The Royal Armouries Museum celebrates 20 years in Yorkshire

Today, 15th March 2016, marks twenty years since the official opening of the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1996. The doors were opened to the general public the following April.

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HM Queen Elizabeth II meets Royal Armouries interpreters Andy Deane and Keith Ducklin. Keith and Andy are still integral members of our Visitor Experience team today.

The building, designed by renowned architect Derek Walker (chief architect for Milton Keynes development), became the first national museum with its headquarters based outside of London. The museum was developed under the leadership of the Director General and Master of the Armouries during that period, Guy Wilson. The construction project, which cost a total of £42.5 million, took two years to complete and its development was supported by national and local government, businesses, the University of Leeds, as well as press and media.

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Leeds Dock as it was from above, featuring the skeleton of the Leeds museum
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A news feature from the Yorkshire Evening Post on the newly opened museum

The Royal Armouries’ history stretches back over 900 years to its early role as the main royal and national arsenal housed in the Tower of London. It is one of the world’s oldest museums with a collection which has been on display to visitors for over 500 years.

Over time, as the world-class collection expanded and with limited display space available at the White Tower, a new home was required. The extensive search for a new site was focused in the north of England and led to the choice of Leeds as the best location for Royal Armouries new purpose-built museum after an initial scoping in Sheffield.

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Laying the foundations: the blessing of the Royal Armouries museum site prior to opening to the public with HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds has become an integral part of the cultural landscape in Leeds and Yorkshire, with a major impact on the regeneration Leeds. It continues to build positive relationships with a wide range of organisations, which include businesses and other cultural and educational organisations.

Behind the scenes filming the museum’s ‘Agincourt’ short film shown in our War Gallery.

Today, the museum has five main themed galleries which display 8,500 objects from weapons of the Bronze Age right up to those supplied to today’s armed forces. The museum includes the Hall of Steel, the architectural centrepiece of the museum with 2,500 items which represent the largest mass display of arms and armour assembled since the 19th century, and the record-breaking Elephant Armour.

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The Royal Armouries record-breaking Moghul Empire Elephant armour, seen in our Oriental Gallery
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The Hall of Steel contains 2,500 examples of 17th and 19th century arms and armour

A recent film of the Hall of Steel undergoing a spring clean

The Royal Armouries Museum has established a unique reputation for its event programme, with 1,800 performances, combat demonstrations, talks and workshops each year. Jousting and tournaments have been a highlight of the Royal Armouries event programme ever since it’s opening. Below is a short film featuring one of the earliest jousts in the museum’s specifically designed tiltyard in 1996.

This year’s Easter Tournament will run from 25 – 28 March as part of the museum’s twentieth anniversary celebrations. To find out more details our 20th anniversary Easter Tournament and book tickets, please visit our website.

The museum is also developing a new special exhibition schedule. Last year the Royal Armouries presented the highly-acclaimed Art of Battle exhibition, to mark the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo and Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard (27 May – 2 October) will be a highlight of 2016.

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The Royal Armouries ‘Art of Battle’ temporary exhibition