The Royal Armouries, Leeds

On a day trip into Leeds to liven up the summer holidays a little, I decided to visit the Royal Armouries, which I haven’t done properly in a few years now. It’s free to get into which is always good, and has 4 floors of military history artifacts and exhibits, as you would expect from the name. Now, I’m not a huge military history fan and got round everything in about an hour and a half, but I imagine if you were really into this aspect of the past, or had children you could easily spend longer as there’s lots of extra activities for kids too.

There’s weaponry from across the globe which is really interesting to see- there’s a new oriental exhibit opened since last time I came which was very different to the European medieval type pieces that make up two floors worth of the museum. They also had a partnership with some local charity on the top floor for an exhibit about modern crime and violence which seemed a little out of place but they did have some good, more historical, parts of it such as a very rare Victorian lady’s purse gun. The main part of the museum, as I said, was the medieval knight style section which had some very impressive armour and is my favourite part simply because I like this time period the best.

The best part of the Armouries however are the displays- I watched the sword fighting this time, but there are lots of others spaced throughout the day, plus jousting and sometimes hawking outside in the summer holidays (watching the jousting does cost but I remember it to be amazing when I last came). The two men doing the sword fighting were clearly experts and talked about how to do the moves and their research into medieval fighting before having a good old fight. They also let you hold the sword and ask questions afterwards which is always fun.

It was an enjoyable visit but like I said, it really depends on how much of this style of history you like. They have tried to make it interactive and fun, but there’s only so many weapons you want to see before they start to look the same…. I was also a little disappointed by the Waterloo exhibition- it was heavily advertised but only had a small section of information etc. as the main focus was on a huge painting from the time. “The Art of Battle” was clearly more focused on the art than the war, which was a shame on the 200th anniversary of such an important event.

Waterloo cartoon by Daniel Maclise

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