The Age of George III
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Rotherham was once the cannon making capital of Great Britain. In October 1970 an old cannon was rescued from a smuggler patrol ship on the sea bed off the North Devon coast. The cannon had been made in Rotherham almost two hundred years earlier. Made in Masborough, between 1771 and 1820, the cannon of the Samuel Walker Company were the pride of the British navy. Eighty of the cannon found on Nelson's flagship Victory were made by Samuel Walker in Rotherham. They actually took part in the battle of Trafalgar and these cannon can now be found all over the world. They have turned up in South America, Antigua, Australia, Quebec, Tobago and even St. Helena in the South Atlantic. The remarkable thing is that all of this fascinating history has faded from local memory.
Few people appear to know that Rotherham was once the main producer of cannon in the United Kingdom. They were made in large numbers by the Samuel Walkers Company and up to 1,000 people were employed in their production. By 1795, they were making something like 22,000 cannon a year. Periodically, the Walkers held cannon tests, with up to 26 cannon lined up in a field, each of them being fired at least three times each. It must have been an incredible spectacle, and one that shook the town to its foundations. People would come from all over the country just to wit ness the spectacle of cannon testing in Rotherham.
The Walker family had once wielded enormous influence in Rotherham. They were responsible for the building of a number of familiar and historic buildings in Rotherham including Masborough Hall and even had their own mausoleum.
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