Leeds & The Royal Armouries

I noticed this on the way up to Scotland, but didn’t have time to hit it then – so I made a beeline for it when leaving Glasgow. Long drive. Boring.

Worth it.

The Royal Armouries have lots of medieval and post-medieval (and even a few bits of pre-medieval) armour … lots of weapons also. They have some of the best sets of mail armour I have ever seen, and their collection of partial plate armour from the 13th-14th centuries is also top notch.

These pieces are not at all proof pieces, they were intended for actual use – though in many cases, for the earlier periods, they’re sets or parts of sets that were owned by wealthy nobles simply because they were so bloody expensive.

Later periods, the 15th-16th century, and you start to get ‘munition’ armours – sets made relatively cheaply as the cost of producing iron and steel went down with improved smelting and manufacturing technologies and intended to be issued to the better class of ‘grunts’ … and you also get the really really really nice sets of armour intended for parade or display use by the ultra wealthy … including two sets made for Henry VIII for the famous Cloth of Gold tournament with the King of France.

Weapons are well represented, personal ones anyway – including lots of pistols and longarms from matchlocks onwards, including those intended for use by regular soldiers as well as those prettied up for wealthy hunters or as presentation pieces.

There was even a selection of modern (i.e. 20th-21st century) firearms, mainly oddball stuff or stuff confiscated by the Police or Customs, or used in crimes and seized by the Police as a result.


Finding parking was a chore – most of the available spots (and being a Sunday there were quite a few) near to where I wanted to go was a chore, the Pay & Display ticket machines only accepted coins (and wanted ridiculous amounts) or phone apps, but I managed to find a multi-storey car park that had machines which accepted notes and coins and card payments.

The Museum of Science & Industry, one of the two places I wanted to see, was an almost complete dud. Of the five Halls, three were completely closed for refurbishment and one of the two remaining ones (the Aerospace Hall) was full of displays all right, but a good 40% were either fully or completely covered in tarpaulins and invisible … still, it did have a nice Shackleton ASW/AEW conversion on display, and the other Hall open had the original Rocket on loan from the Science Museum in London.

The Rocket

Fortunately the other place I wanted to see, the Imperial War Museum (North) was much better – a T-55 out front and a Matilda in Desert colours inside. There weren’t many big items, it was mostly display cases full of smaller things, but it was comprehensive, covering Britain’s wars from WW1 through to the Cold War, and there was a display on the Fighting (and awful consequences of that) in Yemen as well.

T-55 at the Imperial War Museum (North)
Matilda in Desert Camo

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