About Royal Armouries

The Royal Armouries is the United Kingdom’s national museum of arms and armour, and one of the most important museums of its type in the world. We will be blogging about all aspects of our three museums - our head office in Leeds, our historical home in the White Tower at the Tower of London, and Fort Nelson in Hampshire. Content comes from many contributors throughout the Museum including the Communications, Conservation and Curatorial teams.

Warrior Treasures: An introduction to the Staffordshire Hoard by Pieta Greaves

Pieta Greaves is Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Coordinator at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The items of the Staffordshire Hoard will be shown in Leeds as part of the Royal Armouries ‘Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold of the Staffordshire Hoard’ temporary exhibition, running from the 27th May until the 2nd October 2016. Discover more details via our micro-site, including our conference day Saturday 11th June http://warrior-treasures.uk/. Here, Pieta introduces the Staffordshire Hoard and discuss the importance of its discovery. 

Pieta Greaves in Conservation 14The Staffordshire Hoard is the most spectacular Anglo-Saxon find since the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial (Suffolk) in 1939. It was discovered in July 2009 by a metal detectorist, a mix of gold, silver and garnet items weighing over 6kg. Detailed conservation and research of its around 4000 fragments  is not yet complete, but most of the collection consists of fittings from weaponry. These were stripped from swords and seaxes (single-edged fighting knives), at least one helmet and other items, and probably represent the equipment of defeated armies from unknown battles, of the first half of the 7th century. The decorative styles within the hoard fall into a few major types: the gold filigree work, cloisonné garnet decoration, niello (a black silver or copper sulphide compound) and the silver gilt foils.

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The hoard laid on one table

Although fragmented, damaged and distorted, the hoard’s remarkable objects represent the possessions of an elite warrior class, stunning in their craftsmanship and ornament. Why it was buried, perhaps before c675 AD, we’ll never know.  Significantly it was discovered close to a then major routeway (Roman Watling Street), in what was the emerging Kingdom of Mercia. Warfare between England’s many competing regional kingdoms was frequent. The Staffordshire Hoard bears witness to this turbulent time in our history.

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A selection of objects from the Staffordshire Hoard

The large-scale conservation and research project into the treasure was launched in 2010, funded by the owners and Historic England. The ground-breaking work has uncovered internationally-significant objects that link us to an age of warrior splendour and are enabling experts to increase knowledge of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England.

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Sword pommels and hilt plates

The conservation team at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, with Curatorial and Registrar expertise at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, have been  working together to enable experts and specialists from across the UK and Europe to carry out specialist scientific analysis, investigative cleaning and X-ray photography of these amazing finds.

Blogs of the conservation and research work can be found on the Staffordshire Hoard website. We have also produced short films and podcasts with History West Midlands which can be seen and heard here and podcasts here.

The Anglo-Saxon specialist Chris Fern has been leading typological and stylistic analysis on the assemblage for the last 4 years, during which he has examined each item in the collection individually. He said: “The great Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, once believed to be artistic exaggeration, now has a true mirror in archaeology… The Staffordshire Hoard links us with an age of warrior splendour. The gold and silver war-gear was probably made in workshops controlled by some of England’s earliest kings, to reward warriors that served those rulers, when multiple kingdoms fought for supremacy. The skill of the craftsmen is equally thrilling to behold, with many of the finds decorated with pagan and Christian art, designed to give spiritual protection in battle.”

Chris Fern (top right) and the conservation team, Lizzie Miller (top left) and Kayleigh Fuller (bottom).

Anglo-Saxon society would have valued the weapon blades themselves at least as much as the precious metal they contained, as evidenced by the poem Beowulf. The will of Prince Æthelstan in 1014 bequeaths to his brother, Edmund Ironside, what he described as Offa’s sword, which would have been already have been well over a century old by that date, the hoard itself contains some pommel caps that could have come from these heirloom swords. This raises many question of how and why the hoard came to be buried in a Staffordshire field: was it spoils of war, a royal treasure chest or a payment for services rendered? Further work by the research team will attempt to answer these questions.

Sam Richardson and Deb Klemperer from The Potteries Museum and project coordinator Jenni Butterworth.

The Staffordshire Hoard is owned by Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils, and cared for on their behalf by Birmingham Museums Trust and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. It was acquired in 2010 with the generous support of the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as public donations. It is currently undergoing one of the UK’s largest archaeological research projects, conducted by Barbican Research Associates on behalf of the owners and Historic England, who fund the project.

All images © Birmingham Museums Trust.

Meet the horse: Sonidor


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14

Breed: Andalusian

Sex: stallion

Height: 16.1

Speciality: piaffe / passage

With his long and elegant limbs it’s easy to see how hundreds of years of intricate and careful breeding have made stallions like Sonidor the ideal choice for classical equitation. His flowing strides and exaggerated suspension give this horse all the grace of a dancer.

 

Meet the horses: Ocle

12835056_1107887065922427_640288587_nAge: 8

Breed: Andalusian

Sex: stallion

Height: 15.2

Speciality: airs above the ground

12825325_1107887079255759_127032007_nOcle is a bold and confidant stallion. With extensive experience in film work and live performance, his courage and intelligence is easily admired! Trained to strike shields, gallop through flames and leap high off the ground in graceful airs above the ground, Ocle is a perfect example of the qualities desired in a war horse.

During the Royal Armouries Easter tournament, you will have the chance to see Ben of Atkinsons Action Horses working Ocle in ‘liberty’ (as seen below) which means he is controlling the horse without any reigns or restraints.To see this, purchase your tickets to the Easter Tournament here.

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Meet the horses: Arthur


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15

Height: 15.1

Sex: gelding

Breed: Andalusian

Speciality: airs above the ground

 

Gaze upon equestrian perfection, as Arthur coils muscle in the rhythmic dance that is the piaffe then leaps high, hind legs lashing out with bone shattering force – as you glimpse the violent truth of historical equitation! Performing in the long reins so he is free of saddle and rider, allow your eyes to feast on nature’s most intricate and awe inspiring design that is the horse.

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Meet the Marshall: Lady of the Joust Kyle Van Dolah-Evans

Started riding: 3 years old in California12345636_1334318476595983_5073523824400523330_n

Started competing (show jumping/ eventing): 9

Top 10 young eventers in US by age 18

Moved to England: 2010

By day: Engineering planner

By Knight:

Performed at various displays (usually side saddle) for English Heritage, The Royal Armouries, and Destrier. Served as Lady of the Tournament for the Royal Armouries last year, and co-organizer of The Arundel International Tournament since 2013.

Started in tournaments in 2009 as ‘Master of the Horse’ for The Tournament of the Phoenix in California, came back as the ‘Lady of Honour’ (head of judging panel for that tournament, working with a Marshall) in 2010, 2011, 2012.

Kyle is the co-organizers of the Arundel tournament, and has been one of the lady judges for the past four years, judging the horsemanship and chivalry of the competitors.  In 2016 she will be the Marshall.  This position is traditionally held by the individual champion of the previous year, unfortunately the 2015 champion is unable to join us, so Kyle has graciously agreed to step into the role.  Kyle will be the first Lady Marshall in Arundel’s history.  She will be the head judge, supreme voice of authority on the field.  Kyle is well qualified to fill this role, having judged tournaments in the USA and England since 2009.  In addition to her tournament experience, she is an accomplished rider, having ridden and competed as an eventer since she was a young girl.  These days she often expresses her equestrian prowess  sitting side saddle, displaying more gumption than sense as she has been known to leap over dining tables, run relay races, throw javelins, charge at a quintain and fire a bow and arrow, all while riding side saddle.

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Meet the Jouster: Andy Deane ('Old Iron-arm')

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Andy Deane as individual champion at Arundel International Tournament 2014

Age: 51

Height: 180cm (5’9)

Weight: 82kg

Jousting since: 1993

Personal best/highlight: Leading the Royal Armouries team to victory a record breaking three times in a row for the coveted Sword of Honour in Leeds.

Motto: Fortis Labore (Strong work)

Strength: Experience.

By day: Visitor Experience Team Coach, Royal Armouries

By knight: (biography/career information)

As a young man-at-arms, in 1985, Andy strode out in front of an audience for his first ‘Trial by Combat’. Nervous, and with sword and shield in hand, he fought hard and well. That was it – he was hooked. As a boy Andy only ever wanted to be a knight, and that first combat gave him the thirst to practice all the martial skills of the medieval warrior. Having ridden horses since the age of four, to joust was the ultimate goal, and in 1993 Andy experienced the thrill of his first tournament as a jouster. In 1995 he joined the famous ‘Royal Armouries’ jousting team in Leeds, and had the honour of being captain of that team for many years. During this time Andy had the privilege of clashing with nearly all the top world jousters, past and present. Since that first combat thirty years ago, Andy has travelled across Europe, Asia, Canada and America performing and teaching the medieval martial skills needed by a knight to survive in tournament or battle.

Andy says “It is a privilege, once again, to represent the Royal Armouries at what is now the museums twentieth season of jousting here in Leeds. The truly international element of this years expanded tournament has ramped up my excitement at the prospect of crossing lances with some of the biggest, most aggressive Jousters ever seen in the museums arena.”

Additional talents: Open water diving, up to 30 metres.

Will Andy lead #TeamEngland to victory? Get your tickets to the Easter Tournament here to find out!

Watch Andy train his next apprentice in this short film…

See Andy’s epic training routine below in our epic mini-film with Leeds Dock’s Primal Gym – ‘How To Train a Knight’.


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Andy Deane’s colours

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Meet the Jouster: Stacy Van Dolah-Evans #TeamEngland

 

Age: 401 Armouries Tournament-161

High: 5’11

Weight: 12.5 stone

Armour: Burgundian Export 1475-1490

Motto: Mors Aut Gloria – Death or Glory

Jousting: 16 years

Strengths: experience in Jousting & Melee.

Won the Royal Armouries melee at the Easter Tournament 2015.

Weakness: NONE! (Perhaps overconfidence?)

Stacy is the producer of the International Tournament of Arundel Castle and also one of England’s finest jousters. Stacy has ridden horses since childhood at a competitive level, and progressed into mounted 15th century cavalry and tournament in 1999 when he joined the UK finest 15th century cavalry re-enactment group Destrier.

He holds a deep interest in military horsemanship throughout history, and particularly enjoys recreating British Cavalry of the 18th and 19th centuries. This has led him to ride with the Queen’s Royal Lancers Display Team at such events as Royal Military Tournament, in presence of HM the Queen.

Stacy regularly competes internationally and comes to the Royal Armouries in 2016, on the back of a successful season in 2015 winning the individual jousting champion and mounted melee in Poland & team champions at the Arundel International Tournament. Stacy has also been a holder of the Queen’s Jubilee Horn & sword of honour the Royal Armouries’ coveted jousting trophies.  Other jousting Tournaments he has secured victory is Tournois du Ly’sArgent in Quebec and Arundel international team champions 2013.  He is very much on form and will be focused on adding another tournament trophy to his cabinet.

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Stacy’s coat of arms

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Stacy was the winner of the Royal Armouries melee at the 2015 Easter Tournament

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Stacy Van Dolah-Evans 3

 

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Meet the Jouster: Jan Gradon

Age: 3511050957_10206262886357958_1358098300_n

Height: 194cm (6’3)

Weight: 100kg

Jousting since: 2007

Team: Poland

Personal best/highlight: Sword of Honour team championship at Royal Armouries’ Easter Tournament 2015, Team Championship at the 24th Tournament of King John III in Gniew Castle (2015, Poland), Tournament of the Phoenix 2011 (USA) Champion, the second individual position at Arundel International Tournament 2013 and Skill at Arms competition champion at Arundel 2014.

Motto: “Amor Vincit Omnia” (Love Conquers All)

Strength: Composure

By day: Office General Manager

By knight:

Jan began his career in 1996 with historical re-enactment on foot, and then got on a horse in 2005. He’s trained in full-contact medieval foot combat, portrayed an Ulhan cavalry-man of the 19th century Grand Duchy of Warsaw, and rode at Europe’s largest battle re-enactments, the battles of Tannenberg 1410-2010 (Poland), Hastings 1066-2006 (UK) and Waterloo 1815-2015 (Belgium).

As a member of Xiazeca Druzyna, the largest Polish historical mounted display team, Jan competes in tournaments across Europe and North America.

Jan competed in many tournaments in Poland, Belgium, United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

In 2015 was a part of the winning Polish team at the annual at the Royal Armouries’ Easter Tournament. This year he returns to defend the trophy.

To see Jan in action, book your tickets on our website or by calling bookings on 0113 220 1888.

Day tickets cost from £10 for adults and £5 for concessions!

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Jan Gradon’s colours.

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‘How to be a Knight’

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‘Warming up’

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The winning team Poland! Jan is pictured here with Jarek and the Sword of Honour at the Royal Armouries Easter Tournament 2015.

 

Meet the Jouster: Jarosław 'Jarek' Struczyński

Age: 51988424_688172781246965_4677779373824770768_n

Height: 1.71m (5’6)

Weight: 74 kg

Jousting since: 2006

Team: Poland

Personal best/highlight: Individual champion of the Royal Armouries Easter Tournament 2015, and therefore winner of the Queen’s Jubilee Horn.

Highest individual score on Le Tournoi du Lys d’Argent in Canada in 2012, Tournament in Trondheim, Norway and Tournament of the Phoenix, USA in 2013.

Motto: “Deo omnis gloria” (All glory to God)

Strength: Trust

By day: Founder of several re-enactment groups (15th – 17th century) and organised numerous international military/historical events.

By knight:

Having instigated the reconstruction and regeneration of Gniew Castle 1992, Jarek has supported the site’s transformation into one of Poland’s leading centres for historical re-enactment and the cultivation of past traditions.

He is co-organizer of the largest re-enactment event in Poland (The Battle of Tannenberg 1410), where he portrays the Grand Master of Teutonic Order, and is co-founder and Marshall of the Chapter of Polish Knights. Jerek has been heavily instrumental in setting up jousting tournaments across Poland, and has taken part in competitions in Poland, England, Belgium, France, Norway, Canada and the USA. He achieved highest individual score at Le Tournoi du Lys d’Argent in 2012, and Tournament in Trondheim and Tournament of the Pheonix in 2013.

Additional talents: Founder member of the Gregorian choir of Schola Cantorum Gymevensis.

Will Jarek retain his title as champion? Find out at our 2oth Easter Tournament this year! Purchase your ticket via this link.

Jarek Struczynski's colours.

Jarek Struczynski’s colours.

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Jarek was the Individual Champion at our 2015 easter Tournament, seen here winning the Queen’s Jubilee Horn.

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The winning team, Jan and Jarek of team Poland, seen here with the Sword of Honour.

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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