A lovely birthday in Leeds

It was my birthday at the end of March and what better way to spend my birthday than at one of my favorite ever museums, Leeds Royal Armouries!

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That banner is made of chainmail btw!

Leeds Armouries has always been one of my favorite places to spend the day; family days out, watching the joust with cousins, to getting the £1 summer holidays bus deal from Huddersfield, spending hours there with so many of my favorite people. I even used the museum as a case study in one of the essays I wrote while I was at uni.

Pretty amour

Pretty amour

Even though I have been many times before I always managed to spot something new that I had never noticed. And there are so many fascinating and pretty things there, I don’t think I could ever get bored.

The famous Hall of Steel

The famous Hall of Steel

It has been a few years since I last visited so I was really excited to go back, especially as my good friend has just started working there too. We did nearly get a little lost because in the intervening years the area around the Armouries has sprung up, it’s almost unrecognisable but thanks to those trusty brown signs we found our way.

My very lovely little brother indulged me all day so we spent hours in the Armouries, with a little pizza break halfway through at the convenient Pizza Express right on the doorstep! I got to re-visit the elephant armour I have always loved, that originally came from Powis Castle!

Elephant!

Elephant!

I love the interactives in the War Gallery, including holding swords, pulling bows and a quiz on different types of weaponry (which me & Jake aced!). Behind one of these interactives is also a video that I love to watch, a man in a full suite of armour doing a cartwheel!! The video is to prove that it can be done but I just keep imagining my friends who own similar get ups attempting it and the outcome probably not being quite the same. I can tell you one thing, I wouldn’t even attempt it for fear of seriously injuring myself and whoever I landed on top of!

Jake playing with one of the interactives

Jake playing with one of the interactives

So much of the collection at the Armouries is not only functional but also really beautiful. I love that something made for such a practical and often not very friendly purposes is also an object of beauty.

More pretty armour

More pretty armour

A slightly random little detail I liked where the stands for the guns in the upper section of the war gallery. The display focuses on WW1 and showcases the evolution of weaponry throughout the conflict, very interesting. The stands for the guns are metal hands, showing how the items would have been held, a really clever idea.

The handy stands

The handy stands

Though the collection at the Armouries obviously has a large part to do with war and violence the Armouries take an admirable stance on educating about the importance of peace, with several displays talking about work being done to end war and violence. I find the most shocking and interesting gallery is their ‘Self Defense’ gallery where they include a display of weapons handed over during a weapons amnesty in Leeds. It is a very emotive display and I thinks it sends a really powerful and important message.

More pretty things

More pretty things

The self defense gallery shows items used for personal protection throughout the ages, including this little piece that I have always liked for just how over the top it is. It is an Apache Revolver and combines a gun, knuckle duster and knife. Talk about over kill!

Ouch!

Ouch!

We also discovered on our visit that there was some conservation work happening live! I was very excited about this and dragged Jake off to see it.To tie in with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo the Armouries are cleaning and restoring the model scene of the battle. There is a post about the work on the Royal Armouries Blog with some fantastic photos of the detail of the pieces!

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It looks like a project that you could really get stuck into, a long haul but very rewarding in the end I’m sure. The whole thing is being cleaned but some of the lead figures have corroded. Where this has happened limbs might be missing so conservators are remodeling pieces and restoring the figures. It sounds like very delicate work on a tiny scale! Conservator Cym was kind enough to pose for a photo for me with the sections she is currently working on. Each section is about one meter squared in size and there are ten in total. Keep up the good work guys and thanks for sharing!

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The gallery that often comes closest to being my absolute favorite (it’s a very tight competition) is the Oriental gallery, for the amazing beauty and craft in so many of the objects. This gallery also has some really fascinating videos to watch, so we spent a lot of time in here. I just love the attention to detail that has gone into making these objects so ornate.

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Beautiful stirrups

This coat of plates also features some amazing embroidery. It is an 18th Century Chinese Cavalryman’s Brigandine, pretty and practical.

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And there are sparkles on these handles encrusted with mother of pearl. Beautiful!

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I already can’t wait for my next visit, to see what changes between now and then and discover something else I’ve never spotted before. Quite jealous I can’t be there for the amazing Easter joust this weekend but I’ve been working. Well . . . there is always next year! All in all an awesome way to spend my birthday!

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