What’s a Quoin?
(Make sure to read the contribution from Timothy Bailey appended after the article)
➤ On the eastern shore of the Derwent, visible from hillsides and balconies throughout Hobart, one looks across at a strikingly asymmetrical mountain on the Eastern Shore– Gunner’s Quoin.
Its dolerite cliffs rise sheer from the lowlands, but from many angles in the city this mountain is hidden from sight. It hides behind Madman’s Hill and Mount Direction, but is actually a far more impressive mountain than either. On Gunner’s Quoin are the only dolerite cliffs of the Easter Shore. Few people seem to notice this mountain, and fewer have visited it.
What a curious name! What is a “quoin”, and where can we find one?
What are Quoins?
Quoins are architectural features on the outside corner of a building. They are additional bricks reinforcing a masonry structure. You can spot them as alternating stacks of brick that spread the load from the corner points outward along the walls. They can lend an appearance of solidity and strength, and are elegantly decorative.
The word itself is derived from “coin”, which comes frem the Latin word for wedge- cuneis. Just across the water from Gunnar’s Quoin, you can visit The Museum of Old and New Art and see ancient Sumerian cuneiform writing tablets, in which a wedge-shaped tool was used to inscribe letters in clay.
Another usage of the word “quoin” is in cannon operation. Artillery pieces were mounted upon wooden disks to aid in turning them towards the target. Perhaps this usage was blended with the architectural one in the naming of Gunner’s Quoin.
Where can we find them?
- Gunner’s Quoin: Latitude -42.769585°, Longitude 147.322822°, Altitude 423m
- Quoin Mountain: Latitude -42.54358°, Longitude 147.27543°, Altitude 895m
- Wood’s Quoin: Great Western Tiers, just west of Oatlands, eastern Tasmania Latitude -42.2902°, Longitude 147.093°, Altitude 926m
- Little Quoin: Latitude -42.542°, Longitude 147.298° Altitude 878m
- The Quoin: A mountain east of Tunbridge along the Midlands Highway: Latitude -42.154°, Longitude 147.660°, Altitude 572m
- Quoin Hill: Flinders Island: Latitude -39.7463°, Longitude 147.928°, Altitude 230m
Not all Quoins are mountains:
- Quoin Rivulet: a 12k stream near Kempton east of the Midlands Highway.:Latitude -42.4907°, Longitude 147.22392°, Altitude 240m
- Little Quoin Creek: a short stream in eastern Tasmania: Latitude -42.514°, Longitude 147.151°, Altitude 188m
- Quoin Channel: a saltwater strait off the western side of the Tasman Peninsula, between the mainland and Benjafield’s Islandhort stream in eastern Tasmania: Latitude -43.136°, Longitude 147.681°, Altitude 0m
A subset of those on the mainland:
- There is another Gunner’s Quoin in the Northern Territory, northeast of Darwin in the tropical north: Latitude -11.183°, Longitude 132.03°, Altitude 23m
- On Dirk Hartog Island in Western Australia’s World Heritage-listed Shark Bay, Quoin Bluff is a elevated cliff overlooking a biologically important bird sanctuary Latitude -25°53′42″, Longitude 113°09′06″, Altitude ~10m
Do you know of any others?
This contributed by Timothy Bailey:
The typical quoin for a piece of artillery is a simple straight sided wedge with the narrow tip forward. Disc type quoins were used but were quite rare.
A gunner’s quoins was a straight sided wedge made of wood, In the shape of a right-angle triangle to elevate the barrel more, or less. Rotating on its trunnions – those two cylindrical projections cast with the barrel.
Quoins dropped out of use as breech loaders came into use with elevating gears, which allowed greater precision. That was necessary as breech loaders had far greater range, so fire control and adjustment became vital.
While they were available on RN sailing ships, their tactic of getting close, and firing point-blank, meant that their use was restricted to chaser guns mounted at the front of the ship. For longer distance fire hoping to damage the enemies masts and sails / rigging. The variable slope disc covered [in the article] was quite rare.
The Editor of Tasmanian Geographic is a shadowy and mysterious figure who is often found deep underground, in the treetop branches, on coastal beaches, or high in the mountains.
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