CELEBRATED actor Robert Hardy, who has played many parts over the years – from Winston Churchill and Shakespeare’s Henry V, to the senior vet in All Creatures Great and Small and Cornelius Fudge from the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter films – will be in the Cotswolds this afternoon (Thursday, May 29).
But at Stow-on-the-Wold he is to perform a different kind of role in a drama that began more than three-and-a-half centuries ago.
The actor will inaugurate a permanent public exhibition of weaponry and armour, much of which dates back to the Civil War. In addition to his career on stage, TV and film, Robert Hardy is also an expert on medieval warfare and he is president of the Battlefields Trust.
Stow acquired its valuable collection of muskets, pike staffs, breast-plates and other military paraphernalia in 1948 from a Captain Christie Crawfurd, who visited the town with his wife in the 1930s. She became ill while there, and the captain was so struck by the kindness of the people of Stow that he bequeathed his collections of paintings and armaments to the town.
Members of the public can view the pictures in St Edward’s Hall, but until now there’s been no way of safely displaying the weaponry and armour. A few items were on show in the library lobby of the hall, but two civil war helmets were stolen during the Stow Festival in 2011.
This theft prompted Stow and District Civic Society to decide it was time for action, so the society joined forces with the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust to fund the construction of a large, secure museum display case to house the collection.
Civic Society chairman Tim Norris said: “These weapons and armour help tell of some of the conflicts in our nation’s history, and in the story of Stow where the last battle of the first Civil War was fought in 1646. We’re very proud to be able to give the collection a safe home where the people of Stow and the many visitors to the town can admire it.”
Members of the Sealed Knot society in Civil War dress will be in attendance when Robert Hardy performs the opening ceremony at St Edward’s Hall in The Square at 2.30pm. All are welcome to go along and hear him speak.
Robert Hardy lives in Charlbury, Oxfordshire, but was born and raised in Cheltenham.
Among guests at the ceremony will be Norman Goodman and David Glaisyer, descendants of the Roundhead and Cavalier commanders, who faced each other at the Battle of Stow.