Our Museum: The RSA Interpretation Centre
The Interpretation Centre is a small exhibition of the Royal Small Arms Factory’s history, a vital part of the industrial past of the Lee Valley. The Centre was established to tell the story of the Factory, its workers,technology and products. Whilst small it is a valuable memorial located at the factory itself.
The RSAF Factory Clock
Above the gallery space is a hidden treasure, the RSAF Factory Clock. This clock was brought to the factory when the site was rebuilt in the 1850s. It is a John Thwaites Birdcage clock dating from 1783. It is coupled to our bell, Albert, cast at Woolwich Arsenal in 1857 which can be seen outside at the top of the tower. This clock is not routinely accessible to the general public, but we do allow access every year as part of London Open House Weekend. The video below tells you a little more about its history.
The sections below can give you some idea of what to expect when visiting the Centre.
The Royal Small Arms Factory apprenticeship scheme was the most prestigious in the country, with many considering it to be the ‘engineering equivalent of going to Oxford or Cambridge’. We have a selection of apprentice pieces and trophies on display, ranging from a ‘cube and plate’ right through to a perfect facsimile of an apprentice’s hand cast in in stainless steel!
An engineer at the Factory typically made and owned his own tool sets (in fact as an apprentice he would have made his tools then buy them from the factory when his apprenticeship was complete). The sets on display date from the late Nineteenth Century and from the latter half of the Twentieth Century and show the continuity and change in an engineer’s equipment.
We also have various objects dating from the last days of the factory, including copies of Poofile, a satirical re-imagining of Royal Ordnance’s in-house magazine Profile. This anonymously published magazine was described by the last director of the factory, Bill Turner, as ‘Industrial satire at its best!’
Of course the most prominent objects on display are examples of some of the weapons produced at the Factory during its time. We are lucky to have in our collection small arms including:
- An Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifled Musket (converted to a breech loading Snider in 1871)
- A Martini Henry lever action rifle
- Two skeletonised .303 Lee Enfield Rifles
- A BREN gun made at the factory and which saw service in the Second World War
- An Enfield No. 2 Revolver, made for the Kingdom of Iraq and still serviceable when captured from Iraqi stores in 2003
- An example of an L1 A1 Self Loading Rifle (based on the Belgian FN FAL)
Open Days, Events & Queries
In association with the Royal Small Arms Factory Apprentices’ Association we make a point to take part in London Open House Weekend every year. This event is the third weekend in September and when we allow access to our John Thwaites factory clock. In addition we have former Apprentices on hand to talk to our visitors about life working at the Factory.
We also open up the Interpretation Centre when community events take place around the canal basin and Community Hall that have been organised by other local groups such as Enfield Island Village Trust, enact or Oasis Community Hub. If we open to the public for one of these events we shall report it on our news page.
Whilst we ensure that someone can give access between 10am-2pm Monday to Friday, we are happy to accommodate visits outside of these times by prior arrangement and subject to staff availability, including evenings and weekends. Please e-mail us or give us a call on 01992 854 321.