When Nick Norman, Master of the Royal Armouries, announced at a recent reception at Littlecote House in Wiltshire, that an appeal for the 580,000 to save the Armoury from being auctioned, had been succssful, it represented no mean achievement. ``It was the largest sum we have ever needed to raise, and the shortest time in which to do it,'' he said. ``But it was worth the effort. The Armoury had to be saved.'' In its day the Littlecote Armoury was a working arsenal, used for storing weapons and supplies for the Littlecote contingent of the Parliamentary Army in the Civil Wars in the 17th century. This contingent had been formed by Gen. Alexander Popham, whose equestrian portrait dominates the Great Hall, and accounts for 80,000 of the purchase price. The people of Wiltshire generally supported the Parliamentarians of Oliver Cromwell, but at the end of the wars they made their peace with the restored monarchy
and returned to their farms and estates.
The Littlecote Armoury is the only one to have survived from the Civil Wars, out of probably dozens around the country. The Armoury contains about three quarters of all the guns surviving from the period. Five full armours and 36 buff-leather coats which are very rare and in excellent condition.
With just six weeks to save the Armoury drastic measures were needed and all available forces had to be mustered. In what is probably the only occasion in which Roundheads and Cavaliers have marched together in a common cause, about 500 members of the Sealed Knot and the English Civil War Society, fully armed and equipped from their own collections, marched from the Tower of London to Horse Guards Parade one Sunday in October. There they met a contingent of 10members of the Royal Armouries staff who had
marched the 70 miles from Littlecote in full battle dress.
The government minister who received the petition from the combined forces must have been impressed for the government supported the appeal generously. So did many others including Paul Getty Jr. who is becoming a familiar figure in these battles.
The safety of the Armoury and in its original setting is a victory General Popham would have been proud of.