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Charles Hanson, the owner of Hansons Auctioneers, holding the 600-year-old medieval hand cannon. 	Source: Hansons Auctioneers

Garden Rockery Decorative Piece Turns Out to Be Rare 600-Year-Old Hand Cannon!

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A seemingly ordinary cannon purchased for a mere £20 ($25) from a flea market in Hertfordshire, England, and repurposed as a decorative piece for a garden rockery has turned out to be a valuable medieval artifact! The unsuspecting owner, unaware of its true historical significance, was left dumbfounded when auctioneers revealed that the bronze gun powder weapon was a rare 600-year-old hand cannon dating back to the 1400s, worth thousands of pounds.

A Steal of a Find!

This cylindrical ‘scrap metal’ discovery has captured the attention of history enthusiasts and collectors alike, reports NY Post. On June 15, the hand cannon, previously acquired for a nominal price, was auctioned by Hanson’s Auctioneers, with an estimated value of £2,000-£3,000 ($2,500-$3,750). It went under the hammer at £2,000 ($2500), more than 100 times the cannon's purchase price at the flea market.

Considered to be one of the first true firearms, the hand cannons date back to the 13th century. (Hansons)

Considered to be one of the first true firearms, the hand cannons date back to the 13th century. (Hansons)

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said:

“It’s a rockery rocket of a find! The bronze hand cannon was brought at a flea market in Hertfordshire for less than £20. The seller was unaware of its true context and added it to their rockery as a decorative touch. When we came to assess it properly, we were amazed.”

The origins of the artifact remain shrouded in mystery, including how it came into the hands of the seller in the first place. Traces of soil residue found inside suggest that it may have been unearthed at some point, adding to its story.

This rare find was purchased for $20 and then sold for $2,500 at auction. (Hansons)

This rare find was purchased for $20 and then sold for $2,500 at auction. (Hansons)

Hand Cannons in History

Hand cannons, like this played a pivotal role in the development of firearms during the Middle Ages. Originally used in China from the 13th century onward, these weapons found their way to the battlefields of Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. The earliest recorded use of this type of gun powder weapon can be traced back to around 1330 when two mounted German knights employed it.

Subsequently, by 1340, hand cannons were in widespread use in France. The first English reference to a handheld firearm dates back to the early 15th century, solidifying its prominence in medieval warfare, reports Hansons.

Hand cannons were commonly used in China from the 13th century onwards. They were introduced onto the battlefields of Europe in the 14thand 15th centuries.  (Hansons)

Hand cannons were commonly used in China from the 13th century onwards. They were introduced onto the battlefields of Europe in the 14 thand 15th centuries.  (Hansons)

“It’s a heavy, triple-ring cast cannon. This type of weapon was seen in late medieval Europe around 1400-1450. It was the first true small weapon of its kind, the most mechanically simple form of a metal-barrel firearm. Perhaps it was used by a knight in shining armor. In more than 20 years in the antiques business I have never seen one like it. Until now, my only knowledge of late medieval hand cannons has come from reading about them in reference books,” explained Hanson.

Historical Significance of the Hand Cannon

The hand cannon's historical significance extends far beyond its value as a decorative object. It represents a turning point in the evolution of weaponry, marking the transition from traditional forms of warfare to the era of firearms, reports Talker News. These portable firearms offered a newfound power on the battlefield, forever altering the course of military strategies.

Traditional methods of warfare, which heavily relied on formations and hand-to-hand combat, had to be adapted to accommodate the use of firearms. Soldiers began to employ new strategies that integrated the use of cannons, considering factors such as reloading time, accuracy, and effective range.

“It really is a remarkable find. Originally this cannon would have been mounted on wood with a powder bag and ram rod. It evolved to become a match-lock firearm with trigger. It’s incredible to think this historical treasure ended up in a rockery. We will never know how the original seller discovered it but, looking at remnants of soil on the cannon, we suspect it may have been dug up,” concluded Charles.

Top image: Charles Hanson, the owner of Hansons Auctioneers, holding the 600-year-old medieval hand cannon. Source: Hansons Auctioneers

By Sahir Pandey

References

Dutton, A. 2023. 600-year-old medieval hand cannon set to sell for thousands. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/600-year-old-medieval-hand-cannon-set-to-sell-for-thousands/ar-AA1cxZKy?li=BBnbfcL.

GNN. 2023. Garden Ornament Bought for $20 at Flea Market is Actually a Medieval Hand Cannon and Sells for Thousands. Available at: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ornament-bought-for-20-at-flea-market-is-a-medieval-hand-cannon/.

Hansons. 2023. “Medieval cannon turns up in garden rockery – and it could blow up bidding at auction”. Available at: https://hansonsauctioneers.co.uk/medieval-cannon-turns-up-in-garden-rockery-and-it-could-blow-up-bidding-at-auction/

Reilly, P. 2023. Piece of metal bought as garden decoration turns out to be medieval hand cannon. Available at: https://nypost.com/2023/06/18/piece-of-metal-bought-as-garden-decoration-turns-out-to-be-medieval-hand-cannon/.

 
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Sahir

I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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