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 anOBE in 1925 and a CBE in 1934 in recognition of his work on the Imperial War Museum.
The year 1913 ended on a high for ffoulkes with the acquisition of a large volume of the Inventory and Remains of the Tower and Armouries on 18 December. History fails to record what ffoulkes had actually been looking for in the Ordnance Office, but his discovery and subsequent annexation of this “1,000 pages” dealing with armour stores from 1675-8 was a weighty addition to the collection.
Other curatorial highlights had included the cleaning of the mask of the horned helmet, “which had been painted red since 1660”, to reveal the engraved decoration beneath. This grotesque helmet (IV.22) is all that remains of an armour gifted to the young King Henry VIII by the Emperor Maximilian I and remains a startling piece.
Front of house, ffoulkes had continued the work re-organising the displays on the White Tower top floor that his predecessor and mentor, Lord Dillon, had begun. Most spectacularly Henry VIII’s silver and engraved armour had been remounted on Mr Joubert’s noble, if not entirely life-like model horse, in May.
January 1914 saw the Burgundian Bard shed its rider and move from balancing on the light well crossbeams to the central North side of the gallery.
Perhaps most importantly, ffoulkes addressed a number of basic collection issues. In July 1913, he tackled the “question of the military remains of the United Kingdom” involving the British Museum, the Rotunda Woolwich, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and of course the Tower Armouries. Despite the Rotunda’s refusal to participate, and RUSI’s non-committal approach, a committee was formed, meeting at the Tower in December and their initial report produced in January.
In October 1913, he had contacted the Lords Lieutenant of various counties proposing the return of their militia colours currently held at the Tower, suggesting they be kept in a local church or public building thereafter. By 31 December 1913, he had their consent, and so the New Year dawned with the prospect of numerous photo opportunities as ffoulkes personally made the returns. His master stroke? The counties footed the bill.
Armed with the Treasury’s grant of £765 towards producing a large illustrated catalogue of the Armouries – roughly equivalent to £62,200 today – ffoulkes had a busy year in prospect.
There was still the outstanding question of accommodation. The Armouries’ office consisted of a mural passage running along the south face of the White Tower top floor, behind the displays and inherited from the Storekeepers. Dillon had chosen to conduct his extensive correspondence from his library in Ditchley, thriftily travelling up to London 3rd class to deal with the collections. Meanwhile, foulkes was resolved to achieve better on site provision, but coming events would overshadow and delay such considerations.
Blogger: Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries