Do you remember when this Samurai armour was a popular exhibit at Doncaster Museum?

There was a time when it was one of the most popular exhibits at Doncaster Museum.

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 9:28 am
Caption: Peter Robinson, Heritage Doncaster Curator of Human History, holds a Samurai Mask and detachable Neck guard. Picture: Marie Caley

But decades of wear and tear took a toll on this magnificent set of Japanese Samurai armour, with the result that it had to be taken into storage for its own protection.

It is one of the many items in the Doncaster Museum's collection which are not currently on public display, and it is the second item we are featuring in a series of reports after the Free Press was given a tour of the hidden collection.

Caption: Peter Robinson, Heritage Doncaster Curator of Human History, holds a Samurai Mask and detachable Neck guard. Picture: Marie Caley

But it may not be the end for that was once an iconic item for visitors to the museum's former site at Beechfield.

The curator of human history hopes that one day crowdfunding may help bring it back on-show in the future.

The suit is from the Edo period – dating from the 18th-19th century. The helmet bowl – called a Kabuto – seems to be earlier and may date from the late 17th century.

It was donated by the Hatfield family, which had close Doncaster connections, in 1923.

It came into the family's possession when Roy Berriman Hatfield was serving as private secretary to the Governor of Hong Kong in 1914.

He either acquired it as a diplomatic gift or perhaps on his journey home via the Trans-Siberian railway and Archangel.

But on the outbreak of World War One, he left his post to join the army – serving with the 8th Battalion London Regiment, known as the Post Office Riffles.

He died aged 29, leading a raid, as bomb officer, on a German trench during the Battle of Festubert on May 24, 1915.

The items were donated to the museum on the death of his father, George Frederick, who was originally from Doncaster but was practicing as a solicitor in London. He had grown up in Doncaster, as the son of Charles William Hatfield, owner of the Doncaster Gazette and author of Historical Notices of Doncaster.

Roy seems to have married his love – Florence Elizabeth Elaine Brownhill - on his return from Hong Kong, shortly before re-joining his regiment, only to be killed in the first engagement which his regiment saw.

The suit of armour is not believed to have ever been on display in the current museum on Chequer Road.

But curator of human history at Heritage Doncaster, Peter Robinson said: "People remember it from when it was on display at Beechfield, and I think they would like to see it, but we have to be responsible. The materials including silk deteriorate quickly if they are not kept in the right conditions.

"A lot of Doncaster people remember it. We get older visitors coming into the museum, and they're always asking ;'where's the Samurai armour'? We have to tell them that its in store and hopefully eventually we may be able to get it back out again, but it needs a lot of conservation work.

"The reason it needs conservation work is when it was first brought to the museum it was put on open display, in Beechfield House, the old museum that was across the road. A lot of visitors relate that it used to stand either at the top of the stairs or the bottom of the stairs. Everyone always says they remember it on open display. In an old house, being on display for 20, 30 or 40 years, it got attacked by moths, the variations in heating and cooling in the house at the time and that would have affected the materials."

Experts have said it is conservable, and could be displayed in future, but the cost could be between £10,000 and £20,000.