SOM-D20D91: Post Medieval toy cannon with carriage

Rights Holder: Somerset County Council
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Unique ID: SOM-D20D91

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Cast copper alloy toy cannon of probable 18th-century date, with part of the gun carriage attached.

The cascable (closed end) of the cannon is domed and there is a pronounced base ring. The small vent hole, blocked with mud, is half way between the base ring and first reinforce ring. The second reinforce ring has roughly semicircular expansions to each side, on the muzzle side of the ring, from which project the short trunnions. The trunnions have corroded, pointed ends and still go through the carriage, attaching the two together. The total width of the cannon across the trunnions is 19.7mm. Between the first and second reinforce ring the muzzle tapers from 10.3 to 9.7mm in diameter. The chase (remainder of the barrel) continues to taper gradually to 8.5mm in diameter at the muzzle ring beyond which is a thickened but plain muzzle moulding.The muzzle is cast off-centre and is 6.22mm in internal diameter. Because of this one wall is noticeable thinner (1.7mm at one side of the muzzle ring verses 2.7mm) and has worn through near the muzzle. This hole is probably due to post-deposition corrosion as the sides are irregular but not splayed out from an explosion. The thinness of the wall would have made firing the cannon unsafe. There is further corrosion and a slight hole on the underside by the first reinforce ring. It is 53.3mm long.

The incomplete field carriage is made of several pieces of thick copper-alloy sheet. It has two curving cheeks or brackets one of which is complete and the other is broken by the end of the cannon. The complete example has a recurving terminal at the tail. There are simple holes near the front upper corners through which the trunnions are threaded. There is a separate trapezoid sectioned wheel axis on which the cannon rests behind the trunnion and second reinforcing ring. It has been fitted through cut out holes in the lower edge of the cheeks and the corners of the holes bent inwards to hold it in place. At each end it steps inwards with projecting round ended, trapezoid sectioned, terminals. One terminal is broken, the other is complete and has a vertical piercing through which are the remains of an iron rivet which would have held the wheel in place after it was threaded onto the terminal. The wheel was found with it and also appears to be cut from copper alloy sheet; it has three broad tapering spokes. In the photo the wheel is show on the broken terminal. There are rusted remains of an iron rivet through holes in the cheeks at the point where the breech transom went across at the cascable (closed end of the cannon) and the incomplete cheek has broken across this hole. The terminal of the complete cheek also has rusted remains in a hole suggesting the tail transom was also iron.

Forsyth and Egan (2005:80-81) discuss toy cannons and suggest those that actually fired were very popular by the end of the 16th century but the majority show features that were developed in the 17th or 18th centuries. This example is most similar to their Type 5 Design 1 (p.82, 1.7) although in this case the trunnions are after rather than before the second reinforce ring. They suggest this type is from the first half of the 18th century. They illustrate one similar gun carriage and comment these are much rarer than cannons, a suggestion also reinforced by the PAS database, where none have previously been recorded. Their example (p.85, type 1 design 1, 1.17) seems very similar to this example, including the style of the cheeks, axis, wheels and transoms, although there are slight difference in the axis terminals and, from the description, in the way the trunnions are held in place. That example is also dated to the 18th century.


Published in Burnett (2013:198, fig. 12).

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: County / local importance

Class: Cannon

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1700
Date to: Circa AD 1750

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 78.4 mm
Height: 15.1 mm
Width: 40.9 mm
Weight: 29.42 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Monday 1st January 1990 - Wednesday 17th November 2010

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Laura Burnett
Identified by: Ms Laura Burnett

Other reference numbers

Other reference: SCC020759

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Secondary material: Iron
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: South West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Somerset (County)
District: Taunton Deane (District)
To be known as: Pitminster

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1000 metre square.

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SOM
Created: 7 years ago
Updated: 4 years ago

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