The Barry Bromley Classic Firearms Museum is owned by Barry Bromley and Debbie Swift. Welcome to our website! Here you can find details on our unique small arms museum and evocative battlefield tours. We also offer weekly talks and lectures on First World War firearms and equipment. Perhaps most importantly, you can also learn about Debbie’s homemade cakes, served daily with English tea on our beautiful lawn set deep in the Flemish countryside.
The museum (and accompanying information centre) is a self-funded project. It represents my personal collection of firearms leading up to and including the First World War - along with a lifetime’s passion and knowledge. The museum sits nestled into the infamous Kemmelberg, just outside Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium, a place once ferociously violent but now peaceful and calm. My collection centres on British military firearms but also includes weapons and information about the many of the nations involved in the conflict.
(Please note: the Information Centre is only available upon request and is and not open to the public.)
This innovative museum, which presently covers the period 1800 to 1918, offers an informed and educational insight into the evolution of firearms and ammunition over the period, exploring how a change in one influenced a similar development in the other. The First World War saw a rapid advance in the technologies, strategies and tactics of modern conflict, redefining the concept of a battlefield. Tales of incompetent generals and heavy casualties are dominant narratives, yet the tools of war available to the armies of 1914 were more devastating to human flesh than at any other time in history. It is in these objects that a different narrative can be found. A story of weapon development, progression and improvement, which in turn allowed armies, soldiers and those who commanded them to prosecute the war in the most efficient and ruthless manner imaginable.
From 1914 conflict became an industrial undertaking and the firearms industry, born in the Victorian revolutions, played a central role to the development of Europe. The way weapons and the accoutrements of war evolved so rapidly meant that society benefitted in myriad ways. The standardisation of engineering, mass production and the invention of screw threads all emerged from the toiling arsenals of London, Birmingham and elsewhere. Without these things, and many others, life would be very different today.
Our exhibits also capture the human side of war, showing how man and machine learned to work as one. This was total war, materiel was produced on a hitherto unknown scale, and soldiers well understood the equipment they needed to survive. This relationship can be seen in many of the museum’s exhibits, not least the firearms, but more importantly in the personal stories that often accompany them. These private voices, so intimately connected to the artefacts on show, set this museum apart from others like it.
The new museum is rich in content and growing in size. Artefacts are regularly refreshed and new exhibits added every week. Future plans include a new exhibition hall covering the period 1918 to 1990, with artefacts from the Second World War, the British involvement in Northern Ireland and the Falklands War.
Our museum is the result of a lifetime’s labour, passion and investment. As so, it is intended that the contents (including the Information Centre’s collection of books, maps, papers and documents) be put into trust so that future generations can learn and take pleasure from these fascinating objects for many years to come.
New section of museum opening 2018
Learn more about the role the area played during the closing stages of the Great War
Next year a new section of the museum opens focusing on the conflict’s local history, and specifically the fighting on the Kemmelberg. The exhibits will include information and artefacts concerning the Battle of Messines and its build-up, much of which occurred in the immediate area. It will also examine the involvement of the area during 1918 when the notorious hill was captured – an event that saw the original house here taken prisoner too!
On a weekly basis during the tourist season (or by arrangement) there will be light-hearted but informative talks on many related subjects. Evenings will regularly feature guest speakers and artefact handling sessions. Further information will be posted on the website.
By prior arrangement personal battlefield tours may be arranged. Groups are small as we take the 4x4 – and sometimes my ’66 Mustang convertible when the sun is shining. Tours are not the usual affair and visit many places not accessible on the tourist trail. Please see the Tours section of the website for more information.
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Registered Firearms Dealer, Belgium
Licence No : 2/3/15/081
BTW No: BE0631.911.151