Is this 200-year-old cannon still loaded? Experts at Cardiff University aim to …

IT lay undisturbed under layers of sand on a popular South Wales beach for an estimated two centuries.

But this ship’s cannon, which could still be loaded, is set to start giving up its secrets as students at Cardiff University begin a painstaking preservation process.

The larger cannon is set to be restored at
Porthcawl Museum

The five-foot iron swivel cannon was found alongside a larger cannon, the muzzle of another cannon, a cannon ball, coins and a button at Rest Bay, Porthcawl, in January 2014 after severe storms stripped feet of sand off the beach uncovering the treasure underneath.

The items were rescued and have been cared for and kept in water by Porthcawl Museum.

But now conservation students are set to begin removing the rocks, sand and other so-called concretions stuck to the swivel cannon and the cannon muzzle in a bid to find out what they contain and exactly where they came from.

“We are delighted to have negotiated this partnership with Porthcawl Museum and to be taking the cannon on the next stage of its journey,” said Jane Henderson, of Cardiff University’s department of archaeology and conservation.

Jane Henderson, centre, of Cardiff University and Porthcawl Museum’s head of archaeology Martin Little, right, delivering the cannon to the PhD students who will be carrying out the work

“To make it stable and presentable we have to remove the encrustations that disfigure the surface (making it look a bit like a Twiglet) and get the seawater out.

“If we were just to dry it in the sun, the salt left from the seawater would quickly eat away at the metal core leading to huge cracks and the surface breaking off. So we will wash the cannon in a bath of chemicals to neutralise the effects of the salt and remove the encrustations with a mini pneumatic pen.”

‘It’s pretty exciting and pretty rare’

The larger cannon is set to be restored at Porthcawl Museum.

“It’s pretty exciting and pretty rare,” said Martin Little, Porthcawl Museum’s head of archaeology, who has been doing the detective work to discover the origins of both cannon and other items, all of which were discovered by members of the public.

He said particularly rare is the wooden tampion or bung in the end of the muzzle, which suggests the cannon were loaded ready to fire. This will pose a unique challenge for the students, as they will have to use different conservation methods for the wood and the iron.

‘If we could date the button, we could date the
cannon and date the ship’

Martin said they believed the cannon came from a British troop ship which sank off Sker Point, near Porthcawl in 1798 on its way to Ireland to quell the rebellion.

But he said a solitary, tiny button discovered attached to the larger cannon could put a hole in that theory.

“It was hoped that the button would be legible enough to read which regiment it came from,” he said.

‘The button is absolutely tiny, but if we can unlock those secrets that’s half the story told’

“Unfortunately it’s not legible, but we are working on it. But there’s some letters on the front which would possibly mean that the button is newer than 1798, which would make the wreck 1800s not late 1700s.

“Or it could also be that we have a unique button, a button that has not been found before.

“We have been doing quite a bit of research on the uniforms and buttons of that period. We might have something unique.

“If we could date the button, we could date the cannon and date the ship.

“The button is absolutely tiny, but if we can unlock those secrets that’s half the story told.”

Martin said the whole preservation process could take between five and 10 years, but he hopes to establish a blog detailing the work begin undertaken by the university.

He also hopes that in the future the public may be able to view the restoration work being done on the larger cannon at Porthcawl Museum.

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/200-year-old-cannon-still-loaded-experts-9083733