With loans from the Royal Armouries and replica helmets, jack, and armour, there’s always lots to discover
If you have a Border Reiver Surname – or even if you don’t – come and try on our replica Reiver jack and helmet at Hexham Old Gaol.
Arms and armour played an important role in Reiver times.
Come and see the sallet helmet, originally made in Italy for the Duke of Somerset, who lost the Battle of Hexham in 1464. He was imprisoned in Hexham Gaol before being executed the next morning in Hexham Market Place. He was buried in Hexham Abbey and his helmet was previously displayed there. It was adapted and used by Colonel John Fenwick at the Battle of Marston Moor, where he lost his life to a blow to the head. The helmet still shows the mark of the fatal blow.
Going into battle, it was important to have your armour and helmet polished, as this helped deflect sword blows. Reivers would deliberately dull their helmets – either burgonets, also known as steel bonnets, or comb morions – so moonlight did not shine off them and give them away on their raids. They would also wear jacks, a form of cloth armour with metal plates sewn into them. These were lighter. Each Surname would have its own design of jack, so they also allowed you to identify if someone was a friend or foe as they approached.
As befits a museum in Berwick Barracks, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery is home to a collection of weapons that tell the story of our border town. Swords, spears, a dagger found in the Castle dungeon, and many cannonballs used to defend the town, plus mementos of the wars fought overseas by the men from the Barracks tell their tales.
Please note that not all of the collections in the care of Museums Northumberland are on public display. If you’d like to see an object in the collections please get in touch with us using the online enquiry form.