Twenty-seven years ago, the last great private collection of English Civil War arms and armour – kept since the time of its use at Littlecote House, an English country house near Hungerford – was threatened with dispersal at auction.
The Armouries co-ordinated a national appeal for funds and succeeded in securing the armoury for the nation. The collection is important for several reasons. For students of firearms, it contains the single most important group of mid-17th century English military guns in existence, forming the key reference for the development of the earliest flintlocks. For students of armour, it contains the largest surviving group of buff coats and other equipment of buff leather in the world. Almost everything dates to a single brief period, and although a few pieces were added in modern times, the core collection survives untouched.
Royal Armouries’ staff visited the house twice during the period leading up to the sale to record the armoury contents for future study. The catalogue compiled at that time has now been completed and published by the museum. The Royal Armouries’ former Academic Director Graeme Rimer and I were centrally involved in saving the Littlecote armoury for the nation, and we took part in the sponsored march, wearing armour, from Littlecote to London, which formed part of the fundraising.
We have been working away ever since to produce this catalogue, the most detailed record of a single corpus of munition arms and armour ever published, and hope it will stand as a monument to the importance of the Littlecote armoury to the 17th century study of arms and armour for many years to come.
The catalogue was released to coincide with the museum’s English Civil Wars conference held at Leeds on 15 September 2012, and has been selling like hot cakes ever since. You can get your copy of the limited litho edition from the Royal Armouries shop here.
Blogger: Thom Richardson, Keeper of Oriental & European Armour at Royal Armouries, and co-author of Littlecote
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