HISTORY has provided a rich seam for Hollywood directors recently, ensuring that one Herefordshire enterprise has been kept very busy.

Starring alongside the big stars in the big films - Brad Pitt in Troy, Colin Farrell in Oliver Stone's Alexander, Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons in Kingdom of Heaven - are props and armour from Norton Armouries Ltd in Eastnor.

Managing director David Cubbage has carved out a starring role for the company in film armoury with the creation of a 'hybrid polyurethane' that combines comfort and flexibility with a realistic appearance.

Working for films, David has more creative latitude than he had making armour for re-enactment societies, when authenticity was vital.

"Absolute authenticity is not essential in films," he says. "Directors are not making historical documents."

Eastnor has provided a sympathetic environment in which to work. "Because the business is artistically based, we didn't want to be on an industrial estate."

And its value has not been limited to the location - Eastnor has also provided David with a great neighbour.

"Eastnor Castle has a wonderful armour collection and James Hervey-Bathurst kindly gave me permission to borrow armour from which to take moulds for Van Helsing," he says.

"The two knights on horseback in the film are from the Eastnor collection."

Norton Armouries has several workshops operating at its Eastnor site, including a traditional armoury, a modelling and moulding workshop, a modern industrial processing plant, where the polyurethane is made, as well as full assembly, painting and finishing facilities.

Business has really taken off since the pioneering polyurethane hybrid was first used in the Oscar-winning film Gladiator. It has now become the preferred choice of stuntmen, both for look and comfort.

One of the major benefits for the company is that it can be produced in large amounts, very quickly and in a wide range of finishes.

For those who'd rather create the action than watch it on screen, Norton Armouries has recently launched a website where 'dragons and dungeons' game players can arm themselves ready to do battle. The website is at www.norton armouries.com