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Cannon balls

cannon ball 12

CANNON were used during two sieges at Aberystwyth.

THE FIRST TIME the castle was held by the Welsh under Owain Glyndwr and cannon were used, possibly for the first time in Britain by Prince Henry, (Henry V from 1413) who was lord of the castle.

Owain Glyndwr attacked Aberystwyth castle in 1401. He took the town but not the castle which he besieged from May 1402 – November 1404. The 40-50 men who defended the castle were supplied with food and wine by sea. Owain took the Castle in 1404 and signed a treaty with the French there in 1405.

Prince Henry then attacked the castle with siege engines and cannon. The English failed to take the castle and Henry complained that he had to pawn his jewels in order to support the expenses of the siege.

600 men at arms and 1,800 archers were ordered out by the English and nearly £7,000 provided for wages. The stores were collected at Hereford and wood was dispatched from Bristol. The king's 4.5 ton gun was sent down with nearly 600 pounds of powder, 1,000 lbs saltpetre and 300 lbs sulphur. This may have been the gun called 'The Messenger' which exploded when it was fired. A cannon of brass, weighing 2 tons is also said to have burst at the siege.

The occupants of the Castle surrendered to Prince Henry on the 12th September, 1407. He was lenient with the Welsh rebels. He may have thought that this would be better than punishment since he needed them to fight with him particularly in France against the Lollards and at Agincourt.

THE SECOND TIME was during the Civil War when the castle was held by Royalists and besieged by Parliamentary troops from November 1645. The besieging troops left Aberystwyth in January 1646 and returned in March, accompanied by a siege gun and some former Royalists including local men Sir John Vaughan (of Trawscoed) and John Jones, (of Nanteos). The siege ended in April, and the Royalists were allowed to join other Royalists in north Wales.

The surviving cannon balls cannot be dated. It is likely that stone balls were used for the siege in 1405-6, and stone and iron examples between 1645-6. The variety of size and weight suggests that several cannon were used, or that the balls were projected in some other way.

No 10 is of iron. This and the rest of stone examples came from Aberystwyth Castle

No 6 is of iron and lead and came from Newcastle Emlyn

cannon balls
noweightdiameter (cms)catalogue number
14.6 kg14.800.2351B
23.9 kg14.5ABC/D/158 SF055
33.7 kg1400.2351A
4incomplete   ABC/I/036 SF8
52.5 kg1200.2124
65.67 kg11.1-8.51977.7.1
71.11 kg9.1ABC/I/033 SF 10.1
81.27 kg10ABC/I/033 SF8
9 1.27 kg9.5ABC/I/033 SF9
10incompleteABC/W/059 SF116
11incompleteABC/R/09 SF9
129.92             9.0                  2009.23.1