An Everyday Story of Museum Ffoulkes

Keeper of the Tower Armouries, Bridget Clifford, continues her posts on Charles John Ffoulkes, who was Curator of the Armouries from 1913-1938 – during which he took part in the World War I civil defence of London, completed the first and last complete modern printed catalogue of the Tower collection, and created a museum infrastructure within The Tower. After his retirement, he was awarded an OBE in 1925 and a CBE in 1934 in recognition of his work on the Imperial War Museum.

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