Cannonball question

Manor Lodge Canon ball. Manor Lodge's Peter Machen with the  Canon ball

Manor Lodge Canon ball. Manor Lodge's Peter Machen with the Canon ball

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IT is a mystery which has puzzled historians for exactly 106 years.

Just how did this 30-pound monster cannonball end up in the grounds of Sheffield’s Manor Lodge, a Tudor ruin where no battle was ever fought nor any weapons bunker ever seemingly built?

“Visitors always ask,” says Peter Machan, manager of the site. “And we always have to say we’re just not sure.”

Now Royal Armouries experts are being brought in to try to answer the question first posed when the weapon was discovered in 1905.

“It’s got to the point where I’ve been asked so many times, I’m making it my personal quest to find out,” says Peter who has been head at the site since 2008.

There was a siege, of course, which destroyed Sheffield Castle during the civil war but that is several miles away. Could the cannonball have been brought back from the battle as a memento?

“It’s one possibility,” says Peter. “But we’re not certain as yet any guns used during that attack would have been big enough to fire this ball.

“Famously, a gun called the Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket Pistol was used but even that would have been too small. There are suggestions other bigger guns may have been present but there’s still no explanation as to how the ball then came to be at the lodge.

“Certainly, the fact it is slightly flattened on both sides suggest it probably was fired at some point. It is a 30 pound enigma.”

He thinks for a minute. It’s a shame they didn’t make them with serial numbers in those days.

“It would have made things easier,” he says. “But half the fun is trying to find out.”

The ball itself was discovered in a cellar during the 1905 excavation. A Bible lay next to it.

The location suggests the weapon dates back to at least the 1600s - the period of the civil war - as the house above the cellars was pulled down by the owner, the eighth Duke of Norfolk, in 1708.

It is thought the basement underneath was filled and remained untouched until the excavation two centuries later.

The site itself, meanwhile, was transformed from being a Tudor manor house - a place where Mary Queen of Scots was once kept prisoner - to an industrial hamlet until the local authority took it over in 1953.

Ron Clayton, historical expert, is as confused as anyone.

“It’s a cracking piece of Sheffield history,” he says. “It would just be nice to know why.”

The site is currently undergoing a major restoration which will see more of the old Tudor and Saxon ruins brought into the open and a series of mediaeval gardens planted.

“It should look fantastic,” says Peter. “But I’m not sure we’ll be totally satisfied until we find out where that cannonball came from.”

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