Ancient cannon goes on show at Sheringham Museum after years spent as a garden ornament
PUBLISHED: 09:38 01 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:10 01 November 2018
An ancient coastguard's cannon used to launch lifesaving equipment to those in difficulty at sea has gone on show at Sheringham Museum, after being kept for decades as a garden ornament.
Dating back to the early 1800s, the ‘Manby mortar’ cannon was invented by Captain George Manby, of Great Yarmouth, who was also the first to come up with a design for a portable fire extinguisher.
By the time of Manby’s death in Gorleston in 1854, it was estimated that around 1,000 lives had been saved by the device.
It was designed to fire a shot to shore with a line attached and was used by HM Coastguard to rescue crew from wrecked ships.
The Sheringham cannon was kept at the town’s coastguard cottage on the seafront, although museum director Tony Sadler has doubts it was ever put to use.
“Because it would have taken up to six men to carry down to the beach, it could not have been very practical, but it is still a fascinating bit of history,” he said.
After being donated to the museum by the owners of the cottage, who had kept it on display on their lawn, the cannon was moved the 100 or so yards along the promenade to the museum by a team of Sheringham carnival volunteers.
It will now undergo a restoration programme before going on display alongside a second cannon found in 2010, 12 miles off the coast.
Thought to have been made in Malaysia in the mid to late 1700s, the 7ft cannon, which was brought to the surface encrusted with a thick layer of iron, sand and seashell, was restored with the help of a £6,000 grant from Sheringham Shoal Community Fund.
It was recently given its own display area after the museum commissioned Cromer carpenter Serge Polloni to make a replica carriage from wood cut at Gunton Sawmill.
Working from drawings based on a gun carriage from HMS Victory, Mr Polloni created the stand from nearly 50kg of English oak.
Mr Sadler, who has been involved with the museum for nearly 30 years and has led a number of restoration projects, said: “We are very pleased to have both cannons, they are an important part of the town’s history.”
Sheringham Museum is now closed until the spring, but will open on November 10 and 11 as part of the town’s programme of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Entry to the museum, including the Lest We Forget exhibition, is free on both days.