Last week we featured a rather nice Philip and Mary groat, which had been found by Eric Weinrabe. This week we have another of Eric’s finds, which is a miniature cannon barrel. Some idea of its size can be gained by comparing it against the £1 coin in the photograph.
Miniature cannons are unearthed quite regularly by detectorists. Dating varies but I’m of the opinion that most were made and marketed during the second half of the 18th century. They were classed as toys but they could be fired, which adds up to them being at least a nuisance and at worst quite dangerous.
During the 18th century gunpowder was readily available. The powder would be packed into the barrel, a missile inserted and a light or spark added to the touch hole, which would ignite the power in the barrel. Children who could afford to buy one of these cannons and the necessary gunpowder must have thought it hilarious when a missile they fired hit an adult. Many children would have got a good clip round their ear and have had their cannons confiscated.
In 25 years of detecting I’ve found three of these things. One is intact but the other two have half the barrel missing. The damage to the barrels might have been done whilst the cannons were in the soil or could have occurred when a barrel exploded instead of firing a missile.
Eric’s cannon barrel is intact and in good condition. As I’ve already said, they aren’t scarce but as this one is a reasonably good example I’d give it a price range of £20 – £30.