Armoury Office

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Armoury Office
Flag of the Board of Ordnance.gif
Office overview
Superseding department
JurisdictionGovernment of the Kingdom of England, Government of the Kingdom of Great Britain
HeadquartersLondon, England
Office executive
  • Master of the Armoury
Parent OfficeOrdnance Office

The Armoury Office was established in 1423 it was part of the supply chain of armour and edged weapons to the armed forces but was autonomous from the Office of Ordnance. In 1671 the Armoury Office was abolished and its duties transferred to the Board of Ordnance


The Office of the Armoury grew out of the department known as the King's Privy Wardrobe at the Tower of London in the mid-15th century. Overseen from 1423 by the Master of the King's Armour and based in the White Tower, the Office was responsible for manufacturing armour and edged weapons for the monarch and his armies; it functioned alongside the Office of Ordnance, which had responsibility for firearms.

The Armoury oversaw storehouses and workshops at Woolwich and Portsmouth, and at various royal palaces (most notably the Greenwich Armoury, which specialized in richly decorated ceremonial armour). In 1545, it is recorded that a visiting foreign dignitary paid to view the Armoury collection at the Tower of London. By the time of Charles II, there was a permanent public display there; the "Spanish Armoury" which included instruments of torture and the "Line of Kings"—a row of wooden effigies representing the kings of England. This makes it the first museum in Britain.

The influence of the Armoury began to wane as traditional weapons gave way increasingly to firearms in the field of war. In the 1620s, swords, lances and items of armour were still used in battle, but for the most part were being issued by the Office of Ordnance (which was becoming a sizeable department of State) rather than by the Armoury. The latter, however, remained staffed and operational until 1671, when it was finally absorbed by the Board of Ordnance; the board continued to maintain, and indeed expanded, the Armoury as a museum.

The Tower was engaged in the development, manufacture and storage of a wide variety of weaponry until the Board of Ordnance was abolished in 185

In Command

Master of the Armoury

The Master of the Armoury was responsible for maintaining a store of armour and weapons for use in the event of war and had an office in the Tower of London. The first use of the title was in 1423 that post existed until 1671 when it was abolished.

  1. Sir Richard Guildford, (1485–1506) (also Master of the Ordnance)
  2. Sir Edward Guildford, (1506–1533)
  3. Sir John Dudley, (1533–1544)
  4. Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy of Chiche (1544–1553)
  5. Sir Richard Southwell, (1554–1559) (also Master of the Ordnance)
  6. Sir George Howard, (1560–1580)
  7. Sir Henry Lee, (1580–1611)
  8. Sir Thomas Monson, 1st Baronet (1611–1616)
  9. William Legge, (1636–1646)
  10. Robert Spaven, (1647–?1648)
  11. Anthony Nicholl, (1648–?1658)
  12. William Legge, (restored to office 1660–1670)


  1. of the Ordnance Office and its successors at the War Office. This article contains some copied content from this source available under the Open Government Licence (OGL) Version 3.
  2., image of the naval ensign of the Board of Ordnance from 1801 to 1855 by Martin Grieve appear courtesy of The flag was then used War Department ensign 1855-1864 before a new design was created