English archers behind their defensive stakes
English archers behind their defensive stakes

As part of the museum’s commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique collection at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For this special exhibition, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

So far in our blog series on making the model…

  • David Marshall has given an overview of how the project took place – see this link
  • The Perry brothers have detailed how they produced the bespoke figures for the battlefield – see this link
  • David has detailed how he shaped the terrain of the battlefield – see this link. 
  • Rob Henson (Painted Wargames) and Aly Morrison have taken us through how they painted the armies of Agincourt – see this link.
  • and how the figures were placed into battle formation, with the help of Professor Anne Curry – see this link.

Possibly the trickiest element of this project was going to be it’s transportation to the Tower of London. Here, model maker and project manager David Marshall writes on the highs – and challenges – of the model’s journey.

3A1DD2E4-2A74-41AB-A260-222B128FF721Right at the beginning I quickly identified that the packing and delivery of a 4m x 2m diorama would be the most challenging and unpredictable part of the whole project. The model had resided in my workshop for the last two years in a controlled safe environment, but as soon as the model left the building into the big wide world anything could happen!

I contacted a supplier of purpose built crates as early as the tender-stage of the project, to price up and advise on the best way of packing the finished diorama to deliver it safely to the Tower of London, and later to the museum in Leeds. I also checked at this point that I could hire a van big enough to contain the model – as I was determined I would drive it down myself rather than hand it over to a courier company! Call me paranoid but I wanted to make sure I had done everything in my power to get the model safely to the Tower after two years intense work.

When it was time to order the crates for the model, the Perrys and I discussed how they should be designed, how we would get the boards out of the boxes and other practical things like that. We decided we would go with an ‘upside down box’ approach, as recommended by the company. The ‘lid’ was the base of the model and once the diorama piece was sitting on this lid we would then slide the sides and top over it – which avoided lifting the pieces in.

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In the process of ordering the boxes I double checked on the size of the van. The original design of the crates made them 2.25 metres long each. It was a good job I checked as the longest van I could get was 4.25 metres long. I had intended to lay two crates end to end, which meant the van was by 25cm short!  Fortunately, we were able to amend the crate size to 4.15metres long. Crisis averted!

When the crates were delivered, I hired an extra-long transit van for an hour just as a final belt and braces test to make sure everything fitted… and it did.The diorama was due to be delivered and installed into the White Tower on the 22nd September, but before this could happen the model needed to be framed in a special case ready for the general public. This meant the model had to be close to complete sign off well before that date.

The final meeting at Loughborough with me and the team from the Royal Armouries came in early August, and I expected it to be one of the most nervous days of my life – two years work came down to this meeting and their final approval. The Perrys and I had worked very closely with the Royal Armouries throughout the model’s development, but even so when it came down to D-Day I was expecting some serious nerves.

I decided to do a big reveal, so as everyone arrived I ushered them into a meeting room until the whole party was present so I could show everyone at once for a (hopefully positive) big reaction. Whilst we waited for the whole party, we chatted with cups of coffee and enjoyed a batch of my wife’s home-made cookies (Frances had baked regularly for the team over the last two years and had deservedly gained legendary status amongst them for her delicious treats).

It was at that moment I realised I was completely confident that the Perrys and I had done a great job on the diorama, so I wasn’t nervous at all! I was confident it was going to be well received which was a fantastic feeling. My instinct was thankfully rewarded as the model was met with an abundance of ‘wows’ and ‘greats’ which was such a thrill, with only a few final amends to organize before the big move. I arranged the final additions to take place whilst I was away, so I could go off on holiday a happy man.

When it came to moving the model for its journey to Redditch, to be encased ready for the exhibition, I arranged for a friend to help with the loading.

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We learnt a lot very quickly! It turned out that two people really wasn’t enough to move the crates safely – the diorama and crates weren’t very individually heavy but together suddenly they were hard to lift. Also, and this was a big one, not all extra-long transits are the same length! We got one crate into the van and it became obvious there wasn’t enough depth to get another crate in. Disaster was looming but a quick call to the van hire company and we were able to swap it over for the van I did the dry run with. After collecting the new van we headed back to the studio, picking up my friend’s son Ben on the way – who at 23 was the perfect addition to the loading/unloading team.

Now we had the right sized van and enough people for the job – so after a false start we got the other 3 crates in the van quite smoothly. That morning was tricky but I’m glad we could work those issues out before shipping the model to the Tower, when timings were very tight indeed. The lessons learnt that morning made the move to the Tower go without a hitch.

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The Hub in Redditch, where the model would be fitted with its case, was about an hour away from me in Loughborough so a nervy drive later we arrived and the van was empty in no time as there were 4 or 5 people to help.

Soon after that, the full team met at the Hub with the Royal Armouries for the last project meeting I would attend. I was there really to answer any questions about the diorama and be ready to sort out any unforeseen problems. As it turned out everything was fine so I could just enjoy finding out how everything else was going. Before I left I arranged with The Hub when the model would be packed away ready for its journey to the Tower, as I would collect it on route down to London.

As I drove home to Loughborough that day I realised that my model-making role was complete (until installation on the 22nd September). It meant that for the first time in two years I didn’t have to think about Agincourt…. for just over a week anyway!

Coming up – the final ‘making the model post’ on installing the model in the White Tower.

To see the model visit the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition at the White Tower of the Tower of London from Friday 23 October until the 31 January. For more details please see this link.