Treasures in Store: behind the scenes in our museum

From the spoils of war to regulation kit and equipment, sentimental mementoes, official logs and lists, and intensely personal possessions; it’s all here in the museum, but there’s so much more than you could see during a visit.

In this special online exhibition, we unravel the complex journeys some items take to reach us. We reveal objects from our stores, some of which have never been on display, and explain why some never will. You’ll meet the collectors whose personal passions shaped the collection and learn about the ongoing battle to preserve our most fragile objects.

The museum stores are a quiet, hidden world where our treasures sit, carefully wrapped, catalogued and concealed behind the scenes, waiting for their time to shine.

some treasures from our stores

WEAR AND TEAR. Portrait of Colonel Edward Bruce. Donated to the museum, the painting arrived in a large cardboard box, the oil painting has lost its frame and there is a heavy deposit of surface dirt.

Bruce joined the regiment in 1869. He was a skilled cricketer, playing at Lords against WG Grace in 1872. To help us spruce up Bruce so we can redisplay him in the future, why not consider making a donation at the very bottom of this page.


COLOUR CONSERVATION. The fragile faded remnants of the regimental Colours which went into battle during the Crimean War are on display in a light-controlled case in the museum’s top floor gallery. It’s hard to imagine them swirling brightly in the wind, an inspirational beacon for the soldiers to follow relentlessly; whatever obstacles stood in their way. But these small fragments, preserved by being stored in darkness, give an indication of how vibrant the Colours once would have looked.

UNEARTHED. This belt buckle was found with a soldier’s remains on the Western Front in 2015. Discover the extraordinary story of the part we played in identifying its wearer and connecting a family later in this exhibition.

VIVID VICTORIANA. An eye-catching riot of colour amidst an overwhelmingly khaki museum collection ensures Sergeant Johnson’s quilt steals the limelight whenever it emerges from the stores. This happens rarely, as we need to protect the 1.5m x 1.5m cloth from light damage so it can continue to occasionally dazzle for many years to come.


PLUNDER. The regiment didn’t fight at Waterloo but a snuffbox presented by Napoleon to Marshal Michel Ney, one of the French commanders, was plundered from Ney’s baggage at the end of the battle. It was later presented to Captain Cameron of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards then given to the regiment. For many years it was used at regimental dinners; one officer recalls sleeping with it in a sock tied around his neck to ensure its safety. In 2009 it was decided it was time for the snuffbox to begin a new life as a museum object.

MEN IN UNIFORM. Amongst the thousands of photographs in the collection of serving soldiers is this image of Freddy Honeyman. The little boy went on to join the regiment and serve in the Second World War. Find out more about him here.

SELF PRESERVATION. Flowers collected by Lieutenant J H Kirke during the siege of Sebastopol (October 1854 to September 1855) were kept pressed in a book. Their colours remain vivid because of their lack of exposure to light and they will remain in the darkness of our stores to preserve them.

“Major Ferrar has sent a bell to the depot. Many thanks to him for a most interesting relic. Looting is, of course, no longer allowed in the British Army.”

Green Howards Gazette 1933.

commemoration and curation: a timeline of collection and display


Formation of the regiment. Until the creation of a museum 234 years later, the Mess is used to keep and display important items from the regiment’s past.


Silver starts being purchased for the Mess. Initially, these are practical items, such as cutlery.


Regimental silver, including cups and snuff boxes, is stolen in transit from the Crimean War. The items are never recovered.


By the 1870s officers are presenting decorative silver to mark important moments in their careers. Sporting trophies soon join the jostle for position on Mess sideboards.


Michael Lloyd Ferrar joins the regiment, aged 19. He quickly takes on the role of regimental historian and collector.


Launch of the Green Howards Gazette. The monthly publication raises awareness of the regiment’s history.


Ferrar purchases an image of John Lyons VC and starts buying medals from London auction houses. He also collects items during his service in The South African War, which he later donates to the museum.


Ferrar publishes his account of the War in South Africa 1899-1902


The first published list of silver, medals and pictures displayed in the Officers Mess is included as an appendix in Ferrar’s book, ‘A History of the Service of the 19th Regiment 1688-1911’.


Major Edward Chapman suggests a collection of historical objects should be created at the Regimental Depot at the top of Gallowgate, or ‘Barrack Hill’ in Richmond. “The various bequests would be safer there than carried about from pillar to post by the two battalions,” agrees Major Ferrar.


Chapman starts collecting badges and buttons for the new museum.


Chapman is killed at Gallipoli. His obituary states the collection he created will ensure ‘…he will be known to future Green Howards, when those in whose memory he lives have passed away’.


The regimental memorial is unveiled in Richmond.


A museum opens at the regiment’s depot in Richmond. It moves from room to room. Enthusiasm wanes.


Large numbers of military medals enter the market, due to the economic depression. Ferrar makes regular purchases from London auction houses.


Ferrar publishes ‘Officers of the Green Howards 1688-1931’ It contains a biography of every officer who has served.


Creation of the regimental chapel at St Mary’s Parish Church, Richmond.


Brigadier ‘Tommy’ Collins arrives at The Depot and calls for donations. Ferrar donates his personal medal collection. By the end of the year there are enough objects to open a museum in the old canteen building.


Collins visits the 2nd Battalion’s Mess. He returns in a taxi crammed with objects, marking the start of regimental objects being displayed in the museum, which proves popular during a Depot open day. Collins is given £100 a year from the profits of the Green Howards Gazette to run the museum.


1245 items are listed in the museum’s first catalogue. Objects previously held in the Officers Mess appear in this list.


Collins leaves the Depot for his next army appointment.


The museum opens to the public. It's the first regimental museum to do so.


The museum is closed during the Second World War, although some objects are displayed in a hut in the sports field opposite the barracks.


The museum moves between a barrack room, a wooden hut and a gymnasium at the Depot, where it remains, even when the rest of the site becomes an Approved School.


Trinity Church in the centre of Richmond’s market place is redeveloped to house the museum.


Curator, Major Roger Chapman updates the museum displays, which had not been changed for 20 years.


The museum closes for redevelopment.


The centenary of the end of the First World War prompts an influx of donations, particularly medals and personal letters and diaries.


The museum’s Medal Room, untouched in the 2014 redevelopment, re-opens following refurbishment.


More than 35,000 items are listed in the museum's current inventory.

“The regimental Museum was, I think, the most crowded place throughout the whole afternoon and evening, and the remarks heard from visitors make us proud of the work done, and surprised the majority of people as to the history of the Regiment.”

Brigadier Collins reflects on the success of a Depot open day in 1935

personal possession - tradable commodity - private collection - regimental treasure - public display

our oldest piece of paper

This is the earliest archive document in our collection. It dates from 1689, the year after the raising of Francis Luttrell’s original regiment in Somerset. It lists regiments located at the time in Holland, Ireland and England and the number of men in each regiment. Recorded in ink in the bottom of the left-hand column headed ‘Regiments Destined for Ireland’ is Luttrell’s Regiment. The second column, ‘In Ireland’, is Erle’s Regiment. It is from these two regiments that the Green Howards traces it origins.

a different view

The collection’s paper archive contains thousands of examples of the written word; personal correspondence, official orders, pamphlets, reports, notes, sketches, diagrams and diaries. Written by, and referring to the men who served.

Unique amongst them is Dorothy Beckton’s diary, donated to the museum in 2018, and containing her innermost thoughts of 1918 and 1919.

Dorothy’s boyfriend, Henry Glennie Amis, who she refers to as ‘my G’, was with the Yorkshire Regiment during the First World War. Amidst references of shopping, golf and dancing, we get her perspective on missing her man, filling her days, just waiting for news.

“I haven’t heard from him for ages either and have fairly got the hump.”

It’s all very stiff upper lip, rather endearing, and, at first glance, incredibly old fashioned.  But if you’ve ever waited for word from a soldier at war; experiencing the ever-changing range of emotions involved, the century dissolves.  Dorothy’s diary sums up precisely what it’s like.

Read the transcript of Dorothy’s diary here

unexpected treasures revealed

the challenge of changing technology

Image is everything. The majority of images in our collection are black and white or colour photographs. However we do also have numerous glass and celluloid slides as well as negatives, which require careful storage and specific hardware to enable us to view them, such as this magic lantern.

Voices from the past. Interviews with former soldiers are stored in a range of ways, from reels to cassettes to mini-disks. The pace of technological change is a challenge for museums as it becomes increasingly difficult to find machines to play some of these recordings. As we transfer them to digital format, with the aim of ‘future-proofing’ them, we wonder if this too may need to be revisited in the not-too-distant future.

Finding Private Parker: solving a mystery and bringing objects into our care

what's in store

Medals continue to be the most regularly donated items to the museum. Each medal or group of medals is catalogued, packed and stored behind the scenes before being displayed in our Medal Room. We currently have almost 3500 medals on display, with a further thousand safe in our stores.

Find out about the various treasures we took into the museum collection during 2021 here.