Below is Don scotts excellent article on the walker  cannons,

Reproduced here with permiission


After early foundry experiments begun in the village of Grenoside near Sheffield in 1741, the brothers, Samuel, Jonathan and Aaron Walker with a cousin, John Crawshaw moved their small iron making business to Masborough, Rotherham This move in 1746 was calculated to take full advantage of the nearby canal system which had access to the sea and thereby to many other convenient waterways and delivery points. In those days before the development of railway systems it was the only feasible method of regular transportation for large volume, heavy iron products. The new business of Messrs. Samuel Walker & Co. quickly blossomed and was soon to become involved in the manufacture of special castings, which would have far reaching effects for the future of this Country on both land and sea.

Weapons of War
By the year 1774 an additional site at Holmes was being developed for the casting of iron guns (cannon) in the form of a new casting house, two boring houses, three air furnaces, etc. The Company, with access to both coal and iron ore in the immediate vicinity, coupled with its new facility was perfectly placed to take full advantage of the recently brewing conflict which was to become known as the American War of Independence (1775-1783). Debentures for guns in that first year amounted to just 40 tons rising to 1220 tons by 1781 and then reducing dramatically as the war came to an end. From then it would seem that a steady order for guns was received along with ever increasing demands for improved quality due to the development of ever more powerful gun powders. Production was carried on in Rotherham up until the year 1820 when the Company moved its cannon manufacturing business to a new site in Staffordshire.

Cannon manufactured in Rotherham are very easy to identify providing they still retain the special marks placed on them during the casting process. On the end face of the left Trunnion (looking in the direction of fire) will be found the mark ‘WCo’ which stands for Walker & Company. On top of the barrel and just behind what is called the second reinforce will be found the Royal Cypher of George III who died in 1820. This was the same year in which production came to an end at Rotherham so any Walker cannon found with a George IV cypher will have been produced at the Gospel Oaks Works, Tipton, Staffordshire. Other marks to be found are the casting number on the end face of the right Trunnion, the weight of the gun in Hundredweights, Quarters and Stones (the old Imperial Measure) on the lower part of the breech end (cascabel) of the barrel. There will also be found a broad Government arrow stamp and various notches in the barrel, the latter being used by the gunners for the purpose of ranging the gun onto its target.

Nelson's Navy
Naval and Garrison examples of Walker cannon can be found scattered around the world in those parts which made up the old British Empire and elsewhere but the most notable ones are those alongside “HM.S. Victory” now on permanent display in Portsmouth Dockyard. On an account of ordinance dated 1808 in the Public Records Office, 79 of the 105 guns aboard the “Victory” are listed as having the Walker mark. This coupled with other evidence suggests that, of all the cannon used on HM. Ships in the “Battle of Trafalgar”, up to twentyfive percent or more may have been cast in Rotherham. Further research of documents (Adm 160/154) held at the above establishment should prove this claim.
Champion's of Rotherham
In recent times, two men have been prominent in reminding the people of Rotherham of the town's prestigious history in respect of cannon manufacture. These are Mr. James L. Ferns and Mr. Denis F. Grayson, the former having moved to the Chesterfield area some years ago and the latter, now sadly passed on. It is to men like these that Rotherham owes a debt for bringing to light a part of this town's history that should always remain a source of pride in the past and inspiration for the future. Pride in the past is something that some towns and cities such as York have thrived on for many years. The secret is in retention of past endeavour in all its various forms and York has done this particularly well with regard to architecture and now flourishes with a strong tourist trade.
Heraldic Pride
Mr. Fern's interest in cannon was stirred when he first came to live in Rotherham in 1962 as a District Manager for the Yorkshire Electricity Board. He noticed that three cannon on a shield which featured on the town's old Corporate Seal of 1871 had not found a place in the design for a new Coat-of-Arms instigated in 1946. The explanation given to him was that a lapse of 127 years in cannon manufacture made it inappropriate for any continued claim to fame in that respect. However, on inspection of the new Coat-of-Arms there will be found a bishops mitre which is doubtless a reference to the high office ascended by one of this towns more famous sons, Thomas Rotherham (formerly Scott) who rose to a number of high office positions including Chancellor of England. This prestigious achievement should always be retained as a source of pride in the towns past but the event predated cannon manufacture by some three centuries and therefore by the ‘new rules’ should have also been excluded from the new design. The truth is of course that, having been chosen as a worthy element for the original 1871 Seal, to exclude it from any new design was at best the sweeping away of an important source of pride in Rotherham’s past endeavour. A very good example of the old design, incidentally, can be seen on the facing of Grafton Bridge which spans the River Don at the junction of St Anne’s Road and Rawmarsh Road. In his research Mr. Ferns went on to discover the means by which a Walker cannon could be identified and created a list of places where examples of these guns could be found. He had previously read a letter held in Sheffield Libraries and written by an expert on cannon, a Major J.G.D. Elvin, that a number of cannon aboard “HMS Victory” (Nelson's Flagship at the famous Battle of Trafalgar) have the mark ‘WCo’ on their trunnions. This was the first reference found that connected the abbreviation mark with the Walker Company of Rotherham.
It should be noted that the cannon now to be seen on the decks of “H.M.S. Victory” are wooden replicas and only those immediately surrounding her on the dockside are real. As a matter of interest, it was common practice to remove guns from the decks of wooden ships that needed dry dock facilities for maintenance. Under normal circumstances, the strain of the weight of guns acting on a wooden hull (200 tons on the “Victory”) was counteracted by the displacement pressure of water acting upon the hull when the ship was afloat. If the guns were left on board when a ship entered a dry dock facility there was some risk of distortion and fracture of the hull timbers when the water surrounding the ship was pumped out, hence their removal before draining the dock. Although “HMS Victory” is now in a dry dock situation, it has been possible to give an idea of what the ship looked like with her full compliment of guns aboard by using much lighter wooden replicas.

“H.M.S. Weazle”   
In the very early hours of a stormy February morning in 1799 “H.M.S. Weazle”, a 200 ton Brig, sank below the waves after having struck rocks off the North Devon coast. She was lost with all 105 crew members and a woman believed to be an illegal stowaway. Also on board the ship were a number of cannon, one of which was to come to the attention of Mr. Denis Grayson, a Rotherham businessman, who was later to own a premisis on the original site of the Walker foundry at Masborough. In the early 1970s he heard that the wreck was now being explored by a group of divers and negotiated with them to raise a 2 pounder gun which had the ‘WCo’ mark on the trunnion. By 1976, after restoration work, the cannon was temporarily displayed in the newly opened Library and Arts Centre in Rotherham after having been the subject of local television publicity. Up until his death in the early 90s Denis remained very enthusiastic about the cannon in his possession and promoted that part of Rotherhams proud past by means of giving talks on the subject and showing films which he had produced himself to record the project.

Cannon of the Walker type were made of cast iron and, being a one peice unit, had to be cast in a single pour into an upright mould. Successful castings were allowed a number of days to cool and then bored out to the correct calibre and touch holes drilled. The process was highly skilled but rigorous inspection and testing could still result in many reject pieces. The weight by which they could be identified was a reference to the size of standard shot which could be fired from the barrel and it can be said with some certainty that the range produced at the Rotherham works included 2,6,9,12,18,24 and 32 pounders. These weapons were supplied to both land and sea services where they were fitted to carriages ranging from all cast parts (garrison) to all wood (sea service).

Use (sea service)
The larger warships of the Nelson period, in their day, were awesome in their fire power and the lower gun decks must have been especially terrifying places to be in the midst of battle. The heat, smoke, noise, smell and carnage can only be imagined but through all this the gunners kept to a disciplined firing routine even if all about them was falling apart.

1. With the loaded gun in the forward firing position, the muzzle protudes through the gun port. The gun captain pulls the lanyard to fire the flintlock mechanism which in turn ignites the main charge and the gun is fired.

2. The explosion in the barrel hurls the shot out of the gun and on to the target but there is also a massive counter force which causes the gun to move backwards (recoil). This force is partially cushioned as the ropes run out the side tackle blocks but the gun is finally restrained in the fully recoiled position by the breeching rope which is a loop fixed at both ends to the gun port sides and passing through the ring above the button on the cascabel.

3. When the gun comes to rest in this rearward position the various members of the crew go through a disciplined reloading sequence. With special implements, the bore is cleaned and made safe for reloading and the pre-packed charge (cartridge), shot and wadding are rammed home. At the same time the gun captain, pushes a wire spike down the touch hole (vent) so as to pierce the flannel lined cartridge and priming powder is poured into the vent.

4. The crew haul the gun forward from the recoil/reloading position into the firing position and it is once again ready to fire.

This is a simplified description of the sequence of events as there are a number of activities being conducted by various members of the crew to ensure that the gun continues to fire. For instance a team of small agile boys, popularly known as powder monkeys, ran constantly between the powder magazine and their respective gun decks to ensure that the gun crews were well supplied with cartridges.

Heritage Lost ?
There are now no traces above ground of the Walker Company manufacturing sites in Rotherham but there must surely be archaeological evidence below. On these sites and others such as Templeborough (Roman Fort) and Swinton Potteries (Rockingham Porcelain), there are still clues awaiting discovery that will allow for at least some interpretation of Rotherham’s proud past.

Where to find examples of Walker Cannon.
British Isles: Carlisle; Chatham Dockyard; Deal Castle; Dumbarton Castle; Eastney; Edinburgh Castle; Fort George, nr.Inverness, Guernsey, Lowestoft, Pendennis Castle, Portsmouth Museum and “HMS Victory”, Royal Citadel, Plymouth, Redhill, Rotherham, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, St. Mawes Castle, Southsea Castle, Steep Holme Island, Stirling Castle, Tilbury Castle, Tower of London and Thames Embankment, Woolacombe, Woolwich Arsenal & Harbour, etc. There must be many more to be discovered.

Overseas: Australia, Canada, U.S.A., West Indies, St. Helena and probably many other places where the old British Empire had some influence. Once again they await discovery.

Information Welcome
Staff at the Museum in Clifton Park, Rotherham, would be pleased to receive further evidence of the existence of Walker Cannon. Photographs taken and/or information collected by travellers both at home and abroad of those mentioned above, or new discoveries, would be most welcome additions to the record. Walker Cannon are also believed to have been depicted on a Canadian dollar minted for St. Andrews, New Brunswick, in 1976 and also on postage stamps although details of the latter have not yet come to light. Further information on either of these would be most welcome.

The Walker Cannon in front of the Town Hall
This example was ‘discovered’ in a scrap yard at Ashford, Kent,(1995). It is a 9 Pounder (the weight of the shot), almost 8 feet (240cm) long and weighs approximately 1.25 tons. The wooden ‘Sea Service’ carriage is a replica produced in Cornwall,(1996). The ‘in service’ history of this gun is unknown but the calibre was common on board Frigates of the period. Marks on the barrel (now filled) made it obvious that it had been used as a dockside bollard after decommissioning. Look for replicas of this type of bollard in All Saints Square, Rotherham, each complete with imitation cannon ball on top. Finally, examples of Walker Cannon may be found on historical sites in many parts of this country and abroad. The next time you are on holiday make it a ‘voyage of discovery’. If you find any cannon, see if you can spot the tell tale signs that might enable you to say with pride - "That cannon was made in Rotherham "

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