The history of Huntingdon's Crimean War cannon
- Credit: Peter Foley
At a first glimpse the Russian cannon mounted on a plinth in Huntingdon looks just as it should - a weathered trophy of the Crimean War that was fought nearly 175 years ago.
Although the plinth is original, the cannon, in Brampton Road, is a replica built from fibreglass to replace the gun taken away and melted down during World War II after a nationwide appeal for metal to make arms.
Building the replacement cannon is fresh in the memory of Huntingdon man Peter Foley, 81, who carried out the work in a farm barn, with engineer Philip Perrin making the wheels and other metal parts.
“It is nice to see the cannon there in what is now a garden of remembrance,” said Mr Foley, a Merchant Navy veteran who moved to Huntingdon in the 1960s when Peter Jackson transferred his business Specialised Mouldings to the town from London.
The firm was a pioneer in the use of composite materials for racing car bodies, automotive and aircraft parts.
Mr Foley said he had been self-employed and working on a racing car project when Mr Jackson asked him if he would be interested in building the replica cannon.
Mr Jackson, who died last year, was involved in the Huntingdon in Bloom project and played a key part in getting the cannon built. It was commissioned by the town council and unveiled in 1991.
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Mr Foley said the original gun was part of a massive haul of Russian weapons captured during the Crimean War in the 1850s and was awarded to Huntingdon by Queen Victoria in recognition of troops sent from the town to fight in the war. A similar gun was presented to Ely.
He said special permission was given to make a moulding of the Ely gun which was then used in the reconstruction of the Huntingdon cannon.
Mr Foley said a metallic pigment was used in the fibreglass which has helped create a weathered patina in the cannon, which weighs around 1.5 tonnes, and a secure means of mounting it had to be developed.
He hid a time capsule, including a copy of The Hunts Post and a newly-designed 10p coin, inside the gun.
“The story got out that there was a gold coin in there and within a few days someone had broken the end off and taken what was inside, which made me pretty angry,” he said.
Mr Foley made a separate moulding of the Czar’s crest on the gun barrel which he still has.
He also believes he has got to the bottom of the mystery of why there is a Queen Victoria medallion in the town mayor’s regalia - he thinks it was to mark the monarch’s planned visit to Huntingdon for the installation of the original cannon, which never took place.