A barbed compliment to the power of medieval warfare

HI-TECH ammunition from the Middle Ages is going on show for the first time in North Yorkshire.

Armour-penetrating arrowheads are among the fearsome armaments found at Pickering Castle in the 1920s and about to be revealed to the public by English Heritage.

The artefacts – which include other specimens modelled to rip through chain mail or hunt deer and wild boar in the forest surrounding the castle – are among 800,000 items kept by the conservation watchdog at its main archaeological store for the north, at Helmsley in North Yorkshire.

The stores are normally off-limits to the public but a series of free public tours begins next Wednesday.

During its heyday from the 12th century, Pickering Castle was a Royal lodge and a base for hunting expeditions.

The arrows were among the most striking finds recovered from the site after the First World War, when many of Yorkshire's historic monuments were cleared of rubble and debris by ex-servicemen.

Armour-piercing rounds are multi-sided and converge to a point to punch through metal. Those meant to break through chain mail are longer and slimmer, while others on display have long barbs to inflict injury on wild animals, or possibly game birds in flight.

English Heritage curator Susan Harrison said: "Examining them at close quarters really does help to turn back the clock and make a connection with the past."

The store tours also will reveal the darker side of medieval life, particularly for society's lower orders. Exceptionally well-preserved medieval manacles from Pickering are a reminder of some of the punishments awaiting those who transgressed the King's law.

Free tours take place on the following Wednesdays: April 23, May 28, July 30, August 27, and September 24. Places must be booked in advance through the Tourist Information Centre at Helmsley Castle's visitor centre or by calling 01439 770173.

Tours take place at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, and are wheelchair-accessible, taking place over even ground with wide-access entrances.