We Re-Open on April 12th! So Mark and David at The Lanes Armoury Are Delighted to Look Forward to Welcoming Personal Visitors To Their Store In Brighton Once More
Mark Hawkins celebrates his 50th year at The Lanes Armoury in 2021, and for David it will very soon be his 40th. And the Hawkins family have been trading in the Lanes and Brighton for over 100 years!, since their grandfather’s return from fighting in the British Army’s North African desert campaign in WW1.
Their maternal great grandfather served in the Boer War, and his father, their great, great grandfather, served in the Zulu War. Their paternal great, grandfather served on the top secret Royal Navy Q Ships in WW1, his son, their grandfather, was a tank engineer in the Allen West Tank factory during WW2 in Brighton, and remarkably suffered a near direct hit from a WW2 bomb, [courtesy of Herr Hitler] but survived to tell the tale. The brother’s father, David senior, served in the RAF, and, periodically, as the world renown aeronautical legend, Sir Barnes Wallis’ bodyguard, so one can see the family are tied irrevocably to the very fabric of the ‘ncos and other ranks’, serving during the past 150 years, in the British Armed forces, and its remarkable history.
The story so far of the partners today; the Hawkins Brothers and "The Lanes Armoury" originally written and updated by Frances Taylor; They are likely the last, true, original 'armoury' shop left in the whole of Britain, offering original prices from the dawn of civilisation to the current day. Original weaponry and armour from the past 4000 years. And flint axes from as long as an incredible 300,000 years ago. They were described [pre-lockdown] as one of the most highly recommended visitors attractions in the whole of the UK by the world renown New York Times. And is now probably the largest original historical militaria webshop in the world, and certainly one of the oldest established still surviving.
‘’ Although we are just a fraction of the size of Tower of London armoury, the most famous armoury in the world, it was a great honour to be included within the same list as the Tower of London in the New York Times” said Mark. It is also regularly featured by many other world wide publications, appearing in too many television programmes to list, including Italian and Japanese documentaries, plus in the past decades the Discovery Channels "Mud Men", and Ian McShane's world famous tv series, "Lovejoy". Several film locations have been filmed in their shops, including Graham Greene's " Brighton Rock", and Roger Moore's film series "The Persuaders", way back in 1971.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists [and regular visitors] come to see them every single year, [barring lockdown of course] including in the 1970's such erstwhile luminaries as President Ronald Reagan, and in the 1960's and 1970's Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Edward G. Robinson, to name but a few. H.M. Queen Elizabeth, and the late and most beloved, HRH Prince Philip came through the Lanes, and their store in the 1980's, and again in 2007. The 'Hawkins brothers' evolved their company from one of the oldest established family businesses in Sussex, with a client base that includes museums, heads of state, presidents, princes and kings. But whether you are a movie star, a head of state or a student, all will be treated with the same courtesy and respect. Every sale is important to them, albeit a £5 badge, a £500 sword, a £50,000 medieval book, or maybe a Gothic suit of armour for £40,000.
Every day they are told that to some, this is their favourite shop in the world, with some foreign visitors returning year in year out for 40 years or even more, so they truly believe they have a great responsibility to their customers, their reputation, and to the amazing city of Brighton. Their oldest customer has incredibly been a regular buyer, for an amazing, near 67 years. To view a little visual history during the past century of their business and shop please click the photo to the left to see more aspects of their store today, and from the distant past. One is a photograph from the outside of their shop taken around 1920, another one from 2020, another is of their family’s 1920's vintage horse drawn pantechnichon [that was still in use for local deliveries until 1969] and one of their 'more modern' trucks used in the 1970's. [You will see the name of the family partnership has evolved with the times]. The partners, Mark and David regularly appear on the BBC and numerous UK TV channels on various antique 'discovery' programs, and act as consultant appraisers. During Mark's 50 years, and David's 39 years [that's 89 years combined] with the family business, it is estimated they have had pass through their hands, and appraised, possibly more items than any other still living dealers in the country, and their breadth of knowledge and experience is simply astonishing. While in his capacity as export director of the old family company Mark was personally responsible for the sale and export of over 2,000 individual antique items every single week for nearly ten years. Shipping their treasures to the four corners of globe, including their associate business in Georgia USA. Of course, these days [and for the past 28 years] the brothers are concentrating their attention to being England's leading specialist arms and militaria dealers, limiting their business to fine, ancient, antique or vintage samurai weaponry, armour, militaria and 1st Edition and historical books, covering the past four millennia. It is now said they are the largest samurai weapon dealers in the western world, and this website is the largest of it's type in the world including over 16,800 full colour photographs of some of their items for sale.
An article, written about their business on City News Live is copied here below, as published;**
With so many different histories to offer, you can feel freer in Brighton than in most British cities to select trips which coincide with your interests and of course, you're much more likely to find in Brighton things to do which bring the history you love to life. For the lover of militaria, a visit to The Lanes Armoury is a must with a difference. The Armoury's housed in a three-storey 16th century building and is a real treasure trove it's a museum which is not a museum as everything is for sale. It has been nominated and short-listed and awarded for the British Antique & Collectors Awards as the best Antique Shop in Great Britain and is the latest incarnation of a much older business, David Hawkins [Brighton] Ltd which was one of the earliest and largest dealers in ArmouryAntiques and Militaria, also Antiques and Collectibles within the whole of Europe in the last century. It's their current specialisation in Arms, Armour, Militaria, and Books which really marks them out and creates such a fascinating and fantastic place to visit.
From bronze-age swords, axes and daggers, suits of samurai and European armour, muskets, revolvers, duelling pistols, American civil war swords, right through to medals and World War II militaria, it's all there to be viewed and drooled over. For example, they have in stock at present a 19th century 'Vampyre Killing Kit', [near identical to one in the Tower Collection] essential for those Victorian trips to the Carpathian mountains and Transylvania, and they had a signed 1st Edition book that once personally belonged to Winston Churchill detailing a story of combat in the American Revolutionary War [now sold to a private museum in the States]. It was presented to him during WW2 and signed by it's author, Robert Graves, one of England's greatest WW1 poets and novelists. It was declared by Churchill, in a personal letter to Robert Graves thanking him for the gift, that it was one of only 6 or 7 novels that he had read during his premiership in the war, and subsequently this very book was used by him to advise the creation and modus operandi of the new British Commandos. They have two pages in a folio from one of the earliest printed books, and a Ist Ed, book of 1479 By Bartolomaeus Platina, and just recently in, an Autographed copy of Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at just under £25,000 [also now sold]. Plus magnificent original Roman swords, and Viking nobles swords. It's not a museum, although often believed to be, and when you leave, you've really have had the same experience! I can honestly say the experience of a visit to the armoury, although not a vast premises by any means, in fact probably the smallest recommended by the New York Times, but is utterly memorable, and every single person that passed through their doors [while I was there] was either astonished, amazed, or both! But remember, although it looks and feels like a museum, as the brothers reminded me, everything is for sale!.........revised editorial by F.Taylor. We issue our certificate of authenticity with every single item purchased, and in regards to our Japanese items, both weapons and fittings etc. We detail their beauty, approximate age, style and feature of their mounts, plus their potential position in Japanese samurai history. We will also detail the translations [if known] of the names engraved on the nakago of Japanese swords, under their hilt bindings. Our Certificates of Authenticity are our own, unique, version of a lifetime guarantee, detailing the description of any items style, age and beauty, and for our Japanese samurai swords in particular, that is is an original, samurai sword, made and used by samurai both ancient and vintage in Japan, some from almost as long ago as 800 years, through to the 19th century the Meiji era, and beyond into WW2.