Report No 251 - cast iron demi- culverin c1650
The gun is damaged and some of the marks are difficult to decipher, so that we can
only make a partial identification and some suggestions.
So what can we say definitely? This gun was made in England. It was in Government
service as it has a broad arrow. It was probably out of service before 1699 as it has no
Browne Survey mark.
We can identify the type - it most likely to be a demi-culverin; but there is a lesser
possibility it is a saker whose bore has been widened through use from 3½ inches; a
very few saker drakes are in this weight and length category.
Drakes were most common during the 1640s and 1650s. These were shorter, lighter
guns with a conical bore; they used less powder than conventional guns, which meant
they were cast with thinner walls, often in slightly shorter lengths, which made them
significantly lighter, and consequently much appreciated by the Navy. They fell out of
favour in the 1660s.
The type of gun that identifies most closely to this weight and calibre is the demi-culverin
drake of the 1650s. There is one payment in 1650 to John Browne from the
Office of Ordnance of a demi-culverin drake of 18-3-09. However, during the
Commonwealth and Protectorate a number of payments are missing, while in the
1640s a number of payments do not record the individual weights of the guns
purchased. So there is plenty wriggle room in this.
The details of the gun also suggest a date in the mid-17th century. The pattern of the
breech is identical to the minion recovered from the Mull wreck (Martin 2017: 142-
3). This is thought to be the Swan, lost in 1653. A gun with a similar breech-plate
arrangement is in the Museum of Artillery collection: 3/251; a 7½ foot saker aboard
the Royal Katherine in 1699; it also may have been a Commonwealth piece as it has
no rose and crown, but the barrel is in too poor a state to check for badges.
If the gun did have a Commonwealth shield, this would date it between c. 1649-c.
1660. This is also the period when cast-iron drakes were produced in large numbers,
mainly for the Navy. It would also suggest that the gun was still in service in the
1660s when the Restoration Ordnance ordered the Commonwealth arms to be
removed from iron guns.
A few commonwealth guns have survived whose badges have been erased. These
include XIX.380 of the Royal Armouries, a saker of 7 feet. An interesting example is a
culverin drake of 8 feet currently at Fort York in Toronto which not only has the
patch where the commonwealth arms have been removed, it also has a CR engraved
in the space.
An English cast-iron gun, probably a demi-culverin drake, dating from the 1650s.
Martin C J M 2017 A Cromwellian Warship wrecked off Duart Castle (Edinburgh)