Commemorating Queen Victoria’s Funeral, 2nd February 1901

To commemorate the anniversary of the death of Queen Victoria, this blog post takes a look at an object from our collection with a distinguished place in history, the gun carriage that carried the late Queen on her final journey from Osborne House.

The day of Queen Victoria’s funeral, Saturday 2nd February 1901, came with excellent weather. Reporting from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, The Times noted that ‘the sky was cloudless and blue; the Solent looked like the Mediterranean itself.’ [1] Outside the House had quietly gathered leading members of the European aristocracy, local school children, Isle of Wight dignitaries, leading members of the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of Portsmouth, convalescent soldiers, and tenants of the estate. The paper continued;

‘Then, quite suddenly, the note of a naval and military ceremonial seemed to break silently. The gun carriage and horses and men of ‘Y’ Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, took up their position and the bearer party of bluejackets marched in from the left, and were drawn up.’

The Royal coffin was slowly brought ‘outside upon the gun carriage, with the Highland servants and pipers in full dress. Almost at the same moment, the Grenadier Guards received the word of command, and slow-marched, wheeling to the right, until they stood, a sinuous avenue of scarlet, with towering bearskins, followed the curved lines of the road from the Quadrangle into the drive. All eyes were fixed upon the coffin as it moved slowly forward on the gun carriage and on the drooping Royal Standard that draped it partially’ as well as ‘the little group of Royal personages, so small it seemed, but yet so great, who walked sadly behind.’

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From here the funeral cortege proceeded slowly down the hill into Cowes and to Trinity Pier from where the Queen’s coffin was passed into the custody of the Royal Navy for conveyance to Portsmouth and then to London.

The gun carriage referred to is currently on display at the Royal Armouries Museum of Artillery at Fort Nelson. It features a 15-pounder Field Gun and carriage.

References:

[1] No. 36369, The Times, Monday February 4th, 1901, page 5. ‘Funeral of the Queen.’

In Memoriam: George Braithwaite

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Jenny Lamb, Team Administrator (Operations) at the Royal Armouries © Royal Armouries

Jenny Lamb, Team Administrator

George Braithwaite was my Great-grandfather.

I looked forward to having an insight into his ‘logistical’ war experience, but I was more interested in finding out about his attitude, impressions and general state of mind. My family still has his diary, so I was lucky to find out about this in his own words.

What was notable was the unrelenting “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude of George’s diary. Stoicism is a defining family trait, so it is no surprise that George was the same. Yet to remain uncomplaining and even cheerful in such traumatic circumstances is impressive to say the least.

George’s brothers also enlisted and all three returned, unharmed, from the war. It feels absurd to describe them as ‘lucky’, but at this moment in time, they were.

We hope that we will never fully comprehend what their generation experienced, but while the chaos and carnage of war is still a reality for millions of people, the least we can do is try.

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George Braithwaite © Braithwaite Family Archive

In Memoriam: George Braithwaite

George Braithwaite
Battalion dispatch cyclist
The King’s Liverpool Regiment

George was born in Kendal in 1893 but the family are recorded as living in Crook in 1897. Sometime between 1899 and 1901, they moved to Sedbergh, where the family still have connections today.

George joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment on 4 September 1914, and arrived in France 6 months later.

He kept a detailed war diary. Despite witnessing unimaginable horrors, his (sometimes disconcerting) good humour prevailed. Here are just a few of his diary entries.

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A map of Ypres, hand-drawn by George Braithwaite © Braithwaite Family Archive

Friday 12th March 1915. Sunny.

“Last night while I was slumbering, the village had been severely shelled and one house had a direct hit, inside being full of men…Lt Cleary, my platoon officer was just commencing to dig a grave for a fellow officer who had been killed during the night, when a shell burst and blew away one of his legs and part of his side. So we had to dig a grave for him as well. This is a good start and we haven’t got to the front line yet!”

Tuesday 18th May 1915. Wet.

“The trench was in an awful condition, water up to one’s breast. I felt so tired I did not feel the cold water which appeared warm, and match sticks to prop my eyes open could not have kept me awake. I was absolutely out to the world. If the Germans had made a counter attack, I have no idea how we would have dealt with it. Shelling was terrific throughout the night.”

Wednesday 19th May 1915. Wet.

“During my journey across the open country, Jerry was sending over Coal boxes in blocks of four. These came dangerously close which forced me to jump into the communication trench. I had not travelled far when approaching a duck board which spanned the trench I was suddenly, and for no apparent reason, pulled back by a hand on my right shoulder. On looking back I saw no one and at that very moment an 8.9 shell fell on the other side of the duck board. Had I proceeded, I would have become another victim of this war.”

Friday 27th August 1915. Sunny.

“Spent a pleasant evening from 8-12 pm singing songs. First the Germans and then ourselves. What a war!”

Monday 25th Oct 1915. Very wet.

“Appointed Battalion dispatch cyclist. Carried and delivered the Battalion’s first dispatch to Brigade Machine Gun Corp.”

Tuesday 26th Oct 1915. Fine.

“Yes I am going to love this new life. It also means no fatigue duties, no parades, just carrying dispatches from Battalion to A, B, C and D coy, and all other units connected with the Battalion and when in the line, adjoining Battalions. How exciting. I have just been allocated a new cycle…”

Tuesday 15th June 1915. Sunny.

“Late evening I was sniping at the enemy from the back of the trench. One hour later one of the C company was passing the spot where I had been, and got one in the abdomen from an explosive. Terrible sight, insides hanging out.”

Thursday 1st June 1916. Sunny

“Had a pleasant ride to Sailly Labourse via Noeux Les Mines. Met a Sedbergh soldier Stanley Banks. Naturally we enjoyed a good talk, he is expecting leave and I asked him to call on my parents and give them the news as to my whereabouts etc.”

Monday March 5th 1917. 3” Snow

“Heavy fall of snow in the night hindering our traffic and line operations. Having made a nice fire, I find I have a few rats for company, quite tame. Expect to move in a day or two.”

Tuesday September 24th 1918. Showery

“Early this morning Jerry sent over 5-9 shells containing invisible gas. Many of comrades at Brigade Hq were gassed, including myself. First symptoms were blindness and sickness. When I realised I was affected and going blind, I immediately put the tube of my respirator into my mouth, which action saved my life, although at the time I did not know it.”

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

Behind the scenes at the Leeds museum

Museum Maintenance Week

16 – 22 January

Throughout Maintenance Week, our Museum Maintainers will be doing what they normally do behind closed doors in front of our visitors at the Leeds museum.

Looking after the national collection of arms and armour is a big job and an even bigger responsibility. Many of our objects are extremely important in the history of arms and armour, and though they might not look it, many of them are quite fragile too. We have to make sure that the conditions we keep then in are just right.

This means keeping the galleries and the cases clean and dust free (dust attracts pests, which can cause untold damage to our objects), monitoring the environment carefully so that our many metal objects don’t start to rust, and making sure that our textile objects are kept safe from damaging light levels.

As well as looking after our objects, we also have a responsibility to help people learn and discover more about them. This means making sure that all of our object labels are up to date with current information.

We work hard to make sure that our objects are looked after to the highest standards. Usually this work is done behind the scenes, once our visitors have left for the day, but we wanted to share with everybody the kind of work we do on a day-to-day basis to care for our collection.

All Maintenance Week our Museum Maintainers will be carrying out this important work while the museum is open, and will be on hand to chat to visitors about the work we do. From 16-22 January, all week we will be:

  • Checking that our objects are not being damaged
  • Cleaning inside and outside the cases
  • Making sure our lighting levels are just right
  • Checking and replacing any labels
  • Checking our pest traps

If you see us at work please feel free to ask any questions. We’re easy to spot in our Museum Maintainer T-shirts!

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Museum Maintainer (Interpretation Officer) Sadie all ready for Maintenance Week – and #MuseumSelfie day!

In Memoriam: Thomas Cross

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Arran Cross, Retail Special Projects and Buying Manager, Royal Armouries © Fern Merrills

Arran Cross, Retail Special Projects and Buying Manager

I have always had an interest in military history, particularly the First World War and Second World War.

For this project, I researched what both of my great-grandfathers did during the First World War. The things I found out about Cecil Darling are on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I knew that many of my ancestors had served in both wars and wanted to know more about the medals and battlefield trophies I have inherited.

It was interesting to learn about the battles that both Thomas and Cecil fought in. Reading the war diaries of their units was fascinating. Family stories of how of how badly Thomas was affected by his experiences are explained by the horror of what he experienced at the Somme.

I want my relatives to be remembered because they both have fascinating stories and the battles they fought in across the different theatres played a key part in winning the war.

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Private Thomas Cross © Arran Cross

In Memoriam: Private Thomas Cross

8th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancaster Regiment

Thomas Cross was my great grandfather.

He grew up in Sheffield and was a Hot Roller in a metal strip mill before he joined the Army. Thomas volunteered to join the Sheffield Pals Battalion as a private and served the entirety of his war as part of the 8th Yorks and Lancs.

He saw action at the battle of the Somme, near the village of Ovillers where only 68 of the 680-strong battalion survived. He also saw action at Passchendaele in the battle for Messines and with the Italian resistance effort, fighting on the Asiago Plateau and at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto where he served until the end of the war.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

In Memoriam: Lawrence Austen Impey

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Edward Impey, Director General and Master of the Armouries © Paul Cockerill. Light Space Photography TM

Edward Impey, Director General and Master of the Armouries

Impeys have always been interested in family history as we have all heard a lot about it. Both my paternal grandparents wrote engaging memoirs, but these are full of tantalising gaps…

This project offered an opportunity to discover some firm facts through access to official documents, while reading around the subject added a lot of context. Lawrence’s First World War experiences were unusual and certainly interesting, but not conventionally distinguished.

In relation to the First World War, I would like Lawrence to be remembered mostly for what he represented rather than for himself. He was a good example of the British young men of the period, particularly in the early part of the war, who were desperate to get to the Front and tried any means to do so, but for whom delusion was so rapidly followed by disillusion.

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Lawrence Austen Impey © Impey Family Archive

In Memoriam: Lawrence Austen Impey

Private in French Army, July 1917;
Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, from July 1918.
Captain, Coldstream Guards, 1940

Lawrence was my father’s father. He was born in January 1900, the son of an Eton schoolmaster. The year of his birth meant that he served in both wars, though doing very different things.

Lawrence was fourteen at the outbreak of war and so remained at school. In 1917 he heard of a scheme whereby boys of seventeen or over who could drive a car could serve at the front as ambulance drivers . In the teeth of parental resistance, he absconded to France. From July to December 1917 he served as a driver for the British Committee of the Red Cross, a unit which was commanded, paid, fed and clothed by the French Army. Lawrence wrote numerous letters home, many of which survive, but after the war he rarely spoke of his experiences.

His unit of about twenty men – mostly under- or over-age and from all corners of the Empire – lived in the trenches or behind the lines, wherever their work took them. They drove in pairs; Lawrence’s co-driver being an Englishman of his own age called Knight. Their ambulances were Model T Fords. Long overhanging bodies were added to the rear, making room for ten sitting wounded (‘assis’) or five stretcher cases (‘couchés’). Red crosses were painted on the sides and roofs to discourage enemy fire but which ‘served the Germans nicely for target practice’.

The unit transported wounded soldiers from the trenches or front-line dressing stations to the clearing stations behind the lines. They almost always drove at night, without lights and on tracks pitted with enormous shell-holes and busy with other traffic. They suffered regular breakdowns, were frequently under shell fire, and occasionally strafed by ‘boche’ aeroplanes.

The Model T’s crude suspension did little to ease the jolting of the roads, and the cries and agonies of the wounded left a lasting impression. Amidst all this, working 24-hour shifts and more, they often fell asleep at the wheel, and had to take turns to shake each other awake.

In late summer 1917, the unit was sent to Verdun. It participated in the actions at Fort Douaumont, Fort Souville, and the French recapture of Le Mort Homme. Lawrence described the living and fighting conditions as they overran the German positions. He admired the sophistication of the German dug-outs, complete with underground railways, electric light and hospital wards. His main impression, though, was of the attack; hand-to hand fighting in the dark tunnels, with flares, bayonets, clubs and grenades, and its horrific aftermath:

“As we got within 200 yards of it the stench of old blood and dead Germans became unbearable…the clothes and bodies of the dead… were lying each side quite saturated…. and if you slipped off the duck boards …it came over your boots”.

Lawrence and other Englishmen were awarded the Croix de Guerre for their actions at Verdun. The award ceremony was memorable for Lawrence because the French officer, who kissed him on both cheeks, hadn’t shaved. He was later also awarded the Victory Medal, ‘for service as ‘Driver’’ (although the dates covered his whole war service)

Towards the end of 1917, Lawrence fell victim to Phosgene gas. A barrage of gas shells was intermixed with explosives to mask its arrival and delay its detection. This, coupled with inadequate and worn-out gas masks (‘…a wad of absorbent material soaked in some useless chemical’) made the French troops hopelessly vulnerable. The family story relates that Lawrence was left for dead by the roadside, only later attracting attention by faint, unconscious stirrings. Months of recuperation followed, first in French hospitals, and finally in England. Miraculously, he recovered.

Lawrence was then drafted into an Officer Cadet Unit, and on 31 July 1918 was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards . The Armistice came before he could be posted abroad, and he was demobilised on 30 December, when he took up a place at Oxford.

Between the wars, Lawrence worked as a Director of a mining company and was a County Commissioner for the Scouts.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he was considered too old for active service. In 1940, though, he reported for duty as a 40-year old ex-soldier keen to do something useful. On 4 March1941 he was re-commissioned as Second Lieutenant . He soon became aide-de-camp to Robert Bridgeman, first Director General (1941-44) of the Home Guard (familiar to many as ‘Dad’s Army’). This involved gruelling if often hilarious tours of inspection to all corners of the British Isles.

In his last years, with the onset of dementia, he suffered nightmares, reliving his experiences in the trenches and the hospital he was taken to in 1917. Like many of his generation he felt that the First World War had a bigger impact on the world than the Second, and recognised, if underestimated, the impact on himself and other survivors.

He died in 1989.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

In Memoriam: Commemorating our family’s contributions to the First World War

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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From all walks of life and from all over the country, our relatives fought. Students, mechanics, doctors, bank clerks, textile workers, accountants, publicans, gardeners, lovers of cricket and chess, all found a role to play.

They became ambulance drivers, pipers, commanders, nurses and soldiers. Each of these men, in their own small but significant ways shaped the course of the First World War.

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Some of our research is on display at the Royal Armouries museums at Leeds and Fort Nelson, but not all of our research would fit onto these walls. Over the next few months, we will share this extra research here.

A series of eight posts will focus on an underage ambulance driver, a dispatch cyclist who embodied the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude of the day, a commander in the navy, a member of the Sheffield Pals battalion, a man who joined up with his older brother, a chess lover who finished his training just as the War ended, a private who saw action at the Battle of Paschendale, and another soldier who refused to talk about the amputation of his leg.

Please join us in remembering these men, and many other people like them.

If you have been Inspired By… this exhibition, why not start researching your own family history?

Starting to find out more about your relatives can be challenging. Here are some hints and tips that helped us to research our own family histories.

  1. Write down everything you know.

Jot down everything you can remember about your family. This will remind you of what you know, and reveal the gaps.

  1. Speak to your family.

Family members can be a wealth of knowledge. Watch out for pet names. ‘Uncle Jack’ may have been born ‘Michael John Smith’, and non-relatives may be awarded ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ status.

  1. Look for physical clues.

You can uncover a lot by looking through drawers and boxes. Certificates, wills, military service papers, books, photographs and letters can all be really helpful.

  1. Make your family tree.

Start with your name near the bottom, and work upwards through the generations. A family tree will highlight gaps in your knowledge, and help you develop a research plan.

  1. Develop a research strategy.

Make a plan before you start. Don’t just rush straight in!

  1. Start to search for more information.
  • The National Archives has lots of free guides.
  • County archives and local record offices might help if your family are from a particular place.
  • Regimental or corps museums might have information if you had relatives in the armed services.
  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website can help locate servicemen who lost their lives.
  • Websites such as Find My Past, Ancestry and Family Search hold transcriptions of censuses and Birth, Marriage and Death records among other useful information.

A picture that tells a story: Object of the month for November

In this monthly blog series, our collections team will write about their Object of the Month, chosen from our collection. This November, Karen Watts, Senior Curator of European Armour and Philip Abbott, Archives and Records Manager, tell us about a recently purchased picture which tells a fascinating and heroic story.

Visit our collection online to discover more about this object

The marvellous escape from death of Lt. Hugh Kinred and the picture that tells the story

The Royal Armouries has recently purchased a picture that tells a story. It happened a century ago in 1916. The picture contains the front page of the Daily Mirror, an officer’s rank pip and a piece of shattered body armour.

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Hugh Cowell Kinred, a young clergyman, joined the 14th Glo’sters (‘Bristol Bantams’) as a soldier, not as a chaplain. In 1916, while walking along a trench he saw a bomb come over and drop near seven soldiers who were fast asleep. In his own words:

“In a moment, I saw the danger they were in, and that no time could be lost in picking it up: so I decided to smother it by lying on it. No sooner had I lain on it than it exploded, blowing me from the corner of the trench at an angle of about 30 degrees on to it’s top, and I should doubtless have been killed but for the lucky chance that I was wearing a Whitfield steel waistcoat.”

His heroism was immediately reported:

From the supplement to the London Gazette, 27 July, 1916.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Military Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Warrant Officers, in recognition of their gallantry and devotion to duty in the field: 

Temp. Lt. Hugh Cowell Kinred, 14th Bn. Glouc. R:
“For conspicuous gallantry. When a bomb thrown by the enemy fell at his feet in the trench, he at once threw himself on it, and was blown into the air and much bruised and cut by the explosion, his life being saved by his steel waistcoat. His plucky action saved many casualties.”

He was also promoted to Captain in the field. The body armour saved his life!

Kinred had purchased a Dayfield Body Shield made by the Whitfield Manufacturing Company shortly before the battalion sailed for France in January 1916. The Dayfield was one of the most popular body armour’s, and was widely available from military outfitters and department stores.

It consisted of a breastplate and a backplate, each composed of four steel plates, sewn into a canvas waistcoat, and weighed about five and a half pounds.

The body armour was intended to be proof against spent bullets, shell splinters and grenade fragments, but even its inventors were probably surprised that it had survived such a close encounter. Whitfield made good use of testimonials from satisfied customers in its marketing campaign, and it wasn’t long before they were using Kinred’s story in newspaper adverts all over the country observing, “The Dayfield Body Shield saves officer who threw himself on exploding bomb”.

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Copyright Unknown – Source: Frenchay Museum

Kinred was a remarkable character who returned to clergy life and had a colourful private life. To find out more about ‘The Amazing Life of the Revd. Hugh Cowell Kinred’, read the article at Winterborne Family History Online.

Visit our collection online to discover more about this object

The Vampire Killing Kit: Object of the Month for October

In this new monthly blog series, one of our curators will write about their Object of the Month, chosen from our collection. To start us off, Curator of Firearms, Jonathan Ferguson has picked a very unique item indeed… our Vampire Killing Kit (perfect for Hallowe’en!)

Visit our collection online to see more images and discover more about this object

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Curator of Firearms, Jonathan Ferguson, with the Vampire Killing Kit

Vampire Killing Kit

Our Object of the Month is a Vampire Killing Kit that was acquired by the museum in 2012. The kit includes a crucifix, stakes, a mallet, rosary, a prayer book, and a pistol along with a range of other items to ward off or kill vampires.

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The Vampire Killing Kit, which includes a crucifix, a mallet, rosary, a prayer book and a pistol alongside a range of other items to ward off or kill vampires.

Vampires, the myth…

Vampires have been a staple of popular culture for two centuries, from the publication of Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ in 1819 to Stoker’s 1897 classic ‘Dracula’, to the many movies and video games produced in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The belief in real vampires is of course far older, and even persists to the present day. As recent as 2004, a Romanian family exhumed the body of a relative, cut out his heart with scythe and pitchfork, and burned it. This was a continuation of folklore that existed elsewhere in Eastern Europe for centuries.

When the Habsburg Empire invaded Serbia in 1718, it encountered these strange superstitions and spread news of them, providing the demand for vampire entertainment and literature in Western Europe.

How to kill a vampire…

The business of killing vampires was deadly serious, and historical accounts emphasised the need for particular methods and tools. Historically iron implements like knives, nails, skewers, ploughshares and scythes could be used to ‘stake’ the body or to remove the heart. The wooden stake through the heart was perhaps borrowed from fictional interpretations.

Decapitation and/or dismemberment was another common method, but rarely was a specialist weapon used. Next to the simple wooden stake, the sexton’s or gravedigger’s spade would have been the preferred vampire slaying weapon. If these measures were insufficient, the heart would be removed and burned, and/or the entire corpse would be cremated.

None of these typical vampire-killing weapons survive in museums or private collections today. As everyday items, they would have been discarded or returned to their normal domestic or agricultural use.

The rise of the killing kit…

In 1986 an unusual cased pistol was offered for sale in the United States as an ‘anti-vampire kit’ of the nineteenth century. It contained a percussion pocket pistol with accessories, a combined cross and stake in wood and ivory, and two silver bullets. A dog-eared label in the lid attributed this fascinating object to a Professor Blomberg and the gunmaker Nicholas Plomdeur of Liège.

A series of kits came to light in the years that followed, and values began to climb as the big auction houses got involved and speculated on their likely provenance. The consensus reached was that they were expensive novelties for enlightened western travellers to Eastern Europe. This seemed plausible enough, especially as real vampire killers were not wealthy and did not use expensive weapons.

Opinion in the antiques world remained divided, however. Many scoffed at the very idea of such a thing. One auctioneer in 1994 stated definitively that ‘there was never a vampire kit’ and that the lot in question had been created ‘to make money’. Yet others were prepared to pay into tens of thousands of dollars for these curios.

Some pieces were obviously of recent manufacture, exhibiting tell-tale signs of being put together from genuine antique parts and materials. Even those appearing absolutely ‘right’ could easily have been put together recently.

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The Vampire Killing Kit, which can be seen in the Hunting Gallery at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds

Is this a real kit…?

To answer this question, I completed a thorough survey of vampire slaying in both folklore and fiction. In the process it became clear that kits like our one could not have existed until the era of ‘Hammer’ horror films in the 1950s – 70s. Our kit is inspired by the movies, not Victorian stories and folklore.

This may come as a disappointment to some, and one would think this would affect the trade in these kits, if they are increasingly known to be ‘fake’. Yet in reviewing sales, something curious becomes apparent. Even kits catalogued as pieces of art or whimsy command high prices.

We in the museum world recognise the importance of ‘contemporary collecting’; after all, art galleries have been doing it for centuries. At the Royal Armouries we also collect modern pieces, including those made for stage and screen, often to the same standards as medieval originals.

We also collect the weird and unusual. The vampire kits clearly fall into this category. However, I maintain that they are valid pieces of material culture in their own right. With no other physical means of representing the historical conflict between people and imaginary creatures like vampires, these manufactured substitutes, themselves a good generation or two old already, are a way to interpret that lost part of history.

It is fitting, therefore, that the Armouries should preserve this example for the nation. It was purchased in full awareness of its uncertain origins, shortly after I published my research on the ‘Blomberg’ kits in ‘Fortean Times’ (see issue #288). It’s not impossible that it, and others, could pre-date the cinematic golden age of vampires. Chances are, though, that it’s a product of the 1970s or 80s.

Whatever its age, it remains an invented artefact that reflects our cultural obsession with the vampire and tells the story of the people that believed in, and tried to fight, our favourite monster.

Visit our collection online to see more images and discover more about this object

1066 and Warfare

Today, 14 October, marks 950 years since the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest. 1066 saw a pivotal change for England and Western Europe, changing the course of our history forever. To celebrate the 950th anniversary, the Royal Armouries is hosting a special out-of-hours lecture and two day conference at the Tower of London – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016.

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, over the last fifty years in particular, bringing together distinguished scholars who are specialists in many fields. The conference will focus on both the history of the year 1066 itself and on the general significance of the Conquest for English, British, and French history.

In this special guest blog, Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science, who will be speaking on day one of the conference, discusses the Battle of Hastings itself and warfare in 1066 and the questions we still have to answer…

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1066 is a year like no other in English history. During its course, both York and London surrendered to an invader and two kings were killed in battle. War is at the heart of the story, and the historian of warfare is extraordinarily fortunate for the amazing survival of the Bayeux Tapestry, which offers a uniquely wide range of vivid scenes.

We see castle warfare in France.

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We see – in some ways, most extraordinary of all – the routine of gathering supplies for a great army; logistical business too mundane to be described in written sources.

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We see the landing at Pevensey; men and horses disembarking.

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We see the invaders foraging and ravaging.

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We see, of course, the Battle of Hastings itself: Norman cavalry against English shield wall.

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We also catch glimpses of the horror of battle, for men and horses alike.

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And, perhaps most signifcant of all, we see the battle’s climax: the death of King Harold. But how exactly was he killed?

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And finally, as the tapestry breaks off, no longer complete, we see the English break in flight.

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But what happened afterwards? Were prisoners taken or not? And if not, why not?

For all the Tapestry’s extraordinary vividness, these and many other questions remain. Even, most simply but still controversial, where exactly did the battle take place? And plenty more important questions too. How unusual was the scale of the slaughter that day? Was Hastings a typical ‘medieval’ battle? If, as is widely believed today, commanders usually tried to avoid battle – why were there three major engagements (Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge and Hastings) within a few weeks in the autumn of 1066? If William, as the invader, wanted to bring a reluctant King Harold to battle, how did he manage it? Or did Harold also want a decisive battle? How important was the Norman cavalry? Did the Normans win because they were better trained and better equipped? Or was it just that on the day luck was in Duke William’s favour?

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham.

Biography

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Specialisms

Medieval history: narrative sources, primarily in north-western Europe in the 11th to 13th centuries, as evidence for the perceptions and values that shaped war and politics.

Principal publications

From ‘Civilitas’ to Civility: Codes of Manners in Medieval and early Modern England, 2002
The English in the Twelfth Century. Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values (Woodbridge), 2000
Richard I, 1999
William II. The Red King, 2015
Christian Warriors and the Enslavement of Fellow Christians, 2011
Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery. Britain and Ireland 1066-1485, 2014

1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016

1066 and landscape change post-Conquest

This October, to mark 950 years since the Norman Conquest, the Royal Armouries is hosting a public lecture and a two day conference at the Tower of London to celebrate the anniversary – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016 (14-16 October)   

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, bringing together distinguished scholars; experts in many fields. The conference will explore the history of the year 1066 itself and the general significance of the Conquest for English, British and French history. 

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On Day 2 of the conference, the Royal Armouries will be welcoming speaker Professor Robert Liddiard of the University of East Anglia, for 1066 and landscape change post-Conquest.

This special blog post, written by Professor Robert Liddiard, discusses his recent visit to Castle Hedingham in Essex, which got him thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape, and his upcoming paper at the conference…

It is a pleasure to be invited to speak at the Norman Conquest at the White Tower, but such invitations always draw my attention to the inadequacies of my image bank. As a late convert to digital technology most of the images I use comprise scanned old-fashioned slides, which increasingly show their age when used with modern projection equipment.

As a consequence I need no excuse to go to pleasant places on the pretext of getting superior pictures and as fieldwork took me to south Suffolk last week, I took the opportunity to nip over the border into Essex and visit Castle Hedingham. Not only was I able to replace the old slides with digital images, but the experience inevitably got me thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape and my paper at the conference.

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Castle Hedingham, Essex © Robert Liddiard

Castle Hedingham is best known for its well-preserved keep, probably raised by Aubrey De Vere III, 1st Earl of Oxford about 1141, and possibly the building in which his investiture as Earl took place. Much has been written about it as a keep, but my interest lies more in the castle’s landscape context: by the thirteenth century, and probably much earlier, two deer parks (the great and little park) were attached to the castle and the adjacent village was originally connected to the castle by enclosing banks and ditches; the precise date of which are frustratingly unknown.

When put into its contemporary setting, the whole site was truly vast. In recent years landscape historians have been able to show that, as settlements, castles tend to reflect the characteristics of their wider regional landscapes, and in this respect the configuration of the various elements that made up medieval Hedingham is typically ‘Essex’ – the ‘nucleated’ settlement of the village lying in the river valley, with the castle parks situated between the more dispersed hamlets and farmsteads on the valley sides and tops.

But Hedingham is also important because, while it is a remarkable survival of a ‘Norman’ building, it has little to do with the events of 1066 per se; rather, it belongs to a different generation – one that did not experience the Conquest at first hand. At the time of the keep’s construction, England was sliding into civil war and its ruling French-speaking aristocrats were thinking of using their castles to fight each other; rather than for keeping down a hostile English population opposed to Norman rule.

Thinking about monuments in terms of generational change is a reminder that historians of landscape tend to emphasise longer term trends in their analyses and so often play down the significance of short-term events, especially political ones. Of course, it would be immensely foolish to do so when it comes to 1066, especially at a conference taking place within the walls of the Conqueror’s own trophy monument to conquest, but places like Hedingham draw attention to the fact that not all of what we call ‘Norman’ in the countryside was an immediate consequence of the battle of Hastings.

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Castle Hedingham, Essex  ©  Robert Liddiard

The period 1000-1200 was one of enormous changes to the landscape, not all of which were related to the activities of the Normans. The castles, churches, parks and warrens of eleventh- and twelfth-century England frequently owed their existence to more subtle and drawn out trends in the development of the English countryside. How we tease out what was genuinely new in the landscape after 1066 and how they related to ongoing processes is the subject of my paper at the conference.

After all, how, if at all, would we recognise the ‘Norman’ in a place like Hedingham if it didn’t have a castle…?

Professor Robert Liddiard

Biography

Robert Liddiard lectures in landscape history at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. His chief research interest is the landscape context of castles, but also in the wider impact of the Norman Conquest on the countryside. His publications include Anglo-Norman Castles (2003) Castles in Context (2005) and The Medieval Park (2007).