The cannon was cast in Brussels by Johann Seehof in 1628 for Count Henry de Bergh. It was cast in solid bronze using the same techniques that would be employed in bell making and would have originally be part of a pair. It is likely that the pair were constructed to be used in The Thirty Years’ War that raged through central Europe between 1618 and 1648.
The gun is known as a Saker and like all cannons of this period, it derives its name from a bird of prey, the Arabic Saker falcon. A cannon such as this would have been a prized piece of equipment. In the right hands the Saker could fire a 5-6lb ball with a calibre of around 3.25 inches and damage structures a mile away. It could also be used to wreak havoc as an anti-personnel weapon by firing canister shot, contemporarily known as “hail shot” into tightly packed formations of men on the battlefield. The cannon is approximately one foot shorter than standard length and may have been shorted for ease of transportation.
It is no wonder that such an asset was acquired by the Royalist Army during the English Civil War. It was transported to England by Charles II as he attempted to retake the throne from the Parliamentarian Army of Oliver Cromwell at the final conflict at Worcester in 1651.
During the Battle of Worcester, the Saker was deployed either at Powick, Castle Mound or Fort Royal Hill, situated directly behind The Commandery. Sakers were primarily used in a fixed role, either in a siege against a city or from a consolidated defensive position such as Fort Royal. Too heavy to be a part of a field army, lighter guns were preferred due to their mobility.
Worcester was the last place that our cannon was used in anger and over 350 years later, it remains here, as part of the Worcester city museum collection. A weapon of war, expertly designed with a single purpose it now sits silently in The Commandery, which also witnessed the devastation and loss of life of 1651. Just like The Commandery, it is a beautiful asset to be treasured and passed on to future generations, but carries an unforgettable reminder of our nation’s bloody and war-torn past.
Research by Alex Bear