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Part of an occasional series where I visit museums that are open to the public, but only if you have contacted them first and arranged a time to visit.
Museums by Appointment
Inside the grand and ancient headquarters of an arm of the Territorial Army is a small, but densely packed museum of military memorabilia.
The current museum is fairly new, having moved to its location, behind a small door on the staircase landing in 2001, when it was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The main area of the museum provides an historical overview of the HAC from 1537 to the present day and the history of Armoury House, the Artillery Garden and Finsbury Barracks. The central cases display a variety of uniforms and drums.
In that sense, it’s very much the sort of military museum you would expect, lots of snippets and relics from battles past, plenty of old uniforms and weapons. The HAC being very old, they also have on display the original lease for the Artillery Ground they occupy, dating from 1538.
I find for these sorts of museums that while the grand regimental stuff is grand and impressive, it’s often the small objects with very personal stories that capture the imagination. The watch worn by a soldier, the collapsable spade used to dig trenches, the typed memo of how to deal with Zeppelin attacks on London.
These are what give the museum its depth.
Around the corner in a faux-cellar is the Treasure room, packed full of silver trophies, of the sort that organisations of a certain age tend to have.
It’s a fairly modern selection though, as the HAC’s Treasurer during the English Civil War took the silver for safe keeping, and kept it so safe that it was never returned.
To this day, the original silver collection is still missing in action.
So the silver on display starts from the nineteenth century, mostly from shooting and other military competitions, and expanded in the twentieth century from commemorative pieces acquired after the First World War.
Access to the museum is either difficult, or very easy, depending on how urgently you want to visit.
It’s open to the public on one evening per year – which is the annual Open Evening held in May, when you can just turn up and go inside. Otherwise, the public can occasionally be admitted to view the collection by prior appointment with the Archivist.
This article first appeared on www.ianvisits.co.uk
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