∴ A Long-Awaited Trip ∴
It was becoming an increasingly guilty secret that Chris and I had never visited the Royal Armouries. As the UK’s national collection of arms and armour, it is the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of a sword-based research trip. Not only that, but many of the museum’s contents have directly inspired our creations.
So when our dear friend Dan Smith at Swordpunk offered to put us in touch with the curators, we were all too glad to rectify our past negligence and start planning a trip to Leeds.
Needless to say, we were not disappointed. Not only were we treated to an exceptional level of hospitality, with Assistant Curator of European Edged Weapons Iason Tzouriadis taking time out of his schedule to show us around. We were also able to delve into the fabled Store 3, where the non-display edged weapons are kept.
∴ A Forest of Blades ∴
Stepping into that room was like entering a forest of blades: racks of polearms, shelf after shelf of sabres, sideswords, rapiers, broadswords, greatswords, messers, dussacks and more, and drawers full of daggers and carefully-kept remains of early Medieval swords. We were at loss for words – which gave our host plenty of time to fill us in on the stories behind some of the exceptional pieces stored there.
It is hard to put a figure on how many swords we held and handled during our tour, from bronze age leaf blades to famed film props, but along the way Chris was able to gain a nuanced appreciation of an array of historical balances, making mental notes which he frantically transcribed to paper on the train journey home.
∴ A Deep Dive ∴
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s never more the case when you’re swinging antique swords. While we were aghast to discover that we’d run out of time for our initial purpose, taking measurements, Iason was kind enough to let us return the following morning for some more in-depth study.
This time Chris selected two swept hilt rapiers, similar enough at a casual glance but intriguingly different when it came to the details. We dedicated an hour to exploring every aspect of these, with Chris taking detailed measures and me taking hundreds of photos focusing on features of manufacture such as splits and welds in the barwork.
These observations will hopefully form the basis for a deeper understanding of historical methods of manufacture, as well as what work went into creating the particular feel and balance of each sword.
∴ A Planned Return ∴
We stumbled out of the armouries dazed and delighted, seeing flashes of fullered blades and fettled hilts every time we closed our eyes. There was far too much in Store 3 to take in over a couple of days, and as we journeyed on we were already discussing our focuses for our next visit.
While we continue to pore over our measures and photos from the trip, gleaning everything we can from them, we just wanted to issue an enormous thank you to Iason, as patient as he was knowledgable, to everyone at the Armouries who made our visit possible, and to Dan for setting the whole thing up. We can’t wait to report on our next trip!
∴ Alicia Lewis, 23/02/2023 ∴