Gun gets VIP treatment in Tynemouth

Work being carried out on the coastal artillery gun at Tynemouth Priory.
Work being carried out on the coastal artillery gun at Tynemouth Priory.

Conservation work is under way on a locally-made gun that dates back to the Second World War.

The mk XXIII six-inch BL coastal artillery gun, on display at Tynemouth Priory, is being carefully cleaned and repainted and will help visitors gain an insight into the North East’s involvement in the war.

Working on the gun.

Working on the gun.

The model was the backbone of British coastal artillery from 1890 until 1956, with the most common one being the mk VII.

This particular gun, manufactured in 1943 by Vickers Armouries in Elswick, Newcastle, was acquired by English Heritage in 1993 from the Atomic Weapons Establishment Foulness, where it had been put to use as a simulator of a nuclear blast within a confined space. to represent the type of gun which would have been used at Tynemouth for coastal defence.

However, the exposed coastal location has resulted in blistered, flaking paintwork and corroding metalwork, as well as damaging the hinge pin of the breech.

Conservator Ian Clark will tackle these issues with techniques that have been approved by English Heritage conservation scientists.

Protecting the gun with a scaffolded tent, he will use air abrasion cleaning to fully treat the metal, blasting an abrasive material across the gun’s exterior to remove all former paint work and corrosion products.

Then the gun’s metal surface will be carefully repainted in a historically-accurate colour scheme.

Following this, the breech of the gun will be repaired and have its bright work polished and lacquered.

Collections conservator Caroline Rawson said: “This gun provides an insight into the tangible history of Britain’s coastal artillery and is therefore an important artefact.

“The innovative conservation techniques we are using at Tynemouth will hopefully afford the gun the protection it needs from the elements. We will closely monitor and assess the performance of the paints and wax used on this gun and the outcomes will inform future projects around the country.”

Work on the gun is due to be completed next week.