Research staff

About us

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.

We have a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages. Our celebrated core collection originates in the nation’s working arsenal, which was assembled over many centuries at the Tower of London.

By the time Queen Elizabeth I was queen in the 16th century, selected items from the arsenal were being arranged for display to visitors. This makes the Royal Armouries heir to one of the oldest deliberately created visitor attractions in the country.

Our collection of about 75,000 items – excluding approximately 2,700 loans to other bodies – is now displayed and housed in our historical home at the White Tower 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.

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Ready for anything

In ancient India high class courtesan women were expected to master fencing with a sword and fighting with a staff.