Agincourt600: The Installation of the model

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.
  • How the figures were placed into battle formation, with the help of Professor Anne Curry – see this link.
  • and how the model was prepared for the Tower – see this link

Here David Marshall concludes with (for now) the final chapter of the Agincourt model project – it’s installation into the White Tower at the Tower of London… (Until its move to Leeds later next year!)

The big day was finally here. The diorama had to be at the base of the Tower of London at 7.30am on the 22nd of September ready to be winched up into the top floor.

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I picked up the van on Monday 21st morning, the Perrys arrived at my house about midday, and off we went to the Hub in Redditch to pick up the diorama. They had been storing it since making the table and frame for it, and could make sure everything fitted and worked at their factory – ensuring a problem free fitting into the Tower.

The diorama was loaded into the van and so started the most nervous part of the whole two year project – driving the model to London. Throughout the whole build I had been in control, however, in the two hours it took to drive to the hotel anyone could have thumped into me and devastated the whole thing. The model was all insured, but still it would have been a catastrophe.

Thankfully everything went smoothly, the hotel was located and the van parked in a secure car park for the night. Massive sign of relief and we all deserved a beer or two! We soon found ourselves in the local bar for a meal and a drink. Amazingly, while we were there, Michael Perry was recognised by a couple of Italian figure manufacturers so handshakes and photos were swapped before they left.

Tuesday morning came. It was early and the rain was bouncing off the road – not really the best weather to winch an exhibition into the top of the White Tower. The last nervous moment was getting to the van and checking the model hadn’t been nicked overnight. On discovering all was well we found ourselves at the Tower at 7.30am as arranged. It was still raining…

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There was a lot to get into the Tower so we waited until it was out turn. I expected to be worried about the diorama being winched up, but after watching the various other precious items being lifted up by the skilled crane operator my nerves were eased.

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The diorama pieces were 1 metre wide but the crates were 1.30 metres wide. The window which was our entry point into the tower was over 1.4 metres wide, but there was another arch on the inside of the Tower that was 1.1 metre wide, so if we kept the diorama in its travelling crates then we would have to turn it on its side. I wasn’t 100% confident that the diorama would stay secure if that happened, so the Perrys and I decided to take the four sections out of their crates before we winched them up. It was a good idea and worked well – and thankfully it had stopped raining!FullSizeRender

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I stayed on the ground and Alan and Michael went upstairs to check it all went well up there. There were no problems so I worked my way up to the top floor and found the 4 pieces arranged on the floor. We were in – so it was coffee and cake time.FullSizeRender[2]FullSizeRender[1]

There was a lot of other activity going on in the exhibition, so we had to wait until a space was cleared for us to work. We had allowed two days to install the diorama. We didn’t have two days of work to do on it but we needed to allow for fillers and glues to dry overnight so we could paint it the next day. It meant we could be quite relaxed about it all as long as we could get what we needed done by the end of that first day.

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A strange moment – lying on the floor of the Tower by myself admiring the wooden ceiling – all for research of course!

There was another event at the Tower in the evening so we had to be finished about 5.30. It meant we had not quite done what we had planned, but we had done enough to make the next day a success. We left the Tower, walked back to the hotel and then off to the pub again for more food and beer.

The next day was not such an early start. We got there about 9am and started filling the gaps between each section of diorama. During the morning the Royal Armouries team arrived and we arranged a final sign off meeting for 2pm that afternoon. IMG_0748

The rest of the day was taken up with the gap filling, painting and generally tidying it all up and making sure nothing had been missed. We were finished by 1.45pm. Plenty of time to spare!

At 2pm on the dot – Emma Carver (Director of Public Engagement at the Royal Armouries) and Edward Impey (Executive Director and Master of the Royal Armouries) arrived and by 2.15pm we had final approval. We were finished.

The two days at the Tower were a wonderful experience. We knew exactly what we needed to do and knew we had quite a lot of time watching paint dry so it was pretty relaxed. It meant we could enjoy and appreciate the surroundings and I let it finally sink in that we really were in the Tower and the diorama was going to be seen by everyone who visits for the next 3 months. Mind blowing really.

I was home in Loughborough in time to have a bite to eat and sit and watch the Great British Bake Off! I know how to celebrate a job well done.

The project that had taken over two years to complete was pretty much over. The only things left were the official opening on the 22nd October, the day before it is open to the public and then finally installing it in its long term home at the Royal Armouries in Leeds next year.

Below are a few shots of the David Marshall and the Perry’s stunning diorama happily sitting in pride of place in our new Agincourt exhibition – open as of today until the 31 January! For more details please visit this link. To find out more about how the model was made, including how the terrain was composed, and how the figures were made and painted, please visit this link.

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The stunning diorama in situ in our Agincourt exhibition - open TODAY!
The stunning diorama in situ in our Agincourt exhibition – open TODAY!
A dying French knight reaches out for his horse as The French cavalry charge the English lines.
A dying French knight reaches out for his horse as The French cavalry charge the English lines.
English archers behind their defensive stakes
English archers behind their defensive stakes
General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.
General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.
King Henry V encourages his English army to victory
King Henry V encourages his army to victory
A French noble man encourages his men toward the English lines.
Marshal Boucicaut encourages his men toward the English lines.
The French cavalry charge the English lines
The French cavalry charge the English lines