A continuing story of museum ffoulkes – The Tower Armouries – February 1913

Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries reveals all about what happened on this day 100 years ago at the Tower of London…

Feb 1, 1913 Suffragette outrage in the Jewel House, one case broken.  No damage in Armouries.”   February certainly started with a bang for the Tower.  Leonora Cohen’s action in entering the Jewel House – at this time housed in the Wakefield Tower – at 10:30am among a school group and dropping an iron bar into a side case containing the insignia of the Order of Merit of King Edward VII was a freelance act of militancy on behalf of the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) at a time when the campaign for female suffrage was becoming increasingly violent. As Yeoman Warder Ellis later stated in Court, Leonora’s first words were “This is my protest against the Government”.

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The label attached to Leonora’s bar preserved among her papers at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds.

The label attached to Leonora’s bar preserved among her papers at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds.  Her message reads “Jewel House, Tower of London.  My Protest to the Government for its refusal to Enfranchise Women, but continues to torture women prisoners – Deeds Not Words. Leonora Cohen”/ reverse “Votes for Women.  100 Years of Constitutional Petition, Resolutions, Meetings & Processions have Failed”. WSPU colours were purple, white and Green.

Mrs Cohen was an active member of the Leeds branch of the WSPU between 1909 and 1914.  Born June 15, 1873, she was the eldest child of Jane and Canova Throp.  Canova, an artist, died when Leonora was five, and the family moved from Hunslet to central Leeds where Jane supported her three children by working as a seamstress. Leonora suffered from TB as a child, and Jane found the time and energy to home school her, as well as work when she was younger. In due course Leonora became a milliner and a skilful one.  At this time, there was a strong movement in Leeds campaigning for better working conditions for women, and this no doubt added to her education. Although she first met her future husband, Henry Cohen, a Polish immigrant jeweller, as a teenager they did not marry until 1900.  They married for love, and in the eyes of society, Leonora had made a step up the social ladder.

Leonora’s WSPU activities came at a high price.  She enjoyed the support of her mother, brothers, husband and son, but friends ostracised her and the family received hate mail. Initially she just attended meetings, but from 1911 began to engage in more militant acts. Her first trip to London in November 1911 to a meeting at Caxton Hall and deputation to Parliament ended as a violent clash with Police and window breaking (the preferred method of action at the time).  A total of 220 Suffragettes were arrested – a record number for one night according to a disapproving Daily Telegraph- including Leonora.  As a result she was detained in Holloway Prison for seven days, found guilty of malicious damage.

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A portrait photograph of Leonora after her release from Holloway Prison in 1911. Thanks to Leeds Museums Service.

In selecting the Tower as a target, Leonora was making a considered and bold statement. It was a freelance act of militancy, but not a random one. She chose to act against government rather than private property. No doubt the authorities, already concerned at the escalating levels of violence, recalled the Fenian campaign of the 1880s, which had resulted in an explosion in the White Tower Banqueting Room (modern first floor west). In the immeadiate aftermath, the Tower was closed to the public, as were Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Kew and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Thereafter, security was heightened as it was at other public buildings including museums and galleries.

Leonora was arrested and taken to Leman Street Police station, appearing in Court within hours, charged with unlawful and malicious damage to public property.  She was remanded on bail to appear at the London sessions on February 4, where she successfully defended herself and was acquitted by the jury – no mean feat. Returning to Leeds, her WSPU involvement reverted to attending meetings and speaking at them. However, having attracted official attention she found herself imprisoned once more for incitement, and with her health deteriorating, the Cohens moved from Leeds to Harrogate. There, Leonora’s guesthouse was a place of refuge for other activists evading the infamous “Cat and Mouse” act (officially Prisoner (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913) whereby hunger-strikers could be released from jail rather than force-fed, but were then re-arrested when deemed recovered.  Leonora was photographed revisiting the Tower in the 1960s, and in 1976 she contributed to the oral history of the Suffragette and Suffragist movements recorded by Brian Harrison (now held by the Woman’s library).  She died September 4, 1978.

Mr ffoulkes makes no other mention of the incident.  The day book continues to be an interesting mix of the mundane and unusual. On February 7, he showed 25 students from the Royal College of Art round the Armouries, as well as the Countess Feo Gleichen (in fact HSH Countess Feodora Maud Georgina Gleichen – sculptor and medallist).  More importantly for the ascendant Curator, on February 13 he was presented to HM the King at a Levee in St James’s Palace by the first Commissioner of Works.  Viscount Dillon attended, and the event was duly recorded on camera.

The boys in party mode. © Royal Armouries

Charles ffoulkes and Viscount Lord Dillon at St. James Palace on 13 February 1913
© Royal Armouries

Six days later, Mr Guy Laking, Keeper of the King’s Armoury, called.  (Interestingly, the entry in the revised Day book [ I.188] compiled by ffoulkes from 1933 onwards following his retirement from the Imperial War Museum and prior to his autobiography’s publication, corrects “Sir” to Mr Guy Laking and titles him “The King’s Armourer”. ).

From militant protest to social climbing, all in all February 1913 was quite a month.

With huge thanks to Emma Trueman, and Nicola Pullen & Judith Ferris of Leeds Museums and Galleries.  If you want to find out more about Leonora, Emma’s undergraduate dissertation is available in RA Tower Library, and Leonora’s papers are held by Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds who will, I am sure, be delighted to share them with you.

Blogger: Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries

Line of Kings: Return of the Prince

Kathleen McIlvenna, Curatorial Assistant – Tower Collections, welcomes back, a true treasure, the armour of Henry Frederick Stuart, which will be displayed within the Line of Kings this Summer.

After forming part of the very successful Lost Prince exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, we are delighted to welcome back the armour of Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales, to the Tower of London.

Henry was the eldest son of James I and was heir to the throne until his untimely death in 1612, aged just 18. This beautiful armour was made by Dutch armourers and was presented to Henry, the Prince of Wales, by Sir Francis Vere, a former soldier, under Elizabeth I, in 1607.

Henry was about 13 years old when he received this armour. Though only just a teenager, he was being prepared for a future role as king. He showed promise as a swordsman and jouster, was a keen huntsman and a patron of the arts, as well as a strong advocate for Protestantism.

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The armour of Henry Stuart in pieces

The armour consists of 15 parts and is extremely delicate. It is transported in pieces, which are carefully unpacked before being reassembled in the gallery. Closer inspection of the armour reveals its true beauty, with wonderful gilt bands of decoration showing scenes from the life of Alexander the Great, including elephants. Therein lies a problem.  The decoration continues along the lames and, where these rub over each other, any movement erodes the surface. Older cleaning methods, using brick dust and oil, while keeping the bright sections glowing, have also left their mark.  However in spite of the passage of time, and elbow grease, this armour remains one of our treasures. With such delicate and beautiful armour, it is always a relief to see it finally reassembled and back on display.

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Henry Stuart back on display

Henry Stuart’s armour will form part of our exciting new exhibition Line of Kings, opening in the Summer, so be sure to come and see it, in all its splendour, then.

Blogger: Kathleen McIlvenna, Curatorial Assistant – Tower Collections

Line of Kings: Voices from the past

Karen Whitting, Head of Creative Programmes, tells us about delving into the past of the Line of Kings.

Our research included compiling all the images of the ‘Line of Kings’ in the Royal Armouries’ collection and beyond that we could trace, from early sketches to later photographs.

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Visitors to the Line of Kings in 1800

Alongside this, other team members were burrowing into the Royal Armouries’ archives and those held by organisations such as The National Archives at Kew to discover and record as much information as possible about the display’s origins and subsequent development.

Please look out for new web pages in 2013 in the build-up to the new exhibition’s opening, which will include areas looking at this research in detail.

One of the most fascinating studies traced visitors’ voices from the past – an area which really started as a sideline to the main research but has now developed into our strongest exhibition storyline…

Alex Gaffikin, Interpretation Manager from Historic Royal Palaces takes up the story:

We’ve been reading old guidebooks, postcards, journals and letters to hear what visitors have thought of the exhibition through the ages.

Visitors to the ‘Line of Kings’ included Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach who in 1710 describes a curious ceremony with the lining of part of the armour of Henry VIII, ‘For a jest countless pins have been stuck into this velvet, and any young persons, especially females, who come here, are presented with one, because they are supposed to be a charm against impotency and barrenness.’

My favourite recollection is from a letter by César de Saussure from around 1725 who writes that Henry VIII, ‘is said to be a good likeness of this celebrated king. If you press a spot on the floor with your feet you will see something surprising with regard to this figure; but I will not say more and leave you to guess what it is.’ The mind boggles.

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Visitors to the Line of Kings in 1845

Can you help? We are on the look-out for any old postcards, diary entries or recollections from visitors in times gone by that we can use either in the exhibition itself or on the web pages being developed to support it … if you have anything along these lines please do get in touch by emailing karen.whitting@armouries.org.uk

Line of Kings: Time to Think…

We continue on our journey from the past to modern concept, to physical reality, as Karen Whitting, Head of Creative Programmes takes us through the process of a ‘Thinking day’.

Our Ambition: To re-display an area of the entrance floor of the White Tower entitled the ‘Line of Kings’, which was developed most recently in 1996 – and installed at that time with a clear intention to re-visit the exhibition as soon as further resources became available. Unfortunately, this was put on hold as other plans came into play – until now.

Our Collection: The objects currently on display include a wide range of material from 12 carved wooden horses to rows of pikemen’s armours. Our challenge was to develop a brief, which would inspire a new exhibition showcasing these objects and revealing their stories.

A composite image of the current ‘Line of Kings’ display in the Entrance floor of the White Tower
© Royal Armouries Museum

Thinking Day: In June 2011, interested parties from both Royal Armouries and Historic Royal Palaces stepped away from their day-to-day working and into a ‘thinking day’ on the ‘Line of Kings’. Thinking days offer a fantastic opportunity to focus on specific subjects, really drilling down into detail without distraction. I think they work most effectively when they take the format similar to that of the ‘Moral Maze’ on Radio 4 – evidence is presented by a diverse range of experts and then examined and discussed in order to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the subject.

For the ‘Line of Kings’ we were lucky enough to hear from two of our own staff about the current collection on display and on existing research material regarding the history of the Line, complemented by presentations on the Restoration period from Dr Jacqueline Rose (Author of ‘Godly Kingship in Restoration England: The Politics of the Royal Supremacy, 1660-1688’) and examining the horse in mythology & culture from Dr Elaine Walker (Author of ‘Horse’, a study of the horse in cultural history).

After a lively and challenging debate, our conclusion was that we needed even more information – focussing on both the Royal Armouries’ collection and its use in the ‘Line of Kings’ and this history of the Line at the Tower of London.

Research: The project, therefore, began not with the commissioning of designs but rather in the exploration of archives, the consultation of experts in areas such as wood and paint analysis and the collation of reports – all aiming for one outcome – the unlocking of the secrets of the origins of the ‘Line of Kings’ which in turn would inspire us to create our new exhibition.

 

Line of Kings: First steps…

Follow our new series of blogs, as we journey from the past to modern concept, to physical reality in the making of the ‘Line of Kings’, opening at the Tower of London in 2013.

The White Tower at Tower of London
© Royal Armouries Museum

In our first instalment Karen Whitting, Head of Creative Programmes at the Royal Armouries tells us about those crucial first few steps.

All the best projects at delivery have started from a great idea, supported at every stage of development.

From 2007, that idea for Royal Armouries at the Tower of London was to create a showcase for our prestigious collection, embedded in the history of the Tower, which would attract visitors from all over the world. It was supported by a wide range of stakeholders – from our partners Historic Royal Palaces to sponsors such as HistoryTM, DCMS/Wolfson Galleries Improvement Fund – without whom delivering this vision would have been impossible.

Our mission: To deliver a complete re-display of Royal Armouries’ collections and stories in the White Tower, the iconic building at the heart of the Tower site, to be enjoyed by over 2 million visitors a year.

Our challenge: To ensure that access for visitors was kept open throughout and that each new exhibition was complete in itself, offering a great experience to both first time and repeat audiences.

Our plan: To research, develop, design and deliver a series of exhibitions opening annually – starting with a temporary exhibition ‘Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill’ for 2009 and completing in 2013 with the ‘Line of Kings.’

Our team: At each stage a team of Royal Armouries and Historic Royal Palaces’ staff has been gathered with skills to support the projects at every stage of their development, through to finishing touches before the exhibition is revealed. This internal team has been complemented with a vast range of external experts and suppliers – carrying out tasks from concept drawings to electrical wiring.

Our exhibitions: These teams have delivered stunning exhibitions showcasing extraordinary objects and fascinating stories from the Royal Armouries’ collection, which have achieved hugely positive feedback from White Tower visitors. The programme included:

Temporary Exhibitions

Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill –April 2009-January 2010

Permanent Exhibitions

Fit for a King – opened March 2010

Charles I Fit for a King
© Royal Armouries Museum

Treasures of the Royal Armouries – opened March 2010

Treasures of the Royal Armouries
© Royal Armouries Museum

Powerhouse – opened March 2011

Storehouse – opened March 2012

What’s next?

The final piece of the jigsaw is a new exhibition for 2013, which started its development over a year ago with a research project which was to turn all our plans on their heads and give us the opportunity of a lifetime to reveal the story of the longest running visitor attraction in the world…

For more information about exhibitions at the Tower of London visit our website.

An Everyday Story of Museum ffoulkes

November 21, 1912 – 100 years ago, Charles ffoulkes, B.Litt Oxon, FSA was appointed Curator of the Armouries at the Tower of London.  He took up the post on New Year’s Day, January 1913.

Mr ffoulkes – whose surname was spelled, unusually, without an initial capital letter – inherited a series of displays redolent of imperial glory in the White Tower and the remaining stores of the Board of Ordnance (dissolved in 1856). These were scattered about the site – in effect a museum in “kit form”.  The protégé of the first modern Curator, Viscount Dillon, (in post 1895 – 1913), ffoulkes set to with gusto, consolidating his position and dragging the organisation – such as it was – into the 20th century.

The office of Charles ffoulkes, Curator and later Master of the Armouries in the Martin Tower.

The curator was not one to hide his light under a bushel, and he liked to find advantageous links with the past.

He declared with pride in the Minute Book (I.189,) that recorded the Armouries’ daily activities, “The curator is a direct descendant of Captain Thomas Fowke, keeper of the Queen’s Hand Guns and Calivers and Warden of the White Tower circa 1596 (see Hatfield Papers).  Captain Fowke was therefore in office under Viscount Dillon’s ancestor Sir Henry Lee, Master of the Armouries”. Impeccable credentials indeed.

He had a small staff to assist him, noting in his autobiography Arms and the Tower (London, 1939), “Unlike all other museums, we had no staff except those engaged in the actual treatment of armour”.  The team is listed in the front of the Minute Book as follows:

Foreman of the Armouries: W Buckingham;

Staff of cleaners: T Bishop, W Williams, W Brown, T Riddles, G Stewart, F Davy – and not forgetting A H Price (ticket office), D Marsh (Parcels) and W Johnson (lavatory).

Messrs H Evans (died 23 December) and W Spooner (ruled through with a marginal note as to his dismissal) are also listed.

All other services were provided courtesy of the War Office.

We invite you to follow the fortunes of the curator and his band a century ago by following the Minute book entries, month by month, in the run up to the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Blogger: Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries

The Axe and the Head

Kathleen McIlvenna, Curatorial Assistant – Tower Collections, tries not to lose her head in the mystery of the heading axe…

Recently I received an enquiry regarding an axe; could we identify it as a heading axe? Well if anyone could, you’d think the Tower of London could. However, identifying a heading axe is a lot more difficult than you would think.

Indeed, the shape of an axe head can tell you a lot about what an axe was used for. From Coachmaker Axes (clue’s in the name) to Blocking Axes (often used in shipbuilding), axes were often designed as tools of trade rather than weapons. To discover their uses we often turned to trade directories or the handy Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodwork Tools.

Nevertheless, cutting heads off isn’t normally named as a particular use and ‘Executioner’ isn’t generally the sort of trade these works are discussing. Depictions of public executions aren’t always reliable either. Artistic impressions are sometimes made long after the execution with no way of knowing if the artist attended any public executions. The image below of Lady Jane Grey’s execution was actually created in the 19th century. Furthermore written descriptions don’t tend to focus on the design of the axe when describing a public figure’s last few moments.

Engraving by George Cruikshank showing the execution of Lady Jane Grey on Tower Green in 1554. From The Tower of London / by W.H. Ainsworth (1845)
Copyright: Board of Trustees of the Armouries

Consequently, provenance is our best indication. Beheading was an execution preserved for the rich and (previously) powerful. The average execution involved hanging and if you were particularly treacherous you were hung, drawn and quartered. Moreover, it was primarily the English who favoured an axe beheading, whereas the executioners on the continent preferred the sword. Not trusting the axe, and perhaps an English executioner, Anne Boleyn requested a swordsman and sword to be shipped over from France especially for her execution.

Heading axe. Probably English, 16th century
Copyright: Board of Trustees of the Armouries

The Tower of London’s heading axe is traditionally believed to be one of four that we know were stored here in the 17th century, but we don’t have details about its use. We actually know more about the block it is displayed with, which was used for the execution of Lord Lovat in 1747, but that is a different story. So in conclusion, to know if you have a heading axe you need to know where your axe head comes from.

Blogger: Kathleen McIlvenna, Curatorial Assistant – Tower Collections