Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Artillery: British smoothbore muzzleloading (SBML) cannon in Canada, David McConnell

Excerpts from "British smooth-bore artillery: A technological study to support identification, acquisition, restoration, reproduction, and interpretation of artillery at national historic parks in Canada", David McConnell, 1 Jan 1988

Data current to 28 Jan 2021.  (Author Photo)

Smoothbore muzzleloading (SBML) cannon, Victoria Park, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

McConnell's mandate 

Under its mandate to interpret Canadian history to the public, Environment Canada, Parks, initiated an extensive study of the technology of British ordnance circa 1710 to the 1860s to aid in the re-creation of period settings at a number of former British military sites in Canada.  Its purpose was to provide a manual for the reconstruction of pieces of artillery, their carriages and platforms and to serve as a source for the interpretation of the technology in use at British forts.  The study covered the production of ordnance, the history of the development and design of various pieces (guns, mortars, howitzers, carronades), their carriages and platforms, and the development of gunpowder, cartridges, fuzes, and projectiles. 

 (Author Photo)

Smoothbore muzzleloading (SBML) cannon, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick.

Cannon weight 

Cannon in use with the British army and navy were measured by the term hundredweight (cwt), which for the period discussed was defined as 112 pounds.  Using this measurement, the weighing of guns, carriages, etc., was often stamped on the cannon in hundredweight, quarters of hundredweight, and pounds.  Cannon, guns and carronades were usually identified by the weight of the round shot that they fired; thus a 12-pounder gun fired a cast-iron ball that weighed approximately 12 pounds.  Mortars and howitzers, which fired shells, were usually identified by the diameter of the bore; thus an 8-inch mortar had a bore diameter of 8 inches.  The exceptions include shell-guns, which did not fire solid shot, and these were identified by their bore diameter, and the Millar field howitzers, which were identified with the cannons of which they had the same bore diameter (e.g., a 12-pounder howitzer had the bore diameter of a 12-pounder gun).

Ordnance at the end of the Elizabethan age

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, gun design had been gradually improved through trial-and-error and scientific experiment. By 1600, gun design had achieved most of the developments necessary for the guns to perform their role in warfare.  Gun design was centrally controlled by the Board of Ordnance whose principal office holder was the Surveyor of the Ordnance. Standard examples of shot were kept by the Ordnance Office, the ability of new guns to fire these standard sizes determined the gun's category. Each category had its own name. An inventory of the Royal Ordnance taken in 1637 reveals that were 8 principal categories of gun in the armoury: Cannon, Demi Cannon, Culverins, Demi Culverins, Sakers, Minions, Falcons and Bases. Within these categories were various sub-categories; "legitimate" or "indenture", which meant the gun was made with the standard metal thickness (10 calibre circumference at the touch hole), "reinforced", which had a greater metal thickness, "bastard" types which were often of lighter weight gun and took a lesser powder charge. There were also "cutts" referring to guns with shorter barrel length.  The cost of heavy guns was high and captured guns and older types were reused until they were no longer serviceable, resulting in considerable variation in specifications of guns in service.  (Dr A.R. Collins)

The Manufacturing of Ordnance 

During the two centuries before 1700, the beginning of the period under study, gunfounders had developed two materials that had the requisite qualities for the manufacture of ordnance - hardness, tenacity, and elasticity. 

In 1858, at the culmination of the smooth-bore era, an artillery officer explained the need for these qualities: The material should be hard, so as not to yield too easily to the action of the ball when passing out of the bore; tenacious, so as to resist the explosive power of the Gunpowder and not to burst; and lastly, elastic, so that the particles of the material of which the Gun is composed should, after the vibration caused by the discharge, return to their original position. 

Artillerists found that cast iron and brass or gun-metal met these requirements. (Strictly speaking, the latter composition was bronze, but contemporaries referred to it as brass or gun-metal and to the ordnance cast therefrom as brass ordnance.) 

Brass or gun-metal was an alloy of copper and tin, usually in the proportion of 10 parts tin to 90 parts copper for guns or howitzers and 12 parts tin to 88 parts copper for mortars.2 In their pure form both components were inadequate to be cast into ordnance. Copper, a very tenacious, ductile, and malleable metal, with a relatively high fusing point (I083.0°C), was much too soft to withstand the passage of a shot down the bore. Tin, less ductile than copper but malleable and even softer, possessed an added disadvantage of melting at a relatively low temperature (231.9°C). It had been known for centuries, however, that an admixture of tin to copper served to harden the latter metal, although too much tin made the resulting mixture brittle and thus liable to fracture. Copper and tin in the proper proportions produced an alloy harder than either of its components, quite tenacious, and with a fusing point somewhat lower than that of copper but considerably higher than that of tin. Its advantage in gunfounding was its strength; its disadvantage was its tendency to heat up quickly, become soft and thus susceptible to damage in the bore. Brass ordnance could not sustain rapid firing over a long period of time. 

While most authorities included only copper and tin in the composition of brass or gun-metal, some indicated that a small proportion of true brass (Le., an alloy of copper and zinc) was also added. The anonymous writer of an 18th century notebook remarked: Some Founders recommend a small mixture of Brass from a Notion that it promotes the union of the Tin with the Copper, but this opinion does not appear to be founded on sufficient grounds, and it should if used at all be added very sparingly, as the piece might be endangered from its brittleness when violently heated by repeated firing. 

Analysis of the metal of a number of pieces of British brass ordnance of various dates at the Tower of London has revealed that not only was zinc present in small proportions but lead as well. Various other elements were also identified in minor to trace quantities. Guns cast toward the end of the smooth-bore era were closer to being bronze, that is, entirely of copper and tin.

Type                           Date      Copper %   Tin %     Zinc %   Lead %

2-pounder cannon    c1700       79.5            11.3        0.50        3.55.

Mortar                       1726        89.1              6.8        0.30         0.35. 

24-pounder cannon   1743        90.8              2.25      0.10         0.75. 

Howitzer                   1798        86.0              8.75      0.15         0.80. 

Howitzer                   1810        87.1              6.65      0.15         1.00.

6-pounder cannon    1850         87.5              8.5        0.05         0.50. 

9-pounder RML       1870         88.7              8.1        0.05         0.40.

Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsemoc, phosphorus or silicon. These additions produce a range of alloys that may be harder than copper alone, or have other useful properties, such as stiffness, ductility, or machinability.

Iron, the other material utilized to make ordnance, rarely exists in a pure form. In a manufactured state it contains a proportion of another substance, usually carbon. Wrought iron, the purest, is relatively soft, and very tenacious, but it can only be fused at a very high temperature. Ordnance had been made of wrought iron, but because of the manner in which the iron was produced, only comparatively small weapons could be manufactured. Cast iron, which contained more carbon, about five per cent, was much harder, more brittle, and fused at a lower temperature. Produced by smelting iron ores in a blast furnace which burned charcoal or, later, coke, the molten iron could be cast directly as ordnance or alternately as pigs. The latter could be re-smelted in a reverberatory furnace to be cast into artillery pieces. Considerably harder than brass ordnance but not as strong, cast iron pieces were heavier with a greater thickness of metal than their brass equivalents. They were less prone to injury in their bores, did not heat as quickly or melt at so low a temperature, and they were considerably cheaper to produce. Slowly cast-iron guns superseded brass in all branches of artillery except in the field where lightness was of paramount importance. 

There is no detailed 18th century account of gun founding in Britain until the 1770s. Most descriptions are based on continental manuscripts or books and, while undoubtedly correct in their broad outlines, do not provide detailed pictures of what was happening in British foundries. Recently a series of 50 drawings, executed probably by Jan Verbruggen (1712-1781) or possibly by his son, Pieter (1735-1786), master gun-founders at the Royal Brass Foundry (Royal Arsenal), Woolwich (1770-86), have been published, providing a graphic account of the process as it was practiced there in the late 1770s and early 1780s.

 (Pieter Verbruggen, c1778)

Drawing made with Camera Obscura of a Horizontal Boring Machine (an industrial-sized lathe), by Jan Verbruggen in Woolwich Royal Brass Foundry in 1784.

Supplementing these are two manuscripts in the library of the Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, written by Isaac Landmann, a teacher at the Royal Military Academy from 1777 to 1815. One, written in 1793, seems to be daily notes of activities in a brass foundry, undoubtedly at Woolwich. The other, bearing the date 1795, appears to be the manuscript for a book based on the notes of the first volume, although there is no evidence that it was ever published. Unfortunately, no similar detailed records of iron gunfounding in eighteenth-century Britain have been found, but it is fair to say that the processes were similar. 

In order to cast a piece of ordnance, either of iron or of brass, an exact model of it was built up of loam and clay on a wooden spindle bound with rope or twine. Once this had been dried it was coated with carbon or wax, and the mould, which produced the negative image, was shaped over it similarly in layers of loam and clay. After being dried, it was encased in reinforcing iron staves and hoops, the model was removed, and it was buried upright in a pit before the smelting furnace. When the bath of metal in the hearth was sufficiently fused, workmen tapped the furnace allowing the molten metal to flow into the mould. A feeding-head or dead-head was cast on top of the piece either in a separate mould attached to the barrel mould or in an extension of it. This provided for extra pressure on the metal hardening in the barrel proper and allowed for filling up the shrinking volume of metal as it cooled. Once cool, the casting was taken from the pit, the mould broken off, the barrel deburred and smoothed, and the dead-head cut off. 

Originally, guns, mortars, and howitzers, either of iron or of brass, were cast on a core, built up of iron wire and clay over an iron spindle to the dimensions of the bore. When the casting had cooled, the core was removed, and the rough hole left was reamed out to smooth it and to bring it to the exact dimensions of the bore. Quite often, unfortunately, the bore was not true because either the core had shifted under the pressure of the molten metal or it had been warped by the heat. An obvious solution to this problem was to cast the gun solid and then to drill out the bore. 

While the solution may have been obvious in theory, the implementation of it in practice necessitated improvements in drilling technology. In 1715, Johann Maritz of Burgdorf, Switzerland, invented a new cannon-boring mill that incorporated two revolutionary innovations in technique. Firstly, the piece, rather than the drill, was rotated, and the drill was fed into it. Secondly, the piece and the boring machine were placed horizontally on a solid stone foundation, not vertically as before. 

Maritz's machine had a number of advantages over the older vertical boring devices. Because the piece rotated rather than the drill, it was easier to make the bore straight and concentric with the axis of the piece. The horizontal position allowed the massive stone foundation to be an integral part of the machine, far less flexible than the timber jig which in the vertical machine held and lowered the piece. Also, it was far easier to control the light iron drill than the heavy frame and piece of artillery of the earlier machine. The new technique also allowed for machining simultaneously with boring. Lastly it was much easier to load a piece of artillery into a horizontal than a vertical mill. 

Despite the success of the Maritz technology on the continent, some 50 years were to pass before it reached England. The delay may have been due to the reluctance of the French, who first adopted the new technique in their foundries, to allow its export but it was also attributable to the conservatism of English founders, particularly of Andrew Schalch, master founder at the Royal Brass Foundry, Woolwich, from 1717 to 1770. 

The Royal Brass Foundry was established in 1716. The Board of Ordnance had been thinking of such an institution for a number of years with the hope of standardizing land ordnance, of providing specifications for contractors, and of ascertaining costs. Two events - the disaster of 10 May 1716 at Mathew Bagley's foundry at Moorfields in which a casting blew up killing Bagley and a number of onlookers and the discovery that the royal stores of brass land ordnance contained only two 12 pounders - spurred on the Board to make the decision on 19 June 1716 to set up the foundry. 

Andrew Schalch, who had been trained at Douai in Flanders, was the first master founder at Woolwich. During his tenure of 43 years, he did little to keep up with European technology. By the end of the Seven Years' War the foundry was a shambles and the Board of Ordnance was looking to replace its master founder. The Board opened negotiations with Jan Verbruggen, master founder of the Heavy Ordnance Foundry at The Hague, but these initial negotiations in 1763 fell through, and it was not until 1770 that the Board secured the services not only of Jan but also of his son Pieter. 

The elder Verbruggen had been appointed master founder at Enkhuizen, West Friesland, in 1746 and had accepted the same position at the National Heavy Ordnance Foundry at The Hague in 1755. With the aid of Johann Jacob Spiegler who knew of the Maritz machine at Douai, over the next three years Verbruggen designed and built a new horizontal boring machine, the knowledge of which he brought to England in 1770. The arrival of the two Verbruggens at Woolwich that year brought energy and experience in European technology to replace Schalch's lethargy and incompetence. They had to rehabilitate the foundry, rebuilding the old furnaces and adding a new one. They disposed of Schalch's ancient vertical boring mill and built two new horizontal boring machines, one for cannons and one for mortars. (Later in 1776 they added a third.) By 1774 the newly reorganized Royal Brass Foundry at Woolwich was in production. So satisfied was the Board of Ordnance that henceforth all brass ordnance was to be cast at Woolwich, putting an end to the system whereby Schalch had contracted out some of the work. 

In 1774, shortly after the Verbruggens had introduced the Maritz technology to England, John Wilkinson, an ironmaster, patented a horizontal boring machine for iron cannon which seems to have been essentially the same as the Verbruggens'. Whence Wilkinson obtained his knowledge is not known, but he could have seen the Maritz system in France or Holland. At this time, a certain Anthony Bacon, who was probably associated with or working for Wilkinson, submitted proposals to the Board of Ordnance to manufacture solid bored-out cannon. The Board, which had just experienced a great number of failures of guns cast by the Carron Company in Scotland, was receptive and called in the Verbruggens to report on Bacon's castings. The Board of Ordnance was so impressed with their findings that on 15 August 1776 it stipulated that henceforth only guns cast solid and bored out would be accepted into service. Wilkinson's invention was so successful that other ironfounders soon copied it despite his patent. By the late 1770s all ordnance in England, brass and iron, was being cast solid and bored out. 

The technology which the Verbruggens introduced into the Royal Brass Foundry in the 1770s did not change in essentials for over two generations, not until the 1840s, when new machinery was installed, and the mid-1850s, when the moulding techniques were revised. By a study, therefore, of the Verbruggen drawings, of Isaac Landmann's commentary, and of subsequent briefer descriptions it is possible to construct a detailed picture of the process of brass gun manufacture as it was carried out in the Royal Brass Foundry from the 1770s to the 1840s. 

The first stage of the process was to create an exact model of the gun, mortar, or howitzer that was to be cast. This was built up upon a tapered wooden spindle, from eight to 12 feet in length and about two inches less than the model in diameter. A sloping neck was cut into it about a foot from its thicker end and two holes were drilled through this head to hold two cross bars by which the spindle was rotated. As the years passed, the shape of the spindle may have become more formalized. A drawing in a cadet notebook of 1849 gave very detailed dimensions for the spindle of a 24-pounder howitzer. 

The spindle was then set upon a wooden turning frame and covered with grease or soap to aid in its eventual removal from the mould. Beginning at the breech end, workmen began winding a plaited straw rope around it. On smaller pieces the rope was used only at the breech and muzzle ends while cord or yarn was wound around the middle section. Landmann depicted the turning frame as separate, but most other works showed it sitting atop a brick firebox in which a fire would be lit to dry the mould during the next stage. 

Over top of the rope or cord armature, workmen began to plaster on a composition to complete the model. This was a combination of clay, sand, horse dung, and water, well beaten and mixed to give it a smooth and homogeneous consistency. Layers were put on by hand, each dried over a fire, until somewhat more than the required dimensions were reached. Then a wooden stickle board or pattern of the profile of the piece being modeled (by the 1790s edged in iron), was held against the model to smooth and shape it as it was turned on the frame. Finally, the model was coated with wax or a solution of wood ashes in water to prevent it from adhering to the mould. 

With the aid of a trunnion gauge that ensured that the trunnions were level and at right angles to the axis of the model, wooden replicas of the trunnions, well-greased, were attached by long iron skewers or nails. Finally, wax models of the dolphins (if required), of the vent shell, and of the arms of the monarch and of the Master-General of the Ordnance were made in permanent moulds and attached in their proper place by iron skewers. In the nineteenth century the regulations called for the ornamentation to be engraved, thus doing away with the wax models of the coats of arms. Also, the models of the vent pan (much simpler than a shell) and of the front sight were made of lead. The dolphin models remained of wax. 

Once the model was dry, the mould, which was the negative image, was built up on top of it. The initial two or three layers of composition, put on by hand, were a combination of finely pulverized refractory clay and silicon sand, with perhaps a small amount of cow's hair, well mixed in water. Since fire drying would melt the wax, each layer was allowed to dry in the air. Then a coarser mixture of clay, sand, and larger amounts of cow's hair was plastered on by hand, coatings of it alternating with coverings of tow (flax or hemp) which aided one layer adhering to the next. Before they became buried in the composition, the iron skewers holding on the ornaments and dolphins were carefully removed. When the mould had reached the required thickness, its final shape was determined by the application of a pattern board. After the final coating was dried over the fire, iron staves, which matched the shape given to the mould by the pattern board, were bound tightly around it by iron hoops. It was finished by a final application of fine mould composition and then dried over a fire. 

In preparation for the removal of the model, the completed mould was lifted from the turning frame and placed upon a wooden cradle. A workman struck the narrower end of the spindle, which was conical and well-greased, with a wooden mallet, while other workmen steadied the opposite end of the mould and carefully removed the loosened spindle. The rope was then wound out of the cavity and set aside for future use. The trunnion models were either pulled out or shoved into the cavity and removed. To calcine the clay of the model that still remained, a fire was burned inside it and the debris broken or swept out. The fire melted whatever wax remained of the dolphin and ornament models. Later when lead replaced wax to model the vent pan and front sight, these models had to be picked out by hand. Workmen then inspected the interior for any defects or flaws and repaired any they found with a trowel and model composition. A coat of a lye mixture was spread over the interior surface to prevent the molten metal of the casting adhering to the walls of the mould. The mould was then taken to the casting pit to be annealed. 

The Verbruggen drawings indicate that the dead head and barrel moulds, except in the case of large mortars, were made as a unit. Landmann and subsequent authorities say that the dead head mould was constructed separately and then attached to the main mould in the casting pit. It was made in exactly the same way as the main mould, of dimensions to fit onto the latter. A hole was drilled into it near its top into which a clay pipe or sprue was introduced, through which the molten metal would flow into the mould. Bound with iron staves and hoops the dead head model was taken to the casting pit to be attached to the main mould by wires through holes in the ends of the staves. 

In the casting pit the mould was supported upright on a low foundation of bricks with intervals between them. A charcoal fire was lit beneath the mould and old hop poles burned within. The fire was kept going for two or three hours until the interior of the mould was red hot, the clay on the verge of vitrification. Then it was put out, the mould was covered with an iron lid, and allowed to cool. This process of annealing hardened and toughened the clay to resist the molten metal of the casting. 

At this point the main mould was ready to be attached to the cascabel mould which had been made separately using similar methods. This model was built up upon a wooden disk, its diameter depending on the size of the piece to be cast, pierced through the centre by a wooden spindle. Modeling composition was layered onto the disk and straw rope was wound around the spindle followed by coatings of composition. When the appropriate size was reached the proper shape was achieved by using a stickle board or pattern. Once it had dried it was coated with wax or a solution of wood ashes. The mould was built up over it with alternating layers of mould composition and tow until the correct size was realized whereupon it was dried over a charcoal fire. Since the cascabel mould had to bear the entire weight of the mould and metal, the Verbruggens placed it in a metal container which it was made to fit exactly. Landmann indicated that the container was used only with heavy pieces. The cascabel moulds of lighter pieces were strengthened by being encircled with two metal straps. At this stage a collar was turned on the cascabel mould to ensure its exact fit into the main mould. The model was removed, and the mould was annealed by burning charcoal under it. 

The open breech end of a small mortar was closed slightly differently because its trunnions, unlike those of a gun or howitzer, were located at its extremity. The models of the trunnions were removed in the usual way. A plug of loam was fashioned to the required size and its interior surface moulded against a long model of the trunnions inserted into the trunnion holes. Incorporated into the plug was the mould of the protrusion to fit into the chuck of the boring mill. 

According to the Verbruggens the mould of a large mortar could not be built up on a horizontal model. Rather it was constructed much in the manner of a bell mould, around a vertical spindle. An iron tripod, from which an iron rod ran to a wooden beam above, was set atop a brick firebox. A stickle-board, or template, rotating through 360 degrees, by which the model was shaped, was attached to the iron rod. 

A brick armature was built up around the tripod in the general shape of the mortar. Onto this, workmen applied layers of clay to build up the model, which was finally shaped by the application of the stickle-board. Coincident with the application of the clay, a fire was lit in the firebox to ensure a gradual drying of the model. The breech section was produced separately and attached; the metal rod being removed beforehand. Finally, a wax coating was applied, and the wax models of whatever ornaments were called for were attached with iron skewers. 

When the model was dry, the mould was built up in the usual way by smoothing on layers of composition. After a template, attached to the overhead beam, was used to give the mould its final shape, the iron reinforcing loops and staves were attached. The massive mould was then lifted by block and tackle off the firebox and placed on a wooden cradle where the brick armature and clay model were removed. After inspection and repair, if necessary, the interior surface was brushed with a solution of ash to prevent the molten metal penetrating the mould. After it was well baked it was ready to be taken to the casting pit, where the dead-head mould would be attached. 

Once the cascabel mould of a gun or howitzer was ready it was taken to the casting pit, where the main mould was lifted up, the brick support and ashes cleaned out, and the ground carefully levelled. The cascabel mould was lowered into its proper position in the pit. Into it a disk of cloth, the edge of which was pierced by a number of small rings, was placed. This cloth served as holder for a small candle, by whose light the workmen could observe the joining of the cascabel and main moulds, and as a depository for any dirt or debris which might fall into the mould. It was eventually removed by hauling it up on a long string that was threaded through the rings and extended upwards through the barrel mould. 

The main mould, with the sprue opening facing inwards, was lowered carefully onto the cascabel mould. The candle was snuffed out and all the openings were closed to prevent debris from entering. The joint of cascabel and main mould was smeared with composition to ensure as close a fit as possible. Finally, it was ascertained that the mould was perfectly vertical. 

From an adjoining pit workmen lifted baskets of damp earth, spread it thinly between the moulds (more than one piece was usually cast), and firmly compacted it by tamping with iron or bronze weights. The trunnion holes were closed with firebrick when the level of the earth reached them. The filling and compacting continued until the sprue holes were reached. The work was completed as quickly as possible, as many workmen as were available or could fit into the pit being employed. They tamped the earth until it had the solidity of stone. 

A channel of loam, or later of firebricks, which led from the furnace door and passed by the various sprues, was built into the surface and was so constructed that it sloped away from the furnaces. At its end a pit was dug to hold any excess metal. Iron plates would be inserted into the channel at intervals so that the moulds could be filled consecutively, not all at once. The channel was fired with charcoal to anneal it. 

While the pit was being readied the furnace in which the charge of metal was to be melted was lit. The furnace was the reverberatory type, that is the firebox, in which cordwood was burned, was separated from the furnace proper where the metal was melted. The flames, passing through the firehole, played over the metal and heated the roof of the furnace to a white heat, thus melting the metal by both convection and radiation. 

The charge of metal consisted of old used-up guns, captured pieces, metal filings, deadheads, and other scraps as well as such amounts of pure copper and tin as would be sufficient to create a gun-metal of the proper proportions. The founder carefully weighed the metal to equal the weight of the pieces to be cast and assayed its quality, either by eye or by immersing samples in nitric acid to ascertain the proportions of copper and tin. Pure ingots of the latter metals would be added toward the end of the smelt to adjust the proportions if necessary. 

It was important that the furnace be heated gradually to ensure as little damage as possible to its walls and especially that the floor be well heated before the charge was introduced and melted. Sometimes large old pieces were put in beforehand, but they were elevated above the furnace floor by bricks to allow the flames to play around and under them, heating the floor of the furnace before the metal fused. As the metal melted more and more of the charge was added to the molten bath which was kept well stirred by wooden poles. Periodically the dross on the surface was skimmed off with a large wooden rake. Toward the end of the smelt, the founder, if he thought it necessary, threw in the pure ingots of copper and tin. Workmen stirred and skimmed the bath once more and the furnace was ready to be tapped. 

While the metal was being brought to the proper temperature, the founder was coordinating activities outside the furnace so that all would be completed precisely when the furnace was ready to be tapped. The charcoal fires that annealed the channel were not extinguished until just before the tapping so that the channel would be hot when the metal flowed through it. It was swept out and the metal sluice gates which controlled the flow of metal were inserted. The covers were removed from the moulds and the cloths containing the candles and any debris that had fallen in were taken out in the manner previously described. According to Landmann, the bottom of the moulds were cleaned out by a ball of wax on a long pole. The sprue openings were uncovered and iron plugs of a shape to fit them on the end of iron rods were inserted into the sprue holes of the first moulds to be filled. 

The furnace now could be tapped. Using the crook or lancet, a long iron pole curved into a semi-circle at one end and suspended by chains so that it could swing freely, a workman drove the iron plug of the tapping hole into the middle of the furnace, allowing the molten metal to run out into the channel. In order that as little dross as possible would flow into the moulds, the level in the channel was allowed to rise above the level of the sprue openings before the stoppers were removed, thus allowing only the pure metal to enter. Once the moulds in the first section were filled (this might be two or four depending on their size), the sluice gate was removed, and the metal allowed to flow into the next section where the same procedures were followed. When all the moulds had been filled the last sluice gate was pulled up and the excess metal allowed to flow into the pit to be saved for future use. Once the furnace was empty, the iron plug was retrieved the fire was put out, and the doors and chimneys were closed. 

When the moulds had cooled for a day, workmen began the dirty, hot, and uncomfortable job of digging them out. This was done as quickly as possible, for slow cooling made the metal brittle. When the earth level had been reduced sufficiently, each mould was broken free by block and tackle, usually leaving the cascabel mould behind in the fill. Once out of the pit the hoops and staves were removed, and the mould broken off with a sledgehammer. Then a hammer and scraper were used to remove whatever crust had formed on the surface of the piece. The dead head was sawn off by hand and a chisel and file used to remove whatever inequalities remained on the cross section. The piece was ready to be taken to the machine shop to be bored. 

In the machine shop the axis of the piece was determined by finding the centre point on the face of muzzle and on the protrusion behind the button. At this point a hole was drilled into the muzzle. The protrusion at the other end was chipped and filed into a square which would fit into the chuck of the rotating device. This done, the piece was mounted in the lathe; one end rested in the chuck, and the muzzle was supported by a steel centre inserted into the hole and mounted on top of the boring table. The muzzle was to turn in a support, called a steady rest, at the end of the boring table. In order that it would run true the piece was rotated and a collar of the same size as the hardened steel bearing of the steady rest was cut round the muzzle concentric with the centre hole. The steel centre was removed, and the muzzle clamped into the steady rest. The centre hole was enlarged to take the first of the three or more drills, each of an increased diameter, which would be used. The cutting edge of the drill was at the end of a long rectangular shank which was securely clamped between two exactly parallel metal guides. The drill and the axis of the piece had been lined up with the aid of a series of plumb bobs hanging from the ceiling above the lathe and boring table. As the piece was turned by horsepower, the drill was gradually fed into it by a rack and pinion device at the rear of the drill shank. 

While the boring was progressing, the surface of the piece was being smoothed by a chisel as much as the ornamentation would allow. Later, when the ornamentation was engraved most of the surface of the piece could be finished at this stage. Areas that could not be reached were finished later by hand with chisels and files. The trunnions were also brought to their proper size and shape by hand. Finally, the vent was drilled, and the piece was ready to be proofed. 

Before discussing proofing, I want to describe a machining process was carried out after the piece had been tested, namely bouching. A bouch was a threaded plug, usually of copper, with the vent hole drilled along its axis, that was screwed into a piece at the vent. Bouching was adopted to combat the enlargement of the vent as a piece was fired. Copper was used because it did not melt at as low a temperature as gun-metal nor corrode as readily as cast iron. 

Brass guns were issued bouched, but it is not known when the practice began. Landmann described the process in 1793, but there are no references before this.26 Possibly the practice was first adopted sometime in the 1780s. 

The evidence concerning the bouching of cast iron guns is more abundant. The vents of the iron guns at the sieges of Badajoz and San Sebastian during the Peninsular campaign in 1812 and 1813 had enlarged badly. In consequence the Royal Artillery carried out experiments at Woolwich in the autumn of 1813 testing common, wrought iron, and copper vents. Copper withstood the firing best, although wrought iron also resisted well. It was decided, therefore, to bouch guns with copper when their vents had become enlarged from .2 to .25 of an inch. In 1855 it was ordered that all iron guns (except 6- and 9-pounders which by then were only used to fire salutes) were to be bouched before issue. 

From 1844 to 1855 wrought iron bouches were used. It was believed that a "galvanic" action was set up between the copper bouch and the iron gun which caused their corrosion. In 1855 experiments proved that this was not true and the use of copper bouches was resumed. 

The process as described by Landmann and later manuals remained essentially the same although the tools became more sophisticated. The vent hole was drilled out into the bore, first with a narrow and then with a larger set of drills. The latter drilling did not penetrate into the bore but stopped where the thread was to end. The remainder of the hole was finished as a cone. The hole was then tapped down to the beginning of the cone, burrs were removed, and the hole was cleaned with tow. Next the copper bouch, well oiled, was screwed in by a hand lever or wrench. 

The bouch was a threaded cylinder of pure copper, with a vent drilled lengthways along its axis, one end squared to receive the wrench and the other slightly conical. This conical end ensured a tight fit into the bore of the gun. After the bouch had been screwed home an impression of the end of the bore was taken to ensure that the fit was proper and that no gap existed between the bouch and the bore. Then the projecting end was cut off with a long cutter especially designed for the purpose, care being taken that the two surfaces were flush. Then that part of the bouch above the surface of the gun was sawn off and by the use of a chisel and hammer made flush with the surface. Then the vent hole was opened, and the vent reamed and gauged. A final impression was taken inside the piece and if that was satisfactory the operation was finished 

Landmann's description in 1793 differed in some details from the above, being less refined. Landmann made no mention of the conical end, either of the bouch or of the hole it was to fit. The accompanying drawing in his manuscript showed that the thread extended the length of the bouch and hole. The projecting end of the bouch was cut off by the final drilling bit inserted into the bore and turned by hand. It is not known when the cone bouch was developed; perhaps it arose out of the series of experiments at Woolwich during the autumn of 1813. 

The process of manufacture of brass ordnance in the Royal Brass Foundry, which has just been described, remained essentially constant until the 1840s. The machinery that the Verbruggens installed remained in use until 1842, when the Inspector of Artillery, Colonel Dundas, inaugurated a series of changes by which, in the opinion of one expert, "...the manufacture of brass guns...was brought up to as great a degree of perfection as may be considered attainable in the present state of the art." The old horse powered boring mills were done away with, a steam engine was introduced, new boring machinery brought in, and new machinery designed and built to perform those tasks originally done by hand with file and chisel. The same jobs had to be done but they were done more efficiently and more accurately: If this Department, as it stood in 1841, with its rude boring mills turned by horses, and with all the finishing work per- formed by the hand chisel and file of the workman, were placed side by side with the Department in 1851, furnished as it was with steam power, with numerous lathes, and with self- acting machines for boring, turning, and finishing the guns, the value of the labour and energy which has been expended thereon, would be sufficiently apparent. 

Shortly after 1855, when Colonel F. Eardley Wilmot had been appointed superintendent of the Royal Brass Foundry, a new method of creating the moulds for brass guns was introduced. Instead of being destroyed each time a mould was made, the model, which was cast in iron, could be reused. The model of one-half of the piece, convex surface uppermost, was attached to a specially designed cast iron table. It was carefully oiled and sprinkled with dry sand to prevent adhesion to the mould. A cast iron jacket or gun box was carefully placed over the model and the interval between them rammed with the mould composition, a mixture of two parts loam and one part sand. When the space was completely filled, the model was withdrawn by a device which lowered it through the section of the table on which it rested. The interior surface of the mould was washed with a mixture of tan-ash and water to prevent the molten metal penetrating the mould wall during casting. A large number of holes in the metal jacket allowed the mould to be ventilated by driving a pricker almost through its walls. These holes permitted gases to escape when the metal was poured in. Then the mould, and its mirror image, were taken to the stove (i.e., a room with a grate in it) for drying. After 10 or 12 hours the two half moulds were taken to the casting pit, lowered in, and bolted together. In the meantime, the gun metal had been melted in a reverberatory furnace. When the bath of metal had achieved the proper temperature, the furnace was tapped to release the molten metal. It flowed into the mould along a wrought iron channel covered with 3/4-inch of loam to protect the iron. Apparently, the mould was no longer buried but propped up in some manner. After cooling for about an hour in the pit, the moulds were taken out and, when properly cool, the castings were finished and machined in the manner already described. 

The discussion to this point has been mainly about the manufacture of brass ordnance, about which we have considerably more information than about the manufacture of iron. Until late in the 1850s all iron pieces were cast by private manufacturers from whom no documents comparable to the Verbruggen drawings or Landmann's descriptions have come down to us. The two processes were similar. 

Originally all ordnance, whether brass or iron, was cast in clay or loam moulds, in the manner already described. Another method, casting in sand moulds, was adopted for iron weapons. Hughes in his study of smooth-bore artillery claims that sand moulds were being used by 1750, but he gives no source. There is no detailed description of the process in England until well into the nineteenth century. The most complete was given in 1809 by Louis de Toussard in The American Artillerist's Companion. The author was a French artillerist in the American service, but he seems to have been quite familiar with British authorities. His description of iron gun casting matched closely with later descriptions in British manuals. Little change seems to have occurred in the process during the first 60 years of the nineteenth century and quite possibly during the years before. 

Whereas the model was destroyed when the clay or loam method of the Verbruggens was used, the model was retained for reuse when sand casting as described by de Toussard was employed. The model was an exact replica of the piece, made of hard wood, iron, or brass. It was divided into a number of hollow pieces - cascabel, two reinforces, chase, muzzle, and deadhead. A cast iron jacket or flask which would contain the model corresponded to each of these parts. Except for the two cascabel flasks, all the others were in halves joined longitudinally by pins and keys (later by nuts and bolts). Flanges on the ends of each flask allowed it to be joined to the next flask. The mould was built up by ramming sand in the interval between the flask and the model. 

The sand had to have certain characteristics. It must not melt during the baking of the model or the pouring of the metal. It must not have too much clay mixed with it or it would contract too much during drying. Its grains had to be rough and angular in order that it would hold together. A sand of quartz, angular, rather coarse, and very refractory, was prescribed. In order to give the composition consistency, it was moistened with water in which clay was dissolved and well mixed. 

Each model, which was coated with a carbon solution, was centred vertically inside its flask and sand was rammed down between it and the flask, care being taken that only a small amount of sand was rammed at one time. When one section was finished its upper surface was sprinkled with powdered charcoal to prevent its adhering to the next section. Then the next model was lowered onto the completed model and mould, the two models being joined by rabbets. The corresponding flask was then put into place and connected, and more sand was rammed here. This process was repeated until the deadhead was finished. The trunnion moulds were attached to the main mould by screws from the inside. The sand was rammed home from the side and metal covers were fixed over the flask openings. The screws were taken out before the main model was removed. 

When the mould was completed, the flasks were disassembled and set upon the ground, their large ends uppermost. The hollow models were disengaged from the sand and lifted out to be reused. The trunnion models, their attaching screws having been previously removed, were pulled from their positions. The flasks containing the moulds were then taken to the stove, a brick lined room with a large grate, in which they were dried for about fifteen hours. The interiors of the moulds were then brushed with a coating of carbon and clayed water to prevent the molten metal adhering to the surface of the mould. Following this the flasks were taken to the casting pit where they were reassembled. The process of casting and machining was similar to the process for brass ordnance already described. 

Before a piece of ordnance was accepted into service it was necessary to ascertain that it met the specifications set forth by the Board of Ordnance and that it was safe to fire. It was submitted to proof by the Ordnance at Woolwich. A parliamentary commission in 1783 neatly summarized the process: Every gun first undergoes an examination, and then a proof (i.e, by being fired). The examination is performed with Instruments calculated to discover errors in the forms and position of the bore, and to ascertain whether the construction is agreeable in every respect, to the mould sent as a pattern to the Gun-Founder; then by forcing water into the bore; and lastly by an inspection of the inward surfaces, effected by throwing into it a quantity of light, by means of a mirror, which frequently discovers concealed defects that escape every other examination and proof. 

No descriptions of proofing before 1750 have been found. but there are tables of proof powder charges from the 1720s and perhaps before. Accounts after 1750 agree, more or less, in their general outlines. 

The piece of ordnance, whether brass or iron, gun, howitzer, or mortar (or carronade after 1779), was first inspected by eye and by instruments to detect any imperfections. Its length was measured, and the thickness of metal ascertained. The bore had to be of the proper diameter and its axis coincident with the axis of the piece. The trunnions must be level, of the correct diameter, and in their proper position. The vent had to be of the proper diameter and correctly bored. Small variations were allowed, but discrepancies beyond these resulted in the piece's rejection. 

The interior of the bore was next inspected. A searcher was used to detect holes or honeycombs in the bore. It consisted of an iron socket, with four to eight branches bent outward at their ends into sharp points, connected to a pole of from eight to 12 feet. The searcher was inserted into the bore of the gun and twisted around as it was slowly withdrawn. The branches of the socket were sprung outwards and became caught in any hole that was in the surface of the bore. If a hole was discovered, a chalk mark was placed on the handle of the searcher and also at the hole's position on the exterior surface of the gun. Then a second searcher with only one point, on which a mixture of wax and tallow was stuck, was inserted to discover the hole and to take an impression of it. If the hole was 1/4-inch deep or of a considerable length the piece was rejected. This regulation was refined by the 1790s: a hole of 0.2 inch in the charging cylinder or 0.25 inch in the chase caused the rejection of the piece. 

One other instrument, the reliever, should be noted. It was a flat ring attached by a socket at right angles to a pole. The ring was put over the searcher pole and thrust into the gun to release the searcher if it became stuck. 

In the 1770s General Thomas Desaguliers invented a more sophisticated and complex instrument to detect imperfections in the bore. This instrument, grounded on the truest mechanical principles, is no sooner introduced into the hollow cylinder of the gun, that it discovers its defects, and more particularly that of the piece not being truly bored, which is a very important one... 

This device, or one based on its principle, was still in use almost a century later.

When a piece had been successfully proofed by instrument, it was taken to the proofing butts where it was fired twice with a predetermined charge of powder, two junk wads, and ball (carronades were proofed with only one wad) [see Appendix C for proof charges]. After each firing it was carefully inspected and searched as before to detect any holes or cracks which had appeared. The guns were laid on the ground supported by a billet of wood to raise their muzzles slightly and fired into a wooden butt. Mortars and howitzers were fired at an elevation of 70 degrees out into the Thames. 

If the piece passed this trial, it then had to undergo the waterproof. John Muller had doubts about its efficacy. Sometimes water is forced into them, but this proof is insufficient; it has been found, that though the water penetrated through the piece in several places, yet they were very good and serviceable. 

Smith does not mention this proof in his An Universal Military Dictionary in 1779, but it was certainly well established by the mid-1780s. 

The piece was stopped up with a tapering wooden plug through which a hole had been drilled lengthways. Originally it had been driven tightly into the bore with a setter and mallet, but by the mid-1780s, due to problems in getting it out, the plug was lined with cowhide and held in place by chains wrapped around the trunnions. The piece was filled with water, the vent was plugged, and a hose was screwed into the plug and attached to a pump. It was worked for about five minutes to attempt to force water out through any cracks which might be in the piece. If any water appeared the piece was rejected. When the water had been emptied out and the bore dried, a mirror was inserted to detect any holes or spunginess. Either sunlight or a special candle inserted in the bore would illuminate the mirror. The flaws, which would still be damp while the rest of the bore was dry, were thus easily detected.  

In 1782 Captain Thomas Blomefield was appointed Inspector General of Artillery at Woolwich, responsible for the proofing of ordnance. He entered into his job with great vigour and subjected the pieces to rigorous proofs. According to his proposed regulations for iron ordnance, should one gun in 10 burst, then the whole number submitted from that cast would be rejected immediately. If a smaller proportion failed, then the inspector could select two other guns which had been cast immediately before and after the burst gun and fire each 20 times with the service charge. If either of them failed, the inspector could reject the whole batch. 

Such rigour was not appreciated by the contractors and a less demanding solution was worked out. If any gun were to burst, then all the guns of that batch would be subjected to a third proof, using the same charge as in the first two proofs. Any failure could result in the whole batch being rejected. According to the documentation, this was an arrangement worked out with the contractors, but not yet approved by the Board of Ordnance. A later manual of 1801 notes: “Ordnance suspected of being bad are often subject to a more severe proof; that of firing 30 rounds quick, with the service charge and 2 shot...” 

A survey of the manuals and notebooks after 1800 reveals that in all essentials the method of carrying on the proof continued much as it had before. The instruments used became more refined - for example, the handle of the searcher was graduated to aid in measuring and the pump became more powerful exerting more pressure on the water in the bore during the water test. A notebook of 1859 could almost have been written in the 1770s. It began: The examinations and proofs to which ordnance are subjected in this department are arranged as follows 1) instrumental proof. 2) fireproof. 3) searcher. 4) waterproof. 5) sun proof. 

It then went on to describe Desaguliers' instrument used for ascertaining the size and trueness of the bore, and the various callipers and levels to measure the external surfaces. The method of fireproof was much the same except that by the later 1850s a galvanic battery was used to ignite the powder charge by transmitting an electric current through copper wires to the tube. The searchers were used in the usual manner and the gun was proofed with water and then with a mirror. 

The century and a half after 1700 saw a number of technological developments that resulted in British ordnance being arguably the best in the world by 1860. By the beginning of the eighteenth century gunfounders had discovered that brass, often called gun-metal (really bronze, an alloy of copper and tin) and cast iron were most suitable for the manufacture of ordnance. Because of its cheapness and less proclivity to damage, cast iron came to replace brass except for field pieces for which lightness was of more importance. In the first half of the 18th century British technology tended to lag behind developments on the continent where Maritz's invention of a horizontal, as opposed to a vertical, boring mill and the innovation of turning the artillery piece rather than the drill bit allowed ordnance to be cast solid and then accurately bored out. The Verbruggens, who replaced Andrew Schalch as master founder at the Royal Brass Foundry in 1770, introduced the new technology to England for brass ordnance in the early 1770s and the iron founder John Wilkinson adapted it to iron ordnance by the end of the decade. The adoption of a rigorous proofing system in the 1780s, under the supervision of Thomas Blomefield, Inspector General of Artillery, along with the introduction of the new technology, ensured the quality of British smooth-bore ordnance for another 60 years. In the 1840s and 1850s new machinery and technical innovations were introduced into the Royal Brass Foundry to increase the efficiency of operation, but the processes remained essentially the same. By the 1850s the technology that had perfected smooth-bore muzzle-loading ordnance was being turned to the task of replacing it with rifled breech-loading artillery.

Brass Guns

Originally brass guns were cast in all calibres from the heaviest 42-pounder to the lightest l-pounder (the 4-pounder seems to have been an exception) and they were used for all purposes - on ships, for sieges, and in the field. As explained previously, the heavier brass pieces were replaced by iron guns because of the latter's cheapness and durability, except in the field service where lightness was of more importance. By the 1760s field guns included 24-, 12-, 6-, 3-, and 1-1/2-pounders, but the 24-pounder came to be little used in the field and even the 12-pounder was awkward. (The 1-1/2-pounder was obsolete by the 1770s.) By the 1790s, when the 9-pounder field piece was introduced, the standard brass field guns were the 9-, 6-, and 3-pounders. (A I-pounder or amusette has been recorded but its history is somewhat obscure.) The 9-and 6-pounders remained in service thereafter, but the 3-pounder was relegated to colonial or mountain service where its lightness was of value in rugged terrain.

 (KDS444 Photo)

Figure 1. The parts of a gun.  Side elevation of a typical 18th-century cannon.


Details about the 42-pounder brass gun are mostly lacking. James mentions it three times in his notebook, circa 1722. In 1715, a 10-foot version of 66 hundredweight was recommended for naval use. There also was a slightly shorter, and presumably lighter, model of 9 feet 6 inches. James included a table of dimensions given in Armstrong's regulations of 1725 that specified only the 10-foot model, but unfortunately the details are largely incomprehensible.

The 42-pounder may have gone out of fashion temporarily for it was not included in the mensuration of 1743, the highest calibre recorded being a 32-pounder) It was included in the Board of Ordnance's regulations of 1764 at 9 feet 6 inches in length and weighing 61 hundredweight) Thereafter it was noted in various notebooks or manuals. Until the late 1770s it was usually cited at 61 hundredweight, after that its usual weight was said to be 66 hundredweight.4 An increase of 5 hundredweight undoubtedly indicated some change in design, perhaps an increase of metal around the breech, but it is only speculation. The 42-pounder was last mentioned by Adye in his manual of 1813.5 Hughes in his study was of the opinion that the gun was obsolescent by 1800 and obsolete by 1816.

Thomas Walton, who was probably a civilian employee of the Board of Ordnance, was the only authority who recorded any dimensions, specifically those of the establishment (Le., the official dimensions promulgated by the Board) in 1778). Unfortunately, he gave only diameters, except for the length of 9 feet 6 inches. 

Diameters                                       Ft. In.     10th

On the base ring                             1 and  9   75? 

Behind the 1st reinforce ring          1 and 7     0 

Before the 1st reinforce ring          1 and 6     166? 

Behind the 2nd reinforce ring        1 and 5      5 

Before the 2nd reinforce ring         1 and 4      5 

At the muzzle astragal                    1 and 1     916 

At the muzzle swell                         1 and 5    166

Thickness of metal at the muzzle astragal 3    443

 (Nick Reed Photo)

Figure 1b.  42-pounder brass gun from HMS Victory (1737).


The 32-pounder brass gun is as obscure as the 42-pounder. Two lengths, 10 feet and 9 feet 6 inches, were recorded in James' notebook in the 1720s, but no mention of it was made in the table of dimensions laid down by Armstrong in 1725. According to the mensuration of 1743, however, the gun was 10 feet long and weighed slightly more than 55-1/2 hundredweight. There was no mention of a brass 32-pounder in the Board of Ordnance's regulations of 1764 nor by Walton in his table of 1778. Adye, in his notebook of 1766, gave detailed dimensions of a gun 9 feet long. This is at odds with the rest of his table of guns which agreed with the mensuration of 1743. A brass 32-pounder continued to be noted throughout the century, the last reference being in Adye's manual of 1813. Usually, it was listed at 10 feet in length, weighing 55-1/2 hundredweight. It is impossible to know if there were any changes in design since the only detailed specifications were those of 1743. According to Hughes, the 32-pounder, like the 42-pounder, was obsolescent by 1800 and obsolete by 1816.


In the 1720s at least four different 24-pounder brass guns were reported. In one table, James listed the partial specifications of three of them, "according to the First and Second Regulation": 

Length Ft. In. Base ring to trunnion centre, Ft. In. Weight Cwt, qtr, lb.

10 and 6.        4 and 6.                                             54-0-2 

10 and 0.        4 and 3.                                             51-3-25.5 

9 and 6.          4 and 1.                                             not given 

In another table, listing weapons according to Armstrong's regulations of 1725, he noted only one 24-pounder of 9 feet in length, with no weight given)6 The lack of detail in the first table and the obscurity of it in the second, in which diameters of the piece were intended to be set out, make it impossible to describe these guns more fully. The distance from the base ring to the trunnion centre, given in the first table, approximates the proportion later attributed to Armstrong of 3/7 the length of the gun. 

About 1750 Glegg copied into his notebook detailed dimensions, according to the mensuration of 1743, of a brass 24-pounder of 9 feet 6 inches, weighing 52 hundredweight, 1 quarter, 12 pounds. Whether this was the same gun that James listed in the 1720s is impossible to say. A 24-pounder of this length, weighing 51 or 52 hundredweight, continued to be noted in books and manuals into the next century, the last reference to it being in Adye's manual of 1813. 

Two new models were brought into use about 1750: an 8-foot gun of 40 hundredweight and a 5-1/2-foot gun of about 16 hundredweight, both of which, according to the Aide-Memoire, were intended for the field service.19 All three varieties were included in the regulations of dimensions formulated by the Board of Ordnance in 1764, and they continued to be mentioned in books and manuals throughout the century.20 Their weights tended to increase slightly by about 1780 which may indicate increases in diameters. 

According to a table of 1778, attributed to Congreve, there was a 24-pounder of 5 feet in length, weighing 16 hundredweight, 3 quarters, 13 pounds. This length and weight of gun continued to appear subsequently and was included in Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813. The slightly longer gun of 5-1/2-feet also was noted, but no record has been found of both guns being recorded in the same table. It is quite possible that a new model was introduced, but it is equally possible that someone made a slight error in copying, an error which was repeated subsequently. After 1778 the weight of either length of gun was said to be 16 hundredweight, 3 quarters, 13 pounds (in one case only 13-3/4 hundredweight). A difference of 1/2 foot of metal should have made a difference in weight. 

Probably in the 1790s Thomas Blomefield introduced a new light brass 24-pounder. It was slightly more than 6 feet 3 inches long, that is 13 calibres, and weighed 24 hundredweight, that is one hundredweight of metal for each pound of shot. According to Hughes, this new gun shared the fate of the other three: all were "out of service after failure at the siege of Badajoz in 1811." 

There are a number of documents extant that illustrate these guns to a greater or lesser extent. Drawings of a 9 foot and a 9-1/2-foot brass 24-pounder, tentatively dated to circa 1735, from which exact dimensions can be extracted, have been preserved at the Royal Artillery Institution Library, Woolwich (Figs. 2 and 3). An actual example from 1748, weighing about 50 hundredweight, is on display at the Rotunda, Woolwich, but unfortunately its length is not in the museum catalogue (Fig. 4). Dimensions of a 9-1/2-foot gun were included in the "mensuration" of 1743, and these dimensions (with some differences, along with those of the 5-1/2-foot gun, were put into Adye's notebook of 1766. Walton gave partial dimensions for the three models in 1778. Finally, in 1791, Rudyerd made scale drawings of the heavy and medium guns during his course at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

Figure 2. Brass 24-pounder, weight: 50 hundred weight 3 quarters 22 pounds, length: 9 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.)

Figure 3. Brass 24-pounder, length: 9 feet 6 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

The basic design of the heavy and medium guns, that is the number and arrangement of their parts, was very similar. The only differences, other than length, between the two guns in the circa 1735 drawings, was the presence of a fillet behind each of the three rings of the 9-foot gun, while the 9-1/2-foot gun retained a fillet behind only the first reinforce ring. The 1748 gun at the Rotunda appears to match this latter drawing, including the single fillet behind the first reinforce ring. Rudyerd's drawing is similar except that the fillet has vanished. The only representation of the medium 24-pounder, by Rudyerd in 1791, showed that it followed the basic design of its heavier sister.

Figure 4. Brass 24-pounder, cast in 1748 by Andrew Schalch, weight: 50 hundred- weight 2 quarters 24 pounds. It has been painted black. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/45.) 

A comparison between the detailed dimensions of the circa 1735 drawing, the mensuration of 1743, and those given by Adye in 1766 of the 9-1/2-foot gun indicates a great degree of similarity. The 1743 dimensions and Adye's, with two very minor exceptions, were identical in the body of the piece. Adye's dimensions showed, however, that the cascabel had increased in length from 11 to 12 inches, with corresponding changes in the diameters of the fillets. The circa 1735 dimensions were very similar in diameters, but the lengths indicated slightly longer reinforces and a correspondingly shorter chase (a difference of 2.09 inches). Walton, for 1778, gave no lengths, only diameters or thicknesses of metal, which were consistently larger by about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. This increase in metal was reflected by the weights given: slightly more than 51-1/4 hundredweight in 1743 and 53-1/2 hundredweight in 1778. The gun drawn by Rudyerd in 1791 was lighter than either of these, slightly more than 50 hundredweight, and the dimensions, although not specifically stated, seem also to vary slightly. It is therefore very difficult to come to any general conclusions, except that between 1735 and 1791 there was little change in the overall appearance of the heavy brass 24-pounder of 9-1/2-feet. 

There is less detailed information available about the medium gun of 8 feet. The earliest set of dimensions discovered, those set down by Walton for 1778, included, except for overall length, only diameters and thickness. He gave the length at 8-1/2-feet, but this must be an error, for elsewhere in his notebook he indicated that it was 8-feet long. Rudyerd drew a plan of a medium 24-pounder, 8 feet in length, weighing 2 pounds more than 41-3/4 hundredweight, the exact weight set down by Walton. The dimensions of the scaled drawing seem to be very similar to those given in 1778. 

Although no drawings have been discovered of the light 24-pounder of 5-1/2- feet, Adye provided detailed specifications in 1766 and Walton set down its diameters for 1778. A comparison indicates, as in the case of the heavy gun, that the diameters had increased by the latter year and, it is assumed, the weight as well. According to the regulations of the Board of Ordnance in 1764, the light gun weighed 16 hundredweight 1 quarter 12 pounds while in 1778 it was listed at the increased weight of 16 hundredweight 3 quarters 13 pounds. 

The appearance of this weapon was more simplified than the heavy and medium versions. In 1766 Adye noted: NB. These Guns [light pieces generally] have no other Mouldings besides y~ Base Ring and Ogee next to it. The Ogees have no fillets except that at the Muzzle which has two fillets like all other Guns and the Reinforce is joined by a little Cavity. There is a small Ring cast under the Neck of the Cascabel to fix the Elevating screw, which is used with light Field Pieces, instead of Coins or Wedges. 

In his table Adye gave the length of the vent field and the chase girdle, which implied the presence of the vent field and chase astragals and fillets, and he mentioned specifically the muzzle astragal. Walton's table in part confirms this description in that it left blank the diameters of the reinforce rings and recorded the thickness of metal at the muzzle astragal, 

The 24-pounder described by Adye in 1801 as "Blomefields," of 6 feet 3 inches and 24 hundredweight, undoubtedly was designed to replace the shorter light piece). A formula for its construction was given in a manuscript notebook attributed to Isaac Landmann, circa 1790. According to these notes its length was 6 feet 3.669 inches long or 13 calibres and its weight 24 hundredweight. (There may be a slight error as 13 calibres exactly would be 6 feet 3.699 inches, the calibre being 5.823 inches.) The design of the gun was a reversion to a more traditional outline. The two reinforce rings and the second reinforce ogee were put back on, but the chase astragal and fillets have vanished. 


The brass 18-pounder gun seems to have been a rather obscure weapon. Between about 1725 and 1780 it was recorded at various lengths from a rather short 7 feet 6 inches to 10 feet. By 1780 in its various manifestations, it was probably obsolete, until, about 1790, it received a renewal of life when Thomas Blomefield brought forward his 18-pounder of 5 feet 9 inches and 18 hundredweight. The British artillery used the new weapon in the Peninsular campaigns, but withdrew it from service, along with the 24-pounders, after its failure at the siege of Badajoz in 1811. 

In the second quarter of the eighteenth century three lengths of brass 18-pounders were identified. James listed two in his notebook, "according to the First and Second Regulation," at 9 feet and 9 feet 6 inches in length but he gave no weights. In addition, he gave the lengths from the base ring to the centre of the trunnion, 3 feet 10 inches and 4 feet 1 inch respectively, that is about 3/7 the length of the gun which would be in accordance with Armstrong's proportions. 

Two drawings, tentatively dated circa 1735, depicted two 18-pounders, one 9 feet 6 inches and weighing 46 hundredweight 1 quarter 17 pounds, and the other 10 feet and weighing 54 hundredweight 1 quarter 12 pounds (Figs. 5 and 6). Detailed measurements were written on the drawings. Except for a minor variation in the cascabel design, the profiles of the two guns were identical, although the proportions of the lengths of the reinforces and chase to the total length were not exactly the same.

Figure 5. Brass l8-pounder, weight: 46 hundredweight 1 quarter 17 pounds, length: 9 feet 6 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.)

Figure 6. Brass l8-pounder, weight: 54 hundredweight 1 quarter 12 pounds, length: 10 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.)

Although a 10-foot l8-pounder continued to be mentioned for another 40 years, no detailed measurements of it subsequent to 1735 have been found. There are, however, detailed measurements of the shorter gun recorded in 1743 and in 1766.35 These three sets of dimensions were very similar. The diameters were practically the same but the reinforces of the circa 1735 gun were slightly longer with a correspondingly shorter chase (a difference of 3.49 inches). The only difference between the dimensions of 1743 and those of 1766 was that the length of the cascabel had increased by 1766 from 10 to 12 inches, with corresponding changes in the fillet diameters. Otherwise, the basic design was very similar. 

Both these lengths of 18-pounder brass guns were mentioned in notebooks or manuals until about 1780. Significantly, however, no 18-pounder was recorded in Walton's table of 1778. In all likelihood, therefore, by the late 1770s the 18-pounder had become obsolete. Adye, in whose tables appeared other brass guns of the 1770s, failed to mention it in his manuals in the first decade of the nineteenth century. At this point three anomalous brass 18-pounders should be noted. In his A Universal Military Dictionary, George Smith claimed that in 1753 there was an 18-pounder ships gun of 9 feet and 48-1/4 hundredweight. He also recorded two other versions, one of 9 feet and weighing the extraordinary weight of 20-1/4 hundred- weight and the other of 7 feet 6 inches and 27-3/4 hundredweight. The light gun was probably the l8-pounder that Muller had cast for the East India Company, 9 feet in length weighing 2400 pounds or 21 hundredweight 1 quarter 20 pounds. Smith said that the short gun was a garrison piece. All three guns were mentioned in a table attributed to William Congreve in 1771. 

In 1801, Adye listed in his manual a new 18-pounder gun of 5 feet 9 inches and 18 hundredweight, attributed to Thomas Blomefield. This gun, like the 24-pounder and 12-pounder of Blomefield's design, was 13 calibres in length (5 feet 8.796 inches exactly) with a proportion of 1 hundredweight of metal to 1 pound of shot. Undoubtedly it was designed at the same time as the other guns, that is in the 1780s or early 1790s. According to Hughes it saw service in the Peninsular campaign but was no longer used after its failure at the siege of Badajoz in 1811.


The early history of the brass 12-pounder gun is obscure. In the 1720s James, in his notebook, gave some details on two models:

Length, Ft. In.      Base ring to trunnion centre.  Weight, Cwt, qtr, lb.

9 and 6.                4 and 1.                                   30-3-20.5

9 and 0.                3 and 10.                                 not given 
The distance from the base ring to the trunnion centre is very close to 3/7 the length of the gun, which would match the proportions later ascribed to General Armstrong's construction. In another table, largely indecipherable, James also noted a brass 12-pounder of 8 feet in length, but nothing more is known of this gun. 

In a portfolio of drawings, circa 1735, there is extant a detailed plan of a 12-pounder of 9-1/2-feet weighing 21 pounds more than 44-3/4 hundredweight (Fig. 7).46 Obviously, because of its great weight, this could not have been the gun noted by James. Interestingly, a brass 12-pounder of 9-1/2-feet and weighing 17 pounds more than 45 hundredweight was used in 1776 for experiments on different kinds of shot.47 Probably such a heavy weapon was used because of its strength resulting from the thickness of metal around the bore, especially at the breech. No other record has been found of such a heavy 12-pounder; undoubtedly it was obsolete before the 1770s. 

The standard heavy brass 12-pounder, for use in garrison, on ships, or as a battering piece, was 9 feet in length and weighed 29 hundredweight. Details of its dimensions were given in the mensuration of 1743. The length and weight were the same as those given in the Board of Ordnance's regulations of 1764. The 1743 dimensions were very similar to those given by Adye in his notebook in 1766, although there were some small variations in diameters, in the size of some of the mouldings, and an increase in 1766 in the length of the cascabel. While there would be little difference between a heavy 12-pounder cast according to the specifications of 1743 and one cast according to those of 1766, by the late 1770s there may have been some considerable increase in the thickness of metal. In 1778 Walton recorded diameters that were mostly greater than those of Adye, and he indicated that the weight of the gun had increased to 31-1/2 hundredweight. This heavy brass 12-pounder continued to be mentioned throughout the rest of the eighteenth century and was included in Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813. Undoubtedly it had become obsolete before 1800. 

Figure 7. Brass 12-pounder, weight: 44 hundredweight 3 quarters 21 pounds, length: 9 feet 6 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

Sometime around 1750 two shorter and lighter models came into service - a medium gun of 6 feet 6 inches weighing about 21 hundredweight and a light piece of 5 feet weighing about 9 hundredweight. It is impossible to say precisely when they were introduced. The 5-foot gun was mentioned in Glegg's notebook from the 1750s and in Muller's 1757 edition of his Treatise on Artillery. The medium gun, along with the light piece, was included in the 1764 regulations of the Board of Ordnance. Both guns were mentioned thereafter throughout the century and were listed in Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813. In all likelihood they had become obsolete before 1800. 

Detailed specifications of the 5-foot field piece were given by Adye in 1766. According to a note in Adye's notebook this gun, like the light 24-pounder, was simply designed, lacking reinforce rings and fillets, the second reinforce joining the chase by a small cavity or curve. Like its heavier sister it too had a ring cast under the neck of the cascabel to which to fix the elevating screw. This would seem to be very similar to a gun of which Walton gave partial dimensions in 1778. He included no lengths and only certain diameters, leaving out those of the reinforce rings, implying thereby that they did not exist. The diameters in his table, except for the muzzle swell, were consistently larger suggesting a somewhat heavier piece, although of the same general appearance. 

There are no detailed dimensions of the medium 12-pounder, except for the diameters given by Walton in 1778. In all likelihood its profile was similar to the heavy rather than to the light piece.  Both of these guns were included in Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813, but by 1800 they were undoubtedly obsolete. 

Probably in the early 1770s an artillery officer, Thomas Desguliers, designed a new 12-pounder, 7-1/2-feet long and weighing about 22 hundredweight. It continued to be mentioned in notebooks and in Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813, but it too was obsolete by 1800. It will be considered below in a separate section along with the 6-, 3-, and I-pounders that Desaguliers also designed. 

In the 1790s two new 12-pounders were added to the service which, according to Adye in 1801, "...are the only ones now used on general service." One was a new medium gun, of the same length as the old, 6 feet 6 inches, but lighter at 18 hundredweight. The other was a light piece, 5 feet in length but weighing 12 hundredweight. Both these guns, according to Landmann's notes, circa 1790, were designed by Thomas Blomefield. At least one of the new medium guns had been cast by 1794, when a committee of artillery officers recommended a casting of five new pattern pieces in order to compare them with the older pattern of 21 hundredweight. The records are incomplete but presumably shortly thereafter the gun was officially sanctioned for service. 

The medium 12-pounder remained in service during the rest of the smooth-bore era, but the light piece was not mentioned beyond the mid-1840s. In 1825 a student at the Royal Military Academy noted that the medium 12-pounder was "excellent," but remarked, perhaps jaundicedly, that the "Light 12 Pr might be of use in Canada and Countries of difficult movement." It seems likely that the light piece saw little use. In the 1840s only the medium gun was included in the tables of brass pieces in the Aide-Memoire and in the drawings and tables made by Boxer in 1853 for the students of the Royal Military Academy (Fig. 8). As late as 1881 the 12-pounder of 18 hundredweight was still included in lists of weapons to be retained on active service.

Figure 8. Brass 12-pounder, weight: 17.5 hundredweight, length: 6 feet 6.6. inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XIX.) 


In his notebook in the early 1720s James referred to three brass 9-pounders, but he gave no details of each gun other than its length and the distance from the centre of the trunnion to the base ring: 

Length Ft. In.     Trunnion centre to base ring Ft. In.

9 and 6.              4 and 1.

9 and 0.              3 and 10. 

8 and 6.              3 and 8.
If the measurement is from the rear of the base ring to the trunnion centre, in each case the distance is within a fraction of an inch of being 3/7ths the length of the gun, in accordance with Armstrong's system of proportions. 

The subsequent history of the brass 9-pounder remains obscure for about the next 40 years. The table of measurements of 1743, contained in Glegg's notebook, contains a column for the gun's dimensions but it is entirely blank. Almost 20 years later, however, in 1764 a heavy 9-pounder, 9 feet in length and weighing 26 hundredweight, was included in the establishment of artillery of the Board of Ordnance. In 1766 Adye gave detailed dimensions for this gun in his notebook. In 1778 in his comprehensive table, Walton left the space for the heavy 9-pounder blank, but he did record it elsewhere in his notebook. Undoubtedly the gun was obsolete by then. 

Neither in Adye's nor in Walton's tables was there any mention of a light 9-pounder field piece. Yet Hughes in his study of British smooth-bore artillery maintains that a light 9-pounder was first cast in 1719 and cites Muller to prove its use during the campaign of 1747. In his Treatise of Artillery Muller reproduced lists of guns, horses, and equipment of that campaign which included brass 9-pounders, but, since it required 11 horses to pull one gun, it seems likely that the gun referred to was the heavy, not the light, piece. If indeed a light gun was used in 1747, it is clear that it was not in general use during the rest of the eighteenth century. 

By the 1790s Thomas Blomefield had produced his system of design for guns, which included a brass 9-pounder of 17 calibres or 5 feet 11.4 inches in length and weighing 13-1/2 hundredweight. It is not known when the Board of Ordnance ordered the production of this model, but by November 1805 it was being tested at Woolwich to ascertain its ranges. The gun came into its own in 1808 when the British forces in Spain found that they were being out-gunned by French 8 and 12-pounders. A brigade of 9-pounders was brought in and it proved so successful that, by the time of the battle of Waterloo, Wellington had ordered that half of his troops of Horse Artillery were to be armed with the gun. By this time the field batteries were similarly equipped. 

Following Waterloo, the 9-pounder became the standard gun of the Field Artillery, although the Horse Artillery reverted to the light 6-pounder. The gun was used extensively and achieved a degree of fame during the Crimean War (Fig. 9»)5 Its design underwent little change except for the addition of a dispart sight on its muzzle and the loss of its do1phins)6 An example of the gun, cast in 1859, is preserved at the Rotunda, Woolwich (Fig. 10). Nearby is what might have been an experimental model, cast in 1857. Except for the base ring all the mouldings have vanished, the two reinforces have been combined into one, and it joins the chase by a slight curve. According to the catalogue of the Rotunda Museum, only a few guns of this pattern were manufactured (Fig. 11). The standard model was cast until 1862 and as late as 1881 was still on the active service list.

Figure 9. Brass 9-pounder, weight: 13.5 hundredweight, length: 5 feet 11.4 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XX.) 

Figure 10. Brass 9 pounder, cast in 1859, weight: 13 hundredweight 2 quarters 1 pound, length: 6 feet. Cf. Figure 9. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/90.) 

Figure 11. Brass 9 pounder cast in 1837, length: 6 feet 7 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/91.) 


In the 1720s James listed four brass 6-pounders in his notebook: 

Length Ft. In.     Base ring to trunnion centre Ft. In.  Weight Cwtqtr, lb 

9 and 0.              3 and 10.                                           18-0-14 

8 and 6.              3 and 8.                                             blank 

8 and 0.              3 and 5.                                             blank 

7 and 6.              3 and 3.                                             blank 

In all cases the distance from the trunnion centre to the base ring is fractionally close to 3/7 of the length of the gun, in accordance with Armstrong's system of proportions. The weight given for the longest gun seems light. There is a drawing of a 6-pounder of 9 feet, circa 1735, which was said to weigh slightly more than 27 hundredweight. 

Of these four guns all but the 8-foot one passed from the scene quite quickly. There are extant drawings, tentatively dated 1735, of brass 6-pounders of 9 feet and 8 feet in length (Figs. 12 and 13). It is impossible to determine if these were of the same design as those of the 1720s. As noted above there was a discrepancy in the weights of the guns of 9 feet in length. The weight of the gun of 8 feet was not given on the 1735 drawing. The gun of 9 feet was last mentioned in a notebook, circa 1770.

Figure 12. Brass 6-pounder, weight: 27 hundredweight 14 pounds, length: 9 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

Figure 13. Brass 6-pounder, length: 8 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

The gun of 8 feet and 19 or 19-1/4 hundredweight remained in service probably until the end of the 1770s. It was included in the table of mensuration of 1743 and listed in the establishment promulgated by the Board of Ordnance in 1764.83 Adye gave detailed dimensions in his notebook in 1766 and Walton included it in his tables of diameters of 1778. A comparison of the dimensions of circa 1735, 1743, and 1766 reveals that, except for the length of the cascabel which in Adye's table of dimensions has increased by 3 inches, there were only a few fractional variations and that the design had remained unchanged. A further comparison with the diameters given by Walton also shows only minor variations of no significance. An example of this 6-pounder, cast by the Verbruggens in 1774 is held at the Rotunda, Woolwich, and, as far as can be determined without its detailed measurements, seems to correspond to the drawing of 1735, with the addition of dolphins (Fig. 14). The gun was still listed by Adye in his manual of 1813, but it must have been long obsolete by then. 

Two smaller 6-pounders were also included in the establishment of 1764 - a medium gun of 5 feet and 10-1/4 hundredweight and a light gun of 4-1/2 feet and 4- 3/4 hundredweight. It is not known precisely when these guns were introduced, but the light piece was used in Flanders during the campaigns of the 1740s and Muller wrote of testing one that was at the battle of Lauffeldt in 1747. Both models were noted by Glegg in his notebook of the 1750s. An example of the light gun, cast by Gilpin in 1756, is held at the Rotunda, Woolwich. It was being used as late as 1783 when it burst at St. Lucia in the West Indies. Despite a large section missing from the reinforces, it is still possible to understand its design (Fig. 15). 

Adye set out detailed dimensions of the light field piece in his notebook of 1766. Although no exact measurements of the burst gun of 1756 have been made, it seems to match generally the dimensions given by Adye. Its weight, 4 cwt, 2 qtr, 22 lb., agrees with that given in the regulations of 1764. There may, however, be a difference in detail for Adye appended a note to his table that "These Guns field pieces have no other Mouldings beside ye Base Ring and Ogee next to it." Since he mentioned the vent field, chase girdle (both of which were in part delimited by an astragal), and muzzle astragal in his detailed specifications, presumably he meant merely that there were no reinforce rings and ogees. The gun of 1756 clearly has a first reinforce ring and ogee, but equally clearly there is no second reinforce ring or ogee. The second reinforce joins the chase by a shallow cavetto or curve. Either Adye was in error or a minor change was made in design after 1756. 

Neither the gun of 1756 nor that detailed by Adye was the same as a light 6-pounder that Rudyerd drew in his notebook in 1791. The latter's length was the same, 4-1/2 feet, but it was slightly heavier, 5-1/4 hundredweight, and its proportions were different. This new gun was introduced into the service probably in the 1770s, certainly by 1778. The diameters given by Adye in 1766 were significantly different from those given by Walton in 1778 (he gave no lengths); the latter matched those of Rudyerd's scaled drawing. As well, references have been found beginning late in 1778 and continuing in 1780 to Capt. Congreve's light 6-pounder or to 6-pounders "of the new Construction," all 4-1/2 feet in length and weighing more than 5 hundred- weight. In his 1977 booklet on the light 6-pounder Adrian Caruana is of the opinion that the references to Congreve merely signified that the gun was mounted on the carriage designed by Congreve. It is at least arguable that Congreve designed the new gun and that his name was attached to it in the same way that Belford's and Desaguliers' names were attached to the guns that they designed. On the other hand, Rudyerd's drawing conforms to the dimensions given by Landmann in the 1790s which he attributed to Armstrong. This light 6-pounder of 4-1/2 feet was listed in Adye's manual of 1813 but by then it was undoubtedly obsolete.

Figure 14. Brass 6-pounder, cast by the Verbruggens in 1774, weight: 19 hundredweight 2 quarters 6 pounds, length: 8 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, II/59.) 

Figure 15. Brass 6-pounder, cast by Richard Gilpin in 1756, weight: 4 hundredweight 2 quarters 22 pounds, length: 4 feet 6 inches. Burst at St. Lucia in 1783. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/48.) 
The other short brass 6-pounder which was in service by 1764 was a medium gun, 5 feet in length, weighing about 10-1/4 hundredweight. Few details are available about this gun. Adye did not mention it in his detailed tables in 1766. In 1778 Walton recorded a medium 6-pounder, but stated its length at 7 feet and its weight at 12 cwt. 1 qtr., 17 lb. This is the only reference to such a gun. It is impossible to say whether Walton was in error or whether such a gun existed. Elsewhere in his notebook he clearly referred to the medium 6-pounder of about 10 hundredweight. Two examples of this gun, cast by the Verbruggens in 1778, are held at the Rotunda, Woolwich, both of which were rifled for experiments in 1790. The design is like the heavier guns, not the light pieces, with the usual rings, ogees, and astragals. Both guns weigh slightly more than 10 hundredweight. One is said to be 5 feet in length, the other 5 feet 5 inches, but this latter measurement must be an error. This gun was included in Adye's manual of 1801 but not of 1813. It was undoubtedly obsolete by 1800. 

As well as Congreve's light 6-pounder, two other 6-pounders were probably introduced in the 1770s. One was designed by Thomas Desaguliers, 7 feet in length and weighing about 12-1/4 hundredweight. It will be dealt with below in a separate section. It is sufficient to say at this point that as late as 1825 it was in use. In that year Mould commented that it was "...Good Shooting but not good travelling gun." 

The second gun introduced in the 1770s was a light piece of 5 feet, weighing about 5-1/2 hundredweight, designed by William Belford, a distinguished artillery officer who had risen from a cadet in 1726 to become Colonel-Commandant of the Royal Regiment of Artillery by 1751. In 1778 Walton listed a light 6-pounder of 5 feet but gave no weight; presumably this was Belford's gun. It was mentioned by name during experiments held at Woolwich in December 1778 and at Winchester in August and September 1780. There are also records of trials held in 1792 involving light 6-pounders of 5 feet and weighing slightly more than 5-1/2 hundred- weight. The details of the gun's construction are not complete since Walton gave only diameters, but there is extant a gun of 5 feet at the Rotunda, Woolwich, cast by Francis Kinman in 1794 (Fig. 16). No weight is given in the museum catalogue, but this probably is Belford's gun. The gun was last mentioned by Adye in his manual of 1813. 

The last pages of Walton's notebook were devoted to range tables and experiments with case shot, including in part the use of brass 6-pounders. Three of these would appear to have been Desaguliers', Belford's, and Congreve's, but three others had not previously been recorded. One was 6 feet long and weighed 8:3:30 [sic, 20?]; the two others were each 5-1/2 feet long and weighed 8:3:37 [sic, 277] and 8:0:22 respectively. The first of these latter two guns was referred to in two tables as "heavy"; the second gun as "reduced." In another table both appeared to be termed "heavy reduced." No date has been ascribed to these experiments, but since they follow tables dated 1792, it seems not unlikely that they were carried on in the early 1790s. 

In 1801 Adye did not include these guns in his manual; he listed only one medium gun of 5 feet and 10 hundredweight. By 1813 his manual had dropped this gun and added two medium guns, one called "new" of 6 feet and weighing 8:3:27 and the other called "reduced" of 5-1/2 feet and weighing 8:0:11. These appear to be two of the three guns listed by Walton. Adye noted that the medium reduced, along with the gun of 7 feet, were the only 6-pounders on general service. Neither of these medium guns was mentioned after 1813 and both were probably obsolete before then.

Figure 16. Brass 6-pounder, cast by Francis Kinman in 1794, length: 5 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/72.) 

As part of his system of gun design Thomas Blomefield produced the design for two 6-pounders in the 1790s, a heavy gun of 17 calibres or 5 feet 2.356 inches in length and weighing 9 hundredweight and a light gun, 5 feet in length and weighing 6 hundredweight (Fig. 17). It is difficult to determine how extensively the heavy gun was used for it was rarely mentioned, but by 1825 Mould, in his notebook, commented that the 6-pounder, 5 feet in length and weighing 9 hundredweight (presumably Blomefield's gun, the length given being a slight error) was "not used." Its dimensions were given in Boxer's diagrams of the 1850s, but it was not included in the tables of artillery in the Aide-Memoire. Presumably it was obsolete by 1820, probably because it gave little advantage over the light gun, while weighing 3 hundredweight more. 

The light gun was in service as early as 1797, an example cast that year being in our Parks collection together with one of 1813 (Fig. 18). The Tower of London holds a similar piece cast in 1798. This gun became the standard weapon of the Horse Artillery until it gave way to the 9-pounder Armstrong gun in the 1860s. It was reportedly last cast in 1862. A comparison between drawings of the gun made in circa 1820 and Boxer's diagram of the 1850s shows no changes in design.115 The precise dimensions were supplied by the Aide-Memoire and the Boxer drawing; the minute differences in some of the measurements are insignificant. The only change that occurred was the addition of a dispart sight on the muzzle in the 1850s. Three examples of the gun from this decade are at the Tower of London. As late as 1881 it was still on the active list.

Figure 17. Light and heavy brass 6-pounders, (1) weight: 6 hundredweight, length: 5 feet; (2) weight: 8.75 hundredweight, length: 5 feet 2.356 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXI.) 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo)

Figure 18 a.  Fort Garry, Winnipeg, Manitoba, painting, c1858.

 (Archives of Manitoba Photo, John A. Campbell Collection #143, N26655)

Figure 18 b.  These two cannon, made for the British army by the W. North Company in 1843, were intended for delivery to the Red River Settlement. Capable of firing 12-pound projectiles, these cannon, cast in bronze, weigh 693 pounds each. The cannon were initially meant to be transported by York boat with the 6th (Royal First Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot in 1846; however, the bulky equipment proved to be too heavy and difficult to manoeuvre. As a result, the cannon were left at York Factory, an important outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company on the Hayes River. For years the guns were situated in front of the Depot Building and used to mark the arrival of supply ships coming from Britain. In the mid-20th century the cannon were moved to Churchill, and they remained in storage there until they were damaged by fire in the 1970s.

Conservators from the Department of Canadian Heritage carefully cleaned one fire damaged cannon in 1981, using gentle soap, solvents, and steel wool. They then applied a coating of microcrystalline wax to protect the surface from future rusting. Following conservation, the cannon were moved to Lower Fort Garry, where they remain on display in the Southwest Bastion. After a delay of nearly 150 years, the cannon have finally found their originally intended resting place on the banks of the Red River.  (Parks Canada)

 (Fort Garry Museum Photo)

Figure 18 c. Bronze 6-pounder 6-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading cannon, cast by John and Henry King in 1797, Queen Victoria cypher, 5 feet long, Lower Fort Garry National Historic Park. 


James listed four brass 3-pounders in his notebook of the 1720s:

Length Ft. In.       Base ring to trunnion centre Ft. In.     Weight Cwt, qtr, lb. 

7 and 0.                 3 and 0.                                               10-2-.5. 

6 and 6.                 2 and 10.                                              8-3-18.5. 

6 and 0.                 2 and 7.                                                blank. 

5 and 0.                 2 and 2.                                                blank.

The distance from the centre of the trunnion to the base ring is exactly 3/7 the length of the gun of 7 feet and is within fractions of an inch of this proportion in the other three guns. This would be in accordance with the proportions of the construction attributed to Armstrong. 

It is impossible to say precisely what these guns looked like, although the longest may have resembled the circa 1735 drawing preserved at the Royal Artillery Institution, of a brass 3-pounder of 7 feet (Fig. 19). The dimensions of this latter weapon were very similar to those given in the mensuration of 1743 and by Adye in his notebook of 1766, the most noticeable difference being an increase of almost 4 inches in the length of the cascabel between 1743 and 1766. The collection of arms in the Tower of London contains a brass 3-pounder, cast in 1742, 6 feet 11 inches long, weighing 11 cwt, 3 qr. 19 lb., which is similar in design to the circa 1735 drawing and, as far as can be ascertained from a line drawing, appears to match closely the dimensions given in 1743. The Board of Ordnance included a brass 3-pounder of 7 feet and 11-1/2 hundredweight in the establishment of 1764. Although the gun was mentioned throughout the rest of the century and was included in Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813, it seems likely that it had become obsolete before 1800.

There seems to have been an attempt to develop a lighter brass 3-pounder of 7 feet in the late 1770s. Such a gun, weighing only 6 cwt. 3 qtr., 3 lb., now in the collection at the Rotunda, Woolwich, was cast by the Verbruggens in 1777 (Fili. 20).125 Walton referred to such a gun in 1781 but nothing more is known about it.1 b Presumably it was not successful. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 19.  Bronze 3-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 1-2-20 (188 lbs), J. & R.  Verbruggen, fecerunt 1775 inscribed on the breech, mounted on a wooden wheeled carriage, standing on the green sward in front of the town Court House, No. 1 of 2.  (This gun is reported to be “the only remaining Pattison” Gun, according to Stephen G. Strach, History of Three Pound Verbruggen Gun and Its Use in North America 1775-1783, Eastern National Park and Monument Association, 1986, unpublished, p. 1).

There are two bronze 3-pounder field guns mounted on wheeled carriages, on display in front of the Lanark Count Court House at Perth, Ontario, known as the "Verbruggen Guns".  The inscription on the breech of each of the guns reads: “J. & R.  VERBRUGGEN, FECERUNT, 1775" on one, and "1776", on the other.  This is an indication that the guns were made in Flanders (the Netherlands) or Belgium.  The gun cast in 1775 is a ‘Pattison’ model ‘Grasshopper’, the only known surviving gun of its kind.  The other, cast in 1776, is a ‘Congreve’ model ‘Butterfly’.

The 3-Pounder “fired either round shot or a case round of 36 shot, with a charge of six or eight ounces of powder, and had a recoil of five feet at three degrees of elevation”.  The 3-Pounder classification relates to the weight of round-shot they were designed to fire.   Grasshoppers & Butterflies: The Light 3-Pounders of Pattison & Townshend, by Adrian B. Caruana (1980).

These bronze guns accompanied General John Burgoyne and the British Army in 1777 on his raid from Canada, along the Hudson River-Lake Champlain axis during the American Revolution.   These two 3-pounders arrived in Perth from Kingston in 1822 and were assigned to the Artillery Company of the 1st Regiment Lanark Militia as it was being formed.

 (Author Photo)

Figure 20.  Bronze 3-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 1-3-17 (213 lbs), J. & R.  Verbruggen, fecerunt 1776 inscribed on the breech, mounted on a wooden wheeled carriage, standing on the green sward in front of the town Court House, No. 2 of 2. 

As a complement to the heavy gun of 7 feet, a light 3-pounder of 3-1/2 feet and about 2-3/4 hundredweight was introduced into the service probably in the 1740s, but certainly by the 1750s. An example of this weapon, cast by William Bowen in 1756, has been preserved at the Rotunda, Woolwich. The Board of Ordnance included it in the establishment in 1764 and Adye recorded it in his notebook two years later, but unfortunately, for reasons now unknown, he did not give any information about it other than its length of 3 1/2 feet. In 1778 Walton gave partial dimensions, the various diameters but not the lengths of its components. A second example of the gun, cast by the Verbruggens in 1782, is also at the Rotunda, Woolwich. Although Adye included it in his manuals of 1801 and 1813, it was likely obsolete by 1800. 

Two other light brass 3-pounders were introduced into service in the 1770s. Both were 3 feet long, one weighing about 1-1/2 hundredweight and the other about 1-3/4 hundredweight. The lightest of the two was designed by a well-known artillery officer, James Pattison, and demonstrated before King George 3 at Woolwich early in July 1773. Called a grasshopper, this gun was designed for rough terrain and could be carried, with its carriage and ammunition, upon two horses. 

The second gun, usually styled the "light infantry" 3-pounder, was slightly heavier. It was probably introduced later than Pattison's, although this is by no means certain, but by 1778 both were clearly in service according to Walton's list of that year. Adye included both guns in his manuals of 1801 and 1813, but they were likely obsolete before 1800. 

Adrian Caruana devoted a booklet in 1980 to these guns in which he referred to two notebooks held by the Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, one of which was a list of drawings and the other the actual drawings. In the latter the draughtsman had illustrated an "Irish 3 Pounder" and "Lord Townshend's 3 Pounder." Caruana identified the Irish gun with Pattison's and the light infantry pattern with Lord Townshend's. He produced a scale drawing of each gun, presumably extrapolated from the illustrated manuscript although this is not made clear. Pattison's gun was a conventionally designed piece with the usual mouldings; the light infantry gun, on the other hand, has lost its reinforce rings and mouldings and seems to resemble the light infantry pieces that Adye described in his 1766 notebook. 

There are problems with Caruana's drawings, however. The diameters of Pattison's gun are consistently drawn larger than those of the light infantry pattern. This should mean that the former would be the heavier piece. But in various notebooks the weight of Pattison's gun consistently was given as being lighter than the other weapon. Moreover, according to the table of 1778 in Walton's notebook, the diameters of the lighter gun (i.e., Pattison's) were consistently less than the heavier gun (i,e. the light infantry pattern). The reconciliation of Caruana's drawings with the evidence of the notebooks remains a puzzle. 

During the 1770s, Thomas Desaguliers also designed a brass 3-pounder gun 6 feet in length and, according to Walton, weighing 5 3/4 hundredweight. Other notebooks usually indicated 6 hundredweight. This gun will be dealt with below in the section dealing with Desaguliers' construction. By the 1790s new 3-pounders, designed probably by Thomas Blomefield, were introduced into service. According to Landmann's notes, Blomefield included two 3-pounders in his system. One was 17 calibres or 4 feet 1.521 inches long and weighed 4- 1/2 hundredweight; the other was 6 feet long and weighed 6 hundredweight.  The evidence of the 3-pounders that are known to exist, however, indicates that a somewhat lighter gun was actually introduced. Parks collection contains six brass 3-pounders 4 feet in length, but weighing only slightly more than 3 hundredweight, all cast by John and Henry King between 1799 and 1810 (Fig. 21). Similar guns are at the Tower of London and at the Rotunda, Woolwich. In appearance these guns seem to conform to the standard Blomefield construction, but they are lighter than the weight prescribed in his table.

 (Author Photo)

Figure 21.  Bronze 3-pounder 3-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 2-3-23 (331 lbs), stamped J & H (John & Henry) King, 1807, CCLXIII (263), King George 3 cypher and Master General of Ordnance cypher, mounted on a replica garrison carriage. CWM (Artifact No. 19610055-002).  Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario,

There was also a shorter 3-pounder of 3 feet and weighing about 2 1/4 hundredweight. Parks has an example cast by Kinman in 1812 (Fig. 22) and the Tower of London has another cast sometime between 1801 and 1810.The Parks gun conforms to the usual Blomefield design, except there is no breech block to be drilled for a rear sight. 

Neither of these patterns was included in Adye's manuals of 1801 or 1813, an omission which indicates that his information was not up to date. They are, however, listed in a revised edition of 1827 and in various other notebooks until the close of the smooth-bore era. In 1825, Mould, a cadet at the Royal Military Academy, noted that the gun of 4 feet was "For Colonial Service" and that the shorter piece was designated for "Mountain Service." 

Probably in the early 1840s, a second pattern of a 3-pounder of 4 feet was introduced. The Aide-Memoire of 1845 and 1853 listed two models, one styled "light" and the other "colonial." In 1849, Noble, a student at the Royal Military Academy, made the same distinction in his notebook. A comparison of the dimensions given in the Aide-Memoire with those given by Spearman in 1828 indicates that the gun termed "colonial" after 1845 was the new pattern. Its dimensions differed from those of the "light" gun by fractions of an inch; its bore diameter was slightly larger, 2.95 rather than 2.91 inches. Why it was considered necessary to create a new pattern with such minor variations remains a puzzle. According to the catalogue of the Rotunda, 3-pounders of 4 feet were not cast subsequent to 1859, although as late as 1881 the patterns of 4 feet and of 3 feet were still on the active service list. 

A heavy 3-pounder of 6 feet and 6 hundredweight continued to be recorded until the 1850s. In Adye's manuals of 1801 and 1813 it was designated "Desagullers'" but thereafter either "long" or "heavy." The dimensions given in the Aide-Memoire in 1845 and 1853 are not in keeping with the proportions for Desaguliers' construction as outlined by Landmann in the 1790s. Also, the length was given at 72.8 inches, 0.8 inch longer. Although it is difficult to say for certain, in all likelihood the  Desaguliers' model was replaced by a pattern which probably resembled that suggested in Blomefield's table of construction. This gun was not mentioned subsequent to 1853 and was probably obsolete by 1850. 

 (Clive Prothero-Brooks Photo)

Figure 22.  Bronze 3-pounder 2-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 2-0-14 (238 lbs), (F. Kinman, 1812) on the chase (Francis Kinman at Woolwich, England), (Serial No. 447) on right trunnion, 3-inch bore, length 36 inches, mounted on a wood Naval Gun carriage.  Hudson’s Bay Company gun with spiked vent.  RCA Museum, CFB Shilo, Manitoba.


A brass 1-1/2-pounder seems to have been in service from about 1720 to the 1770s when it was superseded by the lighter l-pounder or amusette. In the 1720s James recorded a l-l/2-pounder of 6 feet in length, weighing 4 cwt, 2 qtr., 22 1/2 lb. As in the case of the other guns in the table, the distance from the base ring to the trunnion centre was very close to 3/7 the length of the gun, 2 feet 7 inches. This weapon was probably not the gun depicted in the scaled drawing of circa 1735 (Fig. 23). The latter was also 6 feet long, but it weighed more, 5 cwt, 3 qtr., 24 lb. A brass l-l/2-pounder was included in the mensuration of 1743 and in the establishment promulgated by the Board of Ordnance in 1764. Its weight then was slightly reduced at 5-1/2 hundredweight. Walton provided a column for its dimensions in his table of 1778 but left it blank. Undoubtedly the gun was obsolete by then. 

The appearance and dimensions of the l-l/2-pounder are provided by the scaled drawing§ of circa 1735, by the mensuration of 1743, and by Adye's notebook of 1766. The differences in the three sets of dimensions are minimal. The major change by 1766 was the lengthening of the cascabel and the moving of the trunnions slightly forward. Otherwise, the gun of circa 1735 seems to have been very similar to that of 1766. 

Figure 23. Brass 1-1/2-pounder, weight: 5 hundredweight 3 quarters 24 pounds, length: 6 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

1-Pounder or Amusette 

Brass 1-pounder guns were in service early in the eighteenth century. In the 1720s James listed a model 4 feet long and the catalogue of the Rotunda included 2 examples from the reign of King George 2, each 3 feet in length and weighing 1 hundredweight. Little is known about these guns, however. Neither the mensuration of 1743 nor the establishment of 1764 included this calibre. Only in the mid-1770s did the British develop the I-pounder amusette. 

The term amusette was first used by Hermann-Maurice, comte de Saxe, in his treatise on the science of warfare Mes Reveries. Published in 1756, the treatise described a light, long-barrelled field piece, capable of long range and quick firing. Although de Saxe never developed the gun, a light l-pounder was issued to the Norwegian and Danish infantry in 1758. The British did not design their version until 1776, presumably as part of the attempt to produce light pieces to serve in the rough terrain of North America. 

According to the gunfounder Pieter Verbruggen, the British model was based on a l-pounder of 1669 which was nearly 7 feet long. A gun of this calibre, cast in 1776, 6 feet 11 inches long, weighing 3 cwt, 1 qtr., 12 lb., is preserved at the Rotunda, Woolwich (Fig. 24). It is long and slim and has the conventional mouldings of the period, except that it lacks the vent astragal and fillets. Also, the often-elaborate vent shell has been reduced to a round raised circle of metal through which the vent has been drilled. Two other lengths, 5 and 6 feet, were also tried and after a series of experiments the pattern of 5 feet was accepted as standard. The Rotunda also holds an example of this model, cast in 1782, weighing 2 cwt. 2 qtr., 11 lb (Fig. 25). Except for its length it resembles closely the pattern of 7 feet. The design of all three lengths of this gun was attributed to Thomas Desaguliers. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 24. Bronze 1-pounder 2-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, reproduction, weight 1-3-12 (208 lbs) above the cascabel, (Serial No. 14), bronze, with a band around the breech marked "I. & P. VERBRUGGEN FECERUNT Ao J776" around the top.  The gun is mounted on a wheeled wood gun carriage, Artificer’s Shop.  Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Figure 25. Brass 1-pounder, cast by Pieter Verbruggen in 1782, weight: 2 hundredweight. The total length is given as 5 feet 5 inches; the nominal length is likely 5 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/70.) 

British interest in the amusette returned in the early 1790s with the beginning of the French revolutionary wars. Once again, a series of experiments were undertaken in 1794 using l-pounders of 5, 6, and 7 feet to determine if the amusette should be reintroduced into service. One of these guns, of 5 feet and weighing 2 cwt. 2 qtr., 3 lb., is preserved at the Tower of London. Its design is different from the earlier guns of 1776 and 1782 and appears to conform to Thomas Blomefield's pattern. According to Blackmore, "The experiments were evidently considered a failure as no more amusettes were produced." In contradiction of Blackmore's assertion, a I-pounder continued to be mentioned in notebooks and manuals until the early 1860s and its detailed dimensions were included in the tables of both editions of the Aide-Mernoire. It was often designated either "colonial" or "mountain." 

Desaguliers' Construction of Brass Guns 

Beginning with Walton's table of 1778 there appeared in various notebooks and manuals references to General Desaguliers' guns, 12-, 6-, 3-, and 1-pounders, which, with the exception of the I-pounder, seem to have been designed as alternatives to the common medium guns of the same calibre. The designer, Thomas Desaguliers, who was the grandson of a Hugenot emigre and son of a well-known scientific thinker, had risen to prominence in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, from cadet in 1742 to Colonel-Commandant 20 years later. Since 1748 he had also been Chief Firemaster at Woolwich, in which capacity he had devoted himself to the scientific study of gunnery until his death in 1780. Sometime before 1778 he produced his method of construction of medium brass guns. 

Since his journals or notebooks have not survived it is impossible to know for certain what were his principles of construction. Fortunately, Walton, in 1778, recorded the diameters of his guns and Landmann, in the 1790s, set down the construction of his 6-pounder. It is reasonable to assume, although perhaps mistakenly, that the proportions given for the 6-pounder were the same for the other calibres. The diameters derived from Landmann's notes compare very closely with those given by Walton in 1778, with the exception of the diameter of the muzzle- swell of the I-pounder. Unfortunately, there is no similar table of lengths of reinforces and chase to set against those provided by Landmann. According to the latter a Desaguliers gun had a long first reinforce, a short second reinforce (less than 1/2 the length of the first), and a chase slightly more than 1/2 the length of the gun. Desaguliers' guns weighed about the same as the common medium guns but, except for the 6-pounder, were longer. 

What he seems to have done was to distribute about the same weight of metal over a longer length of gun, presumably with the intent of increasing the range and accuracy of the piece without decreasing its mobility. The 1-pounder was a new gun in the 1770s which was probably designed to replace the heavy 1-1/2-pounder. 

The l-pounder remains problematic. As previously noted, three lengths, 5, 6, and 7 feet, were tested in the late 1770s, the design of which was attributed to Desaguliers. Two examples, one of 7 feet cast in 1776 and the other of 5 feet cast in 1782, have survived (see above Figs. 24 and 25). Their weight matches that assigned to Desaguliers' construction, but the proportions of the length of the reinforces are clearly not those of the 6-pounder described in Landmann's notebook. It is not known how many of Desagulier’s guns were constructed, nor where nor how extensively they were used. They seem to have become obsolete by 1800 and, in the case of the 3- and 6-pounders the case of the 3- and 6-pounders, to have been replaced by similar guns of Blomefield construction (see above).

Cast Iron Guns

The history of cast-iron guns is the converse of brass. In 1700 both cast iron and brass were used for almost all calibres but by mid-century, despite its weight, cast iron was replacing brass because of its cheapness and durability. The exception was field guns. Guns were manufactured in cast iron in all calibres up to 42-pounder. The latter seems to have been mainly in use on the lower decks of the largest line-of-battle ships but was obsolete by the 1820s. Although the different calibres could have many uses, the standard siege gun was the 24-pounder and the standard broadside gun on line-of-battle ships was the 32-pounder, especially the weapons designed by Thomas Blomefield in the late 1780s or 1790s. These were excellent guns. The development of armour-plated steamships promoted the search for heavier, longer-ranging weapons to be mounted in shore batteries and on warships. New patterns of an old calibre, 42-pounder, and of a new calibre, 56-pounder, were designed, but both were only limited successes. However, an even heavier gun, the 68-pounder, was perhaps the finest smooth-bore cast-iron gun designed, particularly the model of 10 feet and 95 hundredweight. 


The 68-pounder was the most successful of the three new heavy guns brought into service in the 1840s (the others were the 42 and 56-pounders). According to Miller, it "is the most powerful smooth-bored gun in the service; it gives the longest ranges, throws the greatest projectile, and is generally the most accurate in its fire..." Two 68-pounders of 110 and 112 hundredweight, which were first tested about 1839, were found not to be superior to the 56-pounder, but in 1841 a pattern designed by Colonel Dundas, 10 feet 10 inches in length and weighing 112 hundredweight, was accepted into service. Dundas was also responsible for introducing two lighter and shorter models, one of 10 feet and 95 hundredweight, in 1846, and another of 9-1/2 feet and 88 hundredweight, shortly thereafter.3All three were intended for naval service, but because the 112 hundredweight gun was found to be too heavy to work easily on shipboard, it was relegated to coast defences. Even so it was never popular; in 1857 only 11 were in use and another seven were in store. The 88 hundredweight gun, exclusively a naval weapon, also was not much used; in 1857 only six were mounted on board ship and 19 others were in store. The most popular was the 68-pounder of 10 feet and 95 hundredweight, which was employed either as a pivot gun for steamers and men-of-war or in coast batteries. By 1862, 1,972 of this pattern had been cast. 

In 1859, the Committee on Ordnance recommended that the 68-pounders of 112 and 88 hundredweight be kept in service but that no more be manufactured, and that a new gun of 10 feet and 100 hundredweight be tested to replace that of 95 hundredweight. It is not known if such a weapon was tried, but in 1865 the 95 hundredweight gun was ordered retained in service. Many were converted into 80-pounder rifle muzzle loader (R.M.L.) guns. The heaviest was to be retained only until it could be replaced by rifled pieces. The lightest 68-pounder was declared obsolete in 1865. 

 (Andre Blanchard Photo)

Figure 26.  Millar-Dundas SBML 68-pounder Gun, weight 66-2-0 (7,448 lbs), 1844, on the barrel, (Serial No. 174), mounted on a concrete stand.

There is no lack of information on the design and dimensions of these guns. In 1853, Captain E.M. Boxer prepared detailed dimensions and a diagram for the three 68-pounders (Fig. 26). The Aide-Memoire of 1845 gave the dimensions only of the 112 hundredweight gun; the 1853 edition added those of the 95 hundredweight gun. All three sources were in agreement. The only change in design appears to have been the strengthening of the breeching loop of the 95 hundredweight 1un, ordered in September 1860, because of which its weight increased by 22 pounds. An example of this gun, cast in 1858, is extant at the Halifax Citadel (Fig. 27). 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 27.  Cast Iron 68-pounder 95-cwt Smoothbore Gun with Millar pattern breeching ring, weight 95-1-0 (10,668 lbs), (1858) on the left trunnion, (+) on the right trunnion, Queen Victoria cypher, mounted on a long wood traversing carriage.  10 feet long, Halifax Citadel National Historic Park.


In 1838, T.B. Monk, clerk and draughtsman in the Department of the Inspector of Artillery, brought forward a new principle of construction of iron guns. He proposed keeping unchanged the ratio of the weight of the gun to that of the shot (about 1-3/4 hundredweight in the gun to each pound in the shot), but at the same time increasing the thickness of metal around the charging cylinder (where the cartridge and shot rest in the bore) while diminishing it in the chase. This principle was first applied to the design of a 56-pounder, 11 feet long and weighing almost 97- 3/4 hundredweight, which was successfully tested at Deal in 1839. Monk's purpose in designing this new gun "was to obtain by it more efficient and accurate practice at great ranges for general service, but more particularly for coast defences, in which artillery having the greatest powers of range seaward is of the utmost importance." A second version of 10 feet and 87 hundredweight was first constructed in 1844 (Fig. 28). 

Unfortunately, this straightforward account becomes complicated. In 1845, Fitzhugh wrote in his notebook: "The 56 Pr, is a new gun to throw solid shot, originally intended for coast batteries, it is called Monk's gun. There is another made by Col. Dundas." It might be thought that Col. Dundas' gun was the new 56-pounder of 10 feet, but there is a scale drawing, circa 1848, entitled "Lt. Col. Dundas's 56 Pro of 11 feet and 98 cwt" (Fig. 29). At first glance Dundas' gun appears similar to the scale drawing of the gun of 11 feet prepared by Captain E.M. Boxer in 1853, but a closer look reveals certain differences. While the lengths of the reinforces, chase, and muzzle are not significantly different, the trunnions of Dundas' gun are positioned 3.3 inches further forward. Also, Dundas has moved metal around, decreasing the thickness of the reinforces and increasing that of the chase. As well, the bore is almost an inch longer. How this reapportioning of metal affected performance is not known. These are the only references to Dundas' 56-pounder; the dimensions for the gun of 11 feet given by Boxer and in the Aide-Memoire (which show no significant variations) and by Miller, in 1864, (though less complete), were not the same as those of Dundas' gun. Also, both in the Aide-Memoire and in Miller's work, Monk's name was attached to the 56-pounder construction. Dundas' variation may have been no more than an unsuccessful attempt at improvement. 

A second complication is that there may have been two models of the 56-pounder of 10 feet, one weighing 87 and the other 85 hundredweight. Both Boxer and the Aide-Memoire gave the gun's weight as 85 hundredweight. The Committee on Ordnance, 1857-9, gave both weights and treated each as distinct guns. All 42 of the guns of 85 hundredweight were in use, either in England or abroad, while all 18 of the guns of 87 hundredweight were in store in England.20 Perhaps the latter weight of gun may have been an improvement of the 85 hundredweight model. It is the gun of 87 hundredweight that Miller recorded in 1864, but he wrote that it was first constructed in 1844 and gave no indication of a lighter version. 

Figure 28. Iron 56-pounder, (1) weight: 97 hundredweight, length: 11 feet; (2) weight: 85 hundredweight, length: 10 feet, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate Y.) 

Figure 29, Iron 56-pounder, weight: 98 hundredweight, length: 11 feet, circa 1850. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Strange, "Drawings on Artillery.") 

Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario, has a Cast Iron 56-pounder 98-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 98-0-4 (10,980 lbs), produced in 1845.  Its gun carriage possibly a replica from 1974.  This gun was purchased as an unmounted reserve gun from the British in 1870, and is the only one of its kind in Canada.

The 56-pounder was not a successful weapon. Because it had a reduced windage (0.175 inch) it shot well, but it was considered to be of a weak construction. It had some popularity in coastal batteries and even on ships, but it was replaced by the 68-pounder. In 1857, according to the Committee on Ordnance, 42 of the guns of 85 hundredweight were in use; 18 guns of 87 hundredweight and 10 guns of 98 hundredweight were in store. In consequence the Committee recommended that the gun of 85 hundredweight might be retained but was not to be replaced, while the other models more to be declared obsolete. In 1865, it was ordered that 56-pounders were to be retained only until they could be replaced by other pieces. 

Figure 30. Iron 42-pounder, weight: 68 hundredweight 2 quarters, length: 11 feet 1.25 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 


Although the cast-iron 42-pounder gun was clearly referred to in the first half of the eighteenth century, it was not a common gun and not a great deal is known about it. James' notebook of the early 1720s is characteristically laconic, giving only the guns four lengths - 10, 9-1/2, 9, and 8-1/2 feet. A drawing of a 42-pounder, circa 1735, is accompanied by the following modern handwritten note: "The 42-pounder Iron is probably an older pattern still in use [in 1735]. Borgard's iron 42-pounder was produced in 1716, and a plan exists of it; they are not the same. There is very little mention of 42 pdrs, in the early 18th century, it being only mentioned at Minorca in the war of the Spanish Succession; this 42 could well be the pre-Borgard pattern, possibly Martin Beckman." The appearance of this gun is unlike the others included with it in a portfolio of drawings: it has more astragals and the second reinforce ring is strangely composed of a series of mouldings, seemingly a cavetto, an astragal and fillets, and an ogee. Its length was 11 feet 1-1/4 inches, quite long, and its weight was 68-1/2 hundredweight, relatively light for its length (Fig. 30). 

By 1764, there may have been two 42-pounders in service. In 1753, a ship's 42-pounder 10 feet long and weighing slightly more than 55-1/4 hundredweight was noted. The establishment of 1764 indicated only one 42"80under of 9-1/2 feet, weighing 65 hundredweight, much heavier than the ship's gun. In 1780, Walton gave dimensions for a gun of 9-1/2 feet but, according to him, weighing only 61-1/2 hundredweight. In 1781, he referred to guns 10 and 9-1/2 feet. Other sources around 1780, recorded a 42-pounder of 10 feet and 67 hundredweight and of 9 1/2 feet and 65 hundredweight. In 1781, Mountaine claimed in his manual of naval gunnery that twenty-eight 42-pounders formed the armament on the lower deck of first rates of 100 guns; these, he wrote, weighed 65 hundredweight. All in all, the evidence for this period is rather confusing. 

By about 1790, as part of his formula of construction, Blomefield produced specifications for a 42-pounder of 9-1/2 feet, weighing 65 hundredweight. Whether or not this gun was ever constructed cannot be ascertained, but at Signal Hill National Historic Park, there is a Blomefield model 42-pounder, bearing the cypher of King George 3, which is, remarkably, 12 feet in length (Fig. 31). In 1801 and 1813, Adye listed in his manual 42-pounders of 9-1/2 and 10 feet, weighing 65 and 67 hundredweight respectively, but these quite likely were the pre-Blomefield guns. In 1825, Mould noted that the 42-pounder of 9-1/2 feet and 65 hundredweight was "obsolete. There may be some in Garrisons." 

In his study, Naval Gunnery, Sir Howard Douglas wrote that the regulation assigning 42-pounders to the lower decks of some line-of-battle ships remained in force until 1839, but quite likely it had been long ignored, for the 32-pounder, again according to Douglas, was the heaviest gun in naval service in 1838. By the end of the 1830s the Ordnance was searching for heavier guns, and in 1839 at Deal, a 42-pounder of 10-1/2 feet and weighing 80-3/4 hundredweight was tested. This initial design seems to have been unsuccessful, for a slightly shorter but heavier 42-pounder, 10 feet long and weighing 84 hundredweight, was introduced into the service. (Miller wrote that the pattern dated from 1839; Owen and Porter that it was introduced in 1843.) In 1845, a 75 hundredweight gun, of the same length and, in 1846, a gun of 9-1/2 feet and 67 hundredweight were cast (Fig. 32). The guns of 10 feet were designed by Monk, that of 9-1/2 feet by Colonel Dundas. 

All three patterns were initially designed for sea service, but they were available for defensive positions, at least on a contingency basis in the early 1850s. In the naval service the gun of 9-1/2 feet was the most efficient. It was introduced as the lower-deck guns of "Blenheim" and "Ajax," steam guard-ships for dockyards, but it was found to be too heavy, requiring a crew which overcrowded the decks. Consequently, it was replaced by the 32-pounder of 56 hundredweight. Indeed, by the mid-1850s, all 42-pounders were considered obsolete although they remained in service for a number of years. In 1865, the 84 and 67 hundredweight guns were ordered to be retained but only until they could be replaced by rifled pieces; the 75 hundredweight gun was declared obsolete. In 1881, Owen and Porter noted, "42-pounders are rare; a few may yet be found mounted in out-of-the-way batteries." 

Figure 31a.  Blomefield Cast Iron 42-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight and maker unknown, 12-feet long, recorded in McConnell as located on Signal Hill National Historic Park. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  4949697)

Figure 31 b.  Blomefield Cast Iron 18-pounder 42-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading cannon, overlooking St. Johns Harbour, 1948.

Note concerning sources:

Most sources agree that there were three 42-pounders in service during the 1840s - two models each 10 feet in length and weighing 84 and 75 hundredweight respectively, designed by Monk, and a third model 9-1/2 feet in length and weighing 67 hundredweight, designed by Dundas. This relatively straightforward account is complicated by certain problems. The Aide-Memoire in 1845 gave dimensions of a 42-pounder of 9 feet 6 1-2 inches, weighing 85 hundredweight; nowhere else was a gun of such a length and weight recorded. While the Aide-Memoire of 1853 and Boxer's tables were in agreement on both 42-pounders of 10 feet, there were slight variations in their dimensions of the gun of 9-1/2 feet and 67 hundredweight. The Aide- Memoire indicated that its construction was "O" (standing for ordinary) that usually meant Blomefield construction. Since the proportions were not Blomefield's, this designation must be in error. The failure of these sources to agree completely is slightly disconcerting. 

More mystifying is the evidence submitted to the Committee on Ordnance, appointed in 1857. According to its records there were six 42-pounders in existence in 1857: 

Length Ft. In.      Weight Cwt.   In use. In store Total  

10 and 6.               84,                 47       blank      47. 

10 and 0.               84                  blank     1           1. 

10 and 0.               75                  blank     9           9. 

9 and 11.               84                  blank     1           1. 

9 and 8.                 78                  blank    10          10. 

9 and 6.                 67                  blank     25         25. 

No other source mentioned 42-pounders of 10 feet 6 inches, 9 feet 11 inches, or 9 feet 8 inches. Also, when the Committee presented its final report in 1859, the gun of 10-1/2 feet, 84 hundredweight, had vanished; its numbers in use, 47, were included alongside the gun of 9-1/2 feet and 67 hundredweight. It seems likely that the committee had discovered an error and corrected it for the final report. 

Figure 32. Iron 42-pounder, (1) weight: 84 hundredweight, length: 10 feet, (2) weight: 75 hundredweight, length: 10 feet, (3) weight: 67 hundredweight, length: 9 feet 6 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate VI.) 


In the 1720s there were four lengths of cast-iron 32-pounders in service. James listed them in his notebook and gave some details about the gun of 9-1/2 feet. 

Length Ft. In. Base ring to Trunnion Centre Ft. In. Diameters at the Base ring Ft. In. 2nd reinforce ring Ft. In. Weight Cwt. 

10 and 0.  

9 and 6.         4 and 1.                                               1 and 10.                                   1 and 6-1/4.                           52 

9 and 0.

8 and 6.

About 20 years later, the mensuration of 1743 gave detailed dimensions of a 32-pounder of 9-1/2 feet, weighing 5 pounds less than 54 hundredweight. These, with a few slight variations, were reproduced by Adye in his notebook in 1766. A probable example of this gun, raised from the wreck of the Royal George in 1834, is held by the Tower of London. 

The establishment promulgated by the Board of Ordnance in 1764 included only one 32-pounder of 9-1/2 feet and weighing 55 hundredweight. Presumably this was the same gun, the detailed dimensions of which Walton put in his notebook in 1780. Except for the increased length of the second reinforce, these measurements were similar, but not identical, to those given by Adye in 1766 and by the mensuration of 1743; the weight, 55 hundredweight, was slightly heavier but identical with that of the establishment of 1764. 

Elsewhere in Walton's notebook, in gunnery tables dated 1781, reference to a 32-pounder of 10 feet and 58 hundredweight appeared along with that to the gun of 9- 1/2 feet. No other details have been discovered about this gun, but it continued to be referred to into the early nineteenth century, although by then it was probably obsolete. It is likely these were the 32-pounders that Adye recorded in his notebook rather than Blomefield models.

Blomefield's 32-Pounders 

By the 1790s, Blomefield had developed his system of construction of iron guns, that initially included only one 32-pounder of 9-1/2 feet and 55-1/2 hundredweight (Fig. 33). This gun, which was designated either for garrison or sea service, proved to be very popular to the end of the smooth-bore era. In 1851, the captain of HMS Excellent, the naval testing laboratory ship, wrote in praise of the gun: "The old gun has been a great favourite. It works extremely easy, its recoil is not too severe, it does not wear its vent away quickly, its precision is equal to the new A, B, and C guns, which work heavily, and wear the vent away rapidly, and which have reduced windage." 

The Committee on Ordnance reported that at the end of March 1857, there were 1961 of these guns in use and 1733 in store; while they did not recommend that it be reproduced, they recognized that it would continue to be in use for a number of years. In 1865 it was ordered retained in service. It seems to have been an excellently designed weapon. 

There was also another Blomefield 32-pounder, 8 feet in length and weighing 48 to 50 hundredweight (Fig. 33). It is not known when it was first cast, but Mould noted it in 1825: "Not used in service only six in the Arsenal at Woolwich." Despite its alleged unpopularity in 1825, it remained on the active service list, for many years; in 1859 the Committee on Ordnance recommended that, while it not be manufactured, it should continue to be used. In 1865 it was ordered to be retained in service. Details of its construction were published by Boxer and in the Aide-Memoire. (Care must be taken not to confuse this gun with Millar's model of the same length and weight.) 

There were five other Blomefield 32-pounders in service after 1830, but these were bored-up guns (Figs. 33 and 34). 

Length Ft.           Weight Cwt.          Bored up From 

9.                         46.                         24-pdr. of 48 cwt. 

8.                         41.                         24-pdr. of 43 cwt. 

7-1/2.                  39.                         24-pdr. of 40 cwt. 

6-1/2.                  32.                         24-pdr. of 33 cwt. 

6.                         25.                        18-pdr, of 27 cwt.

The Ordnance began the practice of boring-up about 1830 in an attempt to gain the advantage of heavier shot and shell with reduced windage without incurring the expense of new heavier guns. Although these bored-up guns remained in service for a number of years, the experiment was not successful. The decreased windage did result in greater power of penetration, but the decrease in the weight of the gun meant a more severe recoil, damaging the carriage, rendering the gun unsteady, and therefore making the accuracy of fire more uncertain. If the service charge was reduced to limit the recoil, the power of penetration was lessened, thereby obviating the purpose of boring-up. Also, bored-up guns were unsafe if double-shotted (that is, loaded with two projectiles), a practice common in the naval service.67 In 1865, it was ordered that the bored-up 32-pounders of 39 and 32 hundredweight were to be retained on the active service list; the others were declared obsolete. 

 (Kingston Historical Society Photo)

Figure 33.  Author with a Blomefield Cast Iron 32-pounder 56-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 55-2-14 (6,230 lbs), 9 feet 6 inches long, in the Murney Tower, one of many guns found in the City of Kingston, Ontario.

Figure 34. Iron 32-pounder, (1) weight: 25 hundredweight, length: 6 feet, (2) weight: 32 hundredweight, length: 6 feet 6 inches, (3) weight: 25 hundredweight, length: 5 feet 4.1 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate X.) 

Millar's 32-Pounders 

In 1829 or the early 1830s a new set of 32-pounders was developed. Their design has usually been attributed to William Millar, but the name of Sir Alexander Dickson, Wellington's commander of artillery in the Peninsula, has sometimes been attached to two of them. Both men were Inspectors-General of Artillery, Millar succeeding Dickson in 1827. Millar was well known for his successful design of shell guns and of brass field howitzers during the 1820s. He died in 1838 and Dickson in 1840. 

There were four varieties of these 32-pounders: 

Length Ft. In.       Weight Cwt.
9 and 7.                 63 

8 and 0.                 48 to 50. 

6 and 0.                 25. 

5 and 4.                 25. 

According to Miller in his Equipment of Artillery, Millar designed the guns of 9 feet 7 inches and of 6 feet in 1829 (See Fig. 34, Gun No. 1 for the gun of 6 ft.). It seems likely that he designed the other two guns at the same time, although Miller gave no specific date. He did say that two lighter models of the gun of 5 feet 4 inches, weighing 22 and 20 hundredweight, were cast in 1836. 

In 1865 when the War Department revised its list of smooth-bore guns in service, it noted: "There are three patterns of 48 cwt, and two of 50 cwt., but issued without distinction." One of these was a Blomefield, but the names of both Millar and Dickson were attached to these guns as well. On the other hand, Strange and Noble, students at the Royal Military Academy, and Miller indicated that Millar designed the 32-pounder of 8 feet and 48 hundredweight. (It had only two muzzle moulding rings rather than three.) Dickson may have designed another gun of 48 or 50 hundredweight. It seems likely that these guns were very similar since they were "issued indiscriminately, mounted on the same carriages, and bracketed together in returns." 

The design of the gun of 5 feet 4 inches was attributed to Millar in the early records, but the Committee of Ordnance in the late 1850s indicated that Dickson was the designer, and this attribution was confirmed in the "Changes in Artillery Materiel..."in 1866. Given the paucity of information, it is impossible to account for the change of the designer's name from Millar to Dickson. 

In outward appearance the design was quite simple. There were three simple rings (at the breech, first reinforce, and muzzle), a vent patch, and a block behind the base ring for a rear sight, but there were no astragals and fillets. The second reinforce ring and ogee had been eliminated, the second reinforce merging into the chase through a slight curve or cavetto. The two largest guns had a breeching loop with a pin, while the two shortest, in addition, had a horizontal loop which presumably took an elevating screw. This latter arrangement appears to have been based on the carronade design (Fig. 34, Gun No. 3). 

A discussion of the strength and weaknesses of Millar guns has not been found, but they seem to have been largely superseded by the new guns of Monk and Dundas. The 32-pounder of 6 feet vanished quickly, but as late as 1857 the two largest guns were still in use. The Committee on Ordnance noted that they would continue in use for some years, and in 1865 they were ordered to be retained on the active list. Only the light piece of 5 feet 4 inches was declared obsolete. 

Monk's Medium 32-Pounders (A, B, and C) 

The origin of Monk's guns lay in the failure during trials of a number of 32-pounders bored up from 24-pounders of 9 and 6 feet. To replace these guns T.B. Monk brought forward a design for a new 32-pounder. The principle underlying the design, which he had already successfully applied to the construction of a 56-pounder, consisted in maintaining the existing ratio between the weight of metal in the Blomefield 32-pounder and the weight of shot (about 1-3/4 hundredweight to 1 pound), while at the same time redistributing the metal by thickening it around the charging cylinder and diminishing it in the chase. In 1838, Monk successfully brought to trial a 32-pounder of 9 feet and 50 hundredweight (gun A). Shortly thereafter in that year, he applied his method of construction, with some modifications, to two more 32-pounders of 8-1/2 feet and 45 hundredweight and 8 feet and 42 hundredweight (guns B and C) [Figs. 35 and 36.] 

The three guns were very similar in external appearance to the long Millar 32-pounders. All had three simple rings (at the breech, end of the first reinforce, and muzzle), a vent patch, and a block behind the base ring to take a rear sight, but there were no astragals and fillets. The second reinforce ring and ogee had been eliminated, the second reinforce merging into the chase through a slight curve or cavetto. There was a breeching loop with a pin. Their calibres were less than the old calibre of 32-pounders, 6.41 inches; the gun A had a calibre of 6.375 inches, and guns Band C of 6.35 inches. 

Although all three guns were initially intended only for naval service, in 1854 the 50 hundredweight gun was adopted into the land service. It could on occasion be used in the siege train as a substitute for the 24-pounder, and as late as 1881 it was reported to be found occasionally in garrison. In the naval service Monk's guns replaced the old 24- and 18-pounders; although they did not exceed them in range, they had "great advantages over these from the superior magnitude and momentum of their shot." In 1865 the War Department ordered that all three guns be retained in the service. 

Figure 35. Iron 32-pounder, Monk design, (A) weight: 50 hundredweight, length: 9 feet, (B) weight: 45 hundredweight, length: 8 feet 6 inches, (C) weight: 42 hundredweight, length: 8 feet, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate IX.) 

Figure 36. Iron 32-pounder, Monk A, cast by the Walker Company in 1859, weight: 51 hundredweight 2 quarters, length: 9 feet. (National Maritime Museum, London, U.K.) 

Dundas' 32-Pounders 

Lieutenant-Colonel William Dundas, who was Inspector of Artillery from 1839 to 1852, designed two new 32-pounders which, with Monk's guns, were part of the new armament accepted into the naval service. A short gun of 6 feet and 25 hundredweight dated from 1845. A long gun of 9-1/2 feet and 58 hundredweight was developed in 1847, but it was not officially accepted into service until 1853. 

In 1847, Dundas was aware that a new supply of heavy 32-pounders would shortly be required to replenish stores. Until then, the old Blomefield model of 9-1/2 feet and 56 hundredweight had been used, and although its windage of 0.233 inch was perhaps excessive, it was regarded as an excellent gun. Dundas saw the need for new guns as an opportunity to test various constructions and windages to determine which would be best for future service. Because Monk's construction had come under suspicion due to the failure early in 1846 of a 42-pounder of his design, Dundas proposed to submit for trial his own construction of a heavy 32-pounder, along with Monk's and the old Blomefield pattern. A Monk and a Dundas gun were very similar in appearance, the difference being in the distribution of metal, Monk's gun was thicker at the breech in proportion to the thickness at the muzzle face than Dundas'. 

Trials were held in 1847, but they seem to have been inconclusive; anyway, no decision was made. Another series of tests was conducted late in 1851 that resulted in 1853 in the adoption of Dundas' gun into the naval service. It was 9 1/2 feet long, weighed 58 hundredweight, and had a calibre of 6.375 inches or a reduced windage of 0.198 inch (Figs. 37 and 38). By 1857, 250 of these guns were mounted on board ship and 99 were in store. In 1861 an ordnance committee recommended that this gun replace the Blomefield 32-pounder of 56 hundredweight in coastal batteries. In 1865, it was included in the list of guns to be retained in service. Later, many of them were converted on the Palliser principle to 64-pounders, RML, land service. 

In 1845, Dundas brought forward the design of a light 32-pounder, 6 feet in length, weighing 25 hundredweight, with a calibre of 6.3 inches {windage of 0.123 of an inch). Since a similar gun designed by Millar was already in service, the new gun was probably intended to replace it. It is not known precisely when this gun was accepted into the naval service, but Douglas, in his Naval Gunnery, included it in a list of guns dated 1848. By 1857, 395 of these guns were mounted on board ship and 527 were in store. In 1865, it was retained on the active list of service ordnance. Although no diagrams of it exist, it probably was similar in appearance to the Dundas 32-pounder of 58 hundredweight, except that it had only two, rather than three, muzzle moulding rings. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 37. Cast Iron 32-pounder 58-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun with Dundas pattern breeching ring, weight 58-2-0 (6,552 lbs), (RGF No. 715, I, 1876) on right trunnion, (+) on the left trunnion, King George 3 cypher, broad arrow mark, mounted on a wood naval gun carriage, South side of the passage between the Fort Haldimand Dormitory and Yeo Hall, No. 2 of 2.  Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario.

 (Author Photos)

Figure 38 a & b. Cast Iron 32-pounder 58-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun with Millar pattern breeching ring, weight 58-2-10 (6,558 lbs), 1858, Low Moor Ironworks of Bradford, England (LOW MOOR, 8052, 1858) on the left trunnion, (+) on the right trunnion, Queen Victoria cypher, broad arrow mark, 2711 on the barrel, unmounted.  This is gun No. 2 of 2, facing south, near the Algonquin Hotel, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick.

Congreve Guns (32-, 24-, and 18-pounders) 

The origin of the Congreve gun lay in a letter from Admiral Hope, one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to William Congreve, the younger, in January 1813. With it he enclosed the accounts of a practice that had demonstrated the light 24-pounder of 6-1/2 feet and 33 hundredweight was inadequate to be fired double- shotted, a common naval tactic. Hope suggested that Congreve consider "whether it might not be possible to construct 24-pounders considerably lighter than the long 24-pounders, and which might still be of sufficient weight to be capable of firing two shot." A few days later Congreve sent the Admiral his plan of a radically designed 24-pounder of 7-1/2 feet and 41 hundredweight. 

Congreve determined the weight of his gun by adopting the ratio of weight of shot to weight of gun of the 32-pounder of 55 hundredweight, that is, about 1 to 193. He chose this ratio because this 32-pounder was the standard naval gun of a ship of the line, it was of demonstrated efficiency, and it was quite capable of being fired double-shotted. He rejected the shot-weight ratio of the 42-pounder because he doubted its ability to fire two shots and of the 24-pounder because he felt that it was too heavy. 

He also rejected the standard length of 9-1/2 feet. He pointed out that with the increase in the power of modern gunpowder the service charge had been reduced to 1/3 the weight of the shot. With a smaller amount of powder, the longer length was no longer necessary to allow for the complete combustion of the service charge. Using tables compiled by the mathematician and ballistics theorist Euler, Congreve arrived at a length of about 15 calibres or 7-1/2 feet which he argued was adequate for a 24-pounder. 

Not only was Congreve's gun lighter and shorter than usual, but it was also constructed on a new principle; it appeared to be a hybrid of a gun and a carronade. It was much more conical in shape than a conventional gun, since Congreve had increased the weight of metal at the breech and around the charging cylinder while he had reduced it in the chase. This redistribution of metal, he argued, gave the gun a greater "reacting power," that is, it threw the shot farther than would a conventionally constructed 24-pounder of the same weight. He had arrived at this conclusion seemingly more by intuition than by any scientific principles, although he did cite "the generally received fact of the increased effect in reacting upon, and propelling the charge produced by the thickened breech in fowling pieces and small arms, which I conceive must apply with equal force to ordnance." 

Since this increase of weight toward the breech moved the centre of gravity farther back, it was possible to cast the trunnions farther to the rear as well. This allowed the muzzle to project beyond the port of a ship a greater distance than that of a conventional 24-pounder of 8 feet and within 9 inches of the muzzle face of the gun of 9-1/2 feet. The shape of the muzzle was similar to that of a carronade which allowed it to have more traverse without "wooding" against the side of the port. Also, Congreve got rid of the old breeching loop; in his gun the breeching passed through the centre of the neck of the cascabel "to equalize the shock of the recoil, and to obviate the blow upon the coin created by the old construction." He also designed a dispart sight cast on the ring in front of the trunnions which allowed the gun to be fired at three elevations, point blank, 2-1/2, and 5 degrees. 

Congreve's arguments to Hope convinced the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to request the Board of Ordnance to put his theory to the test. Consequently, on 17 February 1813, the Board placed an order with the Carron Company for two sets of 24-pounders constructed on Congreve's principle, one set to be cast with trunnions, the other with a loop like a carronade. They were to be tested against the standard 24-pounder of 9-1/2 feet and 50 hundredweight and two new guns, designed by Blomefield on the old construction, of 7-1/2 and 8 feet and 40 and 43 hundredweight respectively. Sometime between 15 and 22 November 1813 the Board of Ordnance conducted trials of the four guns on Sutton Heath; also, early in October 1813, Congreve's gun had been tested aboard HMS Eurotas. In February 1814, a lighter version of the gun of 7-1/2 feet weighing 37 hundredweight was successfully tested aboard HMS Pactolus. The results were so favourable that 300 more Congreve 24-pounders were ordered to be cast. In 1820, Congreve noted that 700 of his guns had been manufactured, some with trunnions in the axis of the piece, some with trunnions in the lower half of the barrel as usual, and some with loops like a carronade. According to Mould in 1825, these guns were assigned to the "Upper Deck of first rates, quarter deck and Forecastle of 2nd. rates." 

Figure 39. Iron 24-pounder, Congreve design, weight: 41 hundredweight, length: 7 feet 6 inches, circa 1825. (Royal Military College, Mould, p. 104.) 

Congreve's hopes for his gun were much too sanguine. By about 1830, the 24-pounders had been withdrawn from service although they were still used by the East India Company.97 Ironically, an early suggestion of problems had arisen at the end of the Napoleonic wars during an engagement between HMS Eurotas, whose captain had praised Congreve's guns, and the French frigate Clorinde, According to Sir Howard Douglas, the Congreve 24-pounders did not perform as well as the French 18-pounders or as well as English long 18-pounders had on other occasions. He conceded that this may have been due partly to a deficiency in British gunnery, but he went on: "the main defect was in the short 24-pounder guns, which, however they may have succeeded in the experiments at Sheerness (when they bounded but a little more than the long 24-pounder against which they were tried), acted most violently on their carriages when heated with continued firing in that protracted action. This is ascribed partly to the greatness of the windage, partly to the charge (one-third of the weight of the shot) being too high, and again, to the diminution of the preponderance of the breech by the trunnions being placed so far back." 

Despite these early indications of difficulties, it was not until about 1830 that these guns were removed from service because of "the unsteady and unsafe action of these guns upon their carriages.  

The successful trials of his 24-pounders prompted Congreve to propose that other guns be constructed according to his principle. 

Calibre          Length Ft. In.      Weight Cwt. 

24 pdr.           8 and 0.               50. 

32 pdr.           8 and 3.               55. 

32 pdr.           7 and 9.               50. 

42 pdr.           not given. 

18 pdr.           7 and 0.               31. 

Evidence of trials of such guns have not come to light, but according to lists of ordnance submitted to the Committee on Ordnance in the late 1850s, other Congreve guns were cast: 

Calibre        Length Ft. In.       Weight Cwt.   No. in store, 1857. 

24 pdr.         8 and 0.                not given.        1. 

32 pdr.         8 and 3.               not given.         1. 

32 pdr.         7 and 10.             not given          1. 

18 pdr.         6 and 10.             not given          8. 

6 pdr            4 and 9.               not given          2. 

Considering the number of each calibre in existence in 1857, it seems likely that, except the 18-pounder, these guns never went beyond the testing stage. Even the 18-pounder may never have been more than experimental, although six of the eight guns existing in 1857 were in store outside of England. 

Despite the dissatisfaction with the 24-pounder Congreve gun the Ordnance bored-up 800 of them to the calibre of a 32-pounder in 1830. According to Sir Howard Douglas, this was an economy measure to attempt to take advantage of heavier weight of shot without incurring the expense of casting new guns. But if the 24-pounder was unsteady in action, surely the bored-up 32-pounder would react even more violently? Whatever the case, the bored-up guns remained on the active list for many years. In 1865 all the Congreve guns, except the 32-pounders, were declared obsolete. 

Figure 40. Iron 24- and 32-pounders, Congreve design, (1) weight: 41 hundredweight, length: 7 feet 6 inches, (2) weight: 40 hundredweight, length: 7 feet 6 inches (24-pounder bored up to 32-pounder), circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XI.) 

Fort Prince of Wales

 (Ansgar Wal Photo)

The Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada near Churchill in Northern Manitoba was built in the early 18th century by the Hudson’s Bay Company to support the fur trade.  The Fort stands at the mouth of the Churchill River and encompasses a massive fortification along with installations at Cape Merry, a defensive battery situated on a point of land across the river opposite the fort, and Sloop Cove, which was the HBC’s winter harbour.  Built between 1731 and 1771, the 12-metre thick walls of the fortress protected the HBC’s major supply route through Arctic waters until it was surrendered by Samuel Hearne to the French in 1782.

 (Diagram courtesy of Parks Canada)

Diagram of Prince of Wales Fort.  Inner numbers designate cannon calibre, outer numbers cover 40 guns mounted on the inner walls of the fort, plus two outside the fort.

Each of the 40 guns mounted on the ramparts of Prince of Wales Fort is positioned at a gun port and located on a stone plinth.  24 of the guns bear the Royal cypher of King George 2 (1727-1760), six of the guns bear the Royal cypher of Queen Anne (1702-1714), and 12 guns do not have a visible cypher.  Gun weights and data courtesy of Parks Canada, Henry Unglik and Alex Barbour,  A Metallurgical and Corrosion Study of the 18th Century Cast Iron Cannons from Fort Prince of Wales, Manitoba, prepared for Kathryn Roll, Chief, Historic Resource Conservation, Prairie Region, Winnipeg.  Laboratory Nos. : 89-2193 to 89-2215.  (Historic Resource Conservation, National Historic Sites, Environment Canada, Parks Service Canada; and Heritage Conservation Program, Architecture and Engineering Services, Public Works Canada, Ottawa, March 1992).  Gun weights from pp. 28-34.  


In his notebook in the early 1720s, James set down the lengths of iron 24-pounders - 10, 9-1/2, 9, and 8-1/2 feet -, but gave no other details. Probable examples of the gun of 9-1/2 feet are preserved by Parks on the ramparts of Fort Prince of Wales on Hudson Bay (Fig. 41). These 10 guns, which bear the cypher of King George I, weigh between 48 and 49-3/4 hundredweight. They all have vent patches and the cascabel design usually attributed to Armstrong rather than to Borgard. These guns appear to be very similar to the 24-pounder of 9-1/2 feet and slightly more than 49-1/4 hundredweight which was detailed in the mensuration of 1743. In 1766, Adye almost duplicated these dimensions in his notebook; the lengths of the reinforces varied 
slightly but the diameters, with the exception of those of the trunnions, were the same. 

The establishment of 1764 included two iron 24-pounders, but there is some confusion about their lengths - Smith's An Universal Military Dictionary, a list attributed to Congreve, and the Aide-Memoire indicated that there were two guns of 9-1/2 feet weighing 49 and 47-1/2 hundredweight. On the other hand, Landmann said that the 47-1/2 hundredweight gun was only 9 feet long)08Itis possible that there were two different weights of the same length of gun, but it seems more likely that an error was made and that the lighter gun was only 9 feet long. In 1780, Walton recorded both lengths and weights, and other sources also referred to them. 

In 1780, Walton gave detailed dimensions for both lengths of 24-pounders, but as with the other calibres, the length of the second reinforce was over-long. In another place in his notebook, he included a 24-pounder of 10 feet and 52 hundredweight; a practice book of 1780 recorded information on such a gun and it was still listed in Adye's manual as late as 1813, although by then it was likely obsolete. Whether it was a new or an old gun in 1780 is impossible to decide. 

Figure 41. Iron 24-pounder cast in the reign of King George I (1714-27), weight: 49 hundredweight 3 quarters 26 pounds, length: 9 feet 6 inches. (Parks, Fort Prince of Wales National Historic Park.) 

As part of his system of construction, Blomefield designed two 24-pounder iron guns of 9-1/2 and 9 feet weighing 50-1/2 and 47-3/4 hundredweight respectively (Fig. 42). Later these were usually referred to as 50 and 48 hundredweight guns.) According to Mould, writing in 1825, the 50 hundredweight gun was used on the "Middle Deck of First Rates, and Main Deck of some 4th rates, also on Fortresses and in Battering Trains." The 48 hundredweight gun was assigned to the "Upper Deck of 2nd rates, lower of some 4th rates etc. garrisons Battering trains etc." 

In the land service the 24-pounder, especially the heavier gun, was highly regarded as a battering piece, and it was extensively used during Wellington's Peninsular campaigns and again in the Crimea some 40 years later. Examples of both these guns can be found within the Parks system. 

In 1813, Sir Thomas Blomefield designed two 24-pounders of 8 feet and 43 hundredweight and 7-1/2 feet and 40 hundredweight to be used in the trials on Sutton Health of Sir William Congreve's new medium gun). Neither gun was much used thereafter. In 1825 Mould noted that the gun of 8 feet was "Not used. - 100 in the Arsenal at Woolwich." Spearman included it in his manual of 1828, but thereafter it went unnoticed until it was officially declared obsolete in 1865. In 1825, the gun of 7-1/2 feet was "Appropriated to the Upper Deck of one Ship only; the Donegal." It too was officially declared obsolete in 1865.  

A short 24-pounder of 6-1/2 feet and 33 hundredweight, undoubtedly a Blomefield design, was first cast in 1805. As a 24-pounder it proved unsuccessful; in 1825 Mould wrote that it was not used. Despite this, Boxer included it in his series of gun diagrams in the 1850s and Miller described it in his Equipment of Artillery in 1864 (Fig. 43). It was declared obsolete in 1865. It did have a separate life as a 32-pounder, bored-up to the higher calibre probably in 1830. 

There are records of 24-pounders of 6 feet, presumably of Blomefield construction, being proofed at Woolwich in the period from March 1800 to June 1801. Some were cast with chambers, the presence of which in guns was unusual. In 1825, Mould noted that the 24-pounder of 6 feet and 30 hundredweight, probably the same gun, was "not used at present." Thereafter no references to this length and weight of 24-pounder have been found. 

Although Blomefield had designed a 24-pounder of 8 feet in 1813, the Ordnance bored-up a number of Blomefeld 18-pounders of that length and 38 hundredweight. This gun, weighing 37 hundredweight in its new calibre, was first noted in a list of service ordnance of 1847, but it is impossible to say when it was first converted. The Aide-Memoire included it in its table of dimensions in 1853, but four years later only nine of these weapons still existed. Thereafter they were not discussed. 

As well as the 18-pounder of 8 feet, 12-pounders of 6 feet and 21 and 24 hundredweight were bored-up to 24-pounders of 20 and 22 hundredweight. These pieces were used in casemates and flank defences in substitution for the 24-pounder carronade. In 1865, it was decided to retain this gun, along with its larger sisters of 50 and 48 hundredweight, on active service. 

There also appear to have been some very obscure 24-pounders. The dimensions of two of these, designated Millar constructions, were set out in the tables in the Aide-Memoire in 1853; they were 7-1/2 and 6-1/2 feet long and weighed 41 and 33 hundredweight respectively. Their dimensions were very similar to the old Blomefield pattern, but the calibre was slightly less, 5.792 instead of 5.823 inches. Presumably they had the profiles of other Millar guns. 

In the records of the Committee on Ordnance, 1857-1859, there were a number of 24-pounders designated "N.P." for new pattern; these included guns of 7-1/2 and 6-1/2 feet, but also of 9-1/2, 9, 8, and 6 feet. Unfortunately, there were no other details. None of these guns appeared in the lists of 1865 when the War Department decided which guns were to be retained and which were to be declared obsolete. 

Finally, the Committee on Ordnance recorded a short 24-pounder, 4 feet 10 inches in length and weighing 18 hundredweight, designated "Dickson's," presumably designed by Sir Alexander Dickson. In 1865, the War Department declared obsolete a 24-pounder of the same weight but said to be 5 feet in length, also described "Dickson." Presumably these were the same guns. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 42.  Blomefield Cast Iron 24-pounder 50-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 50-3-20 (5,704 lbs), (Serial No. 70702, CARRON, 1807), King George 3 cypher, broad arrow mark, mounted on a wood Naval Gun carriage, No. 1, outside the Cornwall Courthouse, Ontario

Figure 43. Iron 24-pounder, Blomefield design, weight: 33 hundredweight, length: 6 feet 6 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XIII.) 


According to James, there were six iron 18-pounders in service in the early 1720s. They varied in length by 6 inches from 11 to 8-1/2 feet. The only other detail that he noted was that for the gun of 11 feet the distance from the centre of the trunnions to the base ring was 4 feet 9 inches. Although it is impossible to be certain, these guns may be similar in design to an 18-pounder, depicted in a diagram, circa 1735 which was 9 feet long and weighed 41 hundredweight 1 quarter 8 pounds (Fig. 44). Its dimensions were very similar to those given by the mensuration of 1743 and by Adye in his notebook in 1766. There were slight variations in the three sets of dimensions, but essentially, they were of the same weapon; indeed, the weights given on the drawing and of the gun of 1743 were identical, 41 hundred- weight 1 quarter 8 pounds. 

At Mahon in Minorca in 1745, General George Williamson and other artillery officers conducted tests to attempt to determine the best length for an 18-pounder and the proper charge for the greatest range. They used two types: one was 11 feet long and weighed 51 hundredweight 5 pounds, the other 9 feet long and 39 hundredweight 1 quarter 3 pounds. Although slightly light, the latter gun was probably that depicted in the circa 1735 drawing and the 1743 mensuration. Three examples of an 18-pounder from the reign of King George 2 (1727-60), all about 9 feet long, one of which weighs 41 hundredweight 2 quarters 10 pounds, lie on the site of an old battery at the Gut of Digby in Nova Scotia (Fig. 45). They bear a close resemblance to the circa 1735 gun. 

Figure 44.  Cast Iron 18-pounder 42-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun with Millar pattern breeching ring, weight 42-3-0 (4,788 lbs), 1841, (WCo) on left trunnion, (Serial No. 664) on right trunnion, CVH of breeching ring, Queen Victoria cypher, broad arrow mark, mounted on concrete carriage, No. 4 of 6 guns in Loyalist Park, Digby, Nova Scotia.

Gut of Digby

 (Admiral Digby Museum Photo)

Figure 45 a.  There are three Cast Iron Smoothbore Muzzleloading Guns from the reign of King George 2 (1727-1760), all 41 hundredweight and about 9 feet long, laying on the ground on the site of an old battery at the Gut of Digby.

 (Admiral Digby Museum Photos)

Figure 45 b and c.  Possible Palliser RML 64-pounder 42-cwt Gun converted from a Cast Iron 32-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 41-2-10 (4,658 lbs), maker and Serial No. unknown, King George 2 cypher, broad arrow mark, No. 1, unmounted on the ground, Admiral Digby Museum, Bay View.

 (Author Photo)

Figure 46. Cast iron 18-pounder SBML cannon, weight 41-2-21 (4,669 lbs), (SOLID) on left trunnion,  (W) for John Wilkinson, on the left trunnion, (SOLID) on the right trunnion, King George 3 cypher ( c1760-1780), 9 feet long, mounted on a wood naval gun carriage guarding the South side of the main entrance to the fort.

Although the gun of 11 feet was not mentioned in the official establishment after the 1720s, it may have had a long history. In 1820, at York, Upper Canada, an unnamed person who wanted to establish a forge at the Credit River made inquiries "...about the purchase of the unserviceable Iron Ordnance lying about on the beach." These guns included 6 iron 18-pounders varying in weight from about 50 to about 54 1/4 hundredweight. An obvious inference is that they were old 18-pounders of 11 feet. It is impossible to know how long they had been "on the beach," but possibly they had seen service during the War of 1812. Indeed, two 18-pounder guns, condemned and lacking trunnions, were pressed into service to defend York against the American attack in April 1813. As late as 1857, an 18-pounder, 11 feet long, "O.P." (old pattern) turned up in the lists of guns submitted to the Committee on Ordnance.l41 It is not known precisely what was meant by "O.P." 

The establishment of 1764 listed only one 18-pounder, a gun of 9 feet and 40 hundredweight (Fig. 46). In 1780, Walton included an 18-pounder of this length and weight in his table of dimensions. With the usual aberration of the length of the second reinforce, these dimensions were very similar to those of 1743 and Adye's of 1766. Elsewhere in his notebook he referred to an 18-pounder of 9-1/2 feet and 42 hundredweight; such a gun was used in practices in 1780. These two lengths were probably the standard 18-pounders of the period. Adye included both guns in his manuals of 1801 and 1813, but by then they were probably being superseded by the newer Blomefield constructions. 

As part of his system of guns, Blomefield designed two 18-pounders of 9 and 8 feet, weighing 42-1/2 and 37-3/4 hundredweight respectively (Fig. 47). It is not known precisely when these guns came into service, but there are records of 18-pounders of 9 and 8 feet, which were probably Blomefield guns, being proofed at Woolwich in 1801. In 1825, Mould noted that the gun of 9 feet was used on the "Upper Deck 74 Gun Ships, Garrison and Battering trains"; the gun of 8 feet was assigned to the "Main Deck 46- and 42-Gun Frigates Garrison Battering train." He also mentioned an 18-pounder of 6 feet and 27 hundredweight that was "not used at present." Presumably this was also a Blomefield gun. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  4949697)

Figure 47.  Blomefield Cast Iron 18-pounder 42-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, overlooking St. Johns Harbour, 1948. 

The 18-pounders of 9 and 8 feet continued in service into the 1860s, but also three light 18-pounders, bored-up from smaller calibres, appeared on the active list in the 1840s: 

Length Ft. In.     Weight Cwt.     Bored-up From. 

7.                        22.                    9 pdr. of 24 cwt. 

6.                       20.                    12 pdr. of 22 cwt. 

5-1/2.                15.                     9 pdr. of 17 cwt. 

Initially it was assumed that these were Blomefield patterns, the gun of 7 feet being general service and the other two being old land service models, with some exterior machining when they were bored up. Unfortunately, the various sources are in disagreement. The detailed dimensions given by Boxer (Fig. 48) and in the Aide-Memoire do not agree. Also, according to the "Changes in Artillery Materiel..." approved in 1865, the two smallest guns were designed by Dickson. At present, it has been impossible to reconcile or to clarify the conflicting evidence. 

In 1865, four 18-pounders were placed in the list of guns to be retained in service: 

Length Ft.        Weight Cwt.    Remarks.

9.                      42.                  Blomefield. 

8.                      38.                  Blomefield. 

6.                      20.                  Dickson. 

5-1/2.               15.                  Dickson. 

Also, four 18-pounders were placed in the list of guns to be abolished:

Length Ft. In.    Weight Cwt. 

9 and 0.              40. 

6 and 10.            32. 

6 and 0.              27. 

7 and 0.              22. 

These guns were all identified as Blomefields but there may be an error here. The gun of 7 feet must be the bored-up 9-pounder. The gun of 6 feet 10 inches has elsewhere been identified as a Congreve gun (see section on Congreve guns). The gun of 6 feet was an old Blomefield model (see above). The gun of 9 feet and 40 hundredweight remains a mystery. 

Figure 48. Iron 18-pounder (bored-up), (1) weight: 22 hundredweight, length: 7 feet, (2) weight: 20 hundredweight, length: 6 feet, (3) weight: 15 hundredweight, length: 5 feet 4.82 inches, cir9l 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns Plate XV.) 


In his notebook in the 1720s James listed four iron 12-pounders varying in length, by 6 inches, from 10 to 8-1/2 feet. Unfortunately, he gave no other details. It seems likely that Parks has preserved a number of these guns at Fort Prince of Wales at the mouth of the Churchill River on Hudson Bay. Damaged by the French when they captured the fort in 1782, 24 iron 12-pounders, cast in the reigns of Queen Anne and King George I, still point their muzzles out through the embrasures of the fort. Six of these, each 9 feet long and weighing from 32-1/4 to 33-1/4 hundredweight, bear the Rose and Crown of Queen Anne (Fig. 49). Of the remaining, 12 are from the reign of King George I (Fig. 50); six others are without insignia, but since they have been cast with a vent patch, they too are probably Georgian. Of these 18 guns, three are 9-1/2 feet long, weighing from 33-1/2 to 35 hundredweight; 14 are 9 feet long, weighing from 32 to 33-1/2 hundredweight; one is 8 feet long and weighs almost 33 1/4 hundredweight. The only obvious difference in design is the shape of the cascabel, the Queen Anne guns differing from the others. The mensuration of 1743, the first detailed table of dimensions discovered, gave the weight of an iron 12-pounder as 32 cwt,2 qtr., 3 lb., a weight similar to the Georgian 9-foot guns at Fort Prince of Wales.153 Until detailed measurements can be taken of the guns at the fort, it is impossible to say if any changes had occurred after the accession of King George 2 in 1727. The dimensions of 1743 were almost identical to those given for a 12-pounder of 9 feet in Adye's notebook of 1766, so similar that it is difficult not to conclude that they were for the same gun.154 In 1780 Walton put down detailed measurements for a 12-pounder of 9 feet, which were also quite similar, but the chase had a greater thickness suggesting that some changes in design had been made. 

 (Peter and Gloria Photo)

Figure 49.  Cast Iron 12-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading cannon mounted on a wood naval gun carriage.  Cast in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), 33 hundredweight 5 pounds, 9 feetlong.  Originally placed on the ramparts of Fort Prince of Wales, this cannon and now stands in front of the Eskimo Museum at 242 La Verendrye Avenue, Fort Prince of Wales National Historic Park.

If changes in specifications were made, perhaps they occurred in 1764 when the Board of Ordnance established three lengths and weights of 12-pounder iron guns: 

Length Ft.     Weight Cwt.
9.                    32-1/2.

8-1/2.              32-1/2.

7-1/2.              29-1/4.

In 1780 Walton gave a table of detailed dimensions for iron 12-pounders of these lengths and weights. Elsewhere in his notebook he also mentioned a 12-pounder of 9 1/2 feet and 34 hundredweight, but it is not clear whether this was an old or new gun. Except for the consistent aberration of the length of the second reinforce, the dimensions given by Walton approach very closely those attributed to Armstrong's construction as set down in Landmann's notes on artillery. 

Figure 50.  Cast Iron 12-pounder 34-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, set on a wood stand, weight 32-1-4 (3,616 lbs), 17-- Queen Anne cypher (1702 to 1714), located at 296 Lower LaHave Road on private property facing the harbour at Five Houses, Riverport, Nova Scotia.

 (Terry Honour Photos)

Figure 50.  Cast Iron 12-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, Queen Anne cypher (18th Century), carriage and shot rack, salvaged from HMS Princess Charlotte, 1812, on display inside the HMCS Cataraqui drill hall, Kingston, Ontario.

Armstrong's construction was replaced by Blomefield's in the late 1780s or 1790s. Although the appearance and thickness of metal changed, the Blomefield 12-pounders for sea and garrison service remained the same length, although two of them were heavier: 

Length Ft.    Weight Cwt.

9.                  34-3/4.

8-1/2            33-1/4.

7-1/2            29-1/4. (Fig. 51) 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 51.  Cast Iron 12-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 29-0-2 (3,270 lbs), 7-feet, 6-inches long, cast during the reign of King George 3 (1760-1820).  This gun has broken trunnions and rests on wood blocks near the line of six mounted RML Guns on the ramparts at York Redoubt, Halifax Defence Complex, Nova Scotia. 

As well, Blomefield designed two short guns exclusively for the land service, both 6 feet long and weighing 24 and 21 hundredweight respectively)58 The latter lacked the breeching loop of the general service gun and their muzzles were shaped differently (Fig. 52).159 In 1825, Mould provided a brief resume of the uses of these 12-pounders: 

Length Ft.   Weight Cwt.   Use 

9.                 34.                  - chase guns, line of battle ships, garrison

8-1/2.          33.                  - garrison service, battering train

7-1/2.          29.                  - quarter deck, line of battle ships, garrison

6.                28 [sic]           - not used at present

It is presumed that Mould made an error in writing the weight of the 6-foot gun; probably he was referring to the 24 hundredweight gun, although this is by no means clear. The 21 and 24 hundredweight guns were bored-up to a 24-pounders of 20 and 22 hundredweight (See section on 24-pounder).

With the development of new and heavier guns in the 1830s and 1840s, the usefulness of 12-pounders was clearly limited. By the mid-1840s their use was becoming exceptional. The ordnance committee of 1844 recommended that the 9-foot gun of 34 hundredweight be substituted occasionally for the 18-pounder in batteries where quick fire might be necessary against storming parties or boat attacks. The 8-½-foot, 33 cwt. gun, was recommended for use sometimes with the siege train since it was powerful enough to dismount artillery and required less ammunition (presumably meaning powder) than an 18- or 24-pounder gun. By 1857, except for some of the 12-pounders of 6 feet, all of these guns were in storage, either in England or abroad. 

Length Ft.   Weight Cwt.   Mounted in England Abroad.   In store in England Abroad   Total

9.                  34                                                                                     257         53           310

8-1/2            33                                                                                                     82            82

7-1/2            29-1/2                                                                               321          61           382

6                   21                                     194         232                           218           9            653 

4                    ?                                                                                                       1               2 

Figure 52. Iron 12-pounder, (1) weight: 34 hundredweight, length: 9 feet, (2) weight: 33 hundredweight, length: 8 feet 6 inches, (3) weight: 29.5 hundredweight, length: 7 feet 6 inches, (4) weight: 21 hundredweight, length: 6 feet, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XVI.) 

Presumably the 21 hundredweight gun was used for the defence of ditches or other places where range was not important. The Committee on Ordnance, which reported in 1859, recommended that all but the 12-pounder of 6 feet be declared obsolete and disposed of, but in 1865 the guns of 9 and 8-1/2 feet were ordered retained in service and the remainder were declared obsolete. 


 (Terry Honour Photo)

Figure 53 a.  Cast Iron 9-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 26-2-2 (2,970 lbs), C, Queen Anne cypher (1702 to 1714), broad arrow mark, mounted on wood naval gun carriages in the South East Bastion, No. 1 of 2, Placentia, Newfoundland.

 (Terry Honour Photos)

Figure 53 b.  Cast Iron 9-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 25-3-0 (2,884 lbs), C, Queen Anne cypher (1702 to 1714), broad arrow mark, mounted on wood naval gun carriages in the South East Bastion, No. 2 of 2, Placentia, Newfoundland.

Although no detailed measurements have been taken, their proportions, ornamentation, and cascabel design appear to be the same as those of a 6-pounder drawn by Borgard in 1716 (see below). It is impossible to know if this design remained unchanged for the four 9-pounders that James listed in his notebook in the early 1720s, because he gave only their lengths which varied by 6 inches from 10 feet to 8 feet 6 inches. Thereafter, a detailed drawing, circa 1735 (Fig. 54), and tables of dimensions from 1743 and 1766 of a 9-pounder of 8 feet 6 inches, weighting 27-3/4 hundredweight, were so similar that they must have been of the same gun.

In 1764, the Board of Ordnance, as part of the establishment of artillery pieces, ordered that there were to be five lengths and weights of 9-pounders: 

Length Ft.   Weight Cwt. 
9.                  29.

8-1/2.           27-1/2.

8.                 26-1/2.

7-1/2.           24-1/2.

7.                  23.

 (Terry Honour Photos)

Figure 53.  Cast Iron 9-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, weight 26-2-2 (2,970 lbs), C, Queen Anne cypher (1702 to 1714), 4 at a right angle to the cypher, broad arrow mark, mounted on wood naval gun carriages, guarding the front entrance to the Visitor's Centre, Placentia, Newfoundland.

Figure 54. Iron 9-pounder, weight: 27 hundredweight 3 quarters, length: 8 feet 6 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

In a table dated 1780, Walton gave detailed dimensions of only three 9-pounders, of 8- 1/2, 7-1/2, and 7 feet; the weights of the latter two guns were the same as the establishment, but that of the gun of 8-1/2 feet was a hundredweight lighter. Except for the usual aberration of the length of the second reinforce, the dimensions of the gun of 8-1/2 feet were very similar, but not identical, to the dimensions of circa 1735, 1743, and 1766.1 69 Elsewhere in his notebook, under the date of 1781, Walton included a list of 9-pounders which matched the establishment of 1764, but with the addition of a gun of 9-1/2 feet, weighing 30-1/4 hundredweight.170 Whether this gun was an old or new weapon was not clear. In the mid-1780s or early 1790s, Blomefield produced specifications for his design of 9-pounders, four of which were for garrison and sea service and the fifth exclusively for land service. 

Length Ft.     Weight Cwt.   Services
9.                   31.

8-1/2.            29-1/2.

7-1/2.            26-1/2.

7.                  25-1/4.             sea service and garrison

5-1/2.            18.                   land service

It is impossible to say how quickly these guns were introduced - Adye in 1801 and 1813 included only two 9-pounders in his manual, both probably of the old construction, one of 7-1/2 feet weighing 24-1/2 hundredweight and the other of 7 feet 
weighing 23 hundredweight). 

Undoubtedly the new guns were introduced before 1815; they were certainly in use by the 1820s. In 1825, Mould gave a capsule review of them:

Length Ft.        Weight Cwt.    Services

9.                       31.                  garrison

8-1/2.                29.                  garrison

7-1/2                 26.                 chase guns of frigates, garrison

7.                      25.                  garrison

5-1/2.               22.                   not used 

It is possible that a heavier gun of 5-1/2 feet had been introduced, but more likely the weight given by Mould was an error since all subsequent reference to this gun gave its weight as either 17 or 18 hundredweight.

The design of the 9-pounder followed the standard Blomefield pattern, as shown in the Boxer drawing of 1853, except for the land service gun of 5 1/2 feet (Fig. 55). 

Figure 55. Iron 9-pounder, Blomefield design, (1) weight: 28.5 hundredweight, length: 8 feet 6 inches, (2) weight: 26 hundredweight, length: 7 feet 6 inches, (3) weight: 25 hundredweight, length: 7 feet, (4) weight: 18 hundredweight, length: 5 feet 6 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XVIII.) 
According to a footnote, "The mouldings of this Gun at the cascabel and muzzle are different from the drawing." Presumably it resembled its sister land service 12-pounder. The cascabel lacked the breeching loop and took the form of an ogee; the muzzle was without two of the three rings (see 12-pounder above). Even the larger 9-pounders were probably little used. No reference can be found to the gun of 9 feet after 1840. According to a student at the Royal Military Academy in 1845, "Nine and six Prs, (iron) are now little used except sometimes for saluting." The Committee on Ordnance which met in the late 1850s revealed that there were large numbers of these weapons in store in England or abroad} but only 111 of the gun of 7-1/2 feet and 26 hundredweight were actually in use. In 1864, according to Millar, 9-pounders "may occasionally be found in the flanks of old fortifications, but their ordinary use is confined to firing salutes..." The Committee on Ordnance recommended that all but the gun of 7-1/2 feet be declared obsolete and disposed of; it recognized that the latter would stay in use, but it was not to be replaced. In 1865, it was ordered that the guns of 8-1/2 and 7 feet be retained in service and that those of 7-1/2 and 5-1/2 feet be declared obsolete. 


Albert Borgard has left a 1716 scale drawing of an iron 6-pounder, 8 feet long, with dimensions calculated both in inches and in calibres (Fig. 56). He did not write out a formula for computing the lengths of the component parts, but it appears to be the following: "first reinforce: 2/7 of total length, second reinforce: 1/7 of total length + 1-1/2 calibres, chase: 4/7 of total length - 1-1/2 calibres, from rear of base ring to trunnion centre: 3/7 of total length."

This formula and the thickness of metal computed by Borgard in calibres may be used, presumably, to reconstruct any gun of any length and calibre of this early period.

In the early 1720s, James entered in his notebook six iron 6-pounders, varying in length, by 6 inches, from 10 to 7-1/2 feet. Other than their lengths, he gave one further piece of information - for the gun of 8 feet, the distance from the centre of the trunnions to the base ring was 3 feet 5.14 inches. This matches exactly the same length on Borgard's drawing of the 6-pounder of 8 feet. Unfortunately, not much can be made of this similarity, since most constructions adopted this proportion, 3/7 the length of the gun.

Parks has six iron 6-pounders of 8-1/2 feet and two of 9 feet at Fort Prince of Wales (Figs. 57 and 58). The former, although having no royal cypher, are probably from the reign of Queen Anne; the latter bear the cypher of King George I. Without detailed measurements it is impossible to know whether or not these guns were manufactured in accordance with Borgard's construction. The cascabels of the Queen Anne guns resemble that of the 1716 drawing; those of the King George I guns are of a design usually attributed to General Armstrong.

There is an incomplete scale drawing, circa 1735 (the cascabel and trunnions are missing), of a 6-pounder of 6-1/2 feet weighing 14 pounds more than 17-1/2 hundredweight, whose design seems to follow the Borgard proportions and ornamentation (Fig. 59). A 6-pounder of 7 feet, weighing slightly more than 23-1/2 hundredweight, was included in the mensuration of 1743; its proportions were slightly at variance with Borgard's. In 1766, Adye set down in his notebook the dimensions of a gun of 6-1/2 feet which were similar to those of the circa 1735 drawing, but which were sufficiently different to prevent concluding that the two guns were the same weapons.

In 1764, the Board of Ordnance established the lengths and weights of 6-pounders: 

Length Ft.     Weight Cwt.

9.                   24.

8-1/2.            23.

8.                  22.

7-1/2.           20-1/2.

7.                  19.

6-1/2            18.

6.                 16-1/2.

The weight of the gun of 7 feet indicates that it clearly was not the gun of 1743 which weighed slightly more than 23-1/2 hundredweight. In 1780, Walton gave dimensions for three 6-pounders of 9, 8, and 6 feet in length whose weights correspond to those of the establishment of 1764.186 (Again there was the aberration of the length of the second reinforce.) Elsewhere in his notebook, under the date of 1781, he listed all the 6-pounders by length and weight as set out in 1764. In the mid-1780s or early 1790s, Blomefield introduced his construction for 6-pounders, although undoubtedly the older guns continued to be used: 

Length Ft.    Weight Cwt.

8-1/2.            23-3/4.

8.                  22-1/2.

7-1/2.            21-1/4.

7.                  20-1/4.

6-1/2.           18-1/2.

6.                 17-3/4. 

These were for sea service and garrison. It is impossible to say how extensively they were used, but by the mid-1820s most were obsolete. In 1825, Mould commented that all models from 8-1/2 to 6-1/2 feet in length were for "garrison, but little used." The only gun in use, of 6 feet and 17 hundredweight, served as a chase gun in sloops of the Royal Navy. Interestingly, Mould mentioned two small 6-pounders, one of 4 feet 10 inches and 12 hundredweight and the other of 3-1/2 feet and 6 hundredweight, which he noted were no longer in use. Presumably these were land service guns made on the same pattern as the short land service 9- and 12-pounders of Blomefield design.l88 Although most of these guns were to be found listed in various manuals over the next 30 to 40 years, except for the model of 6 feet and 17 hundredweight, it is unlikely that they were used for much besides saluting.189 The !}un of 6 feet was the only 6-pounder included in the ordnance tables in the Aide-Memoire in 1845, and although the others were listed in the second edition of 1853, only its dimensions were set down.1 90 The Committee on Ordnance, which met in the late 1850s, reported that it was the only 6-pounder actually in use. 

 (Terry Honour Photos)

Figure 56.  Cast Iron 6-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun, crown and rose similar to Queen Anne's cypher (Stuarts and Hanoverians both adopted it until King George 2's time), but cast in King George I's time, broad arrow mark, heavily corroded, mounted on a wood naval gun carriage, 8 feet long with a five inch bore (been widened by subsequent re-use as post holders, or bollards), No. 2 of 2 in front of St. Luke's Church, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.

Figure 56. Iron 6-pounder, 1716, length: 8 feet. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Borgard, Artillery Tables, No. 30.) 

Figure 57. Iron 6-pounder, cast probably in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), weight: 22 hundredweight 2 quarters 7 pounds, length: 8 feet 6 inches. (Parks, Fort Prince of Wales National Historic Park.) 

Figure 58. Iron 6-pounder, cast in the reign of King George I (1714-27), weight: 24 hundredweight, length: 9 feet. (Parks, Fort Prince of Wales National Historic Park.) 

Figure 59. Iron 6-pounder, weight: 6 hundredweight 1 quarter 14 pounds, length: 6 feet 6 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

Figure 60. Iron 6-pounder, (1) weight: 21 hundredweight, length: 7 feet 6 inches, (2) weight: 20 hundredweight, length: 7 feet, (3) weight: 17 hundredweight, length: 6 feet, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XVIII.) 

The Committee also recorded some obscure 6-pounders. There were 10 guns of 4 feet 11 inches and one of 4 feet 9 inches in store. Perhaps one of these was the gun of 4 feet 10 inches that Mould referred to in 1825. As well, there were two other guns of 4 feet 9 inches, designated Congreve's; these may have been similar in design to his 24-pounder. Finally, the Committee noted two guns of 3 feet 6 inches, called Roebuck's and three others, also 3 feet 6 inches, presumably those referred to by Mould in 1825. The Committee recommended that all the 6-pounders be declared obsolete and disposed of.1 93 Despite this recommendation, in 1865 the 6-pounder of 6 feet and 17 hundredweight was retained in service, but the remaining models were declared obsolete.


In the 1720s, according to James, there were five iron 4-pounders in service, varying in length, by 6 inches, from 9 to 7 feet. Nothing more is known about these guns. Although a 4-pounder was not included in the mensuration of 1743, it was in use during the reign of King George 2 (1727-60). A gun of this calibre, bearing this monarch's cypher, 5 1/2 feet in length and weighing 11 hundredweight 2 quarters 7 pounds, has been recovered from Captain Cook's ship Endeavour. Also, both Muller and Smith made reference to a 4-pounder ship's gun, from the 1750s, 6 feet in length, weighing 12 hundredweight 2 quarters 13 pounds. In 1764, the Board of Ordnance included two iron 4-pounders in the official establishment - one of 6 feet and 12-1/4 hundredweight and the other of 5-1/2 feet and 11-1/4 hundredweight.

Both models were referred to throughout the remainder of the eighteenth century and were listed in Adye's manual in 1801 and 1813. Walton gave dimensions for both guns in 1780, but as previously noted, there was the aberration of the excessively long second reinforce. As well, there is a 4-pounder, 5-1/2 feet in length, about 11-1/2 hundredweight, bearing the cypher of King George 3, at the Rotunda, Woolwich (Fig. 61). Its ornamentation is very similar (perhaps identical?), to the Endeavour gun at Greenwich. It appears that its reinforces are slightly longer than those of Captain Cook's gun, thus making the length of the chase slightly shorter than the combined lengths of the two reinforces.

When Blomefield prepared his system of construction in the 1780s, he included a 4-pounder of 5 feet in length. It is not clear that it was actually introduced. Adye referred to the older guns and in 1825 Mould noted a 4-pounder of 6 feet and 12 hundredweight, but this was probably the older model. Thereafter, the various manuals and notebooks failed to mention 4-pounders. Interestingly, a 4-pounder, bearing the cypher of King George 3, 5-1/2 feet long and weighing 11 hundredweight 2 quarters 9 pounds, was captured from American filibusters at the Battle of the Windmill in 1838. 


In his notebook in the 1720s, James set down the lengths of four iron 3-pounders, 7, 6-1/2, 6, and 5 feet, but beyond this nothing more is known for certain about these guns. The 3-pounder of 6-1/2 feet, weighing 17 hundredweight 1 quarter 14 pounds, included in the mensuration of 1743 may be one of these guns. A 3-pounder at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Park may have been cast during Queen Anne's reign. It is 5 feet in length and weighs 4 hundredweight 3 quarters 8 pounds. Its cascabel design is similar to Borgard's, and it lacks a vent patch, characteristic of Queen Anne guns. Its ornamentation is similar to the early guns, but it does not have a chase astragal and fillets. Although the centre of the trunnions is about 3 /7 the length of the gun from the rear of the base ring, it has a very long first reinforce and a short chase. Since the broad arrow is not in evidence, it was probably cast for the Hudson's Bay Company; possibly it is contemporary with the guns at Fort Prince of Wales (Fig. 62).

The Board of Ordnance approved only one iron 3-pounder on the establishment of ordnance of 1764 - 4-1/2 feet long, weighing 7-1/4 hundredweight.This length and weight of 3-pounder continued to be referred to throughout the rest of the century. Adye in 1766, and Walton in 1780, recorded its dimensions in their notebooks, but some of the diameters given by Adye are obviously wrong and the excessive length of the second reinforce given by Walton remains problematic.

Figure 61. Iron 4-pounder, cast in the reign of King George 3 (1760-1820), weight: 11 hundredweight 1 quarter 16 pounds, length: 5 feet 6 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, III/29.) 

Figure 62. Iron 3-pounder, tentatively dated to the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), weight: 4 hundred- weight 3 quarters 8 pounds, length: 5 feet. (Parks, Lower Fort Garry National Historic Park.) 

When Blomefield developed his method of constructing guns, he included a 3-pounder of 4-1/2 feet, but nothing is known about it, not even if it was ever cast.209 Adye listed a 3-pounder of 4-1/2 feet and 7-1/4 hundredweight in his Pocket Gunner in 1801 and 1813, but probably he was referring to the older gun. Iron 3-pounders were undoubtedly obsolete by about 1800.

There are three short 3-pounders, 3-1/2 feet long (weight unknown), preserved by Parks at Lower Fort Garry, which are very much like a land service Blomefield design in their proportions and exterior appearance. A serial number and the manufacturer's mark, S. Co., have been carved into the ends of the left and right trunnions respectively, but neither a royal cypher nor the broad arrow is evidentProbably, then, the guns were made especially for the Hudson's Bay Company (Fig. 63).

The 3-pounder made a brief and obscure reappearance during the meetings of the Committee on Ordnance in the late 1850s. It noted two sorts of 3-pounders, Roebuck's and Merchant's, but only one gun of Roebuck's design was in store. Beyond this nothing is known about these guns.

Figure 63. Iron 3-pounder, circa 1800, length: 3 feet 6 inches. (Parks, Lower Fort Garry National Historic Parks) 

Shell Guns 

Solid shot fired from long guns and, after 1779, from carronades was the usual projectile used in naval battles. Despite shot's formidable penetrative power, sinking a ship by gunfire became increasingly difficult; ship actions had become battles of attrition, with the object being to kill or maim as many of the enemy as possible rather than to sink his ship. As a way to reduce the effects of these bloody battles of attrition the use of the explosive and incendiary capabilities of shell fire suggested itself.

Shells fired from mortars and later from howitzers, had been well-known in land warfare for centuries. The French had even adapted the mortar to naval warfare. In 1682 a French fleet of sea-going bomb ketches, specialized ships mounting mortars, had devastated first Algiers and then Genoa. But mortars and howitzers, with their high trajectory of fire and their low muzzle velocities, were hardly suitable to ships of war. One problem was to project a shell from a long gun with sufficient power to lodge in a ship's side, or penetrate between decks, where it could explode with devastating effect, without its disintegrating or bursting in the barrel of the gun. A second problem was to overcome the naval prejudice against shellfire. Sailors argued that it was both unchivalric to use shells in battle at sea and (no doubt a more important point) dangerous to store shells on shipboard.

Attempts to fire shells from guns had a long history. As early as 1674 in England, Robert Anderson had revealed in his The Genuine use and Effects of the Gunne how to shoot "Grenados" out of long guns. In 1690 a French seaman, a M. Deschiens, had learned, much to the sorrow of English and Dutch shipping that he encountered, how to project shells from guns but the "secret" died with him. The English conducted experiments at Acton Common in 1760 and in Canada in 1776. During the siege of Gibraltar in 1781, they successfully discharged 5-1/2-inch royal mortar shells from their 24-pounders into the Spanish lines. In 1788, an Englishman in the Russian service, Sir Samuel Bentham, directed an inferior Russian naval force to victory over a Turkish fleet in the Sea of Azov, the latter being ripped apart by shell-fire. The French, in the hope of counteracting British naval supremacy, continued experiments so successfully that in the late 1790s, 36-pounder shells were provided to their ships of war.

The British retained their prejudice against shells at sea and seized upon any French disaster, such as the blowing up of the Orient during the Battle of the Nile, as evidence of the danger of shells or other combustibles on shipboard. They argued that in the confusion of battle there was too much chance of accident with shells and that in case of fire, if it spread among the shells, the whole ship could be destroyed. It was many years before they could be persuaded that no more danger existed from shells than from gunpowder stored in the ship's hold. British refusal to adopt shell- fire in naval engagements probably had more to do with a reluctance to introduce a new mode of warfare when they were supreme in the old.

The French on the other hand, being the inferior naval power, had every reason to innovate. Their experiments ultimately bore fruit in the ideas of a general of artillery, Henri-Joseph Paixhans, who put them forward in two books, Nouvelle force maritime (1822) and Experiences faites par la marine française, sur une arme nouvelle (1825). In these works, Paixhans combined three innovations: (1) the development of steam driven warships, (2) the rationalization of calibres on board warships, (3) the superiority of shells over solid shot. 

The successful use of the steam engine in ships of war would of course render obsolete the wind-driven navies of the world and leave the French at least equal to the British. The adoption of a single maximum calibre of ordnance, albeit of different weights, had obvious advantages in the simplification of the supply of materiel and in the provision of the greatest destructive power. But while suggesting the adoption of the 36-pounder as the standard solid shot gun, Paixhans took the argument one step further and advocated the complete armament of the French navy with guns designed to fire shells which, he argued, were superior to solid shot. Although shells, because of their lighter weight, did not range as far nor have the penetrating power of shot, nevertheless, their range was more than sufficient for the distance at which naval engagements were usually fought and their velocity was sufficient to lodge them in the sides or timbers of ships where they would explode. The destructive effect of their explosion was far greater than that of the smashing power of shot. They were fired with reduced charges from lighter guns with a shorter recoilconsequently, the guns could be worked more rapidly, and a greater volume of fire directed at an enemy. 

Paixhans reinforced his arguments by designing his own shell-gun or canon-obusierIn essence this was a long howitzer, chambered like that weapon, with a short chase, a large bore (22 cm, or about 8.7 inches), no muzzle swell, and all the extraneous ornamentation (rings, astragals, fillets) removed. Tests were held at Brest in 1821 and 1824 with such impressive results that the commission observing recommended the adoption in small numbers in ships of the line of the newly designed weapon. Noting perhaps its low muzzle velocity (armour could repel a shell) and its relatively short range, the French navy was less impressed. Although it adopted Paixhans views on the standardization of calibre in 1829 (the 30-pounder was chosen as the unit), more trials of the shell-gun were held, and its design modifiedFinally, in 1837 the principle of shell fire was accepted and the Paixhans gun, alongside the 30-pounder, was accepted as part-armament of the French navy.

The British, although perhaps not wishing to lead the way but well aware that they must keep abreast of advances, also began experiments with a shell-gun. As early as 1820 Colonel William Millar of the Royal Artillery had designed and was experimenting with what he called a 68-pounder, designed to fire both shot and shell, which was the prototype of the 8-inch shell gun. In 1824 a 10-inch gun was proposed for the navy but was found to be too heavy and was replaced by the 8-inch calibre. Various models of 8-, 10-, and even 12-inch guns were tested throughout the 1830s. Finally, by 1839, in reaction to the French reforms, the British had adopted various lengths of 32-pounders as the standard shot gun and two lengths of the 8-inch shell gun (9 feet of 65 hundredweight and 8 feet of 52 hundredweight) for the armament of the Royal Navy. 

Figure 63b.  Section diagrams showing construction of Britsh Mk. I and Mk. II RML 7-inch 7 ton gun.

Figure 64. Iron 68-pounder, Millar design, weight: 50 hundredweight, length: 6 feet 8.5 inches. The prototype shell-gun, circa 1825. (Royal Military College, Mould, p. 103.) 

Figure 65. Iron 8-inch shell-gun, weight: 50 hundredweight, length: 6 feet 8.5 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate IV.) 

 8-Inch Shell-Gun 

This first reference to the 8-inch shell-gun occurred in 1820. In September of that year, "Colonel Millar's 68 pr Gun of 10 Calibres 50.0.0" was tested, firing both shot and shell. Although it was called a 68-pounder and so designated in manuals for a number of years, this was obviously the prototype 8-inch shell-gun (Figs. 64 and 65).10 It was first introduced into the naval service in 1825 when the newly designed 10-inch gun was deemed too heavy for ordinary ships (for the 10-inch gun, see below). Two 8-inch guns were assigned to the lower deck of 2nd rates to replace 68-pounder carronades. This model was quickly found to be too short and light and was replaced by longer and heavier 8-inch guns, although it was still retained on the list of active ordnance.l3 In fortresses or batteries it was probably seen as a substitute for the 8-inch howitzer. In 1845 one artillery officer remarked: "The 8-inch gun, of 6 feet 8-inches [sic], 50 cwt., appears to be much preferable for firing through embrasures, to the 8-inch howitzer (but 4 feet long); both may be used for firing en barbette from traversing platforms."

It was for a short time considered as a suitable weapon to be included in the armament of coast batteries and "for flanks, interior defences, and for commanding landing places." In1857, there being only 15 of these guns remaining, all in store in Great Britain, the Committee on Ordnance recommended that it be declared obsolete and, finally, in 1866 it was so declared.

Douglas, in his Treatise on Naval Gunnery, maintains that in 1838 the 50 hundredweight gun was replaced by the 8-inch gun of 9 feet and 65 hundredweight. He does not mention another model, of 8 feet 10 inches and 60 hundredweight that was first introduced in 1831. It first appeared in a manual in 1844 where it was designated for garrison use. This designation, if correct, may account for Howard's neglect. But by 1848 it was being described as a sea service gun and by 1857 there were 120 of these weapons on board ship, none being mounted on land, either in Great Britain or abroad. In 1857 the Committee on Ordnance recommended that it be declared obsolete but as late as 1881 it was still retained on active service.

As previously noted, Douglas wrote that the 8-inch gun of 9 feet and 65 cwt, was introduced for steamers in 1838. Other writers have said that it was first brought forward in 1834. Possibly Douglas was suggesting that it was not officially accepted until 1838 and had been under trial for four years. This model was the most popular of the 8-inch guns; 4157 of it were ordered from contractors between 1834 and 1862 for both land and sea service. In 1881 it was still in service. Many were converted to 64-pounders RML of 71 hundredweight.

Figure 65 b. Diagram of an RML 64-pounder 71-cwt  Smoothbore Muzzleloading Gun.  8-inch.

A very obscure model of 8 feet 6 inches and 60 hundredweight was first noted in a manual of 1839. It was reportedly designed for sea service. Its career seems to have been very shortpossibly only from 1840 to 1846 when 110 of these guns were manufactured. By 1857 only six were reported, all in store in Great Britain, and the Committee on Ordnance recommended that it be declared obsolete. Presumably this recommendation was implemented for with the exception of the note on production this model was not mentioned again.

A fifth 8-inch gun, of 8 feet and 52 hundredweight, was introduced in 1840, but it was not noted in any of the manuals until 1847. Although originally designed for naval service, it received its most extensive use in the siege train sent to the Crimea in 1854, where, mounted on a modified 24-pounder carriage, it served as a howitzer. In 1858 the Committee on Ordnance recommended its retention in the service and in 1859 it was decided that the piece was the most suitable for the armament of caponiers and flanks of works (Fig. 66).

According to Sir Howard Douglas, this model of the 8-inch gun was an inefficient weapon: "It is commonly said that 8-inch shell-guns of 52 cwt, - an inferior and inefficient class of shell-guns, of which vast numbers have been provided, but which are rapidly and justly falling into disfavour and disuse in the naval service ...form a large portion of the present siege-train service; not it is hoped, to interfere with the usual proportion of the good old 24-pounder - a capital siege-gun - but to be used as howitzers; for they are incapable of serving with efficiency as battering ordnance (excepting against earthen works...), or for ricochet, with shot; and they are very inconveniently heavy howitzers for siege service."

Despite Douglas' strictures, the 52 hundredweight gun was retained in service and sometime in the 1860s it was slightly modified by the addition of 2 hundred- weight, probably by adding additional metal to the breech and perhaps removing some from the chase, a modification which had been carried out upon the 10-inch gun (see below). The gun was still in use in 1881 although there were "but few of the 54- cwt. pattern mounted in L.S. batteries."

The Committee on Ordnance noted one other 8-inch gun, of 5 feet 8 inches and 36 hundredweight. On 31 March 1857, 11 of these, which had been supplied sometime before 1854, were in store in Great Britain. The Committee recommended that it be declared obsolete. This is all that can be said of this piece, since nowhere else is it mentioned. It remains a most obscure weapon.

 (Author Photo)

Figure 66.  Cast Iron 8-inch 65-cwt Smoothbore Shell Gun with Millar pattern breeching ring, weight 65-1-0 (7,308 lbs) 1843, Samuel Walker & Company of Rotherham, England (WCo) on left trunnion, (Serial No. 404) on right trunnion, broad arrow mark.  East side of Fort Rouillé Monument, Toronto, Ontario.

Figure 66b.  Section diagrams showing construction of Britsh Mk. I and Mk. II RML 9-inch 12 ton gun.

10-Inch Shell-Gun 

A potentially more powerful but ultimately less successful weapon than the 8- inch was the 10-inch shell-gun. This weapon, of 9 feet 4 inches and 84 hundred- weight, was first introduced into the naval service in 1824, but, because it was found to be too heavy for an ordinary ship, quickly gave way to the 8-inch gun. Despite its initial failure it never completely fell from favour. About 50 were manufactured between 1831 and 1840. It was part of the extensive gunnery trials at Deal in 1839 and in 1845 one artillery officer regarded it as a formidable weapon for coastal batteries. The 10-inch shell-guns, he wrote, "Are most eligible pieces for sea defences. The diameter and weight of the shell, and its explosive effect when filled with powder, must have most destructive effect upon any vessel. The 10-inch gun of 9 feet 4 inches, 84 cwt, may be fired with advantage through an embrasure from a dwarf traversing platform, or from a traversing platform, en barbette over a parapetBy means of a bearer the shell, though heavy, may be readily raised to the height required to load."

In 1846 the Millar model was modified by Colonel W.B. Dundas, Inspector of Artillery. The weight was increased by 2 hundredweight to 86 hundredweight by adding 4 hundredweight of metal around the breech and charging cylinder and removing about 2 hundredweight from the chase. This new model superseded the original gun, but the latter still continued to be used but exclusively on ships. The heavier weapon served both on land and at sea. Even with the additional weight it was still suspect. Although the Committee on Ordnance recommended that it be retained in service, it felt constrained to direct "that its enduring powers should be ascertained by experiment..." Artillerists argued that it was a formidable weapon at short range, but that it was inaccurate at long range. The 68-pounder, 32-pounder, and 8-inch gun were felt to be superior (Fig. 67).

The lighter 84 hundredweight gun slowly passed from the scene. In 1866 it was abolished and by 1873 only the 86 hundredweight gun was in use. By 1881 it was still listed in service, but it did cause some problems at times: "The muzzle of this gun being too large for the ports of some ships, one of the muzzle mouldings was sometimes turned off in order to obtain a larger angle of training. Guns so treated are called L.M. (low muzzle), in contradistinction to the H.M. (high muzzle)."

There were two other models of 10-inch guns - one of 7 feet 6 inches and 57 hundredweight and one of 8 feet 4 inches and 63 hundredweight. Seven of these (three of the former, four of the latter) were constructed in 1829 but only for experiment and were never accepted into service. The Committee on Ordnance noted their existence in 1857 (three of each model) and the next year recommended that they be declared obsolete. In 1866 they were finally abolished.

Figure 66b. Diagrams showing construction of British RML 10-inch 18 ton gun Mk. I and Mk. II.

Figure 67. Iron 10-inch shell-gun, (1) weight: 87 hundredweight, length: 9 feet 4 inches, (2) weight: 84 hundredweight, length: 9 feet 4 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate 1) 

12-Inch Shell-Gun 

A 12-inch shell-gun of 8 feet 4 inches and 90 hundredweight was proposed and cast in 1828, but, according to Miller, only one specimen was ever manufactured. There is, however, in Straith's Atlas which accompanied his artillery manual of 1841 a drawing of a 12-inch shell-gun said to be of 9 feet 2 inches and 5 tons (about 89-1/4 hundredweight). An earlier notebook also noted a 12-inch shell-gun of 9 feet 2 inches but weighing 100 hundredweight. All other manuals, if they recorded a 12- inch gun at all, referred to the model of 8 feet 4 inches. The question of whether there were one or two specimens, however, is purely academic, because the 12-inch gun never came into use.

Figure 67b,  Section diagrams showing construction of Britsh Mk. I and Mk. II RML 12-inch 25 ton gun.


The carronade was a short, light piece of cast-iron ordnance with a large bore relative to its weight. The bore terminated in a cylindrical chamber; its diameter equal to the preceding calibre. Although it fired the standard shot, the windage around the ball was less than normal because the bore diameter was slightly smaller than in the corresponding gun. Since its light weight necessitated the use of a reduced powder charge, the carronade was a relatively short-range weapon.

Figure 68a.  Carronade diagram.

Its profile was distinctive. It lacked a muzzle swell and the mouth of bore was enlarged or "scooped" to facilitate loading. An unusual dispart sight was usually cast on the reinforce ring, although on early models it may have been mounted on the muzzle. Two rings projected behind the uniquely designed cascabel, a vertical one for the breeching rope, and the other, horizontal, threaded for the elevating screw. Although some carronades were cast with trunnions, most had a loop or "joint" underneath through which a bolt passed to attach them to their carriages. The carriage was constructed in two parts - a lower one attached to a pivot in the ship's side and an upper one, held in place by a bolt protruding down through a slot in the lower, along which the upper part recoiled until checked by the breeching rope.

The appearance of the carronade in 1778 was the result of the practical application of the ideas of artillery theorists like Benjamin Robins and John Muller, ideas which had been discussed for 30 years or more. Robins, mathematician and military engineer, author of the influential New Principles of Gunnery, published in 1747 a pamphlet, A Proposal for increasing the strength of the British Navy, by changing all guns from l8-pounders downwards into others of equal weight but of a greater bore. Noting that lighter pieces became proportionally heavier relative to the weight of the shot, he argued for a more efficient allocation of metal, thereby decreasing the weight of the smaller calibred guns. In effect, this would allow the smaller ships of the navy to carry larger calibre guns without any increase in the dead weight of the metal on board. At the same time to limit the stress on the guns, Robins called for a reduction in the powder charge to one-third the weight of the ball. Admitting that his proposal to increase the calibre of a warship's guns would be at the expense of ranging power, he pointed out that most naval duels were fought at close quarters and that the destructive effect of a cannon ball increased disproportionately to its increase in size.

John Muller, professor of artillery and fortifications at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, also called into question in his A Treatise of Artillery the excessive weight of guns. While Robins had been concerned with sea ordnance, Muller applied his reasoning to all types of guns, developing a system of construction in which his proposed pieces would be both lighter and shorter. Also, Muller questioned the excessive windage of British guns and proposed that it be reduced to 1/24 the diameter of the shot.

The carronade was developed by the Carron Company, ironfounders of Falkirk, Scotland. This firm, founded in 1759, was determined to become a major foundry of cast-iron ordnance. Its first attempts in 1761-2 to supply the Board of Ordnance were frustrated by the proofing failures of too large a percentage of its guns. In 1764 the company resumed its attempt to become the major supplier to the Board, and for the next nine years achieved a modest success. But again, in 1773, a high proportion of its guns failed, and the Board declined to place further orders.

Despite this setback, or perhaps because of it, Carron endeavoured to improve its methods of producing ordnance. In 1775 the company began to cast barrels solid rather than on a core and adopted John Wilkinson's method of horizontal boring (see above). From 1776 to 1778 the foundry produced successfully a number of light- weight, small-calibre guns, the plans of which are lost, but which apparently approximated the carronade. There is in the Tower of London two short swivel guns, 4 pounders, with trunnions, cast by Carron in 1778, that may be an example of these forerunners. Out of this ferment of innovation Carron developed the carronade. It was first tested in the autumn of 1778.

While it is beyond dispute that the carronade was first manufactured by the Carron Company, it is not clear which individual was responsible for the design of the weapon. There have been three claimants of the honour - General Robert Melville, Charles Gascoigne, and Patrick Miller. Naval historians have credited the invention to Melville, an intelligent, well-read, infantry officer who was interested in problems of gunnery. An appreciation of Benjamin Robins' arguments led Melville, according to the naval historian, Robertson, "to propose, in 1774, a short eight-inch gun weighing only thirty-one hundredweight yet firing a nicely fitting sixty-eight-pound ball with a charge of only five and a half pounds of powder. This piece he induced the Carron company to cast, appropriately naming it a Smasher. Of all the carronades the Smasher was the prototype...the carronade was a reproduction, to a convenient scale, of the Smasher."

Robertson cites as conclusive evidence that Melville was the inventor the inscription on a model that the Carron Company presented to the soldier: "Gift of the Carron Company to Lieutenant-General Melville, inventor of the Smashers and lesser carronades for solid, ship, shell, and carcass shot, etc. First used against the French in 1779."

R.H. Campbell, in his history of the Carron Company, is less dogmatic in his attribution of credit. He points out that the strongest evidence in Melville's favour is his own letter written on 31 July 1797, some 20 years later, and a subsequent brief reference in another letter that he dictated on 1 July 1806. According to his own testimony, he conceived the idea of the carronade in 1753 when, as a captain of the 25th Regiment, he was stationed at Cork. He told members of the Carron Company of his speculations, who then constructed and tested successfully an 8-inch model. Unfortunately, the Board of Ordnance was not interested, but the company began to produce smaller carronades for the use of privateers and on its own ships. In commenting on Melville's assertions Campbell points out that there is no evidence surviving of the testing of a heavy proto-carronade previous to the development of the lighter sorts. He suggests that Melville, in his old age, may have confused these trials with those of a 100-pounder in 1781, records of which are extant. But it is clear, argues Campbell, from extensive correspondence in the company records, that "if Melville did not invent the carronade, he was constantly being consulted on its development," and that his basic contribution to the development of the carronade was to suggest "the possibility of lighter but equally effective cannon, if they had chambers like howitzers."

A suggestion coming from Melville, such as casting the bore of a cannon with a chamber, could be picked up and implemented by a founder like Charles Gascoigne, manager of the Carron works and another claimant to the title of inventor of the carronade. The evidence for his claim is less straightforward than Melville's, comprising the attribution of the invention to him by the Scots Magazine in 1779, the fact that the original name of the carronade was "gasconade," references in certain letters to "our C.G. Esqrs. invention," and his unsuccessful attempt to patent the weapon in his name. Campbell points out that Gascoigne was often vague in his descriptions of the uniqueness of the weapon and suggests that he was developing a good idea that he had come across without fully understanding its distinction.

Patrick Miller, banker and merchant of Edinburgh, strongly asserted his own claim to be the inventor but, like Melville, years after the event. He contended that he conceived the idea to use light guns with reduced charges for short range engagements at sea, contracted with the Carron Company to cast and test 12-pounders, and, in the autumn of 1778, fitted out a private ship, Spitfire, with them. Campbell indicates certain weaknesses in Miller's claim but admits that Miller was indeed involved in the Spitfire venture, that he was an interested amateur in engineering and mechanical ventures and was an active and enthusiastic promoter of the sale of the carronade after its invention. Campbell is inclined to see Miller more as promoter rather than as inventor.

Campbell's final conclusion is judicious: "From this welter of conflicting evidence, it is difficult to determine who invented the carronade. Probably all three were involved..."

He argues strongly that Melville and Gascoigne, through their interaction and expertise, made the most significant contribution while Miller, in the role of wealthy amateur, encouraged and later promoted their work. "Yet it is really impossible to state the carronade's inventor dogmatically. It first appeared at Carron and most truthfully of all it may be said that all who had any connection with the Company - which includes Melville, Gascoigne, and Miller - were all involved in this major operation.''

The carronade was first tested in action in the autumn of 1778 when Gascoigne engaged his kinsman, Captain William Elphinstone, to carry Carron goods to London in exchange for arming the latter's ships. The results of these trials of what was initially called the gasconade are unknown, but the news of this new weapon was sufficient to prompt many enquiries from merchants. Then the Spitfire of Liverpool, armed with 16 carronades, engaged a French frigate of nearly four times her burthen and, while eventually striking her colours, damaged her enemy severely. In December 1778 the company gave Gascoigne permission to produce the new weapon, now officially dubbed carronade, for general sale; shortly orders were flooding in. Subsequent accounts of successful actions against French or American ships only enhanced the carronade's reputation in unofficial circles.

The government responded more slowly, but in May 1779 sufficient pressure was brought to bear that the King ordered trials of the carronade at Woolwich. By July the Admiralty had accepted the new weapon and shortly was demanding large quantities. By January 1781, according to the naval historian William James, 429 ships of the Royal Navy mounted carronades.

The first major action in which carronades contributed to victory occurred on 12 April 1782 when the British under Rodney defeated the French under de Grasse at the Battle of the Saints in the West Indies. That same year, in the most dramatic demonstration of the power of the carronade in favourable circumstances, the British Rainbow, armed entirely with carronades, decisively defeated the French frigate, Hebe, in a very short exchange. By the end of the War of the American Revolution the carronade was well established both in official and in unofficial circles.

The radical design of the carronade was responsible for its dramatic success at sea. Since it was very light and short it could be easily manoeuvred and worked by fewer men than the corresponding calibre of long gun. As well, a lighter piece fired a heavier shot. Even the largest of the carronades, the 68-pounder of 36 hundred- weight, was only slightly heavier than a 12-pounder long gun. This was especially advantageous for a small ship, such as a merchantman or privateer, which, by substituting carronades for long guns, became capable of throwing four or five times the weight of projectile without increasing the dead weight of her weapons. As long as she fought at close range, a carronade-armed vessel could be a dangerous adversary against a ship that, under normal circumstances she would not have dared to approach.

The low velocity of the shot, the reduced windage, and the large ball were all advantageous characteristics of the carronade, Gunners knew that a shot which had just sufficient velocity to pierce a ship's side caused the most damage. A high-speed ball often passed through both sides without causing more damage than two small holes. A larger ball caused damage out of proportion to the increase in size, especially by the splintering effect which scattered slivers of wood in all directions, killing or maiming the men in the nearby gun crews. The small windage meant that the utmost effect was achieved by the reduced powder charge, since less of the force of the explosion was lost escaping around the ball.

The disadvantages of the carronade derived from precisely those characteristics that gave it its advantages. Its critics charged that its shortness prevented it from extending sufficiently beyond the ports of a ship, thus creating a danger of setting fire to the rigging or indeed to the side of the vessel. Between decks, the detractors added, there would be an increase in the amount of smoke collecting, thus blinding and choking the gunners. The speed with which the carronade could be worked and fired could result, it was feared, in overheating and bursting. The recoil, which was said to be especially violent due to the light weight of the carronade and the peculiar method of its mounting by a loop underneath the barrel, could so stretch the breeching rope that, when the upper part of the carriage recoiled the metal bolt would strike the rear of the guiding slot in the lower carriage, breaking it, and thus disabling the weapon.

These criticisms could be answered but the major weakness, the carronade's short range, was a more serious problem. In battle at short range the carronade was formidable. A spectacular example was the case of Glatton, a former East Indiaman in Admiralty service, armed exclusively with carronades. Attacked by six French frigates, a brig-corvette, and a cutter off the coast of Flanders in 1795, she drove them off, all badly damaged. But if the enemy refused to fight at close quarters, the carronade was useless. Commodore James Yeo discovered this on Lake Ontario in 1813, complaining that he could not bring the American ships to close action, "not a carronade being fired." The American frigate Essex, armed almost exclusively with carronades, was pounded into submission by two British warships who stood off at long-gun range and refused to close. By the end of the Napoleonic wars the reputation of the carronade was considerably diminished.

Thereafter the carronade began to be supplanted by lighter guns. In 1825 a student at the Royal Military Academy noted that a variety of 68-pounder was no longer in service and that the other was to be retained in use only "'till Genl. Millar's 68 pro Guns are ready." According to his notes, only the 32-pounder carronade was in general use in the Royal Navy; the other calibres were in service in the lesser rates, in boats or cutters, or in fortresses where they were used for flanking fire.20 A French commission visiting England a decade later noted that carronades, while still in use, were being replaced by light guns of a new construction. In 1846, one military writer, Hector Straith, argued strongly for the use of 68-pounder carronades to scour narrow ditches or other fixed positions in fortresses because they fired a large charge of case or grapeshot and could be worked very quickly. But even in this restricted use, he noted, they were being replaced by reamed-up guns: "Carronades are however so inferior to guns in most respects and they project so short a distance out of the embrasures, that they are becoming increasingly objected to, and a reference is now given to reamed up guns of heavy calibre..."

 (Delaby Pierre Image)

Figure 68. General Construction of Carronades, circa 1825.  1. Breech bolt 2. Aft sight 3. Vent hole 4. Dispart sight 5. First reinforcing ring 6. Barrel 7. Muzzle 8. Second reinforcing ring 9. Azimutal pivot 10. Chock 11. Elevation pivot 12. Wheel 13. Mobile pedestal 14. Carriage 15. Pommel 16. Elevation thread.

In 1864 they were used only for the flank defence of permanent works. A year later the existing 68-, 42-, 32-, and 24-pounders were retained in the service "either permanently or for a time" and in 1866 the lesser calibres were declared obsolete.

The career of the carronade may be summed up in the words of Sir Howard Douglas, an expert on naval gunnery: "The defects of carronades, and the danger of employing that imperfect ordnance, are now generally felt and admitted; that ordnance, however, rendered important service in its time, for it taught us practically the great value of a reduced windage, the advantage of quick firing, and the powerful effects produced at close quarters by shot of considerable diameter striking a ship's side with moderate velocity."

Chambered like a howitzer but firing solid shot, it was replaced in naval warfare by the shell gun, which in essence was merely a long howitzer.

Carronades were cast in all calibres from the 3- to the 68-pounder, except the 56-pounder. There is some controversy whether the heavy 68-pounder was developed before the lighter calibres. The older view, previously noted, holds that the Carron Company began to produce the lighter models following the failure of the Admiralt7 to express any interest in the "Smasher" that Melville allegedly had cast in 1774.2 R.H. Campbell, in his more recent study of the Carron Company, argues that the lighter carronades were developed first, pointing out that there are no records of the tests of 68-pounders until 1780.28 Whatever the truth, by 1780 carronades of a calibre from 12- to 68-pounder had been successfully tested and were in service.

The history of the lighter pieces, the 3-, 6-, and 9-pounders, is more obscure. The first reference to these, and the only reference to the 3-pounder, occurred in a table of powder charges dated 1797. In it the term "Merchant's" was appended beside them, suggesting perhaps a different design. There are no subsequent reports of a 3-pounder, but in 1825 the 6-pounder was said to be in use on King's and revenue cutters. It continued to be included in lists of ordnance until it was declared obsolete in 1866. The 9-pounder was first noted in the Queen's service in 1847, but by 1859 it was slated to be declared obsolete. Presumably it was so declared, but it is not included in the 1866 list of obsolete pieces. It seems to have been a rather obscure weapon.

Although no examples or drawings of the 6- or 9-pounder exist, the specifications that have been found indicate that in length and weight they were proportionately longer and heavier than the other carronades. The 6-pounder, 2 feet 9 inches, and the 9-pounder, 4 feet, were respectively slightly more than 9 and 11-1/2 calibres long as opposed to the usual length for long carronades of from 7 to 8 calibres. The ratio of weight of shot to weight of carronades was about 1 to 88-1/2 for the 6-pounder of 4-3/4 hundredweight and about 1 to 99-1/2 for the 9-pounder of 8 hundredweight. The usual ratio varied from 1 to 50 to 1 to 60.

In his study of British smooth-bore artillery, Hughes lists neither the 3- nor 9-pounder and of the 6-pounder he notes: "Probably not in service after 1810. Not mentioned in tables of armaments after 1813." This must be a typographical error, for the author himself reproduces tables of dimensions which include the 6-pounder. He must mean not in service before 1810 and not mentioned before 1813. It was certainly mentioned from the mid-1820s onward.

The heavier calibres were in service from 1779 or 1780 until the mid-1860s (and perhaps later in remote posts), although they were obsolescent by 1840 or before. The 12- and 18-pounders were tested at Woolwich in 1779 and all calibres were put on trial there the following year. Some of these models do not appear thereafter - e.g., a 12-pounder of 1 foot 10 inches and more than 4-1/2 hundredweight and an 18-pounder of 3 feet 1/2 inch. It is hardly surprising that different lengths and weights were tried until a satisfactory size was selected. Two sizes of carronades were developed - a shorter version about 5.9 calibres long, with a ratio of shot weight to total weight of about 1 to 52, and a longer model about 7.7 calibres long, with a ratio of shot weight to total weight of about 1 to 59. From the beginning both varieties of the 18-, 24-, and 68-pounders co-existed, the shorter type becoming obsolete probably in the 1820s and certainly by 1840. The short 12-pounder was replaced by a long model about 1800. There never seems to have been a short 32- or 42-pounder. Presumably the shorter weapon was found to have inadequate range, accuracy, and power with perhaps a more violent recoil because of its lightweight, while not protruding sufficiently out the ship's port.

The first models of the 12 and 18-pounder carronades may have had a slightly smaller, and the 42-pounder a slightly larger, bore diameter, than later weapons. These calibres may have been only experimental, although one notebook compiled in the first decade of the nineteenth century still recorded the earlier bore diameters for the 18- and 42-pounders. 

Bore Diameter  1780     1800,     difference 

12 pdr.              4.50 in.  4.52 in. +.02 in.

18 pdr.              5.14 in.  5.16 in. +.02 in.

24 pdr.              5.68 in.  5.68 in. +.02 in.

32 pdr.              6.25 in.  6.25 in.

42 pdr.              6.85 in.  6.84 in. -.01 in.

68 pdr.              8.05 in.  8.05 in. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 69.  Cast Iron 24-pounder 13-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Carronade with a Blomefield pattern breeching ring, weight 13-0-0 (1,456 lbs)mounted on a wood naval gun carriage, facing East on the Rampart of Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario.

Partly because of the method of mounting on the carriage by a loop cast underneath the barrel rather than by trunnions cast on the sides, the carronade was alleged to recoil violently and uncontrollably. When it was fired, it tended to rotate around the loop, the muzzle flying up and the breech smashing down, thus putting a great deal of strain on the carriage. The carronade was purposely designed with a loop" to enable it to project further from the Ships [sic] side than its want of length would otherwise have allowed." This is not an entirely convincing explanation. An obvious solution to the problem was to cast trunnions on the carronade.

There are vague references in secondary literature to carronades with trunnions, but no mention was made of them in the various semi-official manuals that were published throughout the nineteenth century.4l Examples, however, do exist. There is a 3-pounder at the Tower of London.42 The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, possesses a scale drawing of a 9-pounder.43 Parks owns a 4-pounder, two 6-pounders, and two l8-pounders. They are similar in appearance to a carronade except that they have trunnions rather than a loop and they retain the standard gun button rather than the carronade's elevating screw box. In some cases, the trunnions are centred, in others cast below the axis of the bore as was standard in gun design. The muzzles of some also had extra mouldings cast on. None of these appear to have been cast for official military or naval use, lacking the Board of Ordnance's identifying mark, the broad arrow (Figs. 70, 71, and 72).

There is a rather obscure reference in 1841. A Captain Hastings, a British naval officer who ended his career in the Greek service, wrote of "Four long shorts (after drawings furnished by Captain Hasting s), each 7 feet 4 inches long, weighing 58 cwt. with the form of a carronade in all but having trunnions to mount them, the same as long guns; but these trunnions are not placed as is usual in long guns, below the line for the quarter sights...but so as to intersect the gun horizontally. These pieces of artillery were mounted on 10-inch howitzer carriages.''

Whatever these weapons were, they were very heavy, over 20 hundredweight more than a long 68-pounder carronade. It is also not clear if Hastings was writing of a British or a Greek vessel.

 (Author Photo)

Figure 70.  Cast Iron 4-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Carronade with Blomefield pattern breeching ring, weight corroded, Falkirk (F) on the left trunnion, (SOLID) on the right trunnion, unmounted.  3.25 inch calibre, 3 feet long, Fort Beausejour National Historic Park, New Brunswick. 

Old Hastings Mill Store Museum, Vancouver, British Columbia

Three guns are located just inside the museum, located at 1575 Alma Street.  Lieutenant Governor Eric Hamber contributed these guns to Hastings Mill collection of memorabilia.  The guns came with the mill’s first shipment of supplies from England, ca 1865.  The rough-sawed cedar plank pioneer store was initially erected on the south shore of Burrard Inlet for British Captain Edward Stamp’s British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar, Lumber and Sawmill Company, established in 1865.  On 28 July 1930, the old Hastings Mill store and post office was hoisted aboard a large scow, and towed some ten kilometers from Burrard Inlet, through the Lions Gate and across English Bay to its present location.

  (John Eckersley Photo)

Figure 71.  Cast Iron 4-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Carronade with Blomefield pattern breeching ring, stamped FALKIRK PROVD. 4PR, weight unknown, trunnion data unknown, mounted on a small wood naval gun carriage. No. 1 of 3.

 (John Eckersley Photo)

Figure 72. Cast Iron 4-pounder Smoothbore Muzzleloading Carronade with Blomefield pattern breeching ring, stamped FALKIRK PROVD. 4PR, weight unknown, trunnion data unknown, mounted on a small wood naval gun carriage. No. 2 of 3.


Descended from the stubby, large-bore mediaeval bombards, mortars were relatively short, large-calibre artillery pieces designed to fire the largest, heaviest projectiles on the highest possible trajectories. Unlike guns which fired solid shot horizontally at high velocity, mortars fired shells or carcasses vertically at low velocity. Because the elevation usually was kept at 45 degrees in the British service, the range was altered by varying the strength of the service charge. Mortars depended for their destructive results not on the velocity of the projectile but on the explosive power and incendiary effects of their shells and carcasses. With their high angle of elevation, mortars could fire over obstacles to hit their targets and were consequently especially useful siege weapons. Occasionally the small, lighter mortars were used in the field.

Unlike guns or howitzers that were mounted on wheeled carriages, mortars were cast with their trunnions at the rear. Their carriages, called beds, were substantial blocks of wood hollowed out to receive the trunnions and breech of the mortar and designed to absorb the downward thrust of recoil when the mortar was fired. Unlike guns but like howitzers, mortars were chambered, that is the bore terminated in a compartment smaller than the calibre. This allowed the breech to have a greater thickness of metal to resist the power of discharges and to make the most efficient use (so it was argued) of the explosion of the service charge.

Brass Mortars 

Coehorn Mortar 

This small brass mortar was invented by the Dutch military engineer Baron Menno van Coehorn (or Cohorn, 1641-1704) and first used at the siege of Grave in 1674. The originals were made "of hammered Iron of four inches diameter of the Bore, ten inches and a half long, and nine inches in the Chase, fixed upon a piece of Oak of 20 inches long, 10 and a half broad, and betwixt 3 and 4 thick; they stand fixed at 45 Degrees of Elevation and throw Hand Grenades as all other Hand Mortars do; they are placed in the bottom of the Trenches, at 2 yards distance from one another, having each a Soldier to serve it, and an Officer to every 40 or 50, who lays them to what Elevation he thinks convenient, by raising or sinking the hind part of the Bed; three or four hundred of them are sometimes in Service at once, in different parts of the Trenches, 60, 70, or 80 in a place.

In the British service the Coehorn was cast in brass, it was slightly longer than its Dutch counterpart and it had a slightly larger bore.

The Coehorn appeared in an inventory at the Tower of London for the first time in 1713. James, an artillery officer at the Tower, noted it about 1725, when it was said to be 1 foot 1 inch in length and to weigh slightly more than 1/2 hundredweight.4 No other information was given. A Coehorn of the reign of King George 2 at the Rotunda, Woolwich, described at 13.6 inches in length and 58 pounds in weight may approximate the mortar to which James referred (Fig. 73).

Over the century and a half of its existence the Coehorn underwent changes in calibre, weight, dimensions, and the shape of its chamber. Although there is an example at the Tower of London from the reign of King George 2 having a calibre of 4.5 inches, the early written sources gave its bore diameter at 4.6 inches and two specimens at the Rotunda Museum, Woolwich, have a calibre of 4.64 inches. In 1764 when the Board of Ordnance revised the dimensions of pieces of artillery, it changed the Coehorn's calibre to 4.52 inches, at which it remained for the rest of its service life.

Increases in weight and dimensions were probably related. A survey of the weight of these mortars from about 1725 to the 1860s reveals a gradual increase in weight from about 1/2 to almost 1 hundredweight, although the nominal weight was usually given as 3/4 hundredweight. This increase seems to have been caused mainly by an increase in the diameter of the mortar. A comparison of tables of dimensions from the 1750s, 1790s, and 1850s showed in each case that the diameter, and therefore the weight, had increased.

 (John Clarke Photos)
Three small Coehorn mortars recovered from the St. Lawrence above Valleyfield, PQ in the late 1980s. Probably from the 
American Invasion fleet that of riverine craft that were swamped in 1812 and suffered catastrophic sinkings going through
(or not) the Rapids. They were briefly on display in the Dive Store at Valleyfield, Quebec, that recovered them in the Fall of 1988,
or Spring of 1989.

(John Clarke Photos)
Three small Coehorn mortars recovered from the St. Lawrence above Valleyfield, PQ in the late 1980s. Probably from the
American Invasion fleet that of riverine craft that were swamped in 1812 and suffered catastrophic sinkings going through
(or not) the Rapids. They were briefly on display in the Dive Store that recovered them in the Fall of 1988, or Spring of 1989

 (Steen Cannons Photo)

Figure 73. Brass Coehorn Mortar, 4.6-inch, Rudyerd, 1790.

Figure 74. Brass Coehorn Mortar, cast in the reign of King George 3 (1760- 1820), weight: 3 quarters 18 pounds. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, uncatalogued.) 

 (Jud McCranie Photo)

Figure 75. Bronze Coehorn Mortar, Fort King George, Georgia.

Another change, very minor, was the shortening of the mortar. After about 1750 its stated length was 1 foot 1 1/2 inches and it was so described by Rudyerd in 1791. Probably in the first decade of the nineteenth century, perhaps earlier, it was shortened slightly to 12-3/4 inches, at which length it was to remain.

A more radical change was the replacement of a slightly conical chamber by the Gomer chamber. In the 1750s Glegg gave the dimensions of the conical chamber: length 3.7 inches. greatest diameter 2.7 inches, least diameter 1.4 inches.

In 1791 Rudyerd recorded a shorter, less tapering version: length 3.35 inches, greatest diameter 2.2 inches, least diameter 1.55 inches.

The conical chamber was connected to the bore by a semi-hemisphere corresponding to the exterior of the shell.

The Gomer chamber was also coned, but it merged directly into the bore of the mortar. It took its name from a French officer, Louis-Gabriel de Gomer (1718-98), who successfully incorporated this chamber into a mortar in the mid- 1780s.1 2 It was later adopted by other European powers. Blackmore in his inventory of ordnance at the Tower of London recorded a Gomer chamber in a Coehorn mortar cast in 1814, but it may have been adopted as early as the 1790s. 

Royal Mortar 

The history of the Royal Mortar is very similar to that of the Coehorn, although its origins are more obscure. It is not known when the Royal was introduced into service but James included a reference to it in his notebook about 1725 and it was first included in an inventory of the Tower of London in 1726.1 4 Nor is it known why it was called Royal; Blackmore cited a reference from Belgium in 1716 referring to "mortiers royals" and suggests that the term originally may have been French.l5 Two examples of these early Mortars from the reign of King George I are at the Rotunda, Woolwich (Fig. 76).

Like the Coehorn, the Royal underwent changes during its lifetime to its calibre, weight, dimensions, and, although this is less clear, to the shape of its chamber. The calibre of the early Royals was 5.8 inches; this is the measurement given by the earliest written source, Glegg, in the 1750s, and the Royals at the Rotunda were measured at 5.73 inches, a difference that is hardly significant)7 When the Board of Ordnance revised the dimensions of mortars in 1764 the calibre was changed to 5.62 inches at which it was to remain throughout the remainder of its career.

The weight of the Royal was increased during its service life. About 1725 James gave its weight at 1 hundredweight 4-1/2 pounds. Thereafter in the eighteenth century it was usually recorded at 1-1/4 hundredweight while in the next century it was usually about 14 pounds heavier.20 This increase in weight was caused probably by increases in the diameter of the mortar. A comparison of tables of dimensions, circa 1750, 1791, and circa 1850, shows, as with the Coehorn, that at each period the diameter and thus the weight had increased. 


 (Ruth Rynas Brown Photos)

Figure 76. Brass Royal or 5 1/2-inch Mortar, cast in the reign of King George I (1714-27), length: 15.2 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 1I/35.) 

Figure 77. Brass Royal or 5-1/2-inch Mortar, cast by Francis Kinman in 1794, weight: 1 hundredweight 1 quarter? pounds. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, uncatalogued.) 

Figure 78. Brass Royal or 5-1/2-inch Mortar, weight: 1.25 hundredweight, length: 15.1 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXXVIII.) 

The Royal also underwent slight variations in length. About 1725 James set down its length at 15.5 inches, in the 1750s Glegg had it at 16.5 inches, in 1764 the Board of Ordnance reduced it to 16 inches, and in 1791 Rudyerd recorded it at 16.265 inches.22 Although Adye in 1801 and 1813 indicated that the length was 16.25 inches, Blackmore has recorded four Royals of this period at the Tower of London all with lengths of 15 inches. The most precise measurement of its length stated in subsequent manuals is 15.1 inches.24 It seems likely that Adye's manual was out of date and that the change in length took place in the 1790s.

Originally the Royal had a conical chamber. In the 1750s Glegg gave its dimensions as length 4.5 inches, greatest diameter 3.0 inches, least diameter 2.4 inches. 

In 1791 Rudyerd recorded a slight change in size and shape: length 4.05 inches, greatest diameter 2.85 inches, least diameter 2.05 inches. 

The conical chamber, as in the case of the Coehorn gave way to the Gomer chamber. It is reasonable to conclude that this happened at the same time that it did in the case of the Coehorn, which possibly was as early as the 1790s (see above). Blackmore did not mention a Royal with a Gomer chamber until 1859, but Spearman in his 1828 manual gave dimensions of the chamber which indicated that it was of the Gomer shape.

8-Inch Mortar 

About 1725 James noted an 8-inch brass mortar in his book. Its length was 2 feet 2 inches and its weight 4 hundredweight.27 Unfortunately no other dimensions were given, nor are there any examples extant at either the Tower of London or the Rotunda, Woolwich. The first table of dimensions in Glegg's notebook of the 1750s gave the length at 25.5 inches, that is 1/2 inch shorter than James's specification. The weight was about the same, 4 hundredweight 20 pounds. Quite likely there would be no significant difference between an 8-inch mortar of 1725 and one of 1750.

According to Smith the length and weight of the 8-inch mortar established by the Board of Ordnance in 1764 was 2 feet 2 inches and 4 hundredweight.29 In 1791 when Rudyerd made his drawings, the length given was 25.75 inches and, compared to the Glegg table, there were certain other differences in lengths and diameters, most notably in the diameter of the reinforce. Glegg gave the diameter of the reinforce at 15.4 inches while Rudyerd stated it to be 11.4 inches. In the latter case this equalled the diameter of the muzzle ring, an equality usual in land service mortars. In Glegg's table the muzzle was said to be 11.2 inches in diameter, much smaller than the reinforce. It is possible that Glegg has erred in recording the reinforce diameter. In any case a comparison of the dimensions listed by Glegg and those by Rudyerd indicates that there were some changes in detail between about 1750 and 1791.

In his manuals of 1801 and 1813, Adye listed the 8-inch brass mortar at 25.75 inches in length and at slightly more than 4-1/4 hundredweight in weight; in all likelihood this was the mortar drawn by Rudyerd (Fig. 79). At variance with this design is that of four 8-inch brass mortars, three of 1805 and one of 1808, in the Tower of London. Whereas Rudyerd's mortar had a reinforce, these have lost it and are consequently shorter, being 1 foot 8.5 inches long. On the other hand, they weigh more, about 6-1/2 hundredweight (Fig. 80).32 It seems clear that Adye's manual was out of date and that the newer model, as in the case of the Royal and Coehorn, had been introduced during the 1790s. 

Figure 79. Brass 8-inch Mortar and Bed, circa 1820. (Cf, Rudyerd drawing.) (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

Figure 80. Brass 8-inch Mortar and Bed. (Collection of the Armouries, H.M. Tower of London. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the Armouries. See Blackmore, pp. 100-1, No. 110.) 

The 8-inch brass mortar reached the end of its career probably during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1825 a student at the Royal Military Academy noted that it was obsolete, although it continued to be recorded in one manual until the end of the 1850s.33 Boxer did not include it in his series of drawings, circa 1850, nor was it listed in the tables of the Aide-Mernoire. It may have been lengthened slightly being listed at 1 foot 9 inches and 1 foot 9-1/2 inches in length. Straith included a diagram of it in his Plans of 1841, in which its length was given at 1 foot 9-1/2 inches and its weight at 6-1/2 hundredweight. The diagram resembles very closely the examples at the Tower of London.

There is extant in the Tower of London an 8-inch bronze (brass) mortar of a different design dated 1865. It was composed of two parts, breech and chase, but the latter was longer and consequently the total length of the mortar was 2 feet 10.5 inches. According to the Inventory its weight was 3 cwt, 1 qtr. , 16 lb., which seems remarkably light, about one-half the weight of the older and shorter model. This design of mortar was not mentioned elsewhere; it may perhaps have been an experimental model, as suggested by the NO 1 stamped on the end of the right trunnion. 

10-Inch Mortar (Land Service) 

The 10-inch land service brass mortar had been in service well before the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1725 James gave some details in his notebook - 2 feet 9 inches long and weighing almost 10 hundredweight. A quarter of a century later Glegg compiled the dimensions of an 8-inch mortar, of the same length but weighing 10-1/2 hundredweight.38 The Board of Ordnance regulations of 1764 left the length the same, 2 feet 9 inches, but increased the weight once again to 11 hundredweight. Mortars of both of the latter weights were referred to in practice tables during the 1770s and 1780s.40 The mortar drawn by Rudyerd in 1791 matched the length and weight of the one specified in 1764. A comparison of the dimensions set down by Glegg and Rudyerd indicate slight increases in the diameters of the latter, but the most notable change was in the shape of the chamber. Glegg gave the dimensions as length 7.8 inches, greatest diameter 4.5 inches, least diameter 3.6 inches. 

Rudyerd specified a longer, less tapering chamber: length 8.5 inches, greatest diameter 4.75 inches, least diameter 4.0 inches.

It is likely that the history of the 10-inch brass land service mortar paralleled that of the 8-inch, becoming shorter and heavier; unfortunately, the evidence is not so clear since there are no examples extant at the Tower of London or at the Rotunda, Woolwich. Although in 1801 and 1813 Adye referred to a 10-inch brass land service mortar of 2 feet 9 inches and almost 10-1/2 hundredweight, there is some evidence that he was again out of date.42 According to the Aide-Memoire the weight of the 10-inch mortar about 1790 was 12-3/4 hundredweight. There was also the reference in 1795 or 1796 to ordnance "Upon the old Construction," including the 10- inch mortar of 11 hundredweight, which implied a "new" construction. In 1827, Adye cited an example of 12-3/4 hundredweight, and Griffiths in his manuals from 1839 to 1859 included a 10-inch mortar of 2 feet 3 inches weighing 12-1/4 hundredweight. Since Boxer did not include a drawing of it in his collection of plans, nor was it included in the tables of dimensions in the Aide-Memoire it is reasonable to conclude that it was obsolete by the 1840s, indeed probably a number of years previous. 

13-Inch Mortar (Land Service) 

Brass 13-inch land service mortars were certainly in use before 1700. The Gentleman's Dictionary referred to them in 1705 and James noted a 13-inch brass mortar about 1725, although he does not specify whether land or sea service.46 In the 1750s Glegg set down detailed dimensions, noting its length at 3 feet 7 inches and its weight at 25 hundredweight.47 According to Smith, the regulations of the Board of Ordnance of 1764 specified the same weight but a length of 3 feet 8 inches.48 Other sources in the 1770s and 1780s also recorded this length, but there is extant a 13-inch brass land service mortar on loan from the Tower to the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, which, while weighing 25 hundredweight, was measured at 3 feet 7 inches.

In 1791 Rudyerd included in his notebook the drawing and dimensions of a 13- inch land service mortar of a length of 43.6 inches and a weight of 25 hundred- weight.50 Its dimensions, except for the chamber, were very similar to those recorded by G1egg. The bore was slightly shorter and the chamber slightly longer and more tapered. Glegg gave dimensions of: length 12 inches, greatest diameter 6.6 inches, least diameter 6 inches.

 Rudyerd recorded them as: length12.6 inches, greatest diameter 6.5 inches, least diameter 4.9 inches. 

Figure 81. Brass 13-inch Mortar and Bed, circa 1710. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Borgard, "Practiss of Artillery.") 

A comparison of Rudyerd's drawing with one made by Adye in 1766 showed that, except for the adoption of an ovolo in 1791 rather than an ogee behind the reinforce, the general design and the arrangement of mouldings of the two mortars was the same. 

In his manuals in 1801 and 1813 Adye recorded the 13-inch brass land mortar at 3 feet 7-1/2 inches and 25 hundredweight, very similar to Rudyerd's specifications. About 1820 Shuttleworth made a drawing of a 13-inch mortar which appears to be very similar to Rudyerd's (Fig. 82). By 1825 Mould recorded the weight at 27-3/4 hundredweight but declared it to be obsolete. Thereafter there was no mention of it. Possibly, like the 8- and 10-inch mortars it had been redesigned in the same manner, becoming shorter and heavier, but no examples, drawings nor detailed specifications exist to verify this speculation. 

Figure 82. Brass 13-inch Mortar and Bed, circa 1820. (Cf. Rudyerd drawing.) (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

10-Inch Mortar (Sea Service) 

It is difficult to say when the 10-inch brass sea service mortar was first brought into service. According to The Gentleman's Dictionary of 1705 sea service mortars were usually 13 inches in calibre.54 The lesser calibre was certainly in existence by the 1750s when Glegg set down its dimensions. It was 56 inches in length and weighed 32 cwt, 3 qtr., 7 lb. According to Smith, in 1764 the Board of Ordnance specified that the length was to be 57 inches and the weight 33 hundredweight.56In 1791 Rudyerd made a drawing of a mortar with a length and weight matching that of Glegg. A close examination of the two sets of dimensions indicate that they were very similar, except for the chambers. Glegg gave the following dimensions: length 15 inches, greatest diameter 6.6 inches, least diameter 6.0 inches.

Rudyerd showed a longer but more tapering chamber: length 15.8 inches, greatest diameter 6.5 inches, least diameter 4.5 inches. 

The last mention of the 10-inch brass sea service mortar, 56 inches in length and weighing 33 hundredweight, occurred in Adye's manual of 1813.58 Quite likely it was already obsolete. 

13-Inch Mortar (Sea Service) 

The brass 13-inch sea service mortar was described in The Gentleman's Dictionary in 1705: Sea Mortars ...generally 13 inches diameter of the Bore, is longer and more reinforced than a Land Mortar, because they are fired with a greater quantity of Powder, sometimes with 30 or 33 pounds; some of them have their Beds or Stools of Metal cast in a piece with the Mortars, others have them of a thick square piece of Oak, which by the help of Hand screws or Jacks is turned round upon a strong Axis of Iron to fire any way; they are always fixed at an Elevation of 45 degrees; they carry Bombs of 200 pound and generally weigh about 9 or 10 000 weight i.e, about 80 or 90 hundredweight].

In the Tower of London there is a 13-inch brass mortar cast by Andrew Schalch in 1726 which fits this description (Fig. 83). It is 5 feet 3 inches in length, weighs almost 81-3/4 hundredweight, and its reinforce is of a greater diameter than its muzzle.

There are no detailed specifications of Schalch's mortar, but a comparison between a drawing of it and drawings made by Muller and Adye indicated a very close resemblance; indeed, they appeared identical. According to Glegg, Muller, and Adye the mortar was 5 feet 3 inches long and weighed 81 hundredweight 1 quarter 18 pounds, a difference in weight of no great significance. According to Smith, in 1764 the Board of Ordnance established the length at 5 feet 3 inches and the weight at 82 hundredweight. In 1791 Rudyerd's drawing and specification were very similar to those of the 1750s, although there were some minor variations. The length and weight were the same. As in the case of the other mortars the major change was in the chamber. In the 1750s its dimensions were: length 21 inches, greatest diameter 8.5 inches, least diameter 7 inches. 

In 1791, Rudyerd specified a slightly longer, wider, and more tapered chamber: length 21.55 inches, greatest diameter 9.6 inches, least diameter 6.8 inches. The latest reference to this mortar occurred in Adye's manual of 1813. Quite likely it was obsolete by this time. 

Figure 83. Brass 13-inch Mortar and Bed, cast by Andrew Schalch in 1726, weight: 81 hundredweight 2 quarters 24 pounds, length: 5 feet 3 inches. (Collection of the Armouries, H.M. Tower of London. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the Armouries. See Blackmore, pp. 97-98, No.102.) 

Iron Mortars 

In the first decade of the nineteenth century, two systems of iron land service mortars were in existence. One of these, probably the older, was recorded in the "Notes" of Samuel Parlby in 1804.  In an article on iron mortars, Adrian B. Caruana argues that mortars of this system were being used in practice as early as 1794. The other system, while not recorded in student notebooks until the 1820s, clearly dated from before 1810; Caruana offers evidence that mortars of this pattern were used in a practise at Woolwich in 1797. The precise dates of origin of these two systems remains the subject of speculation, however, although Caruana, citing student notebooks from the late 1820s and 1830s, suggests that the second system originated partly in 1780 and partly in 1786. A third system of iron land service mortars was introduced alongside the second, probably in the late 1830s or early 1840s. 

8-Inch Mortar (Land Service) 

The 8-inch iron mortar of the early system was 2 feet 4 inches long and weighed 7-3/4 hundredweight, according to Parlby. Its structure was similar to that of brass mortars - a cascabel, reinforce, and chase, with an assortment of rings, fillets, and ogees. It was constructed with the old long, narrow, slightly conical chamber.

The other 8-inch iron mortar of the early period was 1 foot 10 inches long and weighed 8 hundredweight. (Later sources indicated that it was 1 foot 10-1/2 inches long and weighed 8-1/2 hundredweight.) It was more simply designed, lacking a reinforce, and it was bored with a Gomer chamber (Figs. 84 and 85). 

Figure 84. General Construction of 13-, 10-, and 8-inch Land Service Mortars, circa 1825. (Royal Military College, Mould, p. 100.) 

Figure 85. Iron 8-inch Land Service Mortar, weight: 8.5 hundredweight, length: 22.5 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXXVI.) 

Figure 86. Iron 8-inch Land Service Mortar, weight: 9 hundredweight, length: 25.23 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXXVII.) 

In the 1840s a second 8-inch iron mortar, longer and slightly heavier at 2 feet 1- 1/4 inches and 9 hundredweight, was added to the service (Fig. 86). The chase was lengthened, the fillets around the rings were removed and a flat vent patch, to which a firing lock could be attached, was added.

Both mortars remained in service, but the newer model obviously was to supersede the older. In 1852 it was recommended that the former be included in the armament of coast batteries. By 1857 there were 35 in use and 78 in store. Two years later it was recommended that the older model, of which 95 were in store, be declared obsolete.70 This recommendation was carried out in 1865. The newer model was still in service as late as 1881.

10-Inch Mortar (Land Service) 

The history of the 10-inch iron land service mortar duplicates that of the 8- inch. In 1804 Parlby recorded its length at 2 feet 10.37 inches and its weight at 15- 1/2 hundredweight. Like its smaller sister it had a similar design, decoration, and chamber. The 10-inch mortar of the second system was 2 feet 3.5 inches long and weighed 16 hundredweight. (Caruana cites a number of sources giving the length at 2 feet 4 inches; Boxer in the 1850s has it at 2 feet 3.125 inches and weighing 17 hundredweight.) It was bored with the Gomer chamber and it was cast with dolphins (Figs. 84 and 87).

In the 1840s a longer model of 2 feet 7.53 inches and about 28 hundredweight was brought into service (Fig. 88).75 The chase had been lengthened, a flat vent patch added, and the fillets had been removed from around the rings. It retained the Gomer chamber, but it was no longer cast with the dolphins of the earlier model. By the end of the 1850s the shorter version was no longer in use, but the 18 hundredweight mortar was regarded as "...a serviceable piece for siege trains." It was still in service in 1881. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 87. Cast Iron 10-inch 18-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Land Service Mortar, weight 18-1-1 (2,045 lbs), 1856, (WC) on left trunnion, (62) on the right trunnion, Fort George, Halifax Citadel, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Figure 88.  Cast Iron 10-inch 18-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Land Service Mortar, weight 18-1-0 (2,044 lbs), 1856, Samuel Walker & Company of Rotherham, England (WCo) on left trunnion, (Serial No. 54) on right trunnion, 2 feet 8 inches long, forward of the flagpole facing South West, Fort Frontenac, Kingston, Ontario.

13-Inch Mortar (Land Service) 

The history of the 13-inch land service iron mortar varies slightly from that of the 8-inch and 10-inch. In 1804 Parlby recorded two 13-inch mortars - one 3 feet 9.5 inches long and weighing 34-1/4 hundredweight and the other almost the same length, 3 feet 8.6875 inches, but considerably heavier at 37 hundredweight 3 quarters 1 pound. According to Caruana the decorations were similar on both, but the longer mortar was cast with considerably less metal, especially around the chamber.78 There are two 13-inch mortars in the Tower of London both listed at 3 feet 9.5 inches in length, weighing 38 hundredweight and 38-3/4 hundredweight. Their dates are estimated at 1830, but while not matching exactly, their appearance is very similar to the system that Parlby recorded in 1804 (Fig. 89).

According to the general construction of the second system of land service iron mortars of this early period given in Mould's notebook of 1825, the 13-inch of this system would be 2 feet 9.75 inches long. Caruana cites a number of sources from 1827 to 1839 giving the length at 3 feet and the weight at 36 hundredweight. There are two examples of this calibre and construction of mortar in the Tower of London. One, which is known to have been proofed in 1808, is 3 feet 0.5 inches long and weighs 3.5 hundredweight 3 quarters 17 pounds; the other is the same length but weighs 36 hundredweight 12 pounds (Fig. 89). This pattern was cast with a Gomer chamber and dolphins. It seems to have passed from favour quite early, for, while there are references to it in the 1840s, it was not listed in the Aide-Memoire nor did Boxer include it in his series of drawings in the 1850s. 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 89.  Cast Iron 13-inch 36-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Land Service Mortar, weight 36-1-27 (4,087 lbs), LM, (Serial No. 9), broad arrow mark, on the Parade Ground, West, Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario.

In the 1840s a slightly longer model of 3 feet 3.65 inches, weighing 36 hundredweight, was introduced into service (Fig. 90). As was true of the 8- and 10- inch mortars, the 13-inch mortar lost its dolphins and the fillets around the ring, but it retained the Gomer chamber and added a flat vent patch. The chamber had changed slightly in size, its length and greatest diameter remaining at 13 inches but its least diameter increasing from 7.5 to 7.6 inches.81 This pattern continued in service and, by the 1860s, was "...used in siege operations as well as permanent batteries, and is provided with a travelling carriage for its transport in siege trains."82 It was still on the active list of ordnance in 1881.

Along with land service mortars, there were also sea service mortars which were used on gun ketches or in coastal fortifications. These were longer, heavier weapons than the land service mortars. (Only the 10- and 13-inch mortars were designed for sea service; there is no record of an 8-inch sea service mortar.) The evidence indicates that between about 1790 and the 1860s there were in service two variations on one pattern (probably designed by Sir Thomas Blomefield). The difference between the two variations was an increase in the weight of each calibre of mortar; the appearance remained the same. 

Figure 90.

Cast Iron 13-inch 36-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Land Service Mortar, weight 35-2-9 (3,985 lbs), Low-Moor, (Serial No. 1066), 
broad arrow mark, between t
he Dauphine Redoubt and the fortification walls, Quebec City, Quebec.

10-Inch Mortar (Sea Service) 

According to Miller the 10-inch iron sea service mortar was first cast in 1790. The earliest written evidence of such a mortar occurs in a notebook attributed to R.W. Adye, circa 1800, which gives the general construction of two patterns, one of 5-1/2 calibres (4 feet 7 inches) and weighing 47-1/2 hundredweight, the other of 4-1/2 calibres (3 feet 9 inches) and weighing 42 hundredweight (Fig. 92). The Parlby notebook of 1804 gave similar dimensions: a 1O-inch long sea service mortar of 4 feet 7.6 inches and 47-1/2 hundredweight and a short pattern of 3 feet 9.6 inches and 42 hundredweight. As well, at Quebec City there are two 10- inch mortars cast by Carron in 1798, both within fractions of an inch of 4 feet 7 inches in length, one weighing 47 hundredweight 2 quarter 14 pounds and the other 47 hundredweight 3 quarters 4 pounds (Fig. 91). In appearance they match the patterns reproduced by Adye and by Caruana.

Also, in Quebec City there is a 10-inch mortar 3 feet 10 inches in length and weighing 52 hundredweight 13 pounds which was cast by Carron in 1813 (Fig. 94). This agrees closely with the length of the pattern given in Mould's notebook in 1825 - 4-9/16 calibres. Mould's 1825 pattern looks the same as the circa 1800 pattern, but the former has considerably more metal around the bore. According to the Adye notebook, circa 1800, the mortar was designed by Sir Thomas Blomefield; the heavier version is clearly only a variation of the lighter. The heavier pattern continued to be mentioned in various manuals, but in 1864 Miller noted that "sea service piece has been, but little employed in late years." It was still listed in service in 1881.

The sea service mortar did not adopt the Gomer chamber but retained the long, narrow, slightly conical variety. There were certain modifications in it, however. Spearman in 1828 gave its dimensions: length 10 inches, greatest diameter 7.5 inches, least diameter 5.64 inches.

By 1850 this chamber had been lengthened and slightly widened: length 11.68 inches, greatest diameter 7.5 inches, least diameter 5.75 inches.

Another variation was the loss of dolphins in the 1850s. Although Boxer's diagram still showed the dolphins (Fig. 95), an example of the mortar in Quebec City, cast by Walker and Co. in 1855, which in most other external respects appears to be identical to the 1813 example, is lacking them. Also, there is no vent patch on the later mortar; the vent is drilled directly through the breech (Fig. 96). 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 91.  Cast Iron 10-inch 47-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Sea Service Mortar, weight 47-2-14 (5,334 lbs), No. 12, The Carron Company of Falkirk, Scotland (Serial No. 57854, CARRON, 1798) on left trunnion. 4 feet 7 inches long.  One of a pair on rue des Remparts, Quebec.

Figure 92. General Construction of Sea Service Iron Mortars (Colonel Blomefield). (Parks, Fort Malden National Historic Park, Adye, Notebook, circa 1800.) 

Figure 93. General Construction of 13-and 10-inch Iron Sea Service Mortars, circa 1825. (Royal Military College, Mould, p. 101.) 

13-Inch Mortar (Sea Service) 

The history of the 13-inch iron sea service mortar was similar to the 10-inch. Its pattern was first outlined circa 1800 in the Adye notebook; it was 4 calibres or 4 feet 4 inches long and weighed 82 hundredweight (Fig. 92). The Parlby notebook of 1804 confirms both the length and weight. A slightly longer, 4 feet 4.8125 inches, and much heavier model, 100 hundred- weight, was first cast in 1810. Its construction was outlined in Mould's notebook of 1825 (Fig. 93).98 Boxer included it in his drawings in the 1850s (Fig. 97). The only difference between the two versions appears to have been in the size of the chamber. In 1828 its dimensions were: length 13 inches, greatest diameter 9.75 inches, least diameter 7.312 inches.

Boxer showed a longer slightly wider chamber: length 15.14 inches, greatest diameter 9.75 inches, least diameter 7.5 inches. This mortar was used in the Crimea during the siege of Sebastopol in 1855. In 1861 it was recommended for the armament of coast batteries.

 (Author Photo)

Figure 94.  Cast Iron 10-inch 52-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Land Service Mortar, weight 52-0-13 (5,837 lbs), The Carron Company of Falkirk, Scotland (Serial No. 81353, CARRON, 1813) on left trunnion. 3 feet 10 inches long, on rue des Remparts, Quebec.

A number of 13-inch iron sea service mortars burst or were rendered unserviceable during the bombardment of Sweaborg on the Baltic in 1855. This misfortune prompted a series of tests into the nature of the metal and the methods of construction of mortars. Perhaps because of these investigations the mortar was redesigned, and a new model accepted into the service in February 1862. The new mortar weighed the same, but it was longer, 5 feet 4 inches, with a windage of 0.1 inch rather than .16 inch of the old model. It no longer was cast with dolphins. Both versions were still on the active list in 1881.

Figure 95. Iron 10-inch Sea Service Mortar, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXXII.) 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 96. Cast Iron 10-inch 52-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Sea Service Mortar, weight 52-1-8 (5,860 lbs), 1855,  Samuel Walker & Company of Rotherham, England (WCo) on left trunnion, (Serial No. 2) on right trunnion, broad arrow mark.  3 feet 9.5 inches long, on rue des Remparts, Quebec. 

Figure 97. Iron 13-inch Sea Service Mortar, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXXI.) 


A howitzer was a cross between a gun and a mortar. Like a mortar it was a large calibre weapon designed to fire shells or carcasses, but it was neither so heavy nor so immobile. Longer than a mortar but shorter than a gun, it was cast with trunnions like a gun, enabling it to be mounted on a wheeled carriage. Designed to fire its projectiles on high trajectories, although not as extreme as a mortar's, it could fire over the heads of friendly troops or over obstacles to hit its target. Its bore was chambered like a mortar's and for the same reasons. Howitzers were used both as siege weapons and in the field. The first howitzers, both siege and field, were cast of brass. But following the Napoleonic wars iron siege howitzers were introduced, and longer brass howitzers, shaped more like guns, replaced the old, short howitzers in the field service. 

Brass Howitzers 

Coehorn Howitzer 

The Coehorn Howitzer was essentially the Coehorn mortar designed for field service. It came into use sometime before 1750. Hughes, in his study of British smooth-bore artillery says it was first cast in 1728 but he does not cite his source.1A treatise on artillery published in 1881 claimed that it was introduced in 1738. According to a note in the Aide-Memoire it was in service by 1750. In 1764 the Board of Ordnance set out its dimensions - calibre, 4.52 inches; length, 1 foot 10 inches; weight 2 hundredweight and 14 pounds. Over the next quarter century there were references to a howitzer of this length and about this weight, but no drawings or detailed specifications have been found until Rudyerd's series of drawings made at the Royal Military Academy in 1791.5 It seems likely that the howitzer he depicted had not changed significantly since 1764 or even before. The weight was not stated but the length was 21.95 inches, an insignificant difference of 0.05 inches. Like its mortar counterpart, the Coehorn howitzer's bore ended in a slightly conical chamber: length 4.52 inches, greatest diameter 2.73 inches, minimum diameter 2.24 inches.

In the 1790s the early pattern was replaced by a newer version of the Coehorn howitzer, an example of which, cast in 1811, is extant at the Rotunda, Woolwich (Fig. 98). The museum catalogue gives the calibre at 4.52 inches, the length at 1 foot 10 inches, and the weight at 2-1/2 hundredweight, but the design has been somewhat simplified. The chase astragal and fillets have vanished and the first and second reinforces are joined by an ogee rather than by an astragal and fillets. The chase tapers towards the muzzle but both reinforces now seem to be true cylinders unlike those of the earlier model. The button and neck of the cascabel have been shortened. A thick vent patch through which the vent was drilled has been cast on the first reinforce.

This piece closely resembles a drawing of a Coehorn howitzer made in 1819 by Shuttleworth, a student at the Royal Military Academy (Fig. 99). Its length was given at 22.6 inches (that is 5 calibres) and its weight at 2 hundredweight 1 quarter 14 pounds "nearly." The lengths and diameters of the various parts were stated quite clearly. The only peculiarity of the drawing was its portrayal of the cascabel; in it the ogee leading from the base ring to the neck of the button is drawn as a short cylinder. This is at variance with the 1811 example and with later drawings. It may be no more than an error in draughting.

This is the pattern of mortar described in the later manuals and portrayed in drawings in the late 1840s. It is probably this pattern which Mould, in his notebook in 1825, described "For Colonial Service in difficult roads and with Mountain Artillery." In 1828 Spearman gave the length at 22.6 inches, slightly longer than the 1811 example, but an exact 5 calibres. He also noted dimensions which indicated that the chamber was no longer slightly conical, but, rather, cylindrical: length 4.8 inches, greatest diameter 2.26 inches, least diameter 2.26 inches

There are two later drawings of this pattern, one by a student at the RMA in the late 1840s (Fig. 100) and the other by Boxer in his series of plates published in 1853 (Fig. 101). A comparison indicates certain minor differences. The howitzer in the student's drawing is 22.6 inches long; Boxer's is shorter, 22.38. There are also certain proportional differences in the lengths of the reinforces and chase, but the diameters are the same. The chamber is also slightly longer in Boxer's drawing, 5.1025 inches, but its diameter remained the same, 2.26 inches. It seems then that about 1850 the Coehorn howitzer underwent certain minor changes in design.

That there were two Coehorn howitzers by about 1845 is supported by the tables in the Aide-Memoire which list two patterns, one called "light" and the other "Coehorn." These tables record the chamber sizes mentioned above and agree as well in the diameters that are identical. But the lengths of the two patterns do not agree with the lengths given either by the student or Boxer. It is difficult to believe that there were four variations, albeit minor, of the Coehorn howitzer by the mid- 1840s. The only other detailed drawing and measurement which has been found occurred in a treatise in 1881; it almost duplicated Boxer's drawings and dimensions. Probably it is best to view the Aide-Memoire's dimensions with suspicion.

The Coehorn howitzer, originally designed for the field service, was replaced by Millar's 12-pounder brass howitzer in the 1820s, but it continued in use for mountain and colonial service. As late as 1881 it was still included on the active list. 

Figure 98. Brass Coehorn Howitzer, cast in 1811, weight: 2 hundredweight 2 quarters, length: 1 foot 10 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/76. This piece appears to have been misnumbered 11/78; in the catalogue it does not correspond to the description of 11/78but rather of 11/76.) 

Figure 99. Brass Coehorn Howitzer, circa 1820 (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

Figure 100. Brass Coehorn Howitzer, circa 1850. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Strange, "Drawings on Artillery.") 

Figure 101. Brass Coehorn Howitzer, weight: 2 hundredweight 1 quarter 14 pounds, length: 1 foot 10.6 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXIX.)

Royal or 5-1/2-Inch Howitzer 

It is not known precisely when the 5-1/2-inch brass howitzer, the howitzer equivalent to the Royal mortar, was introduced into the field service of the British army, but Glegg mentioned it in his notebook in the 1750s. While no dimensions were given its weight was said to be 4 hundredweight or slightly more. According to Smith the Board of Ordnance established its dimensions in 1764 - calibre 5.62 inches, length 2 feet 2 inches, weight 4 hundredweight 14 pounds. Although it was referred to in a number of practice books, no detailed specifications have been discovered until 1791. The length was usually stated to be 2 feet 2 inches, but 2 feet 2-3/4 inches and 2 feet 2-1/2 inches were also given. The weight varied from 4 to almost 4-1/4 hundredweight. It is impossible to know if these minor variations indicate changes or whether they merely reflect inaccuracies of casting or measurement. In any case it is unlikely that the changes would have been of great significance.

There is extant at the Rotunda, Woolwich, an example of a 5-1/2-inch brass howitzer of this period cast by the Verbruggens in 1782 (Fig. 102). It is one of a pair which King George 3 had presented to the Emperor of China in 1792 and which the British had recaptured near Peking in October 1860. Its length was not stated, but its weight has been cut into the cascabel, 4 hundredweight 17 pounds.

This weapon of 1782 appears to be very similar to the 5-1/2-inch howitzer drawn and detailed by Rudyerd in his notebook in 1791. While it is impossible to compare the exact dimensions, the arrangement of parts and mouldings is identical. Rudyerd stated the length to be 2 feet 2.1 inches, a difference of 0.1 inch from the most commonly stated length. He did not give the weight. He also showed a slightly conical chamber: length 6.01 inches, greatest diameter 3.2 inches, least diameter 2.45 inches. 

Figure 102. Brass 5-1/2-inch Howitzer, cast in 1782 by the Verbruggens, weight: 4 hundredweight 17 pounds. It has been painted black. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, II/68.) 
It seems likely then that the 5-1/2-inch brass howitzer detailed by Rudyerd and exemplified at Woolwich was the standard pattern from 1764 (and perhaps before) until the 1790s.

This weight of howitzer, 4 to 4-1/2 hundredweight, continued to be mentioned in notebooks and manuals in the 1790s and early 1800s, when a slightly heavier version at 4-3/4 hundredweight, also made an appearance. It was recorded by Richard Bogue in his notebook composed between 1793 and 1802; he gave a weight of 4 hundredweight, 3 quarters, 14 pounds. During the period May to August 1819 a 5- l/2-inch howitzer, length 2 feet 4 inches, weight 4 hundredweight, 3 quarters, 18 pounds, was involved in experiments firing spherical case shot. In 1825 Mould mentioned a similar howitzer of the same length, weighing 4-3/4 hundredweight. Thereafter it was not mentioned. It had become obsolete and was replaced by Millar's 24-pounder brass howitzer (see below).

There is extant at the Royal Military Institution, Woolwich, two scaled drawings, made about 1820, of a 5-l/2-inch howitzer on a field carriage (Figs. 103 and 104). No weight was given; the length was about 2 feet 4 inches. Since its design was obviously based on the same principles of the Coehorn of the same period, it is reasonable to conclude that it too was designed in the 1790s.

About this same time a heavy 5-1/2-inch brass howitzer also appeared. According to a note in the catalogue of the Rotunda Museum, Woolwich, "The first heavy 5-1/2-inch howitzers were cast about 1786 and another pattern in 1798, the last in 1819."21 Hughes in his study says they were first cast about 1790.22 The Rotunda, Woolwich, holds an example cast in 1813, length 2 feet 7.5 inches, weight 10 hundredweight (Fig. 105). The calibre is said to be 5.66 inches, somewhat larger than before.

If the catalogue is correct, one might speculate that the pattern cast in 1786 was similar in appearance to the Rudyerd drawing of the light 5-l/2-inch howitzer, perhaps longer, of a greater diameter, and consequently heavier. The pattern of 1798, presumably that of the 1813 howitzer at Woolwich, was based on the same principles followed in the redesign of the Coehorn and the light 5-1/2-inch of that period. The major differences seem to have been the addition of dolphins and a dispart sight on the muzzle. Otherwise, the arrangement of parts and mouldings was similar to the Coehorn at the Rotunda, cast in 1811. It is impossible to speculate what changes, if any, were made in the pattern of 1819. (The language of the catalogue is ambiguous and may mean no more than that no 5-1/2-inch howitzers were cast after 1819, and not that the last or latest pattern was cast in 1819.)

The heavy 5-1/2-inch howitzer was identified in Adye's manual of 1801 and again in the 1813 edition.24 He gave a weight of 10 hundredweight but no dimensions. In 1811, two heavy 5-1/2-inch howitzers were used in a practice on Sutton heath, each 2 feet 8 inches in length and each weighing more than 9-1/2 hundredweight.25 In 1819, a howitzer of the same length and weighing more than hundredweight was involved in experiments firing spherical case shot.26 Thereafter the weight was said to be 10 hundredweight and the length 2 feet 8 inches or, very precisely, 2 feet 8.3 inches.27 Only one manual, Griffiths' in 1847, noted the length at 2 feet 9 inches. The calibre was given sometimes at 5.62 inches, at other times at 5.66 inches. The weapon was chambered, but cylindrically not conically: length 7.02 inches, greatest diameter 4.215 inches, least diameter 4.215 inches.

According to Mould in 1825 the heavy 5-1/2-inch brass howitzer was intended for garrison use.30 It was undoubtedly obsolete by the 1840s, not being included in Boxer's series of drawings nor being listed in the tables of artillery in the Aide- Memoire.

Figure 103. Brass 5-1/2-inch Howitzer on a block trail carriage, plan, circa 1820. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

Figure 104. Brass 5-1/2-inch Howitzer on a block trail carriage, elevation, circa 1820. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K. Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

Figure 105. Brass 5-1/2-inch Howitzer (heavy), cast in 1813, weight: 10 hundred- weight, length: 2 feet 7.5 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/78.) 

8-lnch Howitzer 

The history of the 8-inch brass howitzer is more confusing than that of the field pieces, paradoxically because there is more detailed information available about it and more examples extant. There is at the Rotunda, Woolwich, an early example from the reign of William and Mary, cast in 1695, 3 feet 7.5 inches long, weighing 15 hundredweight 2 quarters 22 pounds (Fig. 106). It appears to match very closely a drawing of an 8-inch howitzer attributed to Albert Borgard, circa 1714 (Fig. 107). About 10 years later, according to James in his notebook, the length of the 8-inch howitzer was 3 feet 1 inch. It would seem that some change had been made in the design, perhaps as part of that standardization which Borgard had been commissioned to oversee in 1716. According to Hughes in his study of smooth-bore artillery and to the catalogue of the Rotunda Museum, Woolwich 3 the pattern of 3 feet 1 inch which superseded the older model was first cast in 1719.

In Glegg's notebook which was compiled during the 1750s, there is a table entitled "Dimensions of Howitzers: in the Years 1727-1740 and 1744. In it, detailed lengths and diameters are given of a 10-inch howitzer and two 8-inch howitzers. One of the latter was 3 feet 4 inches long and weighed 15 hundredweight 2 quarters 9 pounds; the other was 3 feet 1.4 inches and weighed 12 hundredweight 1 quarter 11 pounds. The title appears to link 1727 and 1740 as a period of time and then 1744 as a separate date, but this is by no means clear; it could be stating three distinct dates on each of which one of the three sets of dimensions was established. All that can be said is that by 1744 there were two varieties of 8-inch howitzers in existence, the shorter of which may have been similar to that noted by James about 1725. 

Figure 106. Brass 8-inch Howitzer, cast in 1695, weight: 15 hundredweight 2 quarters 22 pounds, length: 3 feet 7.5 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/26.)

Figure 107. Brass 8-inch Howitzer and Carriage, circa 1714. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Borgard, "Practiss of Artillery.") 

There is also extant a measured diagram of an 8-inch howitzer, which is part of a portfolio of drawings at the Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, tentatively dated circa 1735 (Fig. 108).36 A comparison of the measurements on the diagram with those in Glegg's table reveals a very close similarity between those of the diagram and those of the 8-inch howitzer of 3 feet 4 inches and 15 hundredweight. No weight appears on the diagram, but the length is only .25 inches longer and the diameters vary even less. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the drawing of the howitzer and the dimensions given by Glegg were of the same pattern.

The dimensions of the smaller howitzer in Glegg's table are very similar to dimensions given by Muller in his Treatise of Artillery, by Adye in his notebook, and by Smith in his dictionary. The length was the same, as was the weight; there were minor variations in the size of the chamber, a difference of 0.1 inch in diameters, and the cascabel, while the same length, may have been designed somewhat differently. Again, it is reasonable to conclude that the howitzer in Glegg's table was the same howitzer (with perhaps a slightly different cascabel) which was detailed by Muller, Adye, and Smith.

There is at the Rotunda a second 8-inch brass howitzer, this one cast by Gilpin in 1760 (Fig. 109). Surely this would be an example of one of the howitzers in Glegg's table. Unfortunately, it does not match that shown in the circa 1735 diagram and, if its total length, 49.5 inches (i.e. from face of muzzle to end of button), is stated correctly, it is longer than either pattern detailed by Glegg. Its weight, 13 hundredweight 15 pounds, lies between theirs. On the other hand, except that it is too long and heavy, it is very similar in appearance to the 8-inch howitzer drawn by Rudyerd in his notebook over 30 years later.

A comparison between the dimensions set out by Rudyerd in 1791 and those of the smaller 8-inch howitzer given by Glegg indicates a close similarity. There are discrepancies both in lengths and in diameters, but they are small. For example, Rudyerd gave a length of 37.2 inches, only 0.2 inch shorter than Glegg's weapon.  Rudyerd's dimensions also seem to indicate that in 1791 the howitzer may have 
slightly less thickness of metal around the bore. His mouldings also may have been slightly smaller. Perhaps the biggest change was to shorten the length of the slightly conical chamber by somewhat more than an inch. Essentially though the tables of dimensions indicate that the two patterns were very similar.

The differences may be accounted for, perhaps, by the regulations promulgated by the Board of Ordnance in 1764. According to Smith the 8-inch howitzer was to be 3 feet 1 inch long and to weigh 11 hundredweight.40 Over the next 30 years or so there were references to 8-inch howitzers in various practice books; the length was variously quoted at 3 feet 1/2 inch, 1 inch, 1-1/2 inches, and even once at 3 feet 6 inches and the weight was given from 11 hundredweight to slightly more than 13 hundredweight. It is impossible to know if these variations indicate changes in patterns or more likely the use of howitzers cast at different times. There would be no reason why a howitzer cast in 1740 could not be used alongside one cast in 1775, provided both were serviceable.

An example of the last pattern of this howitzer is also at the Rotunda, cast by the Kings in 1814 (Fig. 110). It is 3 feet 4 inches long, but the weight is not given. There is also a drawing made by Shuttleworth in 1819 which is identical (Fig. 111). 

Figure 108. Brass 8-inch Howitzer. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., A Portfolio of Drawings, circa 1735.) 

Figure 109. Brass 8-inch Howitzer, cast in 1760 by B. Gilpin, weight: 13 hundred- weight 15 pounds, length: 49.5 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, II/58.) 

Figure 110. Brass 8-inch Howitzer, cast in 1814 by Henry and Charles King, length: 3 feet 4 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/81.) 

Figure 111. Brass 8-inch Howitzer, circa 1820. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

This must be the same pattern 8-inch howitzer Mould referred to in 1825, noting that it was 3 feet 4 inches long and weighed 14 hundredweight.43 The design was along the same lines as the Coehorn and 5-1/2-inch howitzers of the same period. The two reinforces were cylinders and the chase tapered slightly to the muzzle mouldings. The mouldings have been simplified, as has the cascabel, the neck and button have been shortened, and a flat vent patch has been cast on the first reinforce. The dolphins were plain handles. It is reasonable to assume that this pattern of 8-inch howitzer came into service at the same time as the others, that is in the 1790s. The Aide-Memoire claims that the weight of the weapon about 1790 was 14 hundred- weight; unfortunately, the source of this information is not cited.44 The 8-inch howitzer was used in the Peninsular campaign, but following its failure there went out of service.45 According to the catalogue of the Rotunda the last casting of it was in 1820.46 No reference to it has been found subsequent to Mould's in 1825. 

10-Inch Howitzer 

There were three patterns of 10-inch brass howitzers. According to Hughes, the earliest casting was in 1727. The table in Glegg's notebook entitled "Dimensions of Howitzer in the Years 1727-1740 and 1744" gives some support to this statement.48 Certainly no references have been found to 10-inch howitzers before this date. In the table the details of the howitzer were set out. Its length was 4 feet 2.4 inches and it weighed 31 hundredweight 2 quarters 26 pounds. In appearance it resembled the 8-inch howitzer which appeared in the circa 1735 diagram. According to Muller, the "superfluous weight of the 10-inch howitzer has occasioned its disuse, at least these 25 years." When the 8-inch was redesigned about 1744, the 10-inch seems to have been ignored. There is no record, moreover, of its dimensions being established by the Board of Ordnance in 1764 as in the case of the 8-, 5-1/2- inch, and Coehorn howitzers.

A new pattern appeared in the 1770s. The older model was mentioned in a practice book for the period 1770-3, but thereafter the 10-inch howitzer reported was 3 feet 11 inches long (or slightly more) and weighed anywhere from 25-1/2 to slightly more than 25-3/4 hundredweight. Partial dimensions were given in Walton's notebook, 1780-92, which agree very closely with those set down by Rudyerd in his notebook.51 Rudyerd gave no weight, but the length was 3 feet 10.75 inches, slightly shorter than the length noted in the 1770s, although hardly a significant difference. It is a safe conclusion that the newly designed 10-inch howitzer which appeared in the 1770s was that which Rudyerd drew in 1791.

A comparison of the dimensions of this pattern with those of the earlier version given by Glegg, indicates that, other than the decrease in length, the most marked change was in the chamber size. The dimensions of the chamber of the earlier howitzer were: length 16.8 inches, greatest diameter 6.5 inches, least diameter 5.6 inches.

The chamber dimensions given by Rudyerd were shorter and narrower: length 12.6 inches greatest diameter 5.77 5 inches least diameter 4.12 inches.

This howitzer had much the same history as the 8-inch; it was used in the Peninsular campaign and failed due to age and wear (see above). It was replaced by a third pattern. There is a record of a 10-inch howitzer 4 feet 2 inches long and weighing slightly more than 27-3/4 hundredweight being used at a practice on Sutton Heath in 1811. 53 There is at the Rotunda Museum, Woolwich, a 10-inch brass howitzer, cast by the Kings in 1814, 4 feet 2 inches long (Fig. 112). No weight was marked on it. It is the same pattern as the 8-inch cast by the Kings that same year (see above). According to the Museum catalogue the 10-inch was last cast in 1816. No references to it have been found beyond Mould's note in 1825 when he recorded its length at 4 feet 2 inches and its weight at 27 hundredweight. 

Figure 112. Brass 10-inch Howitzer, cast in 1814 by Henry and Charles King, length: 4 feet 2 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, 11/80.) 

Millar's Howitzers 

Following the Napoleonic wars William Millar designed two new brass howitzers, a 12-pounder and a 24-pounder, to replace the 4-2/5-inch Coehorn and the 5- 1/2-inch Royal howitzers in the field and horse artillery batteries (Fig. 113). They were much longer than the older weapons, being 10 calibres in length. In profile they were similar to guns, being smaller brass versions of the iron shell-guns that Millar also introduced into the service about the same time. In structure they were composed of three d cones, that is two reinforces and chase. The muzzle swell no longer equalled the base ring in diameter but was surmounted by a dispart sight to compensate for the difference. The cascabel design was simplified and a loop cast underneath the button for attaching the elevating screw. The parts were separated by four plain rings and the vent field was set off by an astragal and fillets. The older, slightly conical chamber was replaced by one of the Gomer designs. These howitzers were brought into service in the early 1820s. Later, about 1840, a 32-pounder of the same design was introduced by Colonel Dundas. 
Figure 113. Brass 24- and 12-pounder Howitzers (Millar), circa 1825. Military College, Mould, p, 98.) 


The 12-pounder brass howitzer was introduced into the service in 1820 or 1822 although there are records of it being used in experiments and practice in 1819.56 It was to be used in batteries with the 6-pounder brass gun, replacing the 4-2/5-inch Coehorn howitzer. Its length was 45.2 inches (that is, 10 calibres) throughout its career and its weight was usually stated at 6-1/2 hundredweight, although there are examples extant weighing slightly less at a little more than 6 hundredweight. Initially its calibre was 4.52 inches, the same as the Coehorn which it was replacing, but, probably in the 1830s, it was increased to 4.58 inches. The bore of the 12-pounder terminated in a Gomer chamber, 6.8 inches long tapering to a hemisphere of 3.4 inches in diameter. The cascabel had been simplified in design and a loop had been cast under the button to take the elevating screw. (The earliest design seems not to have had the loop. See Fig. 113.) There was a vent patch on the first reinforce, a dispart sight on the muzzle; four plain rings and a vent astragal and fillets separated its parts. It was last cast in 1859, being replaced by the Armstrong gun in the 1860s. At the Rotunda there is an example extant, cast in 1853, which precisely illustrates the design (Fig. 115).

There were also two 12-pounder howitzers designed for sea service. One was identical to the land service pattern, except that it was cast with a breeching loop and the second reinforce ring had been turned off. It could be used on boat service or landed on a field carriage; two were put on board first to sixth rates and one on board brigs and smaller vessels. There is a sea service howitzer of this pattern, cast in 1858, at the Rotunda, Woolwich (Fig. 116). It was manufactured without the loop for attaching the elevating screw.

A heavier 12-pounder was designed by Colonel Dundas and introduced into the service probably in the early 1840s. It was 4 feet 7 inches long and weighed 10 hundredweight. Its use was restricted to fourth and fifth rates. Other than these facts, little else is known about this howitzer. 

Figure 114. Brass 12-pounder Howitzer (Millar), weight: 6.5 hundredweight, length: 3 feet 9.2 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXVIII.) 

Figure 115. Brass 12-pounder Howitzer (Millar) cast in 1853 by S. Eccles, weight: 6 hundredweight 2 quarters, length: 3 feet 9 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, II/85.) 

Figure 116. Brass 12-pounder Sea Service Howitzer (Millar) cast in 1858 by F.M. Eardley-Wilmot, weight: 6 hundredweight 26 pounds, total length: 50.25 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, II.) 


 (William Maloney Photos)

Figure 116 b and c.  Bronze 12-pounder Coehorn mortar, captured at the Battle of Saratoga from General Burgoyne's British Army on 17 October 1777.

The history of the 24-pounder is very similar to that of the 12-pounder. Designed by Millar on the same principles as the lighter weapon, it too was being used in experiments and practice in 1819 and was introduced into the service in 1820 or 1822. It was to be used in batteries with the 9-pounder brass gun, replacing the 5- l/2-inch Royal howitzer. Its length was usually stated at 56.6 inches (that is, 10 calibres) and its weight at from 12 to 13 hundredweight. Initially its calibre was 5.66 inches but, probably sometime in the 1830s, this was increased to 5.72 inches. Like the 12-pounder, its bore terminated in a Gomer chamber, which was originally 8.5 inches long tapering to a hemisphere 4.25 inches in diameter. By 1850 the size of the chamber had been adjusted. In his diagram Boxer indicated that its length was 7.85 inches tapering to 4.15 inches; the Aide-Memoire in 1853 gave slightly different dimensions, 7.86 inches in length tapering to 4.2 inches. The cascabel design was the same as the 12-pounder and the howitzer had the same four rings, astragal and fillets, vent patch, and dispart sight (Fig. 117). The 24-pounder brass howitzer continued in general service until 1861. The 24-pounder was also designed for sea service (Fig. 118). Like the sea service 12-pounder, it duplicated the land service pattern except for the addition of a breeching loop, the loss of the second reinforce ring, and the vent field astragal and fillets, and a minor change in cascabel design. There is a pair of these cast in 1859, in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on which these characteristics can be clearly seen. Two of these were carried on board first, second, and third rates, which could be used in their boats or mounted on field carriages for use with landing parties. They were also used on gunboats during the Crimean war. There was also mention of 24-pounder 4 feet long weighing 10 hundredweight which, according to Hughes, was cast for the Indian service.

Figure 117. Brass 24-pounder Howitzer (Millar), weight: 12.5 hundredweight, length: 4 feet 8 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXVII.) 

Figure 118. Brass 24-pounder Sea Service Howitzer (Millar), weight: 12.5 hundred- weight, length: 56.6 inches, circa 1850. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Strange, "Drawings on Artillery.") 


The 32-pounder howitzer was designed by Colonel Dundas on the same principle as the two Millar howitzers (Fig. 119). It was introduced into the service in 1840 or 1841. Originally intended to accompany 12-pounder guns, it was used by itself as a gun of position in batteries of four during the Crimean war. None was cast after 1854,79 It was 63 inches long and weighed 17 1/- to 18 hundredweight. Its calibre was 6.3 inches and its bore terminated in a Gomer chamber, 10.25 inches long tapering to a hemisphere 5 inches in diameter. Like the Millar howitzer it was cast with four rings, vent astragal and fillets, a vent patch, and a dispart sight mounted on the muzzle. It did not have a loop to take an elevating screw.80 An example of a 32-pounder, cast in 1854, is in the Rotunda Museum at Woolwich. 

Iron Howitzers 

5-I/2-Inch or 24-Pounder Howitzer 

The history of this howitzer is rather obscure. According to Miller, writing in 1864, it was first cast in 1800. A notebook contains a reference to a practice with an iron 24-pounder howitzer of 16 hundredweight 4 pounds on Sutton Heath in November 1810. According to the brief note, "The Howitzer was on its standing and traversing Carriages similarly placed to their Position on the Martello Tower for which the Howitzer was designed." Unfortunately no other details were given.

There is at the Rotunda, Woolwich, a rather strange looking piece, described as a 24-pounder iron howitzer "originally intended for Martello towers" (Fig. 120). Its length is 2 feet 9 inches, its weight 11 hundredweight 3 quarters 4 pounds.84 It is constructed with one reinforce separated from the chase by a ring. There are also rings at the base and muzzle and a dispart sight on the latter. The cascabel resembles that of a carronade except that it ends in a diamond shaped lug to which two curved handles were attached, one of which has been broken off. No date of casting has been ascribed to this piece. It is impossible to know whether or not this is a lighter version of the howitzer that was employed on Sutton Heath in 1810.

As previously stated, Miller claimed in 1864 that "... the existing pattern was first cast in 1800..." and was "...of older date than those constructed by General Millar [i.e, the 8- and 10-inch iron howitzers] and has consequently a cylindrical instead of a gomer chamber." He went on to describe it: “ has a dispart at the muzzle, a vent patch, and a block behind the base ring; the cascabel has a plain button; there are no rings except at the base and muzzle, and the vent is perpendicular.”

He gave the length at 3 feet 5 inches and the weight at 15 hundredweight. Except for the perpendicularity of the vent this description matches well with Boxer's drawing, published in 1853, of an iron 24-pounder howitzer (Fig. 121). It also would describe, except for the lack of a dispart sight, the howitzer depicted in a scaled drawing by Shuttleworth in 1819 (Fig. 122).

The records, such as they are, for the 1820s, are not very satisfactory. Mould in 1825 and Adye in 1827 recorded two iron 5-1/2-inch howitzers. Mould gave lengths of 3 feet 6 inches and 3 feet 10 inches and weights of 15 and 12 hundredweight respectively. Adye gave only weights, 15 and 13 hundredweight. It seems strange that in Mould's table the longer howitzer was the lighter. This particular length of howitzer was recorded by Griffiths in his manuals from 1839 to 1852 but he gave a weight of 15 or 15-3/4 hundredweight. It seems impossible to conclude much more than that two patterns of iron 5-1/2-inch howitzers were in existence early in the century.

In 1825 Mould commented on the iron 5-l/2-inch howitzer - "Not used, but are good Garrison Howitzers." Except for Adye in 1827 and Griffiths in the 1840s and '50s, the authors of manuals ignored this weapon, which neglect suggests that Mould's remark remained true. In the late 1840s it was recorded by a student at the Royal Military Academy and by Sir Howard Douglas in his study of naval gunnery.91 Detailed specifications were set out in the Aide Memoire in 1845, and Boxer published both measurements and a diagram in 1853. The specifications given by Boxer agree in most respects with those of the Aide-Memoire, except most notably in the diameter of the chamber. Both chambers were cylindrical, but Boxer's was much larger. The Aide-Memoire indicated a length of 5.1 inches and a diameter of 3.64 inches while Boxer showed a length of 5.25 inches and a diameter of 5.1 inches.

In 1864 Miller wrote: "The 5-1/2-inch howitzer is almost obsolete, but a few may still be found in the flanks of old fortified places. Pieces of this class and calibre were also included in armaments on account of their being so easily moved to any threatened point."

On 1 January 1866 the piece was officially declared obsolete, although it was to be retained, if already mounted on works, until its carriage wore out at which time it was to be replaced. 

Figure 119. Brass 32-pounder Howitzer (Dundas), weight: 17.5 hundredweight, length: 5 feet 3 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXVI.) 

Figure 120. Iron 24-pounder Howitzer, said to be originally intended for Martello towers, weight: 11 hundredweight 3 quarters 4 pounds, length: 2 feet 9 inches. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., The Rotunda, I1I/41.) 

Figure 121. Iron 24-pounder Howitzer, weight: 15.5 hundredweight, length: 40.76 inches, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXV.) 

Figure 122. Iron 24-pounder (?) Howitzer on Traversing Platform, circa 1820. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Shuttleworth Drawings.) 

8-Inch and 10-Inch Howitzers 

The histories of these howitzers are so similar that they can be recounted at the same time. Both weapons were designed on the same principles by Wiliam Millar in 1819 or previously, for in that year they were used in experiments at Woolwich.96 The next year a committee of artillery officers suggested that they be adopted for the battering train, a recommendation made "on a supposition of the new Iron 10 Inch and 8 Inch Howitzers being introduced into the service..." to replace those of brass. Hughes, in his study of British smooth-bore artillery, says they were introduced "by 1820," but Miller, writing in 1864, claimed they were not brought in until 1825. In that year Mould, a student at the Royal Military Academy, noted that they were to be used in battering trains and in garrison.

Although there were minor changes in dimensions, the basic appearance of these howitzers did not change over the years. Each was 6 calibres long, that is 4 feet and 5 feet respectively. The length of the two reinforces equalled that of the chase. The parts of the howitzer were set off by plain rings at the base, between the two reinforces, and at the muzzle; the second reinforce was distinguished from the chase by a short curve rather than a ring. The cascabel was simply designed, terminated by a plain button. There was a dispart sight on the muzzle swell and a block behind the base ring. The vent was drilled at an angle through the base ring into the Gomer chamber which terminated the bore.

While this basic design did not change, there were minor changes in dimensions. A comparison of three sets of dimensions - those given in Mould's diagram of 1825 (Fig. 123), those of the Aide-Memoire of 1845 and 1853, and those of Boxer in 1853 (Figs. 124 and 125) - indicate that there was an increase in the diameters of the parts of the howitzer. These changes were reflected by an increase in weight of the howitzers from about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hundredweight respectively. These modifications probably occurred in the 1830s; the 8- and 10-inch howitzers used in the major practice at Deal in 1839 were considerably heavier than those used 20 years before.

There were also changes to the length of the bore and perhaps to the diameter of the chamber. The bores of both howitzers were shortened from about 1 inch to 1- 1/4 inches respectively, probably at the same time as the exterior diameters were altered. As to the size of the chamber, the major sources do not agree. The length remained constant in both howitzers, but the least diameter of the chamber may have been changed slightly.

Both howitzers remained in service throughout the period and, in 1865, following a review of all ordnance, it was recommended that both continue in service. As late as 1881 they were still listed, but undoubtedly, they were of minor importance. 
Figure 123. Iron 10-and 8-inch Howitzers, circa 1825. (Royal Military College, Mould, p. 99.) 
Figure 124. Iron 10-inch Howitzer, weight: 42 hundredweight, length: 5 feet, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXII.) 

Figure 125. Iron 8-inch Howitzer, weight: 22 hundredweight, length: 4 feet, circa 1850. (Boxer, Diagrams of Guns, Plate XXIII.) 

 (Author Photo)

Figure 126. Cast Iron 8-inch 22-cwt Smoothbore Muzzleloading Howitzer, weight 22-0-10 (2,474 lbs), maker and Serial No. TBC, mounted on a wood naval gun carriage.  A cannon ball is cemented in the muzzle.  The gun is stamped 1859.  Six of these guns were allocated to Quebec.  National Battlefields Commission, Plains of Abraham, Quebec. 

Artillery or Triangle Gin 

The Artillery or Triangle Gin was a mechanical device used to mount or dismount artillery pieces onto or from their carriages or beds. Although details of its construction changed, its principle and design remained essentially the same for over a century, from at least circa 1750 to the l860s. It was a tripod, two of the poles of which, usually called cheeks, were rigidly fixed together by two iron bars, one near the base and the other toward the mid-point of the triangle so formed. The third or pry pole was attached to these two at the apex of the triangle by an iron bolt which passed through the ends of the three poles. The bolt also secured an iron D-shaped shackle from which, by means of a hook, a tackle was suspended that was used to raise or lower the artillery piece. The hauling part of the fall was wound round a roller or windlass set into the cheeks between the two iron support bars. The windlass was rounded towards its centre to take the rope and squared at each end. Handspikes or levers, fitted into holes cut into the square ends, were used to turn the windlass and thereby lift the piece. Later gins, beginning in the first decade of the nineteenth century, were equipped with a ratchet and pawl, connected to one end of the windlass, which prevented it from slipping back.

Early in the eighteenth century a heavier and more awkward gin, a circa 1714 drawing of which is extant, was in use (Fig. 198). The basic tripod principle was evident, but the sides of the rigid triangle, about 8 feet long, were connected by four wooden cross pieces pinned into place. A wooden block about 2 feet long, which contained three sheaves, two above each other and the other to the side, was fixed to the apex of the triangle. A second block, double sheaved, was roved to it to form the tackle. The pry pole, about 10 feet long, was attached to upper part of the standing block. The windlass was set into two uprights towards the base of the rigid triangle.

It is not known how long this gin remained in service, but by mid-century a lighter, simpler gin as described above was in use. Both John Muller in his A Treaties on Artillery (1757) and S. P. Adye in his artillery notebook (1766) drew and described this gin. Muller's description was the longer, but both were clearly writing of the same machine. According to Miller, the gin "consists of three round poles of about 12 or 13 feet long, whose diameters at the lower end are about four inches, five just below the roller, besides the cheeks that are added to them in that place, and about 3 or 3.5 inches above."

"The roller is 7 3/4 inches in diameter, and six feet long; 20 inches are left square at each end for the holes made in them to receive the handspikes, by which the roller is turned; the middle part is made round to wind the cable upon; the two poles, which support the roller, are fastened together by two iron bars, the one about 28 inches below the roller, and the other as much above it. These bars are fixed with one end to one of the poles by means of a bolt, and with the other end to the other pole with a bolt and key, so as to be taken out, in order that when the gin is to be carried abroad, the poles may lay close together upon the waggon; sometimes wooden bars are used instead of these iron ones, which cost less, and answer the purpose as well. There are two iron bands and two iron bolts to fasten each cheek to the poles, and likewise iron plates round the poles where the iron or wooden bars are fixed. The poles are hooped at each end, and those above have straps, through which the iron bolt passes. This bolt keeps the upper ends together, as likewise serves to support the iron to which the windless [sic] is hooked: this windless contains two brass pullies, about which the cable goes, which is fixed to the dolphins of the gun or mortar with another windless, containing two brass pullies likewise."

The accompanying diagram showed a spike in the bottom end of each pole to prevent it from slipping when the gin was erected.

Again it is not clear how long this particular model was in use, but some time before 1800 a slightly taller gin, undoubtedly of the same basic design, came into service. According to Adye's manual of 1801, arms of this gin were 16 feet 4-1/2 inches long and the roller 6 feet long. The tackle fall was 3-inch white rope, 78 feet long, and the sling was 6-inch white rope. The 1813 edition of the manual recorded a change in the rope dimensions: the fall was now 5-inch white rope, 14 fathoms 2 inches (84 feet 2 in.) long and the sling was 6-3/4-inch white rope, 4 fathoms (12 feet) long. It is difficult to say if these changes were merely corrections of errors or if they did reflect actual changes.

Figure 198. Artillery Gin, circa 1714. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Borgard, "Practiss of Artillery.") 

This gin was adequate to lift guns onto or from garrison and siege carriages, but with the introduction of the long-legged traversing platform in the first decade of the nineteenth century a taller gin was introduced. As early as April 1807 "One Triangle Gin, new Pattern for Traversing Platform" was being sent to Quebec. This undoubtedly was the machine described by Adye in 1813: "Gin - Large Triangle, new Pattern - Length of arms, 18 feet 6 inches; roller 7 feet 4 inches; racket [sic] wheel, diameter, 1 foot 2 inches; length of the pall [sic], 1 foot; weight, 8 cwt, 2 qrs. 16 lbs. This gin is intended for mounting guns on traversing platforms."

This is the first mention of a ratchet and pawl, an innovation attached to the end of the windlass of the large gin. Since rope was not mentioned, presumably the rope for slings and tackle was the same as that used for the small gin. 

Evidently the new gin was found to be inadequate for it was further modifiedprobably in the 1820s. In 1828 Spearman's manual indicated that the length of the cheeks and pry pole had been increased to 20-1/2 feet and that the windlass, which was 9 inches square at its ends, had been shortened slightly to 6 feet 9 inches. The ratchet wheel was 12 inches in diameter and 0.25 inch thick. To reeve the tackle 3- l/2-inch rope, 16 fathoms (96 feet) long, was to be used. For the small gin the rope was only 72 feet long. The tackle was composed of a double and treble block roved together.

According to Spearman, the small gin had changed little. The cheeks and pry pole were 16 feet 3 inches long and the windlass, which was 8 inches square at its ends, was 5 feet 11 inches long. Like the large gin it had a ratchet wheel of the same size. These dimensions are at slight variance with those given in 1813. The difference in the length of the arms of 1-1/2 inches seems insignificant; the shortening of the windlass by 1 inch may be accounted for by the introduction of the ratchet wheel.

There are a number of drawings in notebooks of students at the Royal Military Academy during the 1820s that showed the gin fully erected and supporting a gun. The method by which the gun was raised is quite clear. A sling of rope, doubled and joined at the ends, was twisted and then looped over the cascabel at one end and a fid inserted into the bore of the gun at the other. The sling was caught a little behind the trunnions by the lower hook of the tackle whereby the gun was raised. One drawing showed the gunners in the process of lifting a large gun (Fig. 199). 

Figure 199. Artillery Gin in use, 1830. (The Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, U.K., Robert Cockburn, "Practical Course of Instruction.") 

Interestingly, two of the gunners responsible for heaving on the levers to turn the windlass were standing on the windlass, each with one foot braced against the upper iron support bar, presumably to gain added force as they pull down on the levers. Other gunners are pulling on the fall to take up slack. When the gun was raised to the required height two levers were left inserted in the windlass resting against the upper support bar and the fall was tied off around the lower bar. This can be clearly seen in a drawing of 1825 (Fig. 200).

The various pieces of hardware can be clearly seen. The ratchet and pawl were evident. Each iron support bar had an extra eye in it at such a distance so that when the gin was taken down and one end of the bar unkeyed it could swing and be keyed in place on the cheek. Two strengthening bands have been wound around the squared ends of the windlass. One drawing appeared to show a ring inserted low down into the pry pole which would take a handspike as the gin was raised. The D shackle and connecting bolt were clear and the tackle appeared to be composed of a treble and double block, the former hooked to the shackle. The drawing of 1825 showed a method to prevent the gin sinking into wet ground. The ends of the poles were inserted into wooden trucks.

The only scaled drawing from this period that has been found was of the small gin contained in the Aide-Memoire (Fig. 201). The cheeks were 16 feet 3-3/4 inches and the pry pole 5 feet 10-1/2 inches long; the ends of the latter were 7-1/2 inches square. The various pieces of hardware, including the ratchet (said to be 11 inches in diameter) and pawl, were clearly drawn. The differences in dimensions between this gin and the one outlined by Spearman appear insignificant. A detailed drawing of the large gin was not given, but it was said to be 20 feet long, a length similar to that given by Spearman.

Some additional information was given in Griffiths' manuals in the 1840s about stores needed to work the gin. The slings, which Spearman did not mention, were of 5-inch-white rope, of three different sizes according to the nature of the piece. A smaller rope, 2-1/4 inch, 2 fathoms (12 feet) long was used to sling mortars and a piece of skidding or large block of wood, rather than a fid, was inserted in the bore. 

Figure 200. Artillery Gin, circa 1825. (Royal Military College, Mould, p. 221.)

 (Author Photo) 
Figure 201. The Artillery Gin, Fort George, Halifax Citadel, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A piece of spun yarn, 3 stranded, 1-1/2 fathoms (9 feet) long was required to seize the clinch of the fall where it was attached to the tackle. Three small trucks, or pieces of board, 4 inches thick, with a small hole to take the spikes on the ends of the pole were used on soft ground. In addition, the large gin required a 4-inch block and 60 feet of 1-1/2-inch rope. No explanation was given but later authorities indicated that the block was hooked to a ring on the end of the pry pole and used to pull the tackle up to be attached to the D shackle. Two double lashings were also indicated for breech and muzzle ropes or guys, presumably to control the gun as it was raised or lowered.

About 1860 the gin of 20 feet was superseded by one of 18 feet. The smaller gin of 16 feet remained in service. Details about the new 18-foot gin are scant other than that its cheeks were 18 feet and its windlass 6 feet 9 inches long. Certain changes in the stores were indicated, however. The levers, which were 6 feet 9 inches long, were fitted at their small end with 2-1/2 fathom (15 feet) of 2-inch tarred rope by which the levers could be pulled down to turn the windlass. This would render unnecessary the rather clumsy method of standing on the windlass shown in the drawing of 1830. The slings were now of 6-inch rope in 2 lengths, 11 feet and 10 feet as measured from bight to bight. Mortars were slung by 2-1/2-inch rope. The tackle was composed of two 12-inch blocks, usually 1 double and 1 treble, but for very heavy weights, like 68-pounder and 10-inch guns, 2 treble blocks were used. The trucks to be used on soft ground were 12 inches in diameter and 3-1/2 inches thick. Four common handspikes, 6 feet long, were also necessary to each gin.

Writing in 1864, Miller outlined the use of the two gins: “the larger is furnished to siege trains in the proportion of 1 to 9 pieces of heavy ordnance, the smaller is furnished to every battery of position. The 18-feet gun will raise guns of any weight, the 16-feet gyn is not suitable for weights above 56 cwts.; but two may be used, if the 18-feet gyn is not available, for mounting the l0-inch, 8-inch (of 60 cwt, and 65 cwt.), 68-pounder, 56-pounder, 42-pounder guns, and the heavier nature of 32-pounder guns.”

By 1867 the design of the gins had undergone more changes. There were then three gins, two of 18 feet and one of 16 feet. The larger gins were used for garrison and general service. The heaviest of the two, weighing 24 hundredweight, was designated "18 feet strengthened gyn" and was capable of lifting 12 tons (Fig. 202). The lighter one, weighing 13-1/2 hundredweight, was named "18 feet gyn with strengthened windlass," and was used for mounting guns weighing up to 95 hundred- weight. The windlass was strengthened by the substitution of wrought for cast-iron. The 16-foot gin, which was used with heavy batteries, weighed 9 hundredweight and was capable of raising 56 hundredweight. The main improvement in design was the development of a more sophisticated ratchet device on the windlass which allowed the lever to be pushed backwards without rotating the windlass. The various details of the strengthened gin, whose pattern was approved on 6 March 1866, were evident in a drawing produced by the Royal Carriage Department.