Bar shot conserved at York Conservation Laboratories

Bar shot conserved at York Conservation Laboratories

The latest batch of finds to be returned from York Conservation Laboratories include five unique expanding bar shot. These shot have two bars of iron linked together with a half cannon ball at either end. When closed up the shot is about 400mm long, but when they were fired from the cannon the weight of the half balls at either end cause the shot to spin and expand to their full length of about 800mm. Although there is no documentary evidence for the use of these shot and they have never before been seen it is assumed that the spinning shot would be very destructive to the enemy ship’s rigging and very unpleasant for any of the crew unfortunate enough to be struck by them.

Also included in the consignment is another cannon ball, increasing our tally of these, and a spike shot that has two long protruding spikes on either side of the ball. Again, the purpose of these is unclear, it had been thought that burning cloth might be wound around them and that the spikes would impale the shot and burning cloth to the ships timbers setting them alight, but in trial firing replica shot passed right through two inches of oak timber.

What has surprised us is the wide range of shot that seems to have been developed in the relatively short time between cast iron cannon being developed in the mid 16th century and our ship sinking in 1592.

Other items returned from York include another musket stock and part of its barrel, a pewter spoon and a wooden pully block.

This continues the Alderney Maritime Trust’s policy which is to ensure that every significant object recovered from the wreck is professionally conserved and returned to Alderney where the objects are placed in the care of the Alderney Museum. It must however be stressed that conservation is the most costly part of the Trust’s efforts to maintain a careful watch on the Alderney Elizabethan Wreck site and only to recover what it can afford to conserve.