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What is the tackle for cannons on 1640 era English ships like the Mary Rose?

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I know what the tackle is for the wrought iron cannons that were used on the Mary Rose looks like.

But have not found any drawings of what they used for the bronze and cast iron cannons on the Mary Rose or any other English ships of that time period.


Would it have been of the same type- Just a simple breeching rope going thru rings with no blocks?




I have all of the Books from the Mary Rose Trust  and they do not cover this tackle used for the guns other than the wrought iron ones.


Thanks for any help you can be of.



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If the forces acting on both iron and brass cannons are the same, why would you need different rigging to control those forces. Different carrage types would require rigging adjustments as would changes is size of the piece. Iron or Brass, the rigging doesn't notice. Mark has provided a good source for you to follow up.


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  • 4 years later...

I hope this isn't hijacking a thread, but I'm in a situation where the more I read, the less I know and, unfortunately, Caruana's book is a tad pricey, so I'd appreciate any help you can give me. Specifically, I'm interested in cannon tackles around 1640, and more specifically, the kind of tackles that might have been on the Sovereign of the Seas (1637). I've read Peter Kirch's book "The Galleon", and he not only says guns of this era didn't recoil (which may be an overstatement), but also that they were loaded from the outside of the ship. Similarly, James Sephton in his book on the Sovereign shows a drawing of a gun carriage that had trucks (wheels) on its front, but there is a skid at the back of the carriage. It seems to me that these guns would have been difficult to pull back to load. So, my questions are:

(1) Did guns of the 1640 era have any tackle at all?

(2) If so, what kind of tackle?


Sorry to belabor the point, but I'm at a real loss here. Thanks for any help you can give me.

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Sorry, but I have to throw this one in to you being from Indiana, PA.  I remember some fine times at Patti's (I think on Philadelphia Street) some 50+ years ago when coming in for weekends to visit my then girlfriend (now wife of 50 years.)   



While this is a light gun compared to what is found on Sovereign of the Seas it does show four live or rolling trucks, not two.   https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/36827.html   Drawings of guns in The Restoration Warship by Richard Endsor, which is centered on Lenox (1677), shows drawings with four rolling, or live trucks for demi-cannon on the gun deck and two live trucks and two dead trucks on demi-culverin on the upper deck.  Swan, 1693 had dead trucks and live trucks on small carriages as did one or more of the thirty ships of 1677.   Either way, the guns recoiled and would require a breeching rope, running rigging to bring the gun back into position for firing and rigging to bring them inboard as well when finished being in use.    The model of the 1655 fourth rate at Preble Hall shows that the guns are rigged but I do not have any closeups where one can see the rigging other than the breeching ropes.  The carriages on this model appear to use four live trucks on the upper deck.   The following from John Seller's Sea Gunner's Companion 1691 shows  live trucks but no rigging.  His book may have other drawings with both live and dead trucks.  The book itself may have details on rigging if you can find access to a copy.   Choosing live and/or dead trucks and proper rigging for the 1640 era, hopefully someone here at MSW will have more concrete information.  Sorry this is not at all conclusive, but hopefully will be a little bit of help to you.   





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  • 1 month later...
On 2/11/2020 at 4:34 PM, anaxamander49 said:

but also that they were loaded from the outside of the ship.

The cannons could be loaded from the outside.





A replica, but interesting about the cannons (rigging)




The title of this topic is confusing

The mary rose is from about 1540.

But information is requested about cannons from 1640 ?


After much research I did my 16th century cannons like this :









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Good Evening Bear;


(Anaxamander, this should be of interest to you, especially) 


Before you decide to use a modern style of gun-carriage, do an internet search for gun carriage from the 'London', a 2 1/2 decked ship (no guns in the waist) which blew up in the Thames in 1665. Divers have recovered a contemporary gun-carriage from the remains (which are disappearing fast as it lies right on the edge of a very busy shipping lane) This is very different to an 18th century carriage, and may help you to decide what might have been used.


All the best,


Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Good Evening Everyone;


Further to the query above about the use of tackles, see below excerpts I have just taken from a list of gunner's stores which were remaining in the Triumph when surveyed at the end of a voyage. This is dated 1609, and quite clearly lists both breechings and tackles. Unfortunately it does not give lengths, but I will look further, and see what I can find for other dates. 


The first one is just giving the date (12th September) and vessel:



The second one gives spare truckes  iii pr (3 pairs)

And spare extrees (axletrees) viii (8 I am not sure what the 't' means; it might just be part of the spoken sound 'eight')


And the last one gives Breechinges lix (59) (not sure what the 'e' something means)

And Tackles xxxvi pr (36 pairs)


Her total armament in this survey is given as: 4 cannon perriers; 3 demi-cannon; 19 culverins; 16 demi-culverins; 13 sakers; 4 fowlers; and 8 chambers for them (not sure which guns the chambers were for)


This information is from a record in the National Archives at Kew.


All the best,




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I've just received a copy of McKay's new book on the Sovereign of the Seas. Here is a picture of the gun rigging he proposes. Does that look reasonable?

(Note that the cascabel shown on the gun doesn't seem to look very much like the cascabel's on guns made by John Browne, who made the guns for the Sovereign.)


Charlie T.

Gun Rigging McKay.JPG

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Two train tackles is definitely wrong. The trucks are all the same size also, which I would be very dubious about. Also, when a gun is run out for firing, the train tackle would not be attached. The solid bed of the carriage is quite right, though.


The barrel should be lower in the carriage also. It appears to be sitting much too high. The top of the trunnion was located at the horizontal centre line of the barrel. 


A minor point is that the gun, if fired, would recoil over the rope of the gun-tackle, which, if it was trying to run through the blocks at that moment, would snap the rope like a thread. Tackle falls were laid clear of the recoil path. 


I would also check on whether or not double blocks would be in both ends of the gun tackle. It may well be a single and a double. 


All the best,


Mark P

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I am stuck on the mary rose as well.... so went to the museum to look and see if I could find any holes near the ship gunports that would suggest an attachment for ,say, a pulley system. Nothing obvious from the viewing gallery even when I zoomed in with the camera.... The guns however show a big variation of 'missing stuff' where there's holes in the carriages, so obviously had some ironwork to stop the guns flying around when in a rough sea, and perhaps also for running in and out.

What was also interesting was the damage behind the cartridge area on breech loaders, see the photo... some were just damaged, some had obviously had a metal plate to prevent the wedge damaging the main carriage.


The anatomy of the MR  books suggest a ring on each side with rope being fixed directly to the deck and not adjustable. This would be ok for breech loaders, but I am still bothered about opening and closing the ports, as surely you would want the muzzle outside so the hull isn't filled with smoke? I have added some rings on my model (above) in the position of the holes I saw, and think I will be doing a simple pulley system each side. Plenty of other pulleys on the ship, so it would be 'in period' to think they would want to adjust the position of cannon, and pulleys would make it quite easy compared to brute force manpower only...

Edited by Chidokan
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  • 1 month later...

Hi Bear and Chidokan, as far as I'm aware very little of the cordage from the Mary Rose has survived - certainly there's very little mention of it in any source I've been able to find. I know some of the boarding netting still exists, but apart from that, nada.


IF the attached photos show actual surviving carriages for the bronze guns of the Mary Rose, as I think they do (and these are two different guns with what appear to be identical carriages),


Preserving the Mary Rose | Feature | Chemistry World The Mary Rose on Twitter: "Ours still has the original gun ... 


there are certainly possible attachment points for the tackle.


But I think how it was arranged is mostly a matter of educated guesswork - and there's nobody around who could tell you your reconstruction was wrong (not any more, anyway; they went down with the ship).


By the way, those large cart-wheels on the built-up gun look like a land-based gun was dragooned into serving on board ship. Those wheels seem much more suitable for horse-drawn artillery. Or maybe , as the Lomellina wrecked in southern France in 1516 certainly was, she was carrying the gun as cargo.



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