A Monument to Charles Gascoigne in Russia

Dr John Biggart and Mikhail Goldenberg have sent us word that on 24 September 2021 a monument to the famous metallurgist Charles Gascoigne, whose life was linked to Scotland and Russia, was unveiled in Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia of the Russian Federation.  Gascoigne was a fascinating character, part of whose story will be found in Brian Watters’ book “Carron: Where Iron Runs like Water,” summarised at Charles Gascoigne.  The story was also taken up by Geoff Bailey in his brief exploration of the impact of Carron Company on Eastern Europe Calatria 17. 

Gascoigne’s greatest achievement in Britain was keeping the Carron Company afloat during a period of great financial difficulties, but he will be remembered most for his intimate connection with the development of the carronades which, for a brief spell, were known as Gascoignades.  This was a wonderful name for them as it already existed in the English language and meant to boast or bluster like a person from Gascony.  Gascoigne was the leading hand in steering this famous piece of ordnance through its early stages of development and its very successful promotion.  In this latter role he enlisted the help of family relations and friends.  Some of those family relations were explored by Watters in Calatria 13.  There were teething problems with the new invention and it was Gascoigne who ensured that the cutting edge technology was installed at the works to overcome these.

Gascoigne was a visionary who saw the interconnectivity of invention, new technology and new transport networks on a grand scale.  As well as straightening the River Carron he was a keen promoter of the Forth and Clyde Canal and when that ended at Grangemouth instead of Carron he pushed for navigable cuts at Dalderse and Abbotshaugh.

Gascoigne had a large country house constructed for himself at Carronshore.  Carron House was a fascinating mixture of stately home, industrial store and shipping facility.  Indeed, it was as a director in the shipping agency of Garbett & Son that Gascoigne was first introduced into the Carron business.  It was in the elegant dining room at Carron House that Gascoigne entertained General Paoli of Corsica in 1771.

Gascoigne’s infamy was ensured when he went to Russia in May 1786, taking with him this new technology in the form of knowledge, patterns and skilled craftsmen.  For this he was paid handsomely.  He organized the production of cannon, cannonballs and anchors in the Alexandrovski Factory in Petrozavodsk that were considered to be amongst the best in Europe.  He later went on to install machine presses at the Russian Imperial Mint as well as facilitating industrial developments elsewhere.  Honours were heaped upon him and he became an “Actual State Councillor.”  He died in July 1806 during the reconstruction of the Izhora Works and was buried in the German Cemetery in Petrozavodsk where all of the better off foreigners were placed.  This cemetery and his grave monument were removed in the 19th century and it now lies under Volkhovskaya Street.  Several of his guns made at Alexandrovski were captured after the siege of Sebastopol and are now on display throughout the world – one in Quebec City (A Loose Cannon) and one in Ludlow in Shropshire.

The base of the new monument incorporates bas-reliefs of canon and a gear-wheel of the kind manufactured in Petrozavodsk. Further cannon are used on the flanking plinths, as lamp standards, and as uprights in an interesting fretwork screen which depicts early scenes from the foundry.  Indeed, there are at least 22 such guns in all.  The ironwork is mounted on speckled grey granite which provides a harmonious setting for the black metal.  A paved area at the front of the sculptural group leads to steps for the recessed dais.  Grandiose and imperial in feel the monument is a fitting tribute to a man who significantly enhanced and reshaped production in Russia.  The sculptors of the monument was Vitalii Shanov of Moscow and Daria Uspenskaya; it was cast in the Petrozavodsk Foundry under the supervision of its Director, Vadim Tryapichkin.  They had only two surviving portraits of Charles Gascoigne in his old age. Therefore, a certain generalized image of a Scotsman was used for the monument showing him full of confidence and ready to work.

The monument was unveiled by Mikhail Goldenberg, the Director of the Karelian National Museum, which hosts a permanent exhibition on the history of the Alexander Factory and the work of Gascoigne. Located on what is now Karl Marx Prospect (formerly English Street), at the very centre of the city, the monument overlooks the former site of the Alexander Factory and blends with its surroundings.

Photographs courtesy of Mikhail Goldenberg.


Bailey, G.B.2002‘Carron Company and Eastern Europe,’ Calatria 17, 1-22.
Bara, J.           2000A Loose Cannon – Charles Gascoigne in Russia,’ Calatria 14, 73-80.
Watters, B1999‘Charles Gascoigne and the Mistress of Elphinstone,Calatria 13, 81-84.
Watters, B.2010Carron: Where Iron Runs like Water.

G.B.Bailey, 2022