A spectacular horde of heavy duty armour worn by soldiers going into battle to fight for King or Parliament has been acquired by the National Civil War Centre in Newark.
The amazing collection – comprising 25 objects – saw action during the deadly seventeenth British Civil Wars, which claimed the lives of 5% of England's population.
Originally privately owned, stand out items include a magnificent cavalry man's helmet, exquisite English rapier swords, together with a full set of pikeman's armour.
Curator Glyn Hughes explained:
“The quality of the collection is outstanding and we really could not pass up on the opportunity to acquire it. If only these objects could tell their story. Some are very unusual, such as the sappers' helmets, designed to protect the wearer from sharpshooters, and gauntlets retaining their leather lining. Many still bear their maker's mark and the oldest dates to the 1630s.”
Museum chiefs plan to exhibit the relics over coming years at the centre, which is the first of its kind in the UK and which opened in May 2015.
“Both Royalist and Parliamentarian armies used the same weaponry, so its impossible to tell which side used the armour,” said Glyn Hughes. “The armaments industry thrived during the civil wars, with workshops such as the one at the Tower of London a major strategic asset. Using the maker's marks there's lots more research we can do.”
Some breastplates and helmets have sustained dents caused by musket balls, either because they were hit in combat, or because they were being tested by their makers to show they could withstand an impact.
“The cuirassier armour – used by the cavalry – is particularly fine,” added Glyn Hughes. “Such troops were amongst the elite and their gear was costly to buy even back then. To see all the armour together is breathtaking – it gives you a small but vivid insight into the scale of the conflict.”
Notes to Editor
The National Civil War Centre is the first museum in the UK to tell the complete story of the British Civil Wars (1642 – 51). It is a flagship project by Newark and Sherwood District Council, backed by £3.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Opening hours are 10am to 5pm daily and entry is £8 adults, £7 concessions and £3.50 children. A season ticket is just £16 and English Heritage members go half price.
Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038