The Royal Armouries is the United Kingdom’s national museum of arms and armour, and one of the most important museums of its type in the world.
Its origins lie in the Middle Ages: its celebrated core collection originating in the nation’s working arsenal, assembled over many centuries at the Tower of London.
In the reign of Elizabeth I, selected items began to be arranged for display to visitors, making the Royal Armouries heir to one of the oldest deliberately created visitor attractions in the country.
The collection of about 75,000 items – excluding approximately 2,700 loans to other bodies – is now displayed and housed not only in the Tower of London but also at our purpose-built museum in Leeds, and at Fort Nelson near Portsmouth. Since 2005, the museum has also managed the national collection of firearms, started in 1631 by Charles I and assembled by the British Army, now housed at the National Firearms Centre.
The Royal Armouries was established in its present form by the National Heritage Act (1983) and is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2015-16, it received £7,103,000 in Grant in Aid, £1,368,000 from commercial activity and £783,000 from donations and sponsorship. It currently employs 183 staff and receives nearly 2 million visitors a year across the three sites, who, except at the Tower of London, visit for free.