29/03/2018Save Our Cannons
- England’s historic defenders of the coastline are at risk from the ravages of the elements
- English Heritage launches conservation appeal as the charity showcases what’s possible at Pendennis Castle
England’s cannons are at risk, English Heritage warned today (Thursday 29th March) after the charity identified that due to sea spray and salty air, historic guns in coastal locations face a twenty-fold increase in their rate of deterioration. The charity, which cares for over 400 cannons, carriages and historic guns, is today launching an appeal to help tackle urgent repairs to four of those cannons.
One of those most in need of care is a Second World War anti-aircraft gun at Pendennis Castle of the type which was used to protect troops and supplies amassing at nearby Falmouth at the time of the D-Day embarkations. Today the quick-firing mobile 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun is suffering from extensive corrosion caused by the sea air and needs a full conservation treatment including air abrasion to remove old paint before being repainted.
The benefits of restoring cannons from our country’s historic defences can also be seen at Pendennis Castle, where English Heritage has conserved several historic guns as part of the charity’s £1m investment in the Cornish site, which opens on Friday 30th March. Visitors will be able to see a rare 12-pounder quick-firing gun returned to pristine condition and fired by a volunteer gun crew in Edwardian military uniform.
Senior Collections Conservator Bethan Stanley explains: “Our cannons are precious objects, vital alongside our castles and fortifications in telling the story of England as an island nation. To many, they are an integral part of the landscape, but unless we act now, they could ultimately be lost to the elements.
“Coastal guns are regularly battered by strong winds blowing corrosive moisture and salt spray over them which means that, untreated, they can corrode 20 times faster than those just a mile or so inland. The care of our cannons is a complex process, and English Heritage scientists are at the forefront of research into the most effective treatments.”
With the public’s support, as well as repairing the Pendennis anti-aircraft gun, English Heritage conservators would be able to carry out much needed conservation to two 18th-century cast iron 9-pounder cannons at Etal Castle in Northumberland and a quick-firing mobile 3.7-inch Second World War anti-aircraft gun at Dover Castle in Kent.
From Roaring Meg at Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire, the only surviving mortar of the English Civil Wars to the contrarily named Pocket Pistol, a 7.3m long cannon at Dover Castle, a diplomatic gift to Henry VIII in 1544, the charity’s conservators conduct a regular maintenance programme across the whole collection and guided by a comprehensive condition survey, carry out more complex conservation every year according to need.
Already this year, a specialist team has completed intensive conservation to the cannons and carriages on the Garrison Walls at St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly, and work is scheduled for the cannon at Pevensey Castle in Sussex, made between 1547 and 1553, one of the first generation of cast-iron guns made in a vertical mould.
The re-interpretation of Pendennis Castle takes visitors on a journey into Pendennis’ history - particularly into the Tudor and Second World War eras. In the castle gun tower, a team of Tudor gunners can be seen in action in immersive audio-visual installations.
The castle’s call to action in the Second World War is the focus of installations in the Half Moon Battery and Battery Observation Post (BOP). Costumed volunteers will guide visitors through the tunnels of the Half Moon Battery, and straight into the drama of war as the big guns prepare to engage the enemy with high explosive munitions.
Pendennis Castle is open daily from Friday 30th March 2018.