The Royal Armouries has welcomed the appeal judgment in the Court of Arches preventing the sale of an armet from Wootton St Lawrence church, near Basingstoke in Hampshire.

The Court of Arches, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Appeal Court, recently ruled that the armet – a type of medieval helmet – cannot be sold, legally.

The helmet – believed to be of Flemish manufacture – previously hung over a bracket in the church and is associated with the monument of Sir Thomas Hooke, who died in 1677. It was on loan to the Royal Armouries for over 30 years and the museum bid for it, unsuccessfully, at public auction in 2011. The sale was followed by an internal legal review, within the Church of England.

Deputy Master of the Royal Armouries, Dr Thom Richardson, said, “This armet and the many other helmets preserved in English churches form a highly important part of our nation’s heritage, in particular because they provide almost the only surviving examples of armour worn in England before the 16th century.

“The judgment in the Wootton St Lawrence case will hopefully help to close the floodgates for other parishes seeking to turn the armour in their care into cash. When such helmets appear on the art market they are almost universally sold abroad.

“While the museum has always done its best to acquire these pieces for the nation, as it has done in the past, with the positive help of grant-giving bodies dedicated to the preservation of our heritage, it was likely with the current state of museum funding that we would have purchased only a few examples in future and many would have left the country. This judgement should now prevent this from happening.”

Currently, Royal Armouries has 50 items from English churches on loan, of which 32 are associated with funeral monuments. The museum also holds the most important single research archive of arms and armour in English churches, which has been instrumental in reuniting churches with many stolen objects.

The museum has been active in helping churches safeguard this material – partly by taking the objects considered most at risk on loan and substituting fibreglass replicas in the churches.

Displaying the objects to the public has been a consideration in taking them on loan but their safekeeping has been the museum’s primary concern.


Notes to Editors: Funerary Armet from Wootton St Lawrence

The Wootton St Lawrence Armet is a helmet dating from about1500 and converted to funeral monument use in England in 1677.

This church helmet is of considerable importance – both as an example of the type of armet used in England in the late 15th century and as the single best preserved example of the polychrome funerary painting which most of these helmets had in the 17th century, but which few retain now.

The helmet retains its original visor, detachable from the pivoted terminals with hinges, and its original cheekpieces, and has had gorget plates (to protect the neck) and a spike for the lost wooden crest added in the late 17th century.

About Royal Armouries

• Royal Armouries is the national museum of arms and armour and has sites in Leeds, HM Tower of London, Fort Nelson and Louisville, Kentucky.
• Website:
• The Royal Armouries Museum should not be confused with Royal Armouries International plc, the private sector corporate hospitality business based on the same site in Leeds.

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