A much more modern bucket

We went on the Japanese mini submarine tour around Sydney Harbour last week, run by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The tour included a visit to Fort Denison, in the Fort museum was this bucket.

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Bucket, leather, c1858
Made by the Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich, England


The Fort Denison collection has three surviving leather buckets, which arrives in the Martello Tower at the same time as the leather canisters. The buckets played an important role in the firing of the guns, as they held the water needed by the spongeman.

To reload the gun after a round had been fired the spongeman took his long spongestaff, wetted the sponge which was on the end of it with water from the bucket, and thrust it down the bore of the gun. This was done to quence any smouldering fragments of power which might have remained in the bore.

Acc Number 2008.54

Firmly dated to the middle of the 19th century, it is almost indistinguishable from the 18th century riveted buckets in Cawdor Castle, Cotehele House and HMS Victory The sewn buckets seem to have stopped in the middle of the 18th century, for example the bucket from the wreck of HMS Invincible (1801) dated 1758.

The main innovation seems to be the use of buckles on the handle to provide some additional flexibility. Here’s some other angles, click on them to embiggen.

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International Museum of Leather Craft

IMOLC have recently discovered that they don’t own the collection of jacks, bombards and bottels that they’ve had on display in the old museum for the past 70 years. They have until the start of March to crowdfund £33000 otherwise the collection will be broken up and sold off.   For details, see IMOLC’s blog post.

blackjacks

A small part of the collection

Watling Court bombard

Watling Court Bombard in the MoL (Photo: MoL Blog)

The Watling Court Bombard was found, oddly enough, in a dig at Wattling Court. The London Archaeological Archive catalogue gives the dimensions as 240mm high and 150mm wide at the maximum point. Allowing for the handle, that makes it roughly about a two quarts (2.4l), or maybe a little larger. Period is given as 1066-1485 from the find context, from the shape of the body and handle, I’d put it at the later end of that range. A 15th century carving on the Buttery Hatch at New College (pictured in Baker on p91) is a good match. The shape is more globose than the ones I’ve done, but is the sort of shape that lends itself to use of the “puzzle mould” for shaping.

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Puzzle mould for bombard, photo by Peter Adams

I haven’t been able to find any views of the base, so I can’t say how many layers there are between the base and the side. The back seam stitching up through the handle is missing and the welt piece has gone, but there must have been at least one layer in the handle and back as well.

Watling Court Bombard line drawing.

 


Further Reading

Baker, Oliver, Black Jacks and Leather Bottells, 1925, privately published

The MoL line drawing is taken from
English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products
edited by John Blair & Nigel Ramsay, A&C Black, 1991 p312