Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Royal Armouries, Leeds

The walk to the museum
One of the latest excursions we had was a trip to the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

Out of all the places we have visited in the last few weeks, this one has to be at the bottom of the list and the least recommended.

The museum itself is at Clarence Docks, a nicely modernised area of Leeds, but to get there we had to travel through what I thought were fairly run-down areas. Clarence Docks itself is full of new high rise buildings and modern shops, stores and cafes. But every one of them is empty! It looks as though they were opened at one time but it seems the owners have since abandoned them leaving all the fixtures and fittings in place. It’s like something from a futuristic movie, as though we were transported through time to a place where people no longer exist.

Royal Armouries Museum
The first of the pictures shown here were taken on a weekday in the middle of the morning. Where are all the people? You would have expected to see someone around, perhaps not doing any window shopping, but surely there should have been at least a few people wandering around. The place was deserted. Apart from a little Tesco Direct shop we found on our way to the museum where we were able to get a sandwich for lunch, there was no other signs of life.

Big guns
We did see signs of civilisation once we got into the museum. There were a few groups of people scattered about, including a class of school children running around, but as there is no admission fee I would have thought that there might have been a few more people around than what there was. The thing that struck me the most was the abundance of security guards. They were everywhere. Each corner we turned there was a security guard watching our every move, it seemed as though they were just waiting for a reason to pounce. This feeling of being watched all the time was off-putting to say the least, certainly a reason for not wanting to pay a return visit any time soon.

Just some of the weapons on display
There are five galleries in the museum set out over several floors. The building is large and very roomy but once or twice we found ourselves having to search for the stairs or a lift to the next level. The displays in each of the galleries are impressive, but a lot of it is repeated over and over again. For example, in one of the galleries we saw cabinet after cabinet with various swords in them; in one cabinet were swords of a certain length, in the next they were an inch or so bigger. Then another cabinet showing swords with different handles, or made in a different year. All very impressive but I thought there was too much of the same thing over and over again.

The Hunting Gallery
In the ‘War Gallery’ we saw displays about the development of weapons and the art of warfare from early times to World War II and beyond. The displays took us through medieval warfare and suits of armour to the mass produced weapons of the 19th century. There was a ‘Self Defence Gallery’ and an ‘Oriental Gallery’ which concentrated on the great civilisations of Asia, and a ‘Hunting Gallery’ which showed the history and evolution of hunting from prehistoric times up to present day Olympic sports.

There are literally thousands and thousands of items on display there and I should imagine that if you wanted to see them all, you would need to spend a full day at the museum and not just a few hours in the afternoon.

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