Above Cannon presented to History Society
/ Steve & Neville with Prince Phillip having won
the "Highly Recommended" category
in the BSAC Jubilee Trust Duke of Edinburgh Prize.
Table of Contents
diving the site.
Wrecks on the site.
work on the site.
pictures and sketches.
future projects on the site.
photographs on cannon site.
pictures of the team at work training in Torbay & on
In the late sixties /early
seventies, Neville Oldham and Tony Almer discovered
seven cannons located on the sea bed in about 6 metres
of water in the small bay at the mouth of the River
Dart, below Kingswear Castle. The general opinion from
local historians was that the cannon had been thrown
from the Castle.
Over the years, the site was dived
by a few divers and rumours abounded about a sword,
pottery and onion-shaped glass bottles being found.
Unfortunately, the only object I have been able to
confirm is that of a sword which was in such a bad state
that it could not be conserved.
In 1992, as part of a project of
recording cannon sites in the sea along the South Devon
coast, with the assistance of members of Totnes BSAC, we
carried out a preliminary survey and located and
recorded seven cannon. Unfortunately, we were unable to
return and carry out any further work on the site due to
pressure of work on other sites but have kept a watching
eye on the site since.
A young local diver, Chris Reaves,
who was very active in the area at the time, announced
in the press that he was going to lift one of the
cannons and present it to the town.
The cannon was raised in 1999 and
put in a conservation tank at St Barnabas Church,
Newcomen Road, Dartmouth, in a solution of caustic soda
under the supervision of Mr. Bob Trevatt MBE, who was an
antique furniture restorer and a conservation
specialist. It was examined by an historian, who put its
date around 1690AD
The cannon stayed in his Bob
Trevatt’s care and Neville would visit it at least four
times a year to monitor its condition, and occasionally
also taking Lecturer, Dave Parham, and his students from
Bournemouth University to look at it.
In the spring of 2005, when driving
past St Barnabas Church, Neville observed that Midas
Construction was proposing to convert the church into a
school and flats. Neville approach the Site Agent and
asked him when they proposed to start work on the
project. He informed Neville that they would be starting
the following Monday and if he wanted to save the
cannon, he would have to move it before they started or
it would be dumped. With the good offices of RGC
Building Services and Chris Jay of Cornworthy, Neville
was able to get the Cannon moved to Cornworthy and put
it in a passive conservation tank.
While moving the cannon, we
discovered the figures “1577” inscribed in the first
field of the cannon, which we took to be possibly the
Also, inscribed are the figures “14-1-0”, which
stands for its weight, i.e. 14 cwt 1 quarter (28lb)
zero lb. Colin Carpenter, the leading expert on
ordnance, looked at the cannon and he has confirmed that
it was Elizabethan and a very rare example. However, he
advised that the cannon required more conservation and
was very doubtful if it could be conserved satisfactory.
With the help of the local parish
council, Kingswear Historical Society and Darthaven
Marina, the cannon has been painted and mounted on a new
gun carriage. Following a ceremony where all attended,
it is now situated in the car park at Kingswear.
Kingswear Parish Council
Kingswear Historical Society
Kew Records Office
Exeter Records Office
Dartmouth Harbour Office
This site does not have any
protected wreck status
This report looks at the history of
Dartmouth in order to try and establish where these
cannons came from. During our diving and research,
did discover that there has been a lot of shipping
activity in the area of Kingswear Castle and this has
given us some clues as the how these
cannon might have
found their resting place. Our objectives, plans and
approach have been included in the report.
A site plan has been created
showing the layout of the cannons and also includes
other artefacts found in the immediate area.
Included are various images of the
cannon and the team at work.
The objectives of this project were
Locate and identify what
was left of the cannon site and produce a site survey.
Research what ships sank
in the area and get some idea of how they came to be
Train a number of divers
in marine archaeology.
The plan is to try and establish whether or not this is a wreck or
We will research the state papers in
order to identify the ships that had sunk in the area.
We will then carry out a magnetometer
site survey of the
site in order establish the area of the site to be
surveyed. The site survey will be done by placing a shot
line at the
centre of the site and, using a circular
sweep, measure the location of the cannons and their
orientation. This will be followed by a search
the cannons using underwater metal detectors.
As the majority of the divers
involved had not been trained in marine archaeology,
various theory and practical sessions
were given to 10
of the divers during the project. They all plan to
follow this up with NAS courses during the summer.