Testimony to Victorian resourcefulness - Friday, 18 October 2013
Uniformed gunners from the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers will fire one of the mightiest guns in the Royal Armouries’ national collection next Sunday (October 27) – of the type mounted on Fort Nelson’s spectacular ramparts.
The volunteers, dressed in Victorian uniforms, will fire a Rifled, Muzzle-Loading (RML) 64-pounder gun at 12 noon and 2pm at the Victorian fort, in the latest of Royal Armouries’ free feature gun firings.
With an extreme range of 4,000-yards, this gun was converted to its current format in 1875 at the Royal Gun Factory, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.
The design modification followed the introduction of new, more accurate and efficient RML weapons into British service in the 1860s. In turn, this prompted the re-use of the vast stocks of British smooth-bore guns, remaining in the artillery.
Royal Armouries’ Keeper of Artillery Nicholas Hall, explained, “Captain W Palliser introduced a system in 1863 of rifling old cast-iron guns [32 pounders and 8-inch shell guns] by boring out the barrel and inserting a coiled wrought-iron liner, which was then rifled with a three-groove system.
“The gun fired a projectile with studs along its sides that fitted into the rifling grooves and this system allowed the shell to be loaded from the muzzle. Shrapnel or case shot could also be used against enemy troops at short range.”
In a fine example of Victorian “recycling” and inventiveness, these converted guns could also be conveniently mounted on their original smoothbore period carriages.
Today, Two 64 pounder RMLs can be seen on Fort Nelson’s ramparts. The example that will be fired on Sunday is mounted on an original Victorian carriage and has the additional feature of a brake chock, known as ‘Allen’s Brake’ to control the extra recoil force generated by the heavier shell.
Fort operations manager Nigel Hosier added, “The demonstration will be followed by a chance for visitors to inspect the gun, and to ask the volunteer gunners for more information, and questions. Museum admission and parking are free and Fort Nelson provides a fascinating day out for all the family.”
Standing high on Portsdown Hill near Fareham, Fort Nelson showcases one of the world’s finest collections of artillery and cannon, from across the ages and from all corners of the globe.
In 2011, this unique heritage attraction underwent a £3.5m redevelopment to create a museum for the 21st century, supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, complete with new galleries, state-of-the-art education centre and visitor facilities.
For more information and the latest news about Fort Nelson and the Royal Armouries:
Notes to editors
- Royal Armouries is the national museum of arms and armour and has sites in Leeds, HM Tower of London, Fort Nelson and Louisville, Kentucky. It is the first British national museum to open a permanent presence in another country
- Admission to the museum is free. However, there may be a small charge for some special events.
- Open all year daily, 10am-5pm. Closed 24-25 December
- Information Line: 0113 220 1999
- Website: www.royalarmouries.org
- The Royal Armouries Museum should not be confused with Royal Armouries International plc, the private sector corporate hospitality business.
To find Fort Nelson, follow the brown Tourist signs from the M27. The Fort is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm.