Located in Hopetoun Gardens in Elsternwick, these 80-pounder guns are rifled muzzle-loading cannons mounted on wooden Dwarf “C” pivot mounts.
The barrels are 6.3 inch (160mm) calibre and each weighs 80 CWT (4064kg).
The cannons were manufactured at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, England in 1866 and were purchased by the Victorian Government for the defence of Port Phillip against a perceived threat of attack by Russian warships. Originally installed at Fort Gellibrand in Williamstown, the cannons at Hopetoun Gardens are two of only twenty five made.
In September 1908, Caulfield Council mooted the idea of obtaining some ‘obsolete guns’ from the Defence Department for the new planned park at Elsternwick. It was initially thought that placing the cannons in such a public place would inspire a sense of naval spirit amongst the rising generation. Cr Dunbar, who put forward the motion, remarked ‘it would be a fine thing from an educational point of view to have the guns there. Boys would learn the necessity for being prepared for the defence of the country’ (Brighton Southern Cross, 19 September 1908)
The motion was successful and the canons were erected in Hopetoun Gardens in 1910.
A similar 80-pound gun (also made by the Royal Arsenal in the same year), is located at Portland Battery, in Portland south-west Victoria. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR No. H2283), as an extremely rare example of nineteenth century naval artillery and is of scientific (technological) significance.
Although these canons were built to withstand all types of conditions, like all materials they deteriorate over time. In 2013, Glen Eira City Council engaged conservators from the University of Melbourne Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation to assess and repair the cannons.
Moved off site for safe treatment, the first stage was to dismantle the cannons to assess repairs. Missing elements were replicated and degrading iron and wooden elements addressed. The original wooden carriages were stabilised and then repainted according to historical context.
Celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2016, the cannons are now safely preserved for both current and future generations to enjoy.