The manufacture of gunpowder began as a black art, although it required a careful skill. It was not until the 19th century that procedures and processes were refined to produce a reliable product with the best results. This was achieved with a growing understanding and application of the science behind the technology. Indeed the key to the success of the Royal Gunpowder Mills was the consistent use of the scientific method.
At the heart of the scientific method is careful observation, carefully designed experiments, accurately recording results and the drawing of conclusions. The Royal Gunpowder Mills successfully used these principles to move away from the days of alchemy and guesswork to provide a robust systematic approach to problem solving and the development of new technologies and materials.
The work of the Royal Gunpowder Mills has appeared many in reputable journals such as New Scientist and Scientific American. There is even a reference to the site on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website archive for work done on sonic boom simulation charges.
Come and see mad Professor Nitrate in the Mad Lab where they will demonstrate hands-on experiments in a fun and practical way. See our rocket vault, which showcases many examples of the technological mechanisms developed at Waltham Abbey and there are guides on hand to answer any questions.
Some of the scientists who worked at the Royal Gunpowder Mills are now active volunteers. They relish any opportunity to explain the exhibits or describe their work in decades past. So why not come along and put them to the test. You've heard the phrase "It's not Rocket Science," Well here at the Rocket Vault, it really is!
The first ballistic pendulum was invented in 1742 by Benjamin Robbins to measure the explosive energy of gunpowder. There are 2 pendula (or pendulums) on display, which were donated by the Health & Safety Establishment at Buxton...
Two shots a minute from a musket three hundred years ago, to over fifteen hundred from a WW2 machine gun, the history of firearms is a story of amazing technical development and inventiveness.
Tankbusters, rocket motors and anti-aircraft missiles were all on Waltham Abbey's top-secret to-do list. This kind of work gave rise to the Waxwing project: the rocket which first fired British satellites into earth's orbit.