The Royal Armouries is Britain’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, and at its core is the celebrated 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 – apart from approximately 2,700 loans to other bodies – is now displayed and housed not only in the Tower of London but at our purpose-built museum in Leeds and at Fort Nelson, near Portsmouth. Since 2005 the museum has also managed the collection of small arms assembled since the early 19th century by the British Army known as the National Firearms Collection.
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 2013-14, it received £7,620,000 in Grant in Aid and £1,500,000 from commercial activity and sponsorship. It currently employs 160 staff and receives nearly two million visitors a year across the three sites, who, except at the Tower, visit for free.