery. This is a mix of warriors, arms and weapons from several countries, including Turkey, India, China and Japan. Again, here are just a few of the photos we took. I’ve included an elephant used for hunting as well as a war elephant:

Floor 5 continues the theme of hunting started on Floor 4. There are displays of guns and other weapons used for hunting, as well as actual hunting models. I don’t like any form of hunting, nor do I take any interest in guns, which I also dislike. But here are a few photos:

I could only show a mere fraction of the enormous number of exhibits at the Armouries Museum, and many of the photos we took were useless because of the glare from the lights. Most displays were behind glass, which made it even worse, so please excuse the glary pictures. My favourite galleries were the Medieval ones. And Henry V111’s codpiece is a hoot.

And here’s some food for thought from a wall display in the museum:



21 thoughts on “The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds

    1. Thanks, JC. I’m glad you found it interesting! The Armouries is a very colourful and well laid out museum, and the number of exhibits is impressive. To see everything properly you really need more than a single day, especially as there are a number of optional talks and demonstrations which take time. 🙂

  1. I loved your tour. I was lucky enough to see the exhibit of the Terra Cotta warriors when it was here in Chicago. Amazing. It seems that good old Henry like to exaggerate a little. I have added this to my bucket list.

    1. Thnaks, Jo. Lucky you, seeing the Terracotta warriors! That’s something I’d love to see. As for Henry, either he was just ‘strutting his stuff’ like a peacock, or he was worried about endangering his chances of fathering a son and heir – one of his priorities in life. Either way, the codpiece makes everyone laugh.

  2. Interesting to note how old artifacts inspire modern Science! Couldn’t miss that note about NASA. Very nice post Millie, you took us on a lively tour around the museum! I loved the photos and your astute description! ☺

    1. I found that little snippet interesting, too, Prabhat. Henry’s suit does have a clever design – the way the metal strips move to give the wearer more flexibility in their movements. The different types of body armour from around the world are fascinating. 🙂

  3. That’s looks like a very interesting place to visit. Shame it’s millions of miles away from me 😦
    I’d also go in the obligatory gift shop and buy me a petard so I could hoist myself with it 🙂

    1. It is interesting, Ali, but sadly, not doable in a day from anywhere in Cornwall. You need to book a short break in Yorkshire sometime. There are lots of great sites, and York is a lovely city. As for a petard… I can’t say I noticed any for sale. Lol They evidently don’t encourage people blowing up their doors, or even hoisting themselves up! Such an odd saying. 🙂

    1. Yes, those two posters really caught my attention. Although I’ve heard similar ideas as the last one expressed before, it’s always a daunting thought. I liked the idea that a museum showing armour and weapons of war does not promote warfare itself. Thanks Cybele.

  4. Thank you, Antonia. I loved that gallery. too. I thought after I’d already posted this that I probably preferred that to the medieval one. I’ve seen medieval armour in many museums, and not all in Britain, but the oriental exhibits are excellent. So colourful, too!

  5. Good to see this. The original set up was a project I failed to get involved in (that’s another story) and I can’t believe I’ve yet to visit. So your post was doubly interesting. I have visited the Tower several times, though, and Fort Nelson. This has a different feel. So many places…so little time!

    1. Thanks, Mr Britain. 🙂 I haven’t been to the Tower for several years, so that’s another place on our travel plans for the near future. Last time we went, we were armed with an old-style camera and roll of film! Nor have I been to Fort Nelson. The Leeds site is well worth a visit, next time you’re up in Yorkshire. There’s so much there, and I can only show so much on a single post. My media library is rapidly filling up!

  6. Impressive. It is basically what humanity have been busy with. Great source of knowledge for a writer though 🙂 Thank you for another great post and photographs.

    1. Thanks, Inese. The Armouries is a wonderful place for anyone researching weapons and armour, hunting and so many other things, for writing purposes. It holds artefacts from several civilisations and cultures throughout history, and the waxworks are excellent.

      1. Excellent exhibition, great source of knowledge. Museums are my favorite places 🙂 It just makes me sad that so much resources were wasted over the centuries for the war purposes.

  7. Isn’t mankind ingenious yet so bent on destruction and power? The weapons are actually quite fascinating, so I am glad you showed these to your readers, as I doubt that I would have visited such a museum myself. Interesting that the text talks about the human element in conflict, because if the sci fi movies are anything to go by in the future there may not be so much human element as robotic elements, controlled by computers. What a brave new world.

    1. This museum definitely focuses on the means by which man has sought to gain domination and control over others, Amanda, and conversely, the means of defending himself. It’s very interesting to see how weapons of war have developed, even though the very thought of wars and killing fills me with horror. I particularly liked the quote from Einstein. I see it as a warning regarding the likelihood of a nuclear war destroying life as we know it and everything (life, technology) having to start all over again.
      I agree with you, it’s amazing how man seems bent on destruction and power.

  8. As much as this collection is interesting and colourful, it is also depressing to realise how humans have inflicted pain on fellow humans throughout history. What Einstein said about WW IV sends shivers down mine spine. Excellent post, Millie. Thanks for sharing.

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