THE History Hunter Mark McMullan has recently turned up this fabulous piece of social history in a field on the outskirts of Darlington.

His metal detector picked up this 18th Century bronze toy cannon.

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo: “It’s only 77mm long, but this 300-year-old toy would have packed quite a little punch in its time and certainly looks much more fun than the spud guns of my youth,” said Mark.

Back around 1750, the toy was probably complete with a pair of gun carriage wheels attached to its trunnions so it could be rolled into place on a model battlefield and fired at toy soldiers.

Toy cannons are a surprisingly common find by detectorists. They were close miniatures of real cannon – arms manufacturers were common and may have made the toys out of spare metal – and were fired by having black gunpowder and small pellets rammed down the barrel. A fuse of hemp impregnated with saltpetre would have been inserted and lit with a taper.

The metal pellets would have packed a punch, but the cannons are often found discarded because an over-enthusiastic boy had rammed in too much powder and caused the barrel to burst.

“That probably only added to the fun,” said Mark, who displays his finds on his History Hunter Facebook page and who only works on land where he has been granted permission.

The Northern Echo: 18th Century toy cannon found on the outskirts of Darlington by detectorist Mark McMullan, the History Hunter

The Northern Echo: Mark McMullan: The History Hunter