October 2007

The cannon was originally presented to the Royal Naval Asylum (which in 1821 became the Greenwich Hospital School) by its patron, HRH Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, to mark its formal inauguration exactly 200 years ago, on 21 October 1807 (Trafalgar Day). The cannon is one of two captured by Admiral Sir John Duckworth from the island of Kinaliada in the Sea of Marmara in 1807. It bears an Islamic inscription dating it to 1790-91 (AH 1212) and an English one commemorating the founding of the Asylum. In 1933 the School moved to Holbrook in Suffolk and renamed the Royal Hospital School; its Greenwich buildings are now the National Maritime Museum. The large cannon moved with the School and has remained at the School’s entrance until today.

The unveiling took place on Saturday 20 October in the presence of Vice Admiral Peter Dunt, Duncan Wilson (Greenwich Foundation for the ORNC), Deputy Mayor Cllr Steve Offord and Deputy Mayoress Jacqueline Offord (Greenwich), Martin Sands (Greenwich Hospital), David Charlton (Royal Hospital School) and Nicholas Hall (Royal Armouries) with the Royal Hospital School Corps of Drums ceremonially 'beating' in the cannon.

The barrel was cast in 1790-91 in the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III. The cast-iron display carriage was made later by the Royal Carriage Department of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and its decorative plaques mark British naval victories including the Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar. It is likely that it was originally presented to the Asylum to commemorate the great sea-battles that had created the need for such a school for children whose fathers had fallen in battle as seamen in the Royal Navy.

The return of the cannon has been made possible by the Greenwich Hospital who provided the financial support for its movement and conservation. This new display at the ORNC marks the beginning of the redevelopment of the current visitor centre into a new interpretation and education centre – Discover Greenwich – which will open in autumn 2009 with hands-on activities, historic artefacts, physical and virtual recreations.

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