Leeds and Kirkstall Abbey

Monday, June 11th

Today we went to Leeds!  This was something that Kevin REALLY wanted to do, because in Leeds is the Royal Armories Museum.  It’s basically where they put all the stuff that doesn’t fit into the Tower of London.  We got up fairly early to quite grey and rainy skies, and headed up to Leeds.  We got there just in time to make the opening of the museum, got all the way up the main stairs to the 4th floor… and then got kicked out for a fire drill.  <Sigh>

Giant central stairwell, filled with weapons and armor

The museum is really very neat, though.  It’s organized into five huge, multi-story galleries- War, Tournament, Oriental, Hunting and Self Defense.  All of them have different places and ages represented, as well as weapons and things associated with that particular topic.  There is a TON of stuff in there.  Self Defense was probably the least spectacular, but they did have a neat thing on dueling, and modern fencing that made Kevin happy.

Hunting had a LOT of guns.  And I mean a LOT, ranging all the way from practice clay pigeon air guns, to decorated hunting sets presented to the Empress so and so, and elephant guns so long I’m pretty sure they would not be able to be lifted by one person, let alone aimed.  Some of the work on them was pretty incredible, though, with lots of inlays of various things, and some very pretty metalwork.

Oriental had Kevin’s favorite find of  the day –  a full suit of plate armor made for an elephant.  The stuff was HUGE, and I can’t even imagine how much that suit must have weighed.  There was lots of different types of armor and weapons in the Oriental section, including some of the more ridiculously impractical swords of the day.  War was really awesome, because a large part of it focused on suits of armor, so they had a bunch of different suits of armor from different places and time period, and kind of went though it all chronologically.  You could really see where some of the changes came about, particularly where there was some advance in either weapons or armor technology.  For example, the early plate armor is really pretty thin stuff, made to me extra lightweight so that you can do things in it besides look pretty, but as soon as guns start to be a thing, all of it gets all dark and heavy very quickly, before disappearing entirely as guns get more powerful and armor gets too heavy to be practical.

Yeah, that would be scary

Elephant Armor!

Tournament was fun – mainly focused on jousting and so on.  Lots more armor here, and some pretty spectacular decorated armor – not that it wasn’t functional, just that the people who were in tournaments were also rich enough to show off a bit with the armor.  So there is gold plated armor, and engraved armor, and etched armor, and so on and so forth, and it all looks quite lovely until you remember they could barely see and couldn’t turn their heads.  We also heard a bit of a talk from one of the museum people, who talked about the beginning of the tournament, and how it used to be melee form combat practice.  Literally, a group of men would receive a where, and when, and a Team A or Team B assignment, and then they would all meet up in the middle of some farmer’s field or something, and whack the crap out of each other

Well, it turns out that the farmers REALLY did not like having their fields all trampled on, and towns sacked and so on, so they complained to the church, who went and said that anyone who died doing this would be excommunicated, so that pretty much stopped all of it right there.  Fast forward a few decades, and here is Richard the Lionheart, who wants lovely trained soldiers for his Crusades.  Well, he can’t do melees, because no one wants to be excommunicated, and he really needed money so he decided to do two things that basically made the joust what it is today.  1.  He put up a fence around the whole thing, which meant not only did the fighters not go places they were not supposed to, and get on the wrong side of angry farmers, but it gave people a safe place to stand and watch.  2.  He made people pay to compete, so now you have rich, noble people competing for an audience, and voila!  A tournament!


Being silly

We spent quite a while in the museum, because it was really huge, and pretty awesome.  We ventured out around noon, in search of food and happed to spot a church steeple off in the distance across the river.  We decided to head towards it, and find food somewhere on the way.  Luckily for us, right next to the church was a pub called The Palace, so Kevin had fish and chips, and I had sausage and mash(which came absolutely drowning in some sort of gravy, and with three entire sausages.  Who the heck can eat three sausages in a go?  Furthermore, I’ve come to the conclusion that people here really REALLY like potatoes.  There was a whole aisle of frozen potato things, though they do not seem to have invented the tater tot, and just about every meal is offered with some sort of potato.)  In general, very tasty, and it felt massively British to be sitting in a pub in the rain next to some giant old church eating sausage and mash.

Mmm… fish and chips

Next to a church!

A cool bridge we walked by in Leeds

On the way out of town, we had decided to swing by somewhere called Kirkstall Abbey.  Kirkstall Abbey is not so much an abbey, as the total ruins of an abbey.  The thing is HUGE!  It included an infirmary and kitchens, and was first built in 11-something.  It’s in a park.  People were walking their dogs around it.  Beanly would have loved the lawn growing in the infirmary, as well as the adorable little puppy we met/ were love- attacked by.  Two swans and 4 cygnets were chilling nearby.  Just this sort of attitude of “Pshaw!  This old thing??  Heavens, this abbey is from ages ago!  I’m sure everyone else has better abbeys by now…”

The Abbey from the front

Down the middle of what would have been the main aisle


A neat floor; no idea what it says

The ruins were really, really big. The abbey itself, not so much, but it also had kitchens, and a hospital, and the whole thing together was pretty enormous


One Response to Leeds and Kirkstall Abbey

  1. katie says:

    Of course they don’t have tater tots, those were invented in Berkeley!