Object of the Month - September 2023

30 September, 2023

French Gun 1.4-inch (Falconet) on a Field Carriage (GUN 1/023)

This small artillery piece came into the Rotunda collection at Woolwich between 1864 and 1889. It was possibly cast in Italy during the seventeenth century for a French client since the muzzle half of the barrel is octagonal in section - a typically French sixteenth century design. Traditionally, gun types of this period were named after birds of prey and a falconet or fauconneau is a young falcon or hawk.

The Falconet was a small gun from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance with the earliest known example dating from 1568 althought they were not listed in any number at the Tower of London until 1589. Firing either a shot of a pound (450 g) or shrapnel such a gun could be used in the field, defending a garrison or even at sea. 

The carriage appears to be of the same period and has several interesting features. There is a swivel upon which the gun is mounted allowing it to turn full circle and the breech has an ornate and very early elevating device. At this time gun barrels were elevated using wooden quoins placed under the breech but in this case the carriage design prevents that option. It was not until General William Belford (1712-1780), Royal Artillery and Woolwich Garrison Commander between 1751 and 1757, probably designing and promoting the use of the elevating screw that wooden quoins declined in use. This carriage was repaired at the Royal Carriage Department in 1862.

Having not been seen by the public for twenty-five years, the unit was recently placed on display at our store in Wood Road for visitors to enjoy during our recent Heritage Open Days.