Conservation work carried out on cannons

Cannon guns around Berwick have been restored thanks to conservation work carried out on behalf of English Heritage.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 10:48 am
Updated Saturday, 2nd April 2016, 4:45 am
Tim Martin working on cannons in the parade square

The 17th century culverin cannon, which lies within the Cumberland Bastion on the town’s Elizabethan ramparts, has undergone a major transformation.

Dating back to 1686, it had quite literally fallen on hard times. The wooden wheels of the carriage in which is it carried had collapsed due to rot.

Metalwork conservator Tim Martin, of Context Engineering, has now restored the wheels and given the cannon a makeover.

“The central wheel had rotted out and collapsed and the axle had broken off one end,” said Tim. “We’ve replaced the axle and the bottom of the beam and made a new hub for the wheel.”

“It looks amazing,” said Leesa Vere-Stevens, regional project conservator for English Heritage, on her first visit to see the work on Thursday.

A culverin was a relatively simple ancestor of the musket, adapted for naval use by the English in the late 16th century. It was used to bombard targets from a distance. The culverin fired solid round shot projectiles, producing a relatively long range and flat trajectory.

A further 15 cannon in the courtyard at Berwick Barracks have also been restored over the winter as part of English Heritahe’s annual maintenance programme.

The cannon, which each weigh over one tonne, date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

There was a safety element to the work too.

“They were fixed with chains but that still allowed some movement,” said Leesa.

Tim added: “The problem is that children love playing on them so there were safety concerns about fingers getting trapped.”

The work has involved the treatment of corrosion and spot-painting.

Leesa explained: “The movement caused abrasions which can lead to corrosion and water ingress so Tim has come up with a treatment using a traditional rope fixing method called the Canadian splice which is much better. It prevents the cannon from moving which will be good for safety and better for the long-term life of the cannon.”

English Heritage hopes funding can be found for conservation work on the Russian cannon facing the Tweed estuary next year.