The Russian gun in City Park stands proudly just below where Government Cottage once stood.
It was manufactured in 1840 under the supervision of Mr Armstrong, a British engineer at the Alexandrovsky Factory in Petrozavodsk, Russia.
Britain declared war with Russia in March, 1854 and took part in the terrible conflict on the Crimean Peninsula. Queen Victoria set up a Patriotic Fund for the relief of the widows and orphans resulting from the war.
From April, 1855 the enthusiastic Ladies’ Patriotic Fund Committee in Launceston raised nearly a quarter of the total collected in Tasmania, which exceeded £25,000. The Crimean War ended in March, 1856.
Numerous cannons captured during the siege of Sevastopol (1854-55) were taken back to England. Some of these were used to make Victoria Cross medals and memorial statues. Others were offered to towns and cities throughout Britain, Ireland and the colonies.
Launceston mayor, Henry Dowling, wrote a letter dated August 9, 1858 to the Secretary of War in London requesting that one of the victory trophies be sent to Launceston. He believed the exertions of the ladies of Launceston in aid of the Patriotic Relief Fund entitled the inhabitants of that city to a trophy that ‘may be rendered ornamental to one of the public squares’.
Two trophy guns arrived in Hobart in January 1860, but Hobart Alderman Lipscombe was upset when ‘favoured Launceston’ was to have one. He maintained Hobart had a right to keep the two. However, one was placed in Hobart’s Franklin Square while the other was shipped to Launceston, arriving on the W.B. Dean in early April.
Weighing nearly three tons, the cannon was placed in the middle of Cameron Street outside the newly-opened Launceston Mechanics’ Institute as part of its opening exhibition. The gun was moved from that dangerous and inconvenient spot to a council yard where it languished until 1862. The council discussed where it should be located – Prince’s Square or the Horticultural Gardens? It was placed near the entrance to the Horticultural Gardens, which later became City Park.
In 1878 the council moved the gun again to a corner of the old Commissariat yard, prompting several letters to the newspapers, either supporting the removal or demanding its reinstatement.
Some believed the gun was a ‘barbarous relic of strife and bloodshed’ and should not be on public display. Others felt that ‘it ought to be held in high esteem and allowed a place of honour’.
The Russian gun was returned to City Park to its present commanding position.
READ MORE: Tales of the city's old stages