Sidmouth Museum joy after bullet discovery unlocks mystery of historic diaries

PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 October 2018

David Powell with the bullets he discovered. Picture: Clarissa Place

David Powell with the bullets he discovered. Picture: Clarissa Place

Archant

A discovery of lead bullets has helped historians piece together more details about the life of one of Sidmouth’s most famous residents.

The bedrock where the bullets were discovered. Picture: David PowellThe bedrock where the bullets were discovered. Picture: David Powell

David Powell came across the bullets the last year while walking his dog Luna close to the beach at Port Royal.

He amassed nearly two sandwich bags of the weighty metal with the intention to take them to Sidmouth Museum, but forgot about them until this year after putting them in a container in his backyard.

It could have been a different story after David had given some of the lead to a friend to turn into fish weights.

David, 69, said: “It became my habit to take my dog for a walk every morning. If the tide was out, we would go on the beach east of the mouth of the River Sid. One morning I saw a fishing weight in one of the pools and so, as I like to go fishing occasionally, I started to look closely along the foreshore. I started to find lead items in the depressions in the bedrock, some in groups of two-to-three or more.

The bedrock where the bullets were discovered. Picture: David PowellThe bedrock where the bullets were discovered. Picture: David Powell

“When the museum informed me of the importance of these finds, I hurriedly retrieved the remaining items and they are now at Sidmouth Museum.”

The museum has been able to date the bullets with the help of a visiting archeologist, Miriam Andrews, and has been given permission by Devon’s archeologist to keep the collection.

Ann Tanner, from the museum, said it has solved the mystery of matters spoken in the diaries of Peter Orlando Hutchinson, writer, artist, historian, and builder of the Old Chancel.

Through articles of the time, the bullets could be linked to Hutchinson when he was 2nd Lieutenant of the 2nd Sidmouth Artillery Volunteers Corp and would have been fired during rifle practice on the beach.

A close up of the bedrock where the bullets were discovered. Picture: David PowellA close up of the bedrock where the bullets were discovered. Picture: David Powell

The corp was set up following orders from Lord Palmerston to protect the coastlines from Napoleon’s ships should they lure away the British navy.

Ann said: “To find this many bullets is incredible. They are usually never found ever again, it’s very exciting. It’s another piece in his diary. He writes about the volunteers for nearly two years. Some people know it was the volunteers but we didn’t know what they did.” The museum will put the bullets on display as part of next year’s season.

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