Exhibition to Showcase 500 Years of English War History

Military artefacts and regalia from more than 500 years of English war history will be on display at a new exhibition at Smithills Hall in Bolton, northern England.  Two organisations, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery and the Friends of Smithills Hall, have come together to restore hundreds of military objects and artefacts so that the items may be put on display for the exhibition.

The showcase will especially tell the story of Smithills Hall itself, which is around 700 years old. Its Great Hall was built in stone around  the year 1300; it has survived many wars and battles, including its military role during World War One and beyond.  On display will be a 500 year-old English Civil War suit of armour which has its home at Smithills Hall. It includes a pikeman’s corselet and helmet dating from circa 1620. It would have been worn by infantrymen in the Civil War between 1642 and 1649.

Conservators from Bolton Museum have been painstakingly cleaning the armour with a special wax and tiny cotton wool buds. The armour is still in good condition, but in the past it had been cleaned with acid, which at one time was thought to aid the cleaning process. However it is now known to be corrosive.  Restorers hope to have the armour cleaned within two weeks, The Bolton News reports.

The exhibition is being organised so as to use the artefacts in telling the story of English military history. Smithills Hall medieval kitchens will also be on full display, as well as a timeline starting from the 1300s and onwards that documents the changes in the estate throughout history.

There will be lots of activities for children to learn about the Hall’s historic importance.  Armour cleaning sessions are open to visitors throughout the next few weeks.  Every year Smithills Hall holds a garden party at the end of July, so the museum and its supporters hope to have the exhibition open by then.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE