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This is one of 44 Linstocks (from the Dutch word “lontstok”, meaning “match stick”) found on board the Mary Rose.

It is made of ash, and was found in the hold, although it may have drifted after the ship went down. Linstocks were a vital piece of equipment on board a warship like the Mary Rose, as they were used for firing the large iron and bronze guns, while keeping the gun crew at least two arms-lengths away from danger. A cord soaked in saltpetre, which burns very slowly, would be wrapped around the linstock and slotted into the mouth. Once the gun was primed and ready to fire, the smouldering tip of the cord would be placed to the touch hole, triggering an explosion that could fire a piece of shot over a mile.

It is believed that the gun captains would have decorated their own linstocks, carving them in their own time. As well as the dragon on this example, clearly inspired by the flaming cord in its mouth, we also found lions, other reptiles and even two examples in the form of a clenched fist, with the thumb protruding between the fingers, a gesture that is both considered luck and rude! Perfect for a superstitious sailor.