Beat the Ancestors

Medieval Machine Gun

Series 1 - Episode 1 Medieval Machine Gun



Around the start of the Hundred Years’ War, Edward III’s gunsmiths created a new weapon, an extraordinary nine-barrelled cannon. It was called, rather wonderfully, a ribauldequin and in theory at least, it could lay waste to dozens of charging French knights with a single volley of lead shot.

Here, Dick Strawbridge launches a series about machines from the past by challenging a group of handy-folk to make a ribauldequin of their own in three days and, where possible, improve the medieval design. There are lathes and drills and thrust plates and explosions and the artificial time pressure beloved of TV producers, but it’s all enjoyably gung-ho and, at times, fascinating.


Dick Strawbridge challenges a team of engineers to re-create some of history's most impressive devices, using 21st-century knowledge and techniques to improve them. The opening test is to build a medieval machine gun known as a ribauldequin, which was one of the first multibarrelled firearms and shot balls of lead that could pierce armour. At the end of three days, the fruit of the experts' labour is put through a series of exacting tests. Have they been able to match their forefathers' skill?