Siege engines at the Tower
The Tower's siege engine
The perrier, a stone-thrower, is one of the least complicated medieval siege engines, comprising a simple frame and a mighty 17ft throwing arm with a sling. The perrier’s energy is supplied entirely by its operators. With a downward heave on the ropes our visitors can hurl a water balloon 50 metres, and with greater force a perrier can easily throw a rock the size of a grapefruit hundreds of metres.
Our perrier is operated by four people but history records perriers large enough to need as many as 16 men pulling on the ropes!
Its relatively simple design made the perrier an ideal weapon for both attack and defence. Attackers could build one quickly, provided they could find a straight enough tree trunk for the throwing arm, and use them to damage castle walls and bombard the defenders inside.
Defenders used them to launch stones from their walls, often targeting the enemy’s own siege engines. In 1192 Richard I’s government spent more than £100 building similar stone-throwers to defend the walls of the Tower of London – more than £50,000 in today’s money.