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War relics reveal their battle scars at the National Civil War Centre

a photo of a large steel helmet with flared brim and various marks on it

Helmet struck by a sword blade from the British Civil Wars and on display at the Cutting Edge exhibition at the National Civil War Centre in Newark.

Battle worn armour and weaponry from the bloody British Civil Wars go on display at the National Civil War Centre in Newark

This is the “lucky pikeman’s helm” recently acquired by the National Civil War Centre – Newark Museum.

Originally made at the Tower of London armoury, curators have dubbed it lucky because on one side there’s a deep dent thought to have been caused by a sword crashing down onto it – perhaps delivered by a Royalist cavalryman. Whatever the cause (and the eventual fate of its wearer), without the helm’s protection the pikeman would almost certainly have been killed.

On the other side there’s a round dent possibly caused by a musket ball, which otherwise would have smashed into the temple.

“From what we can see the helmet did its job well, saving the wearer’s life twice over,” says National Civil War Centre curator Glyn Hughes. “It is extremely well made, we think by an apprentice called Soloman Sidthorpe, sometime between 1629 – 1635. By the time the civil war starts in 1642 this kind of equipment was being churned out in vast quantities.”

a photo of a large helmet with lobster tail, peak and iron supports reaching down to the shoulder

A very rare siege helmet used to protect wearers while under bombardment during the civil war – now on display at the National Civil War Centre.

a photo of a sword hilt with a wrought iron grip iron the handle and guard

Rapier sword owned by the Commander in Chief of the Parliamentarian armies and Oliver Cromwell’s boss – Sir Tom Fairfax.

The helm was acquired in 2017 with other rare pieces that saw action during the English Civil War including a lobster pot helmet, breast and back plate and a grim sounding ‘mortuary’ sword, many of them are now going on display with scores of fearsome objects from one of the most significant collections of civil war armour in Britain.

Cutting Edge at the National Civil War Centre, reveals how the 17th century British Civil Wars were the deadliest in the nation’s history and spawned a major indigenous arms industry in England for the first time.

Most of the weaponry was acquired from private collectors, which means the museum now has probably the largest collection of such objects outside the Royal Armouries.

Highlights include a rare full set of pikeman’s armour, exquisite English rapier swords, along with breastplates hit by pistol balls to test their strength and an unusual sappers’ helmet with extra protective shoulder supports to protect the wearer from falling objects during castle sieges.

Items owned by Sir Tom Fairfax, Commander in Chief of the New Model Army, are also on show. They include his sword, riding boots and a drinking flask given to him by Oliver Cromwell, the future Lord Protector, and on display courtesy of the Fairfax family.

a side view of a steel helmet with neck and ear guards, peak and protective visor

Magnificent cavalryman’s helmet on display as part of the Cutting Edge exhibition at the National Civil War Centre in Newark.

a photo of a suit of armour and helmet

Rare suit of pikeman’s armour on display at the Cutting Edge exhibition at the National Civil War Centre in Newark.

Gauntlets with their leather lining intact and cuirassier armour – used by elite cavalry – are all also on display. A quirkier note is struck by the pistol owned by Lord Delamere, a turncoat who swapped sides to fight for the Royalists, and whose bid to escape the clutches of republican solider dressed as woman was only thwarted when he asked an inn keeper for a razor to shave.

Items owned by Sir Tom Fairfax, Commander in Chief of the New Model Army, are also on show. They include his sword, riding boots and a drinking flask given to him by Oliver Cromwell, the future Lord Protector, and on display courtesy of the Fairfax family.

“These objects are a tangible reminder of a conflict that saw five percent of England’s population die through fighting or disease,” adds Hughes. “Because we have such a fabulous collection we can trace how armour developed during the period, with a move from heavy to lighter protection as the battlefield became mobile and dominated by muskets and artillery. If only these objects could speak to reveal their story.”

Cutting Edge at the National Civil War Centre runs until Autumn 2018.

venue

National Civil War Centre

Newark, Nottinghamshire

It was Britain's deadliest conflict and one which shaped our modern world. Why did brother take up arms against brother and how did a once all-powerful monarch lose his head to the axeman? Discover how the people of Newark survived three sieges by dodging cannon fire, hammering flat family silver…

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