The Hall of Steel in the Royal Armouries in Leeds
The Royal Armouries is the United Kingdom's National Museum of Arms and Armour. It is the United Kingdom's oldest museum, and one of the oldest museums in the world. It is also one of the largest collections of arms and armour in the world, comprising the UK's National Collection of Arms and Armour, National Artillery Collection, and National Firearms Collection. It is also the keeper of the Tower of London history. The collection is split across three sites:
A limited selection of items is also on display in Louisville, Kentucky, in the United States, in cooperation with the Frazier International History Museum.
The Royal Armouries is one of the ancient institutions of the Tower of London and was originally engaged in the manufacture of armour for the Kings of England. In 1545, it is recorded that a visiting foreign dignitary paid to view the collection at the Armoury. By the time of Charles II, there was a permanent public display there; the "Spanish Armoury" which included instruments of torture and the "Line of Kings" - a row of wooden effigies representing the kings of England. This makes it the first museum in Britain. From 1414, the Tower was home to the Master of the Ordnance and the Ordnance Office (later the Board of Ordnance) who were responsible for providing weapons to both the Army and Navy. The Tower was engaged in the development, manufacture and storage of a wide variety of weaponry until the Board was abolished in 1855, however the historic collection remained. Only a small part of this could be displayed and in 1995, much of the artillery collection was moved to Fort Nelson in Hampshire and the following year a new Royal Armouries Museum was opened in Leeds. The remaining part of the collection relates directly to the Tower.
The National Heritage Act 1983 established the Armouries as a non-departmental public body, now sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
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