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.
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.