The English Civil War is an event that has been celebrated in the British Isles most notably for the fundamental change it wrought in the process of government. However, the author Christopher Hill called his book on the subject The World Turned Upside Down and to many people who lived through the war it must have appeared that their own world was indeed turned upside down. Many of the towns and villages of the country were razed by one side or the other, while financial extortion, religious polarization and upheaval were the order of the day. Militarily, it was a long drawn out affair in which the Parliamentarian faction gained the upper hand only after several years of bitter conflict. It achieved this by imposing new forms of discipline and organization on its armies and establishing them under one authority as the New Model Army. Most military forces during the period were normally composed of infantry, cavalry and artillery. At the beginning of the war it was clear that artillery was to play a significant part in this conflict, which was so heavily weighted in favour of the siege. Both Royalist and Parliamentarian factions raced to control ordnance stores in places such as London and Hull. Once control was gained, the use of such ordnance could be decisive in the siege warfare that later developed. This book is intended to give the reader an overview of the types of weapon used in this conflict and, as importantly, as clear a picture as possible of how artillery might have been used in the 17th century.
A collection of bronze and iron guns in the Army Museum in Vienna. The wrought iron breech-loaders at the left are almost exactly the same construction as those found in coastal waters in Britain and have been attributed to the 17th century. (Author's photograph)
It is a simple matter to divide the types of artillery into two categories, that is, field and siege artillery. Field artillery was considered light enough to he drawn into a battle and deployed there. We could divide the field guns into two further groups, defined by the type of gun: positional, or those that were placed in the battle line but not moved, and mobile, those that attended the infantry and moved with it. The use of field artillery is a somewhat controversial affair since several writers have claimed that it was of limited use on the battlefield. Siege artillery was too heavy to be used in the field and had to be transported specifically to a siege by a very large artillery train consisting of wagons, animals and all of the personnel to go with them.
The majority of guns used during the English Civil War were cast in bronze, a mixture of copper and tin, or iron. In the reign of Henry VIII the Weald area of Sussex had become the centre for the production of reliable cast iron guns and Britain had become a leader in iron gun production, so much so that she was able to export weapons to the Continent, where English guns had become the preferred military item. By the middle of the 17th century, however, this situation had changed. From 1629 English guns were no longer as widely available owing to an energy shortage in the Weald area. The serious deforestation involved in burning wood for charcoal had to be restricted and the Dutch, ever with an eye to trade, saw their opportunity to introduce guns cast in Sweden under the direction of Dutch merchants. These guns were known as finbankers and it is likely that many found their way into the armies of both sides during the Civil War.
Bronze guns were widely available and many famous English founders supplied them to both sides. Foremost amongst these was John Browne of Brenchley, Horsmonden, in Kent. He was the son of Thomas Browne and was granted a monopoly for casting guns for the navy in 1614. He became a royal gunfounder in 1618 and initially served Charles I but was then ordered by Parliament to cast guns for them during the
A small minion in the armoury of the Grand Palace at Valetta, Malta. The carriage may well be original and the carriage construction bears a close resemblance to those weapons used with infantry units in the Civil War.
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