On the cannon ball trail

Not all metal items are found by metal detectorists. This cannon ball was found by people grubbing out unwanted plants in a hedgerow at the back of a garden on Spin Hill.

Cannon Ball found under a hedge in a Spin Hill garden

Cannon Ball found under a hedge in a Spin Hill garden

Whoops, a bit of a failure of photography in that you can’t read the ruler. But you can see this is a hefty hunk of iron and if we balance the ruler on top of the cannon ball then you can see its size.

With this size it looks to be a 12 pounder

With this size it looks to be a 12 pounder

It’s four and a bit inches which, we think, makes this a twelve pounder.


The person who dug it up reckoned it lay a good two feet under ground.


We know very little, of course, about this cannon ball. We can’t date it but can speculate that balls of this size were in use in the English civil war and we are only a few miles from the site of the Battle of Roundway Down. But we are too far away for it to have been a misplaced shot and we know nothing of any nearer skirmishes. So how it found its way to Spin Hill is even more mysterious than its age.

Have any historians any idea?

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3 Responses to “On the cannon ball trail”

  1. Pam Ley Says:

    I’m no historian but have been told by someone who is, that the reason a church tower is a specific height is because metal was thrown from the top into water below to make cannon balls. It was just the correct right to get the correct shape. This copied cutting is not from the uk but suggests that what I have heard is correct although my informant was talking specifically about cannonballs.

    “In days of old, shot for rifles was made in the “Shot Tower.” Molten lead was dropped from the top of the tower into a vat of water at the bottom. The lead droplets, like raindrops, would form into perfect spheres, cool and solidify as they fell into the cooling water vat below.”

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      Hi Pam

      ‘Days of old’ would not have been that long ago in our uk terms for the shot tower process was invented in 1784.

      The cannon ball we have is made of iron. We’d have serious doubts about the idea of melting iron at the top of church towers. As we understand it – but always ready to be wrong – cannonballs were cast. Most, including the one we have, have a flat surface which was at the opening into the mould. In some cases the mould seam can be seen as well.



      PS – there are a couple of shot towers still existing in Bristol.

  2. Pam Ley Says:

    Makes a lot more sense in getting the correct shape with a smaller quantity to fall as well Rog!
    The person who told me is a qualified archeologist, when I see him next I’ll ask more details.

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