What's new
British Ordnance Collectors Network

This is a sample guest message. Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!



Well-Known Member
Premium Member
did anyone buy any of the cannon balls from the antique dealer in Rye a few years ago? It was the useual thing, put a few in the window @ 20 each and see what happens. Actually, he had 300 which came from the basement of a house clearance. The story was that they came from a sailing ship that got shipwrecked near Hastings.
To cut it short, I asked him how much he wanted for the remainder - what you see in the picture, and we agreed 5 each. But having looked at them, a few have slight flats and have obviously been used. I now think that they were collected from shore ranges and used as ballast in a fishing boat, which was them broken up at Hastings.
Even today, large cannon balls (mostly 24pdrs) are dredged up and used as ballast in fishing boats based at Poole.
And on the subject, 'freezing the balls off a brass monkey' is an old naval saying. A brass monkey is the 'plate' that sits on the floor (its a bit like a shallow brass egg carton only more rounded)and a pyramid of cannon balls is built onto it. In cold wet weather, the water that gets between the cannon balls freezes and in so doing expands, pushing the balls off the tray. hence the expression!
Hi Rickoshea it is always nice to find out a little history on our type of items !
I never knew the Brass monkey bit-very interesting indeed.
If you will pardon me-nice Balls too !:woohoo:
Interesting post dave,where do you think the items in poole harbour came from? I had loads of 1 inch nordenfeldt projectiles from the harbour and a lovely studded shell(6 pdr i think).Unfortunately i didnt preserve them and they broke up.Cheers Tony.
sorry Tony for late reply, there was a gunnery range situated near where the ferry terminal now is. Preserving old sea recovered shells is time consuming and must be done at once. The best way is to get a car battery charger, a stainless steel rod, a plastic tub large enough to hold the item and some washing soda. Mix up the soda in enough water to cover the shell etc and connect the negative lead from the battery charger to the steel rod and put it at the opposite end of the tub to the shell. Clean part of the shell to expose fresh metal and connect the positive lead to it perhaps with a piece of wire wound around the shell. Connect the battery charger to the mains and leave it for 3 months, topping up the water from time to time. You will also need to clean the steel rod from time to time. This will gradually persuade the salt crystals and oxidised iron to vacate the shell. After 3 months, give it a good clean and lightly oil it. It should not crack up or weep. If you want to go and get your own cannon balls & stud shells - anything up to 100pdrs (!) one of the best places is Caldicot near Chepstow. Wait until low tide, wander out into the mud and feel for stones with your feet, then take the stones back to the shore and crack them open - quite often they will be stud shells and cannon balls encrusted but as mint as the day they were made. But they start to oxidise as you watch them so need to be got home quickly and put in fresh water.
Indeedy!,very interesting.

Thank you for posting it.
I shall be impressing them at work today with the history part!

Cheers Dave .I never knew there was a range there.The preservation info should be of use to a few other members too.Tony
Sorry for dragging up a thread from so long ago, but since joining the forum I have been slowly ploughing my way through the posts. I spotted this one earlier on and was intrigued by your mention of Caldicot and Chepstow. I was unaware that any gunnery schools existed in this area.
I have walked (or should I say waded!) the flats at St Johns bay (royal navy gunnery school) many years ago and recovered a great many solid shot balls, which I treated with electrolysis. I left them for six months, with a long rinse period in the toilet cistern. To date, every one has survived.
Can I ask where on the shore is the best place to look? I have family who live in that area, so if I play my cards right I might possibly, maybe, wangle an afternoon in the mud one day.
From memory, its a long way between Caldicot and Chepstow along the foreshore. Any extra pointers would help. Obviously if its a close guarded secret, then no problems.
Do you know where the balls were fired from? I know there was a training school at Portishead on the southern bank, but I didnt think a gunnery school was attached. Also the docks at Chepstow, but again I thought they were repair docks. Both too far from Caldicot for firing purposes any way.
Thanks for your time.