Royal Armouries


A tradition of displaying British military strength by creating trophies from masses of weapons has long existed at the Tower. From about 1700, visitors to the Grand Storehouse were stopped in their tracks by John Harris’s stunning displays and models, including a serpent and a seven-headed hydra, which he created from a variety of weapons including muskets, pistols and swords.

A sight ‘no one ever beheld without Astonishment…

not to be matched perhaps in the world’.

William Maitland, 18th century antiquarian

Royal Armouries Head of Creative Programmes, Karen Whitting, dreamed up the idea for a mighty beast, inspired by the small figures of a dragon and a hydra in the scale model of the Grand Storehouse. Working with the creative team at Haley Sharpe Design a concept drawing was produced which York-based Paragon Creative have brought wonderfully to life.

Building on the tradition of trophies of arms and armour created at the Tower of London from the late 17th century, this new dragon has been constructed using objects and materials that represent ten institutions which were housed in the Tower.


Ordnance Office – armour, swords, firearms and cannon to create the head, back and body, including 22 antique pistols, four swords, four rifles, two bronze cannon and 20 bayonets.

Menagerie – a cage for the ribcage

Prison – 30m of chain to create the tail

The Royal Mint – 2,000 gold and silver coins, representing the dragon’s fire plus 50 replica trial plates

Royal Observatory – 26 telescopes

Ordnance Survey – maps for wings

Record Office – scrolls for legs

Jewel House – 400 glass rubies

Constables – keys hanging around the neck

Royal Armouries – 8 breastplates, 6 muskets, 15 pollaxes, 10 mail shirts, 4 shields and bucklers

Our dragon is fittingly named Keeper, following a naming competition run in association with TV channel History™.

No. of items used:

Over 2,672 items including:

Overall dimensions

Height: 4.5m

Wingspan: 5m

Length: 3.5m

Weight: 1,200kg

Design & Build

A team of five took approximately 800 hrs to design, build and install the dragon.

This spectacular dragon forms the centre-piece to the Royal Armouries’ permanent new exhibition at the White Tower – Power House.

Did you know?

Too hot to handle

Before the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver, the most powerful handgun in the world was the Mars pistol. It was so powerful that, during testing in 1906, the Royal Navy vowed never to fire it again.