Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialEntertainment & SportEvents & Listings.

The Royal Armouries, Leeds, the review

Samantha Grimes swashbuckles her way with mum and child to Leeds’ biggest museum

Published on July 2nd 2010.


The Royal Armouries, Leeds, the review

I have to admit, when the prospect of a trip to the Royal Armouries in Leeds was first mooted, I was under-whelmed to the point of disenchantment. Not being a 12 year old boy, I reasoned that there must be something I could be doing instead – counting all the bits of fluff I'd recently found under the bed, for instance, or watching an England football match.

I'm not sure I'd have been particularly thrilled about facing hand-to-hand combat in a suit of very heavy but delightfully-crocheted textiles had I been a Japanese foot soldier in the Battle of Sekigahara

However, in the interests of confounding stereotypes and broadening my horizons, I dragged along my mum and my 9-month old son – possibly none of us fitting the target audience of a tourist attraction based around war and blokes, but even better, I thought, to test its family-friendly qualities. Besides which, my mum has watched 'A Knight's Tale' about 35 times, and was chomping at the bit at the prospect of finding a Heath Ledger-style knight in the centre of Leeds.

Initial impressions were not promising, as we were buffeted by a particularly nasty wind across the soulless forecourt. The purpose-built museum is situated next to a modern development of shops and apartments near the centre of Leeds, which leads to a ghost-town feel around the entrance, but also means there is a vast multi-storey car park to leave the car in; there's some disabled parking available within the Royal Armouries itself, if required.

Once inside, and considerably warmer, we marvelled at the cavernous entrance hall which stretches upwards to a full-height ceiling and surprised me by hinting at four – four, no less – floors of armoured historical delights. What, I muttered to myself while tweaking my neck peering up at a mounted suit of armour suspended about 30 feet above us, in the name of Heath Ledger, can four floors do with armour and guns? Surely there's a limit to its educational and entertainment value?

Ably directed by a helpful member of staff, we began by scurrying back across the vast forecourt outside to the Tiltyard, where, our sheet detailing the day's events informed us, we could witness a demonstration of jousting skills. Mother was off like a shot, the sound of metal on metal and spur on horse hide ringing in her ears. It may have been cold, and grey, and a little like watching a Health & Safety Executive-produced version of 'King Arthur: The Camp Years', but the only boy in our party displayed more excitement than was probably necessary; it was informative, and clear, but lacked the dash and clash us girls had been hoping for. Still, there is the opportunity to wander into the stable area after each performance and meet the horses and their riders, but on this occasion we were turning a cerulean shade of blue, and decided warmth was definitely the better option.

I have to own up here to a lingering love of history and a decidedly romantic streak, so wandering around cases full of glittering armour, each with its own story, was a joy. The delicate silver engraving decorating many of the suits seems at odds with the dents and blows of mortal combat still visible; the sheer size of the enormous horse head armour, and the weight of even a small piece of chain mail which hangs from one of the many interactive exhibits, all serve to illustrate the ferocity of war in a very visual way.

I was momentarily diverted by what I assumed to be an early Medieval version of a coffee cup holder on one suit of armour, until the Heath Ledger fan pointed out that it was for resting one's joust on; fair enough – I'm all for labour-saving devices, and frankly, after clambering into that lot and being hoisted onto something the size of an elephant, I'm not surprised they needed a breather.

A few rooms further on, there's a display of actual elephant armour – the mount of choice for the angry Indian soldier in the Battle of Panipat, 1526 AD. Unfortunately, they lost to a load of foot soldiers – an early lesson in the size-isn't-everything department, clearly. It's interesting to compare European and Far Eastern versions of battle gear too – I'm not sure I'd have been particularly thrilled about facing hand-to-hand combat in a suit of very heavy but delightfully-crocheted textiles had I been a Japanese foot soldier in the Battle of Sekigahara.

I liked the way in which the relics of war in past centuries were balanced by an exhibition on the roles of weapons in the 21st century, both as protectors and protagonists, clearly aimed at the legions of school children who visit.

The facilities are all excellent – as you would probably expect in a purpose-built modern attraction. In fact the toilets on each floor have been the proud recipient of many an award – certificates proudly displayed on the walls as you scuttle inside. These days, after one too many a drunken night out in a bar far too posh for the likes of me, I'm just glad if I can work out how to flush it and how to turn the tap on.

On numerous occasions, I've stood flummoxed in front of a piece of ceramic art in a bar loo, trying to feign expertise to the good lady touting me with every shoddy perfume on the market, while inwardly trying desperately to work out which ruddy spout the water is supposed to gush out of in this ruddy minimalist set-up.

I digress.

The Royal Armouries is a 7 out of 10 viist. We enjoyed the armour collections, the re-enactments, the displays on arms in the 21st century, the free admission and the coffee shop – shame the tame equestrian display was so tame.

The Royal Armouries
Armouries Drive
Leeds, West Yorkshire
LS10 1LT
0113 220 1999
www.royalarmouries.org

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
OR CREATE AN ACCOUNT HERE..
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Anonymous

Depends on the arse.

 Read more
Anonymous

As usual mancon make no reference at all to the Irish Festival again .

 Read more
Anonymous

Double whammy of good markets too - Levenshulme have a food and drink only market on Saturday and…

 Read more
Anonymous

There are no excuses for arse-kissing.

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2017

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord