Peter Finer

A British Model Bronze 6-Pounder Field Gun on its Congreve/Desagulier System Carriage, Complete with its Desagulier Limber and Two-Part Ammunition Wagon Formed of a Caisson Joined with an Additional Limber, c. 1825

Item Ref: 1855 Price on application

1855 4
1855 12
1855 15
1855 16

England, probably the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. Wood, brass and steel.


Private collection, France

6-pounder guns of this type, mounted on this easily manoeuvrable style of carriage, were used by the Royal Artillery very little changed throughout the Napoleonic Wars up to the Crimean War; the last known barrel in fact being cast in 1862, while the first batch was cast at Woolwich in 1793. Three examples of 6-pounders of this period are preserved in the Royal Armouries Collection, variously dated 1850, 1854 and 1855. The barrel of the present model gun includes small constructional characteristics which indicate a post-1810 date. To judge from the early examples of bronze 6-and 9-pounder barrels subsequently mounted on Victorian block-trail carriages it is clear that the carriages were obviously replaced due to service wear and tear. An example is a 6-pounder dated 1796, cast by Francis Kinman in his foundry in Shoe Lane London, is in the collection of the Royal Artillery Historical Trust, Woolwich. 

The light 6-pounder was chiefly used by the Royal Horse Artillery, its battlefield mobility and rapid deployment enabling its primary role in giving supporting firepower to the cavalry. The block-trail system of gun-carriage, with its complementary limber and ammunition wagon (as it was officially referred to), all with wheels of a common large size, was introduced by General Thomas Desaguliers. The system was tested in 1776 and published in 1788, two years prior to his death. His concept was based on an existing French gun-carriage and gave significant advantages over the then current British bracket carriage system, both in terms of ease of movement and deployment, across a broad range of the British field ordnance. The Desagulier gun carriage was subsequently strengthened by William Congreve, Superintendant of Military Machines at Woolwich, and its great length of service was testament to its success. A further consequential improvement was the reduction in the number of men required to serve the guns: for a 6-pounder, this was reduced from 15 to 5 and an NCO. The Desagulier system could also transport upwards of 60 rounds of ammunition. 

The present model is made the more rare, however, by the retention of its original two-part ammunition wagon, an item now almost never found. This means of transporting both greater amounts of ammunition and the entire gun crew was planned by Desagulier as a four-wheeled unit formed of a caisson and a limber simply joined together. The large wheels common to the gun carriage, together with this articulation, gave the unit greater mobility and efficiencies in maintenance. For period technical line drawings giving both the plans and elevations of the gun –carriage, the caisson and the limber, reproduced from the originals published in 1846.         

Professionally made and beautifully detailed scaled models of British ordnance, this gun and its correct complement of accompanying elements being a perfect example, were constructed for the instruction of troops. Classroom instruction in the rigid drills concerning fire and movement being essential to the understanding and effective use of the full-size ordnance. The majority of these models were produced by the workshops involved in the construction of the full-size ordnance, the principal site being the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. A very closely comparable model of a 9-pounder gun and its limber is preserved in the Rotunda Museum of the Royal Artillery Institution in Woolwich, others are preserved at R.M.A. Sandhurst.

Finely constructed to scale and accurately detailed throughout, the gun with brass barrel cast after the Blomefield model of 1788, in multi-stages with a series of raised astragal mouldings, trunnions and button cascable, the latter formed with loops engaging the transverse bolt of the elevating mechanism. On its block-trail mahogany carriage fitted with ammunition boxes over the axeltrees, functional elevating mechanism, folding trail-lever, iron-shod spoked wheels, and small iron mounts and fittings throughout. Together with its original limber, of matching construction, and with an off-set pair of shafts designed alternatively for the rearmost horse in single line, or for harnessing the rearmost pair. Together with its original two-part ammunition wagon, of matching construction also, the ammunition boxes with hinged lids and fitted compartments. The entire model preserved in fine untouched condition.

Size: Length 80 cm / 31.5 in, Height 19 cm / 7.5 in, Width 28 cm / 11 in