64-pounder 19th century gun fired by uniformed artillery at Fort Nelson

By Culture24 Reporter | 24 March 2014

A gun first issued to Fort Nelson during the mid-19th century has fired again in a uniformed public display

A photo of people in red and black Victorian uniforms firing huge cannons on a hill
© Royal Armouries
On the Parade at Fort Nelson, one of two mighty 64-pounder guns, dated from their conversion at the Royal Gun Factory in Royal Arsenal in 1875, have been fired by artillery experts dressed in Victorian uniform, welcoming visitors to the ramparts of the 19th century fort.

The chosen smooth-bore gun was fired in three separate sessions on Sunday, accompanied by commentary and questions on weapons described by organisers as “testimony to Victorian resourcefulness.”

“The introduction of new, more accurate and efficient rifled muzzle-loading weapons into British service, in the 1860s, prompted the re-use of the vast stocks of British smooth-bore guns remaining in the artillery,” says Philip Magrath, the Royal Armouries Curator.

“Captain W Palliser introduced his system in 1863 of rifling old cast iron guns - 32-pounders and 8-in shell guns - by boring out the barrel and inserting a coiled, wrought-iron liner, which was rifled with a three-groove system.

“The gun fired a shell, with studs along its side, that fitted into the rifling grooves, allowing the shell to be loaded from the muzzle.  

“Shrapnel or case shot could also be used against enemy troops at short range.

“Many of these guns were issued to forts and here at Fort Nelson formed part of the Victorian armament until early into the 20th century.”

Fort Nelson’s guns are mounted on original carriages with a brake chock – known as Allen’s Brake – to control the recoil force generated by the huge shell.

The Portsdown Artillery Volunteers, who dress as the 2nd Hampshire Volunteer Artillery and are experienced at firing from the fort, carried out the ceremonies.

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