The Victorian artillery piece that sits on the headland at the south end of the beach at South Shields is known as the Trow Rock ‘Disappearing Gun’. The actual weapon we see today is a substitute, placed there in 1987, for the original gun installed around 1887. It is ‘disappearing’ in the sense that its experimental mounting platform allowed it to be raised and lowered within the concrete gun pit; however, it was never actually used in action. The system, which appears to have been both hydraulic and pneumatic, was ultimately unsuccessful and it was was discontinued at Trow Rock with a new battery being constructed a short distance down the coast at Frenchman’s Bay in 1903 (no trace remains of that site however). The site is open to all and free to visit. Location: South end of the beach at South Shields, South Tyneside, England (see the map at the bottom of the page).
The following is a short explanation offered by David Moore at www.victorianforts.co.uk together with an engineering drawing showing how the system was meant to operate:
“The Trow Rock Floating Platform was also known as the Clarke Maxim Disappearing Platform for barbette mountings. The Clarke-Maxim mounting first appeared in 1885. The trial for this new maxim mounting took place one and half miles south of the mouth of the tyne at Trow Rock (NZ385667), hence its name.
The Durham Artillery Volunteers had three obsolete 32pr guns mounted there for practice. Also a small magazine for which they paid a nominal annual sum to the Tyne Improvement Commissioners who owned the site. In 1885 they were asked to lease/lend the site to the War Office. It was leased for a year and in May 1886 the pit was excavated to a depth of fourteen feet for the mounting. In October 1886 Maxims agreed to construct the emplacement at their own expense and to have it ready for trial within four months. It was not ready until December 1886 and the trials took place in December 1887 with the 6inch B.L. Mk IV gun.
The Elswick mounting at Shoeburyness proved to be more successful and was adopted for service. The Clarke-Maxim mounting was declared ‘unlikley to be of any value and no more should be constructed’. The lease of the land was terminated in 1894; the machinery was removed and the emplacement filled. The site reverted to its use for volunteer practice.”