The removal of two eighteenth century cannon from Minehead Harbour on the 18 October was a complete surprise to the local community. Visitors can see three cannon on their carriages on the harbour wall, but two further cannon, partially sunk barrel first, have now been removed by Somerset Council. The two were part of a consignment delivered in 1702 and it is believed that these were subsequently sunk into the harbour wall as bollards sometime after the end of the Napoleonic War. Extensive repair work was certainly carried out to the harbour wall in 1815. Three of the five buried guns were rescued in 1979 and restored.
No notice was given to the Town Council or local heritage organisations that the remaining two were going to be removed. There may well have been a plan in place to conserve these important items of Minehead Heritage, but nothing has been divulged to Minehead residents as yet. Minehead Museum was contacted by the Free Press that evening for comment, which not surprisingly was a little difficult as we had no advance notice of the planned action or the reasons for it. We immediately contacted the Town Council, Conservation Society, Somerset Heritage, County Councillors and the contractors to try and find out what was going on. It is a good job Michael Burke happened to be down at the harbour at the time and was able to take the photographs of the cannon being removed that feature here and have been published in the West Somerset Free Press.
It is alarming that no local body appears to have been informed or consulted in advance of this work being carried out. As a result of our action, South West Heritage Trust has been in contact with Somerset Council. We are given to understand that no attempt will be made to dispose of these guns until a full assessment can be made on their suitability for full or part restoration. Minehead Museum would be happy to take the guns to sit outside the museum but there may be other suitable sites around the harbour to consider. The guns remain at present in Somerset Council ownership but we hope that full consideration be given to them remaining in the town for the benefit of residents and visitors. If you want these guns protected for future generations, please contact your local county or town councillors.
Photographs kindly supplied by Michael Burke