Visit by Royal Armouries
Between 1919 and 1920, the Secretary for State for the Colonies offered material from the Tower of London, which was part of the Royal Armouries, to various museums in the Dominions. Three South African museums—the South African Museum in Cape Town, the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, and the Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg—took up the offer and received loans of suits of armour. In the days before mass communication was possible through digital processes, the suits of armour would have been valuable learning material for anyone interested in the Medieval Period.
Dr Brent Sinclair-Thomson from the Royal Armouries, inspecting the suite of armour on loan to the KwaZulu-Natal Museum (Photo: G. Laue).
As part of the process of loans between museums, from time to time, staff from the loaning institution visit the place where their items are being held to inspect the objects. In the second half of 2022, Dr Brent Sinclair-Thomson, of the Royal Armouries visited the KwaZulu-Natal Museum to do a condition assessment of the various items that comprise the suit of armour. Dr Sinclair-Thomson completed his PhD at Wits University in 2020 on San rock art and is well-known to archaeologists at the Museum. Over the course of a few days, the items were checked and assessed by Dr Sinclair-Thomson and Dr Justine Wintjes. One interesting aspect that emerged was that the armour was not a complete suit made at the same time but, instead, was a compilation of different parts made at different times. Another interesting feature is that one of the breastplates appears to have been damaged by a weapon of some sort and there is a round indentation on the upper part of the plate. The breastplate seems to have absorbed the impact and whatever damaged it did not pass through the metal—luckily for the wearer!
Breastplate for siege, English, late 17th - early 18th century. Note the damage to the plate on the upper right hand-side of the image (Photo: M. Munzhedzi).