The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds

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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).

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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:

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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:

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