How were medieval (1500-1700)) canons on ships (re)loaded?

Dec 2016
15
London
The cannons were loaded and cleaned through the "front hole" - this was easy as far as the field cannons were concerned like seen on this short video
But how was this done on ships? It appears to be physically impossible to get access to the front hole, and at the same time these cannons weighed perhaps 3 tons - so they were unlikely to be moved back into she ships between each loading/cleaning? https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.6694840.1543243517!/image/2829871863.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_720x405/2829871863.jpg
I have seen a lot of videos on youtube about Pirates, ship battles etc, but funnily enough they never show the reloading of the cannons... :) Can anyone help?
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,149
Canary Islands-Spain
The English introduced the four wheeled carriages in the 1570's. The system to tackle the recoil was perfectioned through time

The system in the Spanish Armada was the commonly used at the time: a two wheeled carriage (adapted to land warfare), tied with ropes one longer than the other. Whit this system, when the gun fired, the recoil pushed the piece to a side, so that gunners could reload them inside the ship, safetly

This old system was functional, but less advance than the English one. However, the idea that guns in the Spanish or any other European fleet of the age couldn't be reload is totally wrong
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,011
MD, USA
I have read that many early naval guns simply sat in place--their carriages had no wheels. So they didn't recoil and could not be "run in" for loading, forcing the crews to clamber over the side to reach the muzzle to reload. BUT since at first all the guns were mounted on the deck, this wasn't a huge problem. Also, naval actions were at that time largely boarding actions, so the guns might only be fired once as the ships closed, right before contact and boarding. They didn't need to be repeatedly reloaded. Finally, remember that not all canons were large! Many were quite small at first, even mounted on swivels on the railing, and as other folks have said they could even be breechloaders.

Obviously, this is all from the earliest days of gun-armed ships! More "medieval" in essence than "Renaissance". Gunports and wheeled carriages changed everything.

Matthew
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,149
Portugal
The cannons were loaded and cleaned through the "front hole" - this was easy as far as the field cannons were concerned like seen on this short video

But how was this done on ships? It appears to be physically impossible to get access to the front hole, and at the same time these cannons weighed perhaps 3 tons - so they were unlikely to be moved back into she ships between each loading/cleaning? https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.6694840.1543243517!/image/2829871863.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_720x405/2829871863.jpg
I have seen a lot of videos on youtube about Pirates, ship battles etc, but funnily enough they never show the reloading of the cannons... Can anyone help?

About periodization, call me a nitpicker, or maybe not, but I have to say this:

The video that you posted in the link is about cannons during what we can call the late Medieval Period, but your question, looking to the thread tittle, is not about the Medieval Period, since you mentioned the time frame 1500-1700, I presume AD.

Since the end of the Medieval Period is usually seen as in the middle/late of the 15th century, beginning of the 16th, you are talking about it is usually called Modern period, or Early Modern Period. There are some events that are often nominally seen as the end, or the beginning of the end, of the Medieval period, such as the fall of Constantinople (1453), the arrival of Columbus to America (1492) or the arrival of Vasco da Gama to India (1498).

For reference: List of time periods - Wikipedia

About the naval artillery much was already said here corrrectly, about the carriages, that some were breech loaded, but it seems also that you exaggerated the weight of the cannons: 3 tons in a naval artillery piece? Don’t know your source for that, but it seems heavy! I would be glad to see a source.

You can see here a list of the artillery pieces available in some Portuguese military museums, for the early Modern Period, not only naval, and even if the height isn’t usually stated, but 3 tons seems over the top:

https://dspace.uevora.pt/rdpc/bitstream/10174/11735/3/ANEXOS 2.pdf

For instance, see the piece with the reference MML 001264 (p.22 in the pdf), there is a description (in Portuguese) and photos, and is stated that has 120 kg.
 
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Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,149
Canary Islands-Spain
Tulius, the heavy culverins for example (32 caliber), weighted around 3-4 tons (6000-8000 pounds of the age). They could shoot many kilometres away... with disputed accuracy

The same for the heavy cannons

These pieces were highly prized on board of ships, due to their brutal power, and they usually were placed on the lower decks, at the centre
 
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