Chronology-Nationality-Identity – Key Artefacts 2017-09-04T08:26:16+00:00

– CHRONOLOGY, NATIONALITY & IDENTITY –

KEY ARTEFACTS

The firearms and their accessories, the heavy ordnance, the style of armour, the bladed weapons, the pewter ware and especially the pottery put the wreck somewhere within the last two decades of the sixteenth century, certainly not later than the very first years of the seventeenth. Dendrochronological analyses of port cover 145, gave a felling date of not before AD 1575, but at least ten of the sapwood rings were missing thus raising the date to 1585. Time taken to season the timber must also be taken into account and finally, of course, there is the age of the ship. A properly maintained vessel of that time could have a working life of well over twenty years.

MORE INFO:
  • + MILITARY EQUIPMENT
    • + PERSONNEL
      • + Arms & Armour
        • When Elizabeth came to the throne England was without a standing army and her militias were no match for the great regiments of Europe. From the beginning of her reign the nation was under threat, and until 1604 was in a continuous state of struggle with Spain. To survive, England had to re-arm and modernise. The persistence of professional soldiers, with field experience on the continent, and a flood of military publications, the growing exposure to European methods of warfare and conflict with the Spanish, succeeded in initiating events that would eventually lead to the ‘New Model’ army of the 17th century. The Alderney firearms are important not just for their rarity and the unique insight they give on how the Elizabethan soldier armed himself for combat at a time when the very survival of the nation was at stake, they also help illuminate the complete and radical overhaul in instruments of war in the 16th century, from the longbows of the Mary Rose approximately 45 years earlier to the complete lack thereof aboard the Alderney wreck which, instead, contained only harquebuses (or arquebus), calivers and muskets - though it had been slow to do so, England had at last broken its sentimental attachment to the longbow and embraced firearms. To date, semi-intact or fragmented firearms have been recovered - all are matchlocks, except for one which is of snaphaunce type. One of the guns was found loaded. Their metal parts, ie. the barrels and lock mechanisms, did not survive well, whereas their wooden stocks faired better. No indication of manufacture survived on any of the weapons (marks would have most likely appeared on the butts of the weapons but none of these have been found), however it is likely that they were of mixed origin, some English, some continental. The Alderney wreck content marks the end of the sixteenth century military revolution. The next major evolutionary change in weaponcraft would not occur until the late 17th century when the pike and shoulder arms became a single weapon, the bayoneted musket.
        • + Plate Armour
          • The armour from the wreck consists of helmets, breast plates, back plates and tassets. The importance of the Alderney armour is that it is authentic field armour – impeccably provenanced and securely dated – that was on its way to be worn by men who, for whatever reason, were prepared to take up arms and go into mortal combat for queen and country. This was warrior armour, and as might be expected, it was entirely without theatricality; cost, protection and functionality were the only considerations in its manufacture. Decoration on the Alderney armour was modest; edges were often of roped design, petalled brass rivets were used to grip linings or fasten straps. A number of collections within Europe and the States contain Elizabethan armour that, when compared to the Alderney assemblage, rewards study. In particular mention can be of a series of breast plates and helmets in the Royal Armouries, one breastplate in particular is reminiscent of cuirasses from Augsburg in Germany which have been dated to the third quarter of the sixteenth century. Such a piece serves to remind us that the Elizabethans were sourcing much of their body armour from protestant north Europe.
    • + SHIP
      • + Heavy Ordnance
        • The Alderney guns are representative of the 'new' trends in heavy ordnance in contrast to those of the first half of the 16th century - they are iron muzzle-loaders with trucked carriages, new breeching, use corned powder and iron shot. The cannon from the Alderney Elizabethan wreck represent a high point in artillery science that would not be surpassed until the Victorian period. Their importance, however, lies not in any one piece but in them all as a coordinated seriation - the Alderney gun unit is representative of a system that was to become the standard naval weapon system for the next three hundred years. The complete number is not yet known, but is believed to be either eight or ten (because of weight distribution and operational space, there were not normally odd numbers of beam-firing guns). Three guns has been raised and conserved and are on display in the Alderney Museum. All the shot so far recovered is of 78 – 80 mm (3? inches) diameter indicating that all the guns on board were closely matched - 7 foot long, cast iron, smooth bore, muzzle loaders of 3½ inch bore and 14 hundredweight (1568 lbs). Cannon are more often described in terms of the weight of shot they fired (12 pounders, 24 pounders, etc), but for much of the Tudor period there was a lack of technical regulation and guns were known by a bewildering array of names which caused as much confusion then as it does today. The first gun recovered from the Alderney wreck was identified by the Royal Armouries of the Tower of London as a minion, a type that was common both on land and sea from the mid-16th to the end of the 17th century. Other commentators have thought the gun to be a saker. In light of another 2 cannon from the wreck that are now housed at the museum, further research on this topic is underway.
      • + Large Shot
        • So far there are 42 recorded pieces of regular shot and there are likely to be more in the cannon that are still on the sea-bed. On average, all have a diameter of 79-80mm. In addition to the round-shot, eleven pieces of cross-bar (or ‘star’) shot were recovered (same average diameter as round shot) as well as eight intact, or semi-intact, pieces of expanding shot). No doubt more will be found. In summary, the variety and number of projectiles so far recovered indicate that the guns of the Alderney ship were supplied with an above-average choice and number of rounds and this is perhaps as we might expect for a vessel on a mission of national importance.
  • + SHIP
    • + STRUCTURE
      • Gunport Cover
    • + EQUIPMENT
      • Lead weights
        Two lead pan weights were found on the wreck, one of 1 lb, the other of 2 lbs. Both were made by the Worshipful Company of Plumbers of London and feature a stamp of the crowned monogram EL (for Elizabeth). The crown is of Edward I-type with alternating fleurs-de-lys and pearls across the top, and a line of pearls along the head-band. To the right of the monogram is the sword of the Archangel Michael (or St Paul according to some), also known as the Guildhall Dagger, symbolizing the City of London. This cypher was introduced by royal proclamation on 16 December 1587, but it was not fully enacted until after the Armada year of 1588. The archaeological importance of the weights is that they provide a secure terminus post quem for the wreck.
  • + POTTERY
    • Item C.1
    • Item C.2
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  • + PERSONAL EFFECTS
    • Pewter Pipe
      Tobacco smoking became fashionable, at least with the upper social classes, during the late 1580s and more especially the 1590s. Pewter pipes are extremely rare and the only securely provenanced example from the period under consideration, came from the wreck of the San Pedro which sank off Bermuda in 1595. It is so similar to the Alderney find that specialists have suggested they might be from the same workshop.
QUICK-NAV
PERSONNEL
Arms & Accesories
Firearms
Powder Flasks
'Apostles'
Ceramic Firepot
Plate Armour
Helmets
Body Armour
SHIP
Heavy Ordnance
Cannons
Large Shot
Equipment
Lead Weights
Structure
Gunport Cover

Lightest of the long guns, with a barrel length of 39-43 in., weighing 7-9lb & calibre of ~.58.
In 1485 Henry VII armed half his Yeoman of the Guard with harquebuses, but the weapon
did not spread much from there. When Henry VIII invaded France in 1544, only 7% of his
foot soldiers carried them. During Mary’s reign (1553-1558), the harquebus & the longbow
were made compulsory in nearly all counties; in theory, harquebusiers at this time
comprised 1/5 of the foot, in practice the figure seems to have been significantly lower.

Next in size/weight to the harquebus with greater bore, more robust stock, barrel length of
39-44in. (55in. overall length), weighing around 10-12lb with a calibre of ~ .76 to .80.
Calivers would fire further and had a greater impact. In 1596 they cost 12-30 shillings. The
absence of precisely defined technological distinctions between harquebus and caliver
blurs the period of introduction and transition, but certainly by the time of the wreck it had
completely replaced the harquebus as the main military firearm. In the county arsenals,
calivers continued in use along-side muskets well into the 17th century. They are the most
common type of firearm on the Alderney wreck.

Larger/weightier than the harquebus or caliver (supported by a forked rest when aiming)
with large recoil on discharge; barrel length of 45 -55in. (overall length of ~64-68in.),
weighing ~20lb with a calibre of between .80 to .92. Generally, a musket used 1.5 times
more powder than a caliver to propel a heavier bullet over a greater distance. It was
believed that the harquebus and caliver could be fired at twice the rate of a musket, but the
musket was a much more dangerous weapon. By the 1560s they were much utilized by the
Spanish; they were first used by an English company in the late 1580s. In 1588 the Norfolk
companies were ordered to arm 15% of their foot with muskets. By 1597 the government
wanted that increased to at least 50% - preferably 66%. The musket was a new weapon to
the English at the time, but was evidently being adopted rapidly.

HARQUEBUS

CALIVER

MUSKET

Three types of powder flask have been found on the wreck. The first are often known as apostles and
have been given their own section. The second (of which three examples have been found) was the
large, nozzled, concave-sided, flat-bottomed, wooden-bodied flask which, like the apostles, held
coarse-grain propellant for the barrel. The third (of which three examples have so far been found),
was a smaller version of the last, but was used to contain fine-grained priming powder for the flash-
pan. This was the powder which conveyed ignition, via the touch-hole, to the main charge within the
breech.

Due to their iron nozzles, fastenings and open-work decoration, all the wooden powder flasks
were found fully covered in corrosion products. An example conserved by York Archaeological
Trust, 529, was found to have maple wood sides and an oaken base (Quercus sp.). It had sheet-iron
edgings, possible iron decorative devices on the main field of the body, and there was evidence to
suggest that it had been covered in leather. Traces of hair, believed to be horse, were also found. The
flask was empty. The front of a second flask of similar size and shape, 1091, was covered with fine
iron plating that featured a mounted warrior in gilded relief. With both flasks, the tapering iron
nozzle and rectangular shoulder cap, did not survive. If they had, they would very likely have
featured spring-loaded, thumb-operated, cut-off devices at the base of their spouts to measure out
the precise amount of powder necessary for a successful discharge. The large, wooden flasks were
used for calivers (and one might safely assume harquebuses), while apostles were used to charge
muskets for which the right amount of powder was critical.

POWDER FLASKS

These were used to contain a single charge of powder for a musket. The amount of
powder in a charge was critical; too much and the weapon might be damaged, or
backfire into the eye of the shooter; too little and the shot would lose range and
accuracy. In a firefight there was not time to measure out the precise amount of
propellant, so musketeers usually prepared a number of charges in advance which
they hung in small flasks from a bandoleer across the chest. Often these numbered
twelve, hence they were dubbed ‘apostles’ much later in the 19th century. The
apostles from the wreck were all cut from copper alloy sheeting and joined along
their seams with lead/tin solder. Their bodies were of truncated form on base-discs
of 27-30mm diameter. Caps were pill-shaped with diameters of approximately 16mm.
Lugs were applied to the cap and body to take the cord from which they were hung.
Heights ranged from 86 to 106mm. [original shown alongside replica]

APOSTLES

The military equipment on the Alderney ship included a number of
ceramic hand grenades, or ‘fire-pots’. Several were incomplete or semi-
complete state, but most were broken. No examples have yet been found
with their seals intact and fuses in place, although some had the remains
of pitch and a coarse fabric beneath the lip. Since no pellets were found
in association with the grenades it is assumed that they were not used as
fragmentation devices to produce casualties, but rather were incendiaries
that broke and spread fire, napalm-like, on contact. Grenades such as
these were also used as ‘Stink-Pots’ and also used to create confusion
immediately prior to boarding.

CERAMIC FIREPOTS

BURGONET

Helmets of older type that had been popular throughout the 16th century
and lasted even into the 17th. They were peaked at their fronts, rimmed
along the side and had a slight lobster tail at the back to protect the nape.
The skull part of the helmet appears to have been made in two halves
with a low, fore-and-aft comb covering the seam. On some the comb was
low, on others it was more high-reaching. Earlier burgonets often took a
face wrapper, but by the time of the wreck they were mostly open faced
and hinged to take cheekpieces that were tied with thongs under the chin.

MORION

They can be divided into two types; one, which rose to a pointed apex was
called a ‘Spanish’ morion after its country of origin; the other, which is
believed to have originated in Italy, was the ‘comb’ morion that had a fore-
and-aft rib over its top. Both types of morions had cheek pieces that were
tied together under the chin.

PEASCOD

This breastplate bellied out in a low-slung style which reflected the favoured
form and line of men’s costumes during the last decades of the 16th century.
The main features of the peascod are the medial rib, or keel, a cupped
bottom and flanged rims over the thighs.

The Alderney guns are representative of the 'new' trends in heavy ordnance
in contrast to those of the first half of the 16th century - they are iron muzzle-
loaders with trucked carriages, new breeching, use corned powder and iron
shot.

Three guns has been raised and conserved and are on display in the
Alderney Museum. All the shot so far recovered is of 78 – 80 mm (3 inches)
diameter indicating that all the guns on board were closely matched - 7ft
long, cast iron, smooth bore, muzzle loaders of 3½ inch bore and 14
hundredweight (1568 lbs).

CANNON

There are 42 recorded pieces of regular shot and there are likely to be more in the cannon that are
still on the sea-bed. On average, all have a diameter of 79-80mm. In addition to the round-shot,
eleven pieces of cross-bar (or ‘star’) shot were recovered (same average diameter as round shot)
as well as eight intact, or semi-intact, pieces of expanding shot).

LARGE SHOT

Two lead pan weights were found on the wreck, one of 1lb, the other of 2lbs. Both were
made by the Worshipful Company of Plumbers of London and feature a stamp of the
crowned monogram EL (for Elizabeth). The crown is of Edward I-type with alternating
fleurs-de-lys and pearls across the top, and a line of pearls along the head-band. To the
right of the monogram is the sword of the Archangel Michael (or St Paul according to
some), also known as the Guildhall Dagger, symbolizing the City of London. This cypher
was introduced by royal proclamation on 16 December 1587, but it was not fully enacted
until after the Armada year of 1588. The archaeological importance of the weights is that
they provide a secure terminus post quem for the wreck.

LEAD WEIGHTS

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