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urbanspaceman 18th September 2017 10:59 PM

Shotley Bridge swordmakers
Hello All. I am researching for a new 'local history' book about the Shotley Bridge sword-makers. I live nearby; although I am neither a collector nor an expert on swords, but the more I learn - the more enthusiastic I become. I have collated all published information to date regarding the SB smiths, but there is still much to learn and there will be occasions when I hope I might ask for your help.
I recently acquired a sword that I suspect may be a SB blade and I continue to search for alternative styles purely as reference material and possibly display material either during local lectures and/or as part of a display in one of our museums here on Tyneside. They already have five so far but the magical 'Hollow Blade' that SB were famous for has yet to materialise.
Because SB was in the heart of what became an enormous steel making area, and central to the industrial revolution, I have also branched out into that history to broaden the interest horizon beginning with the start of Wootz and coming up to the present day.
I would be most grateful to learn anything regarding SB swords as I am certain there is still much to discover.
Cheers, K.

fernando 19th September 2017 12:28 PM

Welcome to the forum, K.
I hope you succeed in your research :cool: .

M ELEY 19th September 2017 05:31 PM

I know I've seen threads briefly mentioning both the Shotley Bridge and Houndslow makers in the past. Perhaps if you do a search on the Forum archives, you might find some material. I know Jim McDougall had some tidbits on them as well. Hopefully, one of the Forumites might have a thing or two to add...

Jim McDougall 19th September 2017 08:40 PM

Hello K.
Welcome to the forum, and I am delighted to see your interest in researching the Shotley Bridge sword makers, which of course cannot be achieved without recognition of the Hounslow sword makers nor the mysterious Hollow Sword Blade Co.

Using those key names in addition to Shotley Bridge in search function on this forum (on the header, 'search') you will find considerable detailing in our discussions over the past two decades.

One important source which has notable footnoted and bibliographical references is "The Smallsword in England", James Aylward, 1945. There are numbers of books, pamphlets and papers on the Shotley Sword makes, who were of course primarily of Solingen families primarily who had come to England in the first half of the 17th century.

The question is, what exactly are you seeking, what have you already learned, and what sources have you already consulted either online or in actual published material?

There are far too many angles and aspects of the complexities of these sword and blade producing situations with these entities to discuss randomly, and I look forward to more specific details.

Mark, thank you as always! We've always touched on these topics so often, and pretty well laced our archives with material on these subjects.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 19th September 2017 09:14 PM

Shotley Bridge was a famous sword making centre as already noted by Jim and others although it was only a village but as you know sitting almost on top of the river Derwent which formed the county Durham and Northumberland border in that area. That water power from the river drove the great grinding wheels of the sword factory and quenching, tempering etc which was I understand in Wood Street running parallel to the river 150 feet from the actual Bridge itself. Apart from the House which contained the factory there is little of the original street standing and I believe it was nearly all demolished by about 1960. At intervals water was used in steel production etc in kilns as far up the river as Allensford...about 8 miles... and there was another industrial location about 3 miles up river called the Iron Forge which I believe also manufactured paper. (All disappeared now except for a mansion house) At the end of the village there was a meeting place now a house which was the Cutlers Hall owned by the Sword Makers Owners...who owned a lot of the village including the local hostelry which is still there : THE CROWN AND CROSSED SWORDS. (Two minutes stroll from the Sword Makers in Wood Street)

As for the Hollow Sword ....I believe the term was used to describe the grinding process concave or convex on the sword edge .. hollow ground being the sharpest. See the second reference below.

You may have read it but others may have not...

And this is a vital document Please see

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Jim McDougall 20th September 2017 09:20 PM

Hello K,
Still intrigued by your query, I have looked further, and though I presently lack my notes from many earlier researches into this topic, I wanted to add more.
It is difficult to accurately fathom the Shotley Bridge situation without considering the matters of the Hounslow Heath mills, which seem to have ceased around c. 1620-30 with King Charles I bringing in expatriate German smiths of Solingen who had fled to Holland. Contrary to beliefs about religious persecution, the devastations of the Thirty Years war was more the cause, as the industry there was severely curtailed.

q.v. "British Military Swords" Vol. 1, 1600-1660, Stuart Mowbray, 2013.
Brilliantly researched, written and fantastically illustrated, there is a chapter on the Hounslow sword mills, and on p.244, a Shotley Bridge hanger (held in York Castle, #CA810) which is dated 1689, marked SHOTLEY BRIDG.
It has the characteristic 'running wolf' (termed fox in English description).

The Hounslow operations were quite turbulently impacted by the English Civil Wars of mid 17tyh century, and effectively seem to have ceased by 1658. The last swords there seem to have been navy hangers,
and a thorough paper by Leslie Southwick is presented in,
"The London Cutler Benjamin Stone and the Hounslow Sword and Blade Manufacturers", ("Royal Armouries", vol. 6, #1, 2009, pp.12-61.

Moving to the Shotley Bridge situation, I found a very good account online in "The Victoria History of the County of Durham" Vol. 2, ed. William Page (1907). p.288,

Basically other references note that the Shotley Bridge operation probably began around 1685 (the sword previously described 1689), but it seems it had troubled existence. Many of the German makers had returned to Germany after the end of the Hounslow enterprise, but some still remained as well as some English makers who had been involved, in other minor operations. By 1691 it seems that the Hollow Sword Blade Co. was formed to import and fabricate 'hollow blade rapiers' and many blades were to be brought in and furbished at Shotley Bridge. One of the former Hounslow makers, Hermann Mohll, was called back from Germany by the Company and was bringing in some 100 blades.
With profound concerns on importing these, Mohll was arrested and other intrigues continued.

By 1702, the company which was then known as the HOLLOW SWORD BLADE CO. failed with the suicide of its founder. Interestingly the Shotley Bridge term was marked on the blades along with the 'running wolf' on blades of hanger type. Still, 'hollow' simply referred to ground down blade faces to lighten blade.

While the sword business itself technically had failed, a group of shrewd business enterpreneurs took the name Hollow Sword Co. and apparently operated as a bank covertly to fund an enterprise as the South Sea Company. It seems that Herman Mohll in 1703 moved the actual sword business to London (I believe Birmingham technically).
q.v. "The Hollow Sword Blade Co. and Sword Making at Shotley Bridge"
need to locate author details.

In these times, 'South Seas' referred to South America, and involved was trade, which included providing slaves to these countries as well as the Central American.
In addition to these scandalous dealings were acquisitions of Irish lands confiscated from Jacobites in these struggles, by 1708 beginning to unravel, and in 1720 with the 'South Sea Bubble' collapse.

Hermann Mohll, in Birmingham had anglicized his name to MOLE, and Henry Nock, a worker at Shotley Bridge had gone to London to begin the fabrication of firearms, later becoming Wilkinson Sword Co. who acquired Mole in 1921.

It seems that the Shotley Bridge hangers were marked as previously noted and with running wolf.
If you could provide a photo and details perhaps we might better determine the plausibility of it being of that provenance.

The 'hollow blade' term is simply for 'hollow ground' and has nothing to do with the fanciful notions that these were actually hollow. I have seen the tales of blades hollow and filled with mercury which would move in the direction of the blow adding kinetic force purportedly etc.

These matters are as you can see a bit complicated as far as this history, but working with actual examples to be considered we can better analyze their character and probable date and source.

Looking forward to hearing from you and more on your planned project.

urbanspaceman 20th September 2017 09:55 PM

Shotley Bridge History
2 Attachment(s)
Hello Folks, and thank-you for the warm welcome.
Because I live a mere 40 minutes from Shotley Bridge, you would have expected me – and this applies to almost everyone here on Tyneside and its environs – to have known at least a little about the sword-makers. However, it was only when I came across a local-history publication, regarding the SB Smiths, about twenty years ago, that my attention was alerted. The book, published in 1973, and written by David Richardson – the grandson of Mary Oley (the penultimate resident extant of the Solingen immigrants) had been the go-to source of information until David Atkinson brought things up to date in 1987. This book was subsequently revised and updated by John G. Bygate at the turn of this century (isn't it strange to have to specify which century is turning?); and until Richard H. Bezdek brought fresh knowledge and insight to the history in his book 'Swords and Sword Makers of England and Scotland' there was precious little else other than spurious articles here and there such as were mentioned by your own Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
Consequently, further investigations were confined to simply keeping an ear cocked until a friend, who works around the area giving talks on local history and heritage, asked me for any subjects she might pursue, and I suggested the SB sword-makers, little realising that she expected me to present her with all the salient facts and etc (story of my life).
As I began to refresh and update my knowledge of the subject I realised there was a great deal missing and a great deal in error (the business of Mohll and Mole being a perfect example) that demanded diligent research.
I've been at it, off and on, for most of this year now; found an SB sword (I hope); learned, by osmosis, much that is of interest but not necessarily pertinent; and realised there was sufficient material for a new book; although, we are talking about a self-published, local-history booklet here, such as I have successfully achieved before on alternative subjects.
Obviously, I can't begin to detail all the material I have accumulated this far, but one thing keeps cropping-up again and again that has led me to suspect we may have all been the subjects of a gigantic ruse, and that is the total absence of an SB made trefoil short-sword to date. However, "The Smallsword in England", James Aylward, 1945, may change my mind once I have acquired said book – thank-you Jim – so I am about to buy a copy forthwith. That aside, has anyone ever seen one?
OK: hopefully, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Best Regards, Keith.
ps. Just to whet your appetites, I have attached an exceptional couple of pictures.

urbanspaceman 20th September 2017 10:19 PM

Daily Addendum
You were writing your last post as I was mine Jim; however, being a newbie, my post awaits moderation. Thank-you, I can see we have much to discuss.
This post is by way of explaining what the pictures are that I attached to my previous post: the picture of Joseph Oley c.1880 shows the very last sword-smith to operate in SB; he quit in 1840 and became an auctioneer (and grew vegetables). The other picture is of Nicholas Oley, his grandson, who died in 1964 (in SB) holding the last ever blade made by his grandfather.
I suspect that blade was sold by auction here in England last year but I have yet to confirm that. The auctioneer told me that it was submitted by a one-time resident of SB who assured him it was made by Oley; I am waiting to speak to the vendor.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 21st September 2017 12:25 AM

4 Attachment(s)
Thank you for your post ...Can you outline which details are spurious although you probably refer to notes in the references perhaps also linked to the secretive nature of the German originators...?
What is your description of the two photographs please?
One or both is Nicholas Oley last surviving member of the Swordmakers from oh I see your post above... OK.

Below are some other ethnographics...The Children actually standing on the Shotley Bridge..The Swordmakers house on wood street visible from the Bridge...with what is the old flour mill behind it.

Harvey Withers notes at"At the end of the 17th Century, immigrant German sword makers also established an extensive sword making community in Shotley Bridge, County Durham, in the north of the country. The abundance of iron ore deposits and the fast flowing River Derwent created the ideal conditions for sword production. It was here that we see the development of a hollow ground or triangular blade that greatly enhanced the strength and durability of smallswords."Unquote.

I do note however that a lot of raw material was imported...

Jim McDougall 21st September 2017 04:05 AM

Hi Keith,
Thank you for adding additional detail and comments as well as the pictures. As I mentioned, I have researched on these topics off and on since about the 70s (my copy of Aylward I have had since around 1976), and the complexities of the English and German swordsmiths have been at the fore many times. In those days there were no computers or web, and research was slow mail, book search with stores and inter library loan processes.

Still, material was to be found, though the very nature of most of the Hounslow, Hollow Sword Blade Co and of course Shotley Bridge relied on information at hand in old accounts and much of it quite controversial.
Inevitably there are misperceptions, misinformation, and perhaps even deliberately altered or contrived versions of data which became lodged in these accounts.

With the web we can now recheck and cross reference material, and I will say that Ibrahiim is one of our most tenacious searchers in online material. Some may prove less than accurate as we evaluate and discover more, but I do not believe most to be spurious, but as with much at hand, some less accurate than others.

Turning to the blades of Shotley Bridge, I think there are some misconceptions as I look at Aylward (1945, p.33),

"...such Shotley Bridge swords are commonly seen as big double edged weapons bearing the words SHOTLEY BRIDGE in their fullers, and fitted with the 'Walloon hilts' used by cavalry in the Monmouth Rebellion and Marlborough campaign periods, but as the factory always claimed to specialize in 'hollow' blades, small swords mounted with their productions may exist, though it does not seem that the tang marks which might identify them are known.
It looks as if the company imported forgings from Solingen which it ground, tempered and finished in Shotley".

Here I would note that the notion of Walloon type swords for these campaigns would not have been produced at Shotley Bridge which does not seem to have begun until around 1687, but then more likely at Hounslow, which seems to have ceased around 1658. However, the Hounslow mills seem to be more focused on hangers, naval types in particular.

The 'Hollow Sword Blade Co.'was formed as noted earlier in 1688, but did not charter and begin bringing in blades until 1691, apparently to mount rapier blades from the Continent.
Aylward notes (op.cit. p.36),
" we deduce from the name, the Hollow Sword Blade Co.' the qualities of the blade with THREE HOLLOWED FACES were beginning to find appreciation, and there is no doubt that cutlers were mounting them, though principally for duelist customers".

On p. 39, Aylward notes that these triple edged (or 'hollow') blades were characteristic of the smallsword. These were of course becoming very popular in place of rapiers.

While the Hollow Sword Blade Co. in name faltered as this was in fact a ruse to operate as a bank for the schemes of the South Sea Company with trade and slaves to South America and real estate confiscations in Ireland.
Shotley Bridge as a sword making entity apparently remained active in some fashion as late as 1808, as Aylward lists names of makers there that late.

Apparantly the mill was closed in 1702 after the arrest of Hermann Mohll for importing German blades (I believe these were the 'hollow' blades) and reopened in 1716 ...his son William sold to Robert Oley in 1724. I think this is when the business moved to Birmingham outside London (in 1690 there was a warehouse at the sign of the Five Beds in a London warehouse at New Street near Shoe Lane operated by the Shotley Bridge group).

It does not seem that the small sword blades were marked to Shotley, or anyone else as they were imported either finished or ground there.
It also seems that small swords were primarily furbished by jewelers or such outfitters who obtained blades at these kinds of outlets.

I am curious now that I think of it, of the Birmingham maker Samuel Harvey who produced hangers and sword blades around mid 18th c. He used a running wolf with the initials SH enclosed as a blade mark. It seems some have suggested 'SH' (= Shotley?) or more plausibly his own initials.
Interesting though.......the running wolf used at Hounslow and by the Shotley Bridge makers......though not seen after 17th c. maybe this was to recall those makers in a spurious application?

Jim McDougall 21st September 2017 06:34 AM

Keith, I just noticed your previous post in which we crossed posts.
It is truly puzzling on the existence of blade producing in Shotley Bridge even in the mid 18th century let alone the 19th. The only swords I have seen marked SHOTLEY BRIDG are of 17th c.
As I mentioned Samuel Harvey using the fox/wolf, I find that many of his swords are simply marked HARVEY or SH, without fox. In those times about mid 18th c. there were only several makers producing swords for the govt. and they were in Birmingham. By the 1780s and into the early years of the 19th there were what became known as the 'sword scandals' concerning the quality of British blades and profound import of German blades. The key proponents were Thomas Gill; James Wooley and Henry Osborne. Until 1790s there were few other blade makers, and JJ Runkel was a German importing blades there in London.

It seems possible that small sword blades were either produced or finished at Shotley Bridge, but although Aylward names makers there, it seems odd more is not mentioned. In checking "The Rapier and Smallsword 1400-1820" AVB Norman, there is entirely no mention of Shotley Bridge nor Hollow Sword Blade Co.; also in "Schools and Masters of Fence" by Egerton Castle, 1885, no mention of any of these.

If these three entities were indeed prevalent or even present in producing swords for fence or dueling after the earlier period of around late 17th c. Aylward mentions, they would have been mentioned in these highly detailed sources.

Egerton Castle does mention the triangular blades (op. cit. p.238),
"...about the period of the Restoration the triangular fluted blade came into fashion in England, having been first adopted by the French between 1650-1660".

Clearly the triangular blade seemed a good prospect to create the Hollow Sword Blade Co., but the term 'hollow' seems to have totally escaped writers of the times, leading to the nonsensical notions which were later perpetuated by Victorian writers into 'sword lore'.

On April 10th, 2012 in one of our discussions, Ibrahiim found and posted this:
from "Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland" concerning the confiscated lands in Jacobite situations.
By T.U.Sadlier, Fri. 21 April, 1933, on the Hollow Sword Blade Co.,
"...engaged in the manufacture of sword blades hollowed out to contain a quantity of mercury, which falling to the inside of the point at every blow, gave added force to the stroke".

This illustrates the kind of fanciful nonsense often created by writers in earlier times, particularly the Victorian period, and this example most certainly constitutes the kind of spurious material often among data collected on these topics. It is included simply to offer perspective to the misunderstanding of the term 'hollow' as to sword blades.

Truly a great subject, and hope we can find more on just how long the Shotley Bridge entity really DID exist; why they do not appear in any blade making lists after 17th c. and what kind of blades did they produce (or import)?

urbanspaceman 21st September 2017 08:32 PM

Begin at the start
Hello Folks. You've got me off to a splendid start; I only hope my notes have enough order to allow my answering your questions. So, beginning at the start with those 'spurious' details Ibrahiim asked about, as I feel they are universally misused:
there is conclusive evidence that there were Germans in the immediate neighbourhood at least sixty years earlier, for the first legible entry in the oldest Ebchester register is of the following: “Eleanor, the daughter of Matthias Wrightson Oley, baptised 1628.”
From: Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend. Vol II, No. 15. May 1888.

I'm afraid the chronicler was over excited by this piece of evidence and didn't examine it more closely (given the date, he may well have needed decent spectacles) as it isn't 'Oley' but an abbreviation denominating a church position: cl lic. which he had believed was ollie. Matthias Wrightson was curate at that church.
A great pity, as it had given me a reason for the choice of location because, let's face it, there's nothing at Shotley Bridge that can't be found at hundreds of alternate locations around the UK and, equally, probably far better known. So I had to start again and try to figure out why SB.
There are two names that I believe are responsible for the choice of location: Bertrams and Vintings. I further understand that they were well versed in iron ore mining and smelting due to their lineage – which I have yet to establish in fact, but my working hypothesis is that they are descended from the "ingenious artisans (whom 'Humphries and Shute' brought over when the Charter of the Mines Royal was granted to them in 1565) at the head of twenty foreign labourers. They had exclusive patents to dig and search for various metals and to refine the same in England and Ireland; and that three years afterwards, the charter was extended when the Duke of Norfolk and others were added to the governors and the whole was styled “The Society of the Mineral and Battery Works."
From: Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend. Vol II, No. 15. May 1888.

I've got to find out where these chaps came from – and why; although iron ore mining and smelting had been going on in the Derwent valley since BCE, and would become the biggest in Europe with the arrival of Sir Ambrose Crowley.

Then, having lost my idealised beginning, I lost my perfect ending, because (see Robert Wilkinson-Latham) there is definitely no connection between Mohll of SB and Mole of Birmingham; as much as everyone up here would like to believe that the SB enterprise ultimately culminated in Wilkinson's Sword. The fact that we had a WS factory up here on Tyneside, and that they had SB swords in a glass case in their reception, lent weight to the fallacy but, sadly, fallacy it is.

I am going to throw two facts into the pot now:
firstly, The Earl of Derwentwater was the local aristo, the big job around those parts, and he was a notorious Jacobite: lost his head in the Tower as a result.
Secondly, in 1815, during the Napoleonic wars, much diligent searching was going on looking for infiltrators, and during a search of Danby Castle (on the North York Moors) they found a chest hidden in a secret compartment in a chimney: a chest of swords apparently intended for the Jacobite army with blades made in Shotley Bridge.
Add to the above the business of Mohll's possession of chests of blades on his arrest, when his ship was searched for Scottish and Irish soldiers (i.e. Jacobites) and I am coming to the conclusion that Hollow Blades was a ruse based on the prevailing popular fashion of the time to disguise the real earner i.e. military blades.
I need to look into the lives of the two Londoners who teamed up with John Sanford from Newcastle and Johannes Dell (Johnathan bell) of Hounslow fame, to form the first enterprise at SB in 1685 with Peter Henekels and Heinrich Hoppe. Remember, these chaps moved to Oxford with their king – Charles Ist.

Here's something I'm stuck on that maybe someone can clarify: does anyone know who – in England – invented this machine?
1830-3 the invention of a roll-forge for blades which Mr. Fritz Weyersberg saw in England. He then purchased the patent and the forge was introduced to and implemented in Solingen. With this machine, which still exists today at WKC, he was able to forge multiple blades in a short space in time.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 21st September 2017 09:05 PM

The Hollow Blade Company.
Thanks Jim on that detail of the Hollow Blade Company to which I refer readers to an account of the spurious story outlined therein. :shrug:

View the amazing underhand dealings that occurred with this company at :shrug:

In an apparently unrelated article I discovered interesting facts on the Sword Makers obscurely...please see ; The swordmakers of Shotley Bridge from an angling association website

Quote"1687 heralded the arrival of the swordmakers from Solingen in West Germany. The names of these refugees’ families were recorded as Oley, Vooz, Mole and Bertram. There are a couple of theories behind their arrival, one being religious persecution, but there is no evidence to support them having being expelled from Germany for being Protestant. Nevertheless it still remains the most popular theory as to why they came to such a remote village under a veil of secrecy. The second and on the face of it more likely explanation was the introduction of new machinery which was threatening the livelihood of some of the Solingen swordmakers. So it is possible that it was simply time to move on.

In 1831, a Newcastle man visiting the works was told that their German forefathers were brought to Shotley Bridge by a company of gentlemen with the licence of Government as a commercial venture. This seems plausible and there is evidence connecting John Sandford and John Bell of Newcastle to the company at that time. Both men being of this area, they would have known the suitability of the River Derwent for siting a steel works on account of it having soft water as well as the excellent mill stone grit in the riverbed which was also very good for sharpening the blades. Indeed, on certain stones today it’s still possible to see grooves left by “slipping” and tempering of the precious blades. So there were obvious reasons for them to build their shops and houses near the river. Perhaps the most important reason though was that the Derwent was a fast running river, so ideal for operating and driving the mills. The nearby woods were also a perfect source of wood to make charcoal for the furnaces. And transportation was no problem, with a road down the valley to Derwenthaugh and Newcastle, then on to markets in London and Europe by sea.

Forge Cottage
The quality of their product far surpassed the inferior English swords. At the time, the troubled reign of James II was in progress and a civil war a distinct possibility, so maybe they thought they could supply both sides with swords. The Hollow Blade Sword Company was formed, the hollow blade sword having a hollow inner with three flat sides; this meant with their combined lightness and rigidity the sword point could be bent back to the hilt, then when released would spring back to its original shape. The company was later renamed The Sword Blade Bank. The new company stuttered through the 18th century, but gained a new lease of life with the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars, which proved very lucrative. But when the war ended in 1815, the final decline began, with the development of other steel-making towns in Sheffield and Birmingham. Nevertheless the swordmaking industry continued in Shotley Bridge until 1840, ran by Joseph Oley (a former committee member of the Derwent Angling Association) who later became an auctioneer in the village for 50 years. Living to almost a hundred years of age, he was buried in 1896 alongside other members of his family, Richard and Christopher, in Ebchester parish church yard. On his headstone is the inscription: ‘The last of the Shotley Bridge sword makers’. The swordmakers’ buildings in Wood Street remained until just a few years ago, only being demolished to make way for a new terrace row which bears their name.

The sword in the hat

Many stories have been passed down over the years about the swordmakers of Shotley Bridge. On one occasion, Robert Oley became involved in a wager with eight of the top swordmakers in the country as to who could manufacture the best, most flexible blade. A meeting was set for two weeks to the day. When Oley appeared at the meeting place with no sword in his hand, the other swordmakers declared him the loser of the bet. Whereupon he took off his hat and threw it on the table. There for all to see, inside the hat coiled around the rim, was a double edge sword, and he was instantly declared the winner. He then offered his winnings to anyone who could remove it from the hat, but of course it was so tightly wound that no one could.

Another story was that a member of the Oley family travelled to London in the early 19th century to take part in a competition to produce the finest sword in all of England. Oley won the crown for his sword and The Sword Inn in the heart of Shotley Bridge was renamed The Crown and Crossed Swords in his honour. This pub plays a large part in the local community and is now the headquarters of the Derwent Angling Association. Some of these excellent swords are preserved and line the walls in Hamsterley Hall, home of the former Lord Gort. Some of the descendants of those first swordmaking families can trace their roots back to razorblade giant Wilkinson Sword, while some members of the Mole family moved to Birmingham and continued their business a few years longer. In 1889, Robert Mole and Sons was bought out and absorbed into Wilkinsons of Pall Mall, although not actually taken over until 1920. Wilkinson Sword (International) Ltd, chiefly noted for the production of safety razors and razor blades, still has a production plant in Solingen. The crossed swords proudly adorn the company logo, maintaining the link with their swordmaking heritage."Unquote.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 22nd September 2017 02:52 AM

Here is a further site expanding on the general dispute over the whole issue and goings on with the Shotley Bridge Swordmakers...

See also page 34 of

urbanspaceman 22nd September 2017 10:37 AM

time lag
I'm afraid my contributions are coming out of sequence due to the moderator needing to pre-view; I'll need to allow longer gaps before I post.

urbanspaceman 22nd September 2017 10:54 AM

With reference for my request for information about the roll-forge still at use in WKC Solingen: I spoke to Andre Willms at WKC and he referred me to the Klingenmuseum in Solingen, but unfortunately they were not able to help either. Somebody must know!

urbanspaceman 23rd September 2017 12:14 PM

sorry, posted this prematurely; still getting used to the system and only wanted to preview not submit.

urbanspaceman 23rd September 2017 12:36 PM

I gather Richard H. Bezdek passed away recently; and going by the one publication of his that I have acquired, I have to declare it is a tremendous loss to the sword collecting community.
So I want to do two things here (and Mr Moderator, if I am breaking forum rules please forgive me and delete, then I will know not to make the same mistake again), first, to acknowledge just how much work the man did in this field; and second, to clarify the beginnings of the Shotley Bridge endeavours - following my indication in an earlier post that it began with Johannes Dell (Bell), Peter Henekels and Heinrich Hoppe in 1685.
I will now quote from Mr Bezdek's book, because he has collated the odds and ends of information I had previously discovered quite perfectly, and if I had read his book first I could have saved myself a lot of searching:
Swords and Swordmakers of England and Scotland.
It all started when Sir John Heyden, while on a diplomatic mission in Holland (probably Rotterdam) on behalf of King Charles I, encountered some German swordsmiths. The Germans were supposedly refugees fleeing from the terrors of the Thirty Years War. He persuaded some of them to immigrate to England and work under royal patronage.
These swordsmiths were members of several sword-related crafts from Solingen, including Schwertschmeides (swordsmiths), Klingenschmieldes (bladesmiths/blade forgers), Schwertschleifer (sword/blade grinders), Schwertfegers (sword/blade polishers), and Schwertharters (sword/blade hardeners).
The route to England from Solingen went through the Netherlands and coastal Holland to Rotterdum and then to London. That is why many documents of the time referred to the Solingen Germans who immigrated to England as Dutch and why they called their blades “Dutch” blades.
The leading Germans who set up blade mills were bladesmiths of some stature in Solingen (i.e., guild members) who employed other Germans.
The following German bladesmiths (probably blade mill owners) signed their blades:
• Peter Munsten the Younger (changed name to Peter English), c. 1629–1642
• Johann Kindt (Kinndt, Kennett), c. 1629–1659
• Johannes Hoppe (Hoppie) the Younger, c. 1633–1642
• Caspar Karn (Carnis), c. 1629–1642
• Clemens (Clamas) Meigen, c. 1629–1642
• Caspar Fleiseh, c. 1629–1642
• Johannes Dell (Bell), c. 1649–1685
Other known German swordsmiths and bladesmiths working in Hounslow were:
• Johann Konigs (Connyne), c. 1629–1642
• Clemens Horn the Younger, c.1629–1642
• Ceile Herder, c. 1649–1659
• Peter Henekels (Henkell), c. 1660–1685
• Johannes Meigen, c. 1629–1642
• Heinrich (Henry) Hoppe (Hoppie) the Elder, c.1629–1642
• Joseph Hoppe Hoppie, c. 1629–1642
When the parliamentary forces took over the Hounslow sword and blade center in 1642, they confiscated the mills of the German bladesmiths obedient to the king. The only bladesmiths to remain obedient to the parliamentary forces were the Germans Johann Kindt (Kinndt), Ceile Herder and Johannes Dell (Bell); and Englishman Henry Risby.
The other German bladesmiths followed King Charles I to his new headquarters at Oxford, where they would have worked at the blade mill at Glouster Hall, Oxford, or the sword mill at Wolvercote, near Oxford. They were Peter Munsten (English) the Younger, Caspar Fleisch, Clemens Horn the Younger, Johannes Hoppe (Hoppie) the Younger, Heinrich (Henry) Hoppe (Hoppie) the Elder, Johannes Meigen, Clemens (Clames) Meigen, and Caspar Karn (Carnis).
OK, back to me:
The perspicacious amongst you will note the absence of Peter Henekels; an oversight probably or... where was he before he showed up at Shotley Bridge? It's just such little mysteries that have me chasing red herrings but occasionally turning up interesting facts along the way.
Respect, Mr. Bezdek.

Jim McDougall 23rd September 2017 06:08 PM

Originally Posted by urbanspaceman
With reference for my request for information about the roll-forge still at use in WKC Solingen: I spoke to Andre Willms at WKC and he referred me to the Klingenmuseum in Solingen, but unfortunately they were not able to help either. Somebody must know!

Keith, in trying to respond to this I have to admit I am not familiar with metal working processes, so unclear what a 'roll forge' is. However, it seems possible that the 'rolling mill' might be what is meant?

The rolling mill was apparently around in England with Henry Cort and Funtley iron mills near Fareham, England with a patent around 1783. There seem to have been uses of this in Sweden earlier (1760s) and probably earlier. These apparently roll forged steel into the thinner stock for blades.

This further seems to have been known even as early as mid 17th century, as Robert Porter of Birmingham had a mill which supplied as many as 15,000 blades to Parliamentary forces in 1642. This in addition to the blades produced in Hounslow.
q.v. "The Making of Birmingham" Robert K. Dent (1894) p. 147, notes there were 'slitting and rolling' mills in several locations, including Digbeth, which was where Robert Porter had his mill. It states he converted his corn mill into a 'blade mill'.

The Royalist forces destroyed his mill after Edgehill (1643). However his son seems to have continued in Birmingham with blades as in 1686 he approached the Cutlers Company for approval.

In Aylward (1945, p.32) it is noted that the Hollow Sword Co. backed by Lord Dartmouth "...had a rolling mill at Hounslow, but in spite of this it petitioned for a patent for the importation, trial and marking of blades".
(this from "The Shotley Bridge Sword Blade Co." Appleby-Miller, 1943)

Interesting that this entry alludes to the Hollow Sword Co. which we know was centered at Shotley Bridge, but mentions a rolling mill at Hounslow. Hounslow by 1672 was in complete shambles by then, so why mention it as a viable mill for blades? Further it is clear that blades were to be brought in to be finished.

It sounds as if Birmingham production was pretty sound in these times, but their blades were not highly favored if I recall other notes.

Aylward (p.33) claims that small swords of Shotley Bridge may exist but none have tang marks which might identify them, and that it seems that the company imported forgings from Solingen which were ground, tempered and finished at Shotley. He provides lists of the makers there from Henry Hooper (Hoppe?) 1687; Adam Oley 1692; includes others Mohl and Oley and through the 18th century, with William Oley last in 1808.
Hermann Mohl is listed as a grinder 1687-1717.
Remember he is the one arrested with chests of blades in 1703 from Holland (Solingen blades) suggesting this practice of importation was right.

It does not seem that iron deposits or smelting were key to the location chosen for the Shotley premises, as the 'cementation' process required iron ore of higher quality, which was imported from Sweden to the port at Newcastle.

Regarding the case of Solingen, they apparently depended greatly on Swedish iron as well, though the deposits near there were high in manganese needed for pliable blades. Beech forests provided well for the carbon needed.
It seems there are mixed reviews on the actual production, the materials etc. so more work needed.

So why Shotley? Hounslow was still extant in some degree in 1672 and had mills, so why not refurbish it? Birmingham was active in production, but were their blades disfavored?
If Shotley and the Hollow Blade scam were just a front, why are Shotley makers listed through the entire 18th c. and why even into the 19th?

The rolling mills were introduced in Solingen in 1847.......Burton went there in 1860s and they were still using hammer and anvil. Why did the most industrious blade making center in the world not have these 'rolling mills' until mid 19th c. when it seems they were around early in the 17th and in England?

The more I read on these conundrums the more questions!

urbanspaceman 23rd September 2017 10:20 PM

rolling mills etc
Hello Jim. I am sure that you are correct and it was a rolling mill they were referring-to.
I am equally puzzled as to why WKC in Solingen needed to buy a patent from us Brits; hence my following it up. However, the vexed subject of 'Luddites' is ever present when talking about Solingen, as I'm certain the introduction of machines was one of the main reasons why the sword-smiths were allowed to leave so easily.
Of course, Solingen is a Catholic city, so maybe it was the Lutherans that were surplus to requirements when the machines came along. That is what they were you know; they even brought a Lutheran preacher to Shotley Bridge with them: a fact I only discovered a couple of days ago when searching the archives of the museum that originally held Lord Gort's collection of swords in permanent display. There is nothing at Hamsterly Hall now, nor has there been for thirty years at least; Lord Gort left his collection to said museum in his will; I discovered that talking to the new owners of the hall many years ago.
Still, on that note, I'm scheduled to visit many of our manor-houses and inhabited castles, as we have an abundance, as I'm sure you are aware. I know a few of the local aristos which gets my foot in the door: Alnwick Castle, for example, has a huge armoury, and Mr. Percy is always looking for fundraising ideas now Mr. Potter has retired.
In reference to Aylward's mention of the Hollow Blade Co. at Hounslow: I am certain this is an error.
The Germans at SB initially used local iron ore – there are an abundance of old mines known locally as the German Bands – but soon switched to Swedish imports before eventually using Dan Hayward, which is what Sir Ambrose Crowley was doing as well.
With regard to Hounslow: according to one source, the latest 'dated' Hounslow blade known is 1637 (that needs corroborating), but deliveries from William Walker, who owned a mill at Hounslow, were still on-going in 1660 when he supplied the Board of Ordnance with 1,000 Hangers for sea service. In 1674, Peter Munsten (English) and Henry Hoppe (the elder) approached the London Cutlers Company intending to establish a hollow ground sword blade factory in Hounslow, but nothing happened. Apparently, there was almost no output from Hounslow by 1675.
I certain that the initial enterprise at SB in 1685 with Hoppe, Dell and Henekels was for hollow blade small-swords (they had brought their German grinding engine with them after-all) but the demand for military blades that subsequently materialised meant that the extra 19 families were brought over. I don't think secrecy was required to protect their processes – the Germans had been keeping their secrets safe for over a hundred years, since the Greenwich arsenal began – I think it was to allow them to supply both sides during the Jacobite rebellions; and allow Mohll to beef-up productivity by bringing in Solingen stock. It's quite probable that the death of the Earl of Derwentwater in 1716 may have put paid to their cash cow.
The search goes ever on and on…

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 24th September 2017 09:01 AM

This is a great thread Kieth well done on digging out all the names and other details... Something sparks in my mind about the rolling mill situation as the swordmakers backs onto the Derwent and at that point you can see a derelict eroded wall and I think this encased the rolling mil. Emphasis on I think ! There was I understand a huge stone wheel shaped object lying against one of the supporting walls and I believe it was at the terminus of a number of water courses drawn from about 500 metres up river which were tunneled under the road at the Durham end of the Bridge. The water may have been brought in to turn the wheel...and for tempering etc This wheel was a gigantic stone grinding wheel...of several tons ...and it seems to have gone? Has the Beamish Industrial Museum got it? There is a reference to it in one of my web references which I will try to dig up.

Having dug that up....Chapter 3: To Shotley

Bygate mentions that corn milling and coal mining were established in the local area and that there were accredited English swordmakers in Newcastle. He also refers to a half-sculpted grind stone next to the River Derwent

Could this have been a rolling mill grind stone ...?

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 24th September 2017 01:11 PM

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I begin to have my doubts on some of the supposed Shotley Swords ...or claimed as Shotley swords...such as from~

Although it would fit very nicely into my suggestion that since the hotel/public house; ...The Crown and Crossed Swords was part of the Sword makers estate; ...that if the emblem was Two English basket swords crossed below a crown;...that swords of the Basket variety would have been made there?...see below.
On reflection the sword dates seem somewhat odd...perhaps a typing error....since if Shotley didn't start making swords til 1685 how can a sword with 1596 be slated here as from there?... Would it not simply be a Solingen sword?

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 24th September 2017 04:36 PM

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What of this one ? ~ It seems genuine especially with Shotley Bridge inscribed down the blade in capital letters....

Write up by Thomas Del Mare on this sold item...

inscribed 'Shotley Bridge' and incised with the running fox, brass hilt cast in low relief, comprising double shell-guard with moulded brim interrupted on each side by a panel of scrolls centring on a grotesque, each face divided into a six-petalled flower incorporating allegorical figures and a pair of classical profile masks, globular quillon, near rectangular knuckle-guard, and ovoid pommel decorated with tendrils issuant from a grotesque mask, and the grip bound with plaited wire and 'Turks' heads'
72.5cm; 28 1/2in blade.'' Unquote.

Jim McDougall 24th September 2017 07:38 PM

Guys, this is a wonderful discussion! and the research and entries are incredible. These conundrums have been mulled over for well over a century and a half, and there have been so many misconceptions and wrongly placed notions. As I have mentioned, I have tried to get further into the Hounslow, Hollow Blade and Shotley mysteries many times over at least 40 years.
Each time the material (which was a struggle to find before computers and the web) was so conflicting and tangled I ended up setting it aside. It is amazing to go at it again with super sleuths!!

It seems to me that the tangled web of German sword makers in England is being brought to light here in an almost forensic way as we gather and share evidence for evaluation.

Here is the KEY POINT about forum is never about who is right or wrong, but always about finding the right or best answers.

At this point it appears that German smiths were indeed in England from even the Tudor period, and that Charles I did bring numbers of them into England as early as the 1620s where they formed the enterprise known as Hounslow sword makers. While the earlier examples were marked with makers names and Hounslow, the practice tailed off later. The swords continued being produced it seems even after the English Civil wars however the industry there had been disrupted as some of the smiths followed the King to his locations in Oxford and London.

We know that the Royalists were well supplied with swords and blades from those locations as well as profoundly from mills in Birmingham. Meanwhile, Hounslow had become a Parliamentary stronghold and their supplier.

After the Civil Wars it seems Hounslow slipped into disrepair and by 1672 a mere shadow of its early glory, though apparently still producing in degree.
In a sense, it seems that the Hounslow phenomenon actually transcended into the Shotley Bridge one, and via the mysterious anomaly known as the Hollow Sword Blade Co. This entity was to fashion the now popular type of blades for rapiers which had become popular in France for rapiers and small swords which was triangular in section. It was termed 'hollow' for the three faces which were in effect hollowed out or fluted (far from the nonsense of misguided persons who thought the blade was really hollow to contain mercury!!? ).

This took place around 1685, and while many of the Germans had gone back to Solingen decades before, many had remained in the trade in different locations, so effectively became part of the Shotley Bridge circumstance. In this venture, it appears that the Hollow Blade entity became more of a financial venture (actually operating as a bank) with the production of blades more in line with producing hangers and other blades, but not of these hollow type (as far as is known).

The confusion in all of this is that some of the Germans had Anglicized their names so we are not sure which are individual persons or duplicates in the records. We do know that there were numbers of blades made in Shotley which became well known on hangers and often even munitions grade swords which were marked and even with the famed running wolf device.
This was not as surmised, a guild mark or scornfully placed symbol toward Solingen, but a mark the German makers regarded proudly as a quality device which had been in long standing from early times in Passau.

It does appear that 'hollow blades' were being brought into England and refinished in Shotley Bridge and that Herman Mohll, one of the key figures in these enterprises, was arrested with bundles of swords being brought to Newcastle for Shotley on a Dutch ship in 1703. Some of these were listed as hangers, but the other bundles not described.

Whatever the case, it does seem that even though the Shotley enterprise was closed in 1703, Mohll reopened it in 1716 (but died that year as well), and his son took over, but in 1724 or at some point it was sold to the Oley's.
Here is the confusion on the Oley's, who in some cases are claimed to be the ones who went to Birmingham to be the progenitors of the firm which became MOLE (later bought by Wilkinsons in 1870s).

While Shotley Bridge seems to have existed through the 18th century and into the 19th, it is not listed among sword making records anywhere after about 1703.

Curiously, the Birmingham smith Samuel Harvey used occasionally, the Running Wolf device with his initials (c.1740s-50s) but whether this had anything to do with Shotley other than commemorative perhaps, is unknown.

My guess is that Shotley remained in place more in terms of a cutlery producer later in the 18th century and into the 19th, when Sheffield consumed that part of the business.

The Shotley blades of late 17th into beginning of 17th so marked were refurbished and passed on as heirlooms and highly regarded in many officers swords and civilian swords through the 18th century. This has given the impression that the Shotley sword making continued, while it was the blades which carried on.

urbanspaceman 24th September 2017 09:56 PM

cabbages and kings
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Hello Folks. It appears you have been at SB Ibrahiim; I began researching there about a dozen years ago and then again just last week, it is remarkable just how advanced is the gentrification of the place, often at the expense of heritage unfortunately; there is nothing to be learned from visiting the place now.
It was Richard Bezdek who discovered the earlier start at SB (i.e.1685 not 1687) but I think we can be certain no-one else was making swords with a running fox or wolf over here before that, as Ibrahiim so succinctly detailed in a post on a much earlier thread, 'it was never used at Hounslow'. I suppose it is just possible it was used at Greenwich, that I don't know – does anyone? Either way, it certainly wasn't used at SB in 1596.
With further regard to the use of the fox: Samuel Harvey commandeered the image of the fox to bestow prestige and quality on his blades. No doubt the dreadful reputation of Birmingham blades, back when he was starting out, persuaded him to purloin it. He always had initials in the outline however, so there's no doubt they are not SB blades; although a lot of reputable dealers in this country will tell you they are. I have even seen the H for Harvey altered to look like a B (not hard is it?).
Oleys in later years (1750s onwards) were using a distinctly singular fox impression: an auction last year sold just such a blade on behalf of an ex. SB resident who had first-hand knowledge of its provenance and indicated it was made by the Oleys.
I've found so much detail that is pertinent that I really don't think I can post it all, but maybe I can add what I've found that is missing so far - such as Bertrams and Vintings. We imported a lot of Germans to develop our lead and copper mining up here in Northern England (and probably everywhere else I suspect) in the 1500s (there was a lead mine at Ryton Village which is just minutes from SB) so I suspect Vintings may well be descended from those early settlers. Equally, the Bertrams name was in the area long before SB was developed and as a blast-furnace expert, and owner, he may well have been involved in the pre-development of the village, anticipating the sword-makers' arrivals. We had a cutler here in Newcastle also – Thomas Carnforth – who was closely involved with Mohll (testified on his behalf during Mohll's imprisonment) and was equally certainly involved with Johannes Dell (John Bell) in setting up the syndicate, as he definitely needed a ready supply of 'hollow blades'.
With regard to the yearly output of the village: I am sure they made suitable swords for the Jacobites back in 1688 and onwards; just as I am certain they made them for Parliament. I think they simply made swords for a living and did not care where they went or who used them. Let's face it: after enduring the Thirty Years War, they would definitely want to keep their heads down and get on with their work. As we move along in time, outside factors impacted to a greater and a lesser degree, but so long as the mill-wheel kept turning they kept eating.
In 1690, it was stated by Sir Stephen Evance in a petition for a royal charter that the Germans were to be using their mills and engines expressly to produce hollow blades:
Our said subjects, at their great charge and management, have imported from foreign parts, divers persons, who have exercised in their own country the said art of making hollow sword blades by the use of certain newly invented instruments, engines and mills and by the contrivance of our said subjects, have prevailed upon them to expose themselves, to the hazard of their lives to impart to our said subjects their art and mystery. I am certain they had absolutely no intention of disclosing any secrets to us Brits.
Also in 1690, from an advertisement run for a week in the London Gazette:
Whereas great industry hath been used in erecting a manufacture for hollow sword blades at Newcastle [Shotley Bridge] by several able workmen brought from Germany, which now being brought to perfection, the undertakers thereof have thought fit to settle [set up] a warehouse at Mr Isaac Hadley’s, at the [sign of the] Five Bells; New Street, near Shoe Lane [in London] whereas callers can be furnished with all sorts of sword blades at reasonable prices.
Thirteen years later this appeared:
The Hollow Sword Blade company has lately received a considerable quantity of sword blades made at their mills at Shotley Bridge near Newcastle upon Tyne. They are now on sale at their warehouse in New St. near Fetter Lane.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 25th September 2017 12:07 PM

Salaams urbanspaceman ~ No never been near the place. Not certain I agree with your statement on the area since most of Industrial North East England was demolished ...whereas at Shotley Bridge... which actually never had a coal mine did have the few industrial plants like the papermaking factory and the sword makers wiped off the record... largely the rest of it including the grand Victorian houses around the Spa and the quaint shop fronts and general structure of the little village centre has remained intact...and being restored I see...It looks like the river may have done for the rear end of the Mill near the bridge and the stone wheel may have been relocated by the raging waters in a great flood about 10 years ago..

A number of factors appear on the subject of that grinding wheel said to have been near the mill and a few feet from the waters edge at Shotley bridge. My recent post also mentions this and we know the concept of converting flour mills to sword mills already viz;..."The Making of Birmingham" Robert K. Dent (1894) p. 147, notes there were 'slitting and rolling' mills in several locations, including Digbeth, which was where Robert Porter had his mill. It states he converted his corn mill into a 'blade mill'. Was this also done at Shotley Bridge...?

I think what we need to place are examples of so called Shotley Bridge Swords with a possible time line to see where these weapons fit into a chronological sequence...The blade I placed with SHOTLEY clearly placed on the blade seems to be real HOWEVER THE WRITE UP SAYS CIRCA 1740 WHICH MEANS IT ISNT DATED ON THE BLADE BUT ESTIMATED ONLY..

I do not write off intrigue and skulduggery in the matter of the Jacobite situation. It may be remembered that this region was Border Reiver territory and the route to Scotland was over that bridge...It is quite possible that swords destined for the Jacobite cause could have gone through Reiver hands to Scottish beneficiaries along this route.

To date I have never seen a three edged sword stamped or said to be from Shotley Bridge.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 25th September 2017 12:53 PM

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I would like to copy in here the following~

[B s-v1i4.pdf [/B]

where at notes on blades and collecting Shotley Bridge is named as a provider of basket hilts !!

Samuel Harvey needs to be observed to see where he fits into this ever revolving equation and I note he signed basket hilts seen at page 36 where two cases are recorded for research although many more exist. Harveys work becomes slightly tangled with the Shotley factory and here it can be more clearly separated out...

In addition Samuel Harvey is noted with the SH ... stamp. I have also noted HAR...with VEY under in a square stamp format below.. and Harvey on various different parts of the weapon. Also below the first English cuphilt by Harvey...
The H in some weapons has been changed as you note earlier to a B in a forlorn attempt to try to show Shotley Bridge as the centre of origin..This is usually done inside the running fox...There is no such blademark as SB. Most Harvey examples shown are from his factory in Birmingham.

See Below.

1. It is clear that there is a difference between the running wolf of Solingen and the running fox with its bushy tail.
2. Often as you note the SH (Samuel Harvey) is altered to read SB ..
3. I suspect the sword with roughly applied SHOTLEY in capitals is a Solingen blade with lettering added later ... the wolf perhaps genuine. This could be an heirloom sword.
4. A probable Solingen sword appears with the talimanic 1414 Date and running wolf.

urbanspaceman 25th September 2017 01:26 PM

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Hello Ibrahiim. I thought it unlikely you would venture to the depths of the industrial North; and, as I said, nothing is to be learned from visiting the place (unless you want to buy the Methodist Church which I noticed is for sale £245k... just joking).
Here are some photos from my local museum and from the Royal Armouries at Leeds.

urbanspaceman 25th September 2017 01:51 PM

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Speaking of Reivers Ibrahiim: my mother's side of the family are Grahams, the most notorious of them all. We were generally over on the west side (Cumberland) unless we were stealing cattle and sheep, then we might pop over to Newcastle for the night.
It is most vexing, the lack of SB tri-form blades; all the evidence points to there being an abundance yet not a single example seems to have surfaced.
Are there many early English-made short-swords with Colichmarde or triangular blades? I've just bought a pretty mid 1800s French officer's sword made at Klingenthal, simply so I have an example of what it was all about. I would have much preferred - at least - an English example but I haven't seen anything accessible to date.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 25th September 2017 02:55 PM

Colichemarde Form. The Hollow Ground Blade
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What is notable so far is the absence of any Shotley Bridge hollow ground blades. Nonsense to one side about the story of mercury filled blades naturally a joke in the trade at the time... but I have also heard of the term applied to the cutting edge as hollow grinding... To some extent that may be partly true but the Hollow Ground blade or Colichemarde form is much more interesting than simply that. Colichemarde were broader toward the throat with about 12 inches of quite thick broad blade sweeping to a narrower long blade of three edges; Triangular in cross section leading to a sharp point.

If there are none from Shotley Bridge could it mean that they either produced so few by hand (Solingen it is said churned these out with a grinding machine) or that Shotley, without the machine, gave up trying to compete? ...but the net effect is I am unable to source a single Hollow Blade of this type from there..

According to Wiki Quote"The Colichemarde blade configuration is widely thought to have been an invention of Graf von Königsmark, due to the similarity in pronunciation of their names. However, the first blades of this type date from before the Count's lifetime. The colichemarde first appeared about 1680 and was popular during the next 40 years at the royal European courts. It was especially popular with the officers of the French and Indian War period. George Washington was presented with one during his inauguration.

The widespread misapprehension that the colichemarde quickly ceased to be produced after 1720 dates to the opinion given by Sir Richard Burton in his "The Book of the Sword" dating to 1884. However, many securely dated colichemarde swords from as late as the 1770s can be found in collections.

This sword appeared at about the same time as the foil. However the foil was created for practicing fencing at court, while the colichemarde was created for dueling. It made frequent appearances in the duels of New Orleans. A descendant of the colichemarde is the épée, a modern fencing weapon. "Unquote.

see Hollow-Ground or "Colichemarde" Blades at


See below ~Hollow Ground Colichemarde form...

urbanspaceman 25th September 2017 05:45 PM

I know I am wandering from the principle point of the thread here but, just briefly, to follow up on Ibrahiim's post (thank-you Sir) I have heard it said that the Colichemarde gave the ability to fend-off blows from the heavier blades such as rapiers and trans' rapiers due to its reinforced upper section, but that once rapiers left the duelling business then the constant gradual taper became the go-to blade for the de rigueur gentleman about town.
The French officer's sword photos I posted earlier is the style to which I refer.

urbanspaceman 25th September 2017 06:00 PM

Cut or thrust
Again, allowing the detour, I came across this statement made by Henry Wilkinson c.1850 with regard to the thrust as opposed to the cut (I have to say that surely from horse-back there is only the cut, but that aside):
"An old officer of the 11th Dragoons told me that it was proverbial through all the Peninsular War, that our Dragoons who were mostly brought into the hospital with slight punctured wounds in the chest or abdomen almost invariably died. The French Dragoons on the contrary had mostly cut or incised wounds and almost all recovered."

Jim McDougall 26th September 2017 01:00 AM

Originally Posted by urbanspaceman
Again, allowing the detour, I came across this statement made by Henry Wilkinson c.1850 with regard to the thrust as opposed to the cut (I have to say that surely from horse-back there is only the cut, but that aside):
"An old officer of the 11th Dragoons told me that it was proverbial through all the Peninsular War, that our Dragoons who were mostly brought into the hospital with slight punctured wounds in the chest or abdomen almost invariably died. The French Dragoons on the contrary had mostly cut or incised wounds and almost all recovered."

Through the entire century the argument between cut and thrust went on, and invariably the effort was for a sword blade which could deliver both effectively. The first British regulation sword was the M1796 light cavalry sabre, which was considered most effective at cuts resulting in ghastly wounds, and which the French considered barbaric. However in any cases they were survivable, where the thrust favored by the French was virtually always fatal, and in usually a long very painful way.

The heavy, chopping blades of the M1796 were ultimately replaced by the M1821 cavalry sabre with a 'spear' point' which could be used in a thrust with the sword held in high tierce, then used in slashing cuts as well.
There were of course issues in production, design and as always blade quality, which had plagued English sword making for the previous centuries.

Jim McDougall 26th September 2017 07:31 PM

Some years ago Ibrahiim was involved in trying to learn more about the basket hilt swords which were used in the border regions between England and Scotland, where groups of what were known as "border reivers' would take varying sides in the Scottish rebellions (1689-1746).

While the Scottish basket hilt forms which had evolved in the 16th century from apparent German and North European hilts are of course well known, the remarkable spectrum of usually more austere hilts of basket form and characteristically 'English' have been the subject of much investigation and discussion.

The wonderful book "British Basket Hilted Swords" by Dr. Cyril Mazansky (2005) presents thoroughly illustrated details on the Scottish and these English forms, however is focused entirely on typology. For illustrations accompanied by intriguing and pertinent details on the historical detail of these and many other European swords, the venerable "Sword and Blades of the American Revolution" by George Neumann (1973) has never been surpassed.

The reason I bring these up is that the questions pertaining to these English swords and where they were made lent to the idea that perhaps at least numbers of them were made at Shotley Bridge. Ibrahiim had brought up the crossed basket hilts device and other factors, but it was still unresolved back then.

As though many of these basket hilt type swords date from the early years of the 18th century and through the Revolutionary War, the question has been, did Shotley possibly provide some of these swords as it seems to have been active given records noting certain smiths there into the 19th c.

It is known that despite the primary sources of English sword making in some of the 'garrison' locations such as Glasgow and Sterling, in the east Edinburgh tended more Jacobite if I recall notes, and there were smaller locations throughout who would fabricate hilts and used the usually mostly German blades. This of course was standard throughout Scotland, the Highlands, and apparently of course England.

While Birmingham blades had been touted as terrible in times earlier in the century, by mid 18th century, the quality had been improved no doubt thanks to German presence in the industry in the early 17th century with Hounslow, followed by the much clouded Shotley Bridge entity.
It is well established that numbers of these English military form basket hilts were produced by Drury and Jeffries of London, as well as the much discussed Samuel Harvey of Birmingham.

What has drawn us to Harvey has been his propensity to use the running fox in the manner of the much purloined running wolf of Passau, which was used by Solingen, and later carried forth by the German makers in England.
It appears his activity began around 1750, and many of his blades, probably earlier ones, had the 'fox' with his initials.
I think this likely was to draw to the earlier use of the running wolf on both Hounslow and later many Shotley blades and to suggest that degree of quality as opposed to the Birmingham stigma.
I would point out here that a John Dawes of Birmingham seems to have also used the fox, but instances of his blades are far less known.( fig.10a, "the British Basket Hilted Cavalry Sword", A.D. Darling, 'Canadian Journal of Arms Collecting', Vo.7, #3, Jan. 1974, the example is the animal alone and suggests either Harvey or Dawes as producer, c.1750).

It has been suggested that the Hounslow makers did not use the running wolf, however in looking at the many examples in numbers of references the last few days, I have found considerable examples which did have the mark.
The running wolf of Passau began appearing on Solingen blades actually in contracts for makers of that city from a reference I have seen but have yet to retrieve.

In the advent of the English Civil Wars, Hounslow became a primary Parliamentary supplier (though several went to Oxford for the King), which was why a great many backswords, most of the 'mortuary' half basket hilt type were with German blades. Most of these have the sundry devices and markings well known in Europe and spuriously used in Solingen. One example (Neumann 250.S) has the running wolf and talismanic number 1469 (these are combinations not dates). Others of this period also have the well known ANDRIA FERARA so much associated with Solingen blades destined for Scotland. These often have the 'Genoan' sickle marks which were as widely copied as the running wolf.

Though it is clear that imported blades from Solingen were profoundly used (as recorded) and hilted in Hounslow, there were of course blades which were produced there, and some of them did bear the running wolf.

To Shotley Bridge:
The idea that there may have been some fabrication of military blades here does seem of course probable, but in what degree is unclear. We know of course that blades were being brought in for finishing, and it sounds as if hangers may well have been among them. However, there are numbers of the broadsword blades which are clearly military as in Neumann (p.146, 254.S) a semi basket hilt has a DE blade with pronounced mid ridge, and SHOTLEY BRIDG with date 1690 and WR (King William). William was of course William III of Orange and of the English crown.

It has been suggested that Shotley had supplied for both sides, and this blade so marked presents compelling suggestion that they may have.
The earlier notes regarding the numbers of Jacobite supporters in the Shotley venture presents the dilemma existing with this Dutch 'King'.
While the Dutch were Protestant and vehemently against the Catholic rule of Spain, this was directly in league with the English crown against the Jacobite cause in Scotland.
As typically German blades were typically it seems transported from Solingen via Holland, it presents interesting case.
The ship with blades for Mohll to Shotley (1703) was from Rotterdam.

To the Colichemarde:

According to Aylward, the term has not been reliably traced to any English of French literature. It is however generally held that the term is cognate interpretation alluding to John Phillip, Count von Konigsmark, a Swedish soldier who was a renowned duelist. It does appear he may have designed this anomalous blade profile in which the proto examples were of flat longitudinal section which left the upper portion wide for parry but the lower portion narrow for speed and thrust.
He was in London around 1661, which suggests that terminus post quem, but that this style went rather quickly out of fashion in civilian blades, giving way to the gradual taper of the triangular (hollow) blades. While mostly gone by first part of 18th c. with military officers, with their flair for flamboyant hubris, seem to have kept the form around, and even as late as 1780s, George Washington had one and other military use was known.

I just wanted to add results of past few days of research to continue this most fascinating topic.

urbanspaceman 26th September 2017 10:40 PM

Hounslow .
I think the presence of the wolf/fox on Hounslow swords may be due to Benjamin Stone, a London Cutler and Freeman, who, from 1613 till 1642, was buying blades from everyone: including Solingen, Passau, Venice, Milan, Toledo and finally – of course – Hounslow; then selling the finished swords primarily to the Board of Ordnance.
For example: in June 1628 he delivered 800 swords to the Board of Ordnance: 350 Italian blades and 450 Solingen; all of these swords had basket hilts.
He finally set up his own mill in Hounslow by converting a corn mill on the New Cutt River. He then bought forged but unground blades from the local Germans, ground, polished and hilted them before putting them in his own scabbards and selling them with belts to the Tower.
He also re-fitted and re-furbished for the Board; plus, he sold finished blades to London cutlers. An enterprising chap!
Because Hounslow was then not part of London, the London Cutlers Company could not interfere: for example, he used predominantly cast brass hilts from his own foundry and this was not favoured by the London Cutlers.
By 1631 he was really cooking and delivered 4,356 swords at six shillings each - all with basket hilts – to the Tower. The numbers just kept rising after that to such a degree that in 1637 he petitioned the Privy Council not to use German imports as he could supply swords of equal quality made entirely in England.
The civil war had him re-locating to Oxford and he probably set up the king's Wolvergate mill there.
If during all that time and amongst the thousands of blades he supplied to the Board of Ordinance, there wasn't some marked Hounslow and also featuring a wolf/fox then I would be very surprised.
Information collated and published by Richard H. Bezdek; what an endeavour!
I've heard about Konigsmark Jim but also been told the Colichmarde existed prior to his birth. Where else it could have come from seems to baffle a lot of folk.

urbanspaceman 26th September 2017 10:52 PM

non sequeter
1 Attachment(s)
I've been told the crown and number 9 is an Ordnance inspector's proof mark; and that the hilt mark stands for 2nd battalion. Can anyone confirm this and possibly expand on this information. It is the hilt of what I believe to be an Oley of Shotley Bridge blade.

Jim McDougall 27th September 2017 12:58 AM

Looking further,

While many Parliamentary 'mortuary' type swords were certainly made in Hounslow, or at least using blades from them, other centers probably Oxford, Greenich or London probably were mounting German produced blades as well.

In 1620s, some references claim that the German makers left there to escape religious persecution. While the Thirty Years war was indeed an issue, one of the primary reasons for their departure was largely the collapse of the iron industry in Germany and their sources of supply. Actually one source claims that permits from Solingen were obtained by the British board of ordnance for them to work abroad. Actually they were already in Holland, and came from there.

From "Hounslow Hangers" by Anthony North, Spring 2004 London Park Lane Arms Fair journal.
"...although the factory at Hounslow seems to have closed in the 1670s, the blades made at Hounslow were obviously prized. They are often found on high quality English officers swords of the early 18th century. They are also found on some high quality silver hilted hunting hangers of the 1730s and 40s".

In some early narratives there are references to 'Dutch' hangers. These were actually often German ones transported to Great Britain.

In Aylward (1945, p.33), "...such SHOTLEY BRIDGE swords as are commonly seen are big, double edged weapons bearing the words Shotley Bridge in their fullers, and fitted with the Walloon hilts used by the cavalry in the Monmouth rebellion (1685) and the Marlborough campaign periods, but as the factory always claimed to specialize in HOLLOW BLADE small swords mounted with their productions might exist, though it does not seem that the tang mars which identify them are known.
It looks as though the company imported forgings from Solingen which it ground, tempered and finished at Shotley".

Many of these swords with Hounslow and Shotley blades were apparently well used in the American Revolution as illustrated in Nuemann (1973), so whether in original mounts, or just blade rehiltings, they had a long work life.

The mystery of the Shotley 'hollow' blades remains, and while begun as an enterprise to produce these fashionable gentlemans blades in 1685 it does seem likely that production of military swords was covertly intended. While the 'Hollow Sword Blade Co.' title was in place for this enterprise, it does seem that it was actually more intended to operate as a bank (against the Bank of England monopoly) and engage in real estate and trade ventures in South America and environs (South Sea trade).

The notions of religiously persecuted Germans relocating to this area to practice their faith and protect the secrecy of their craft is of course not the case. Actually some of the original German makers of Hounslow were engaged, and had of course been in England for some time as were their descendants. The notion of the iron deposits there are also questionable, as while iron there was present, it was not of the quality and nature for the processes of blade making.

The political turbulence mentioned with the Monmouth Rebellion, Jacobite Rebellions 1689-1746 and the Marlborough campaigns may well have accounted for the actual requirement for sword production of military type, rather than the civilian small sword form pretended in the original permits.

After the failure of the Hollow Sword Co. and subsequent degeneration of the sword production, it does seem that in some form, Shotley Bridge remained in some capacity, perhaps cutlery as in many other locations. The Oley family who seems to have perpetuated the Shotley tradition is another matter which needs more research.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 27th September 2017 04:34 AM

Salaams Jim, It is certainly an interesting discussion and again your excellent pointers are very much appreciated.
The entire region in the days of the German immigrant sword makers was a hotbed of intrigue~ The whole business of the Jacobite rebellion was in ferment and it is here I wish to start. What degree of collusion was there with the sword-makers of Shotley Bridge? After Culloden many fighters from the Scottish side ran to the wilds of Durham, Northumberland and Cumberland where they formed an entirely separate although probably linked clan organisation known as The Moss Troopers who stole and robbed ...and were often caught and executed! It may be noted that Lord Derwentwater was tried and found guilty and executed for being a supporter of the Jacobite cause. Indeed such was the fervor and hatred for these brigands that the English set up a formidable military force at Newcastle and were unrelenting in tracking down sympathizers that many people caved in to government demands and openly expressed their government support. Mohll was caught with a load of swords and placed in jail only to harness important support and so he was released. It is said that there was some religious implication in pushing the Germans to elope with their sword secrets ...That would make the reasons Political and Religious ...a powerful enough combination linked to the obviously difficult situation in Solingen with the 30 year and later fighting taking place. That coupled with the intent in England to raise their game as far as sword making quality was concerned would probably suffice as to the reasons why they went.

If I may jump to the use of kilns at Shotley Bridge .. They were built certainly one at the south end of the Bridge and others further up river probably at the Forge and further up river a few miles on to Alansford . There is a even street in Shotley Bridge called Kiln Street. Somewhere I noted that materials were inported from Sweden ...ore?... for these kilns? No mines are reported in Shotley Bridge; coal or iron ore. There was plenty of wood... The swordmakers house stood in Wood Street..and Derwent meant oak valley. There was abundant Beech forest in the area. The water was excellent for tempering steel and for water wheel power. It is understood that the sandstone grit on the riverbed was ideal for sharpening and grinding blades.

In a further leap~ I question the Colichimarde situation...and the swords imported but initially confiscated when Mohl got arrested. If they were from Solingen they would surely have been stamped...My question being when was a sword stamped? There were a lot of these 1400 apparently but no definite detail of what sort of blades...nevertheless they would have been stamped I suspect...Solingen ! In all the examples seen so far ... and as far as I can see... No Colichimarde examples exist out of Shotley Bridge because they never had a machine capable of such grinding. Although this may not have been the only reason for its demise as other swords were being used...particularly in the Military ...It may have been a factor and why specialists were dispersed either back to Germany or to other English factories like Birmingham.

Post 28 sets another conundrum here... How do swords stamped with the Solingen mark of the running wolf appear with SHOTLEY BRIDGE stamped down the fullers? Are these examples of blades fetched by Mohl already with the wolf stamp or did shotley swordmakers place these ...It may mean they used both fox and wolf... but it seems odd. It is in fact the case that the hilts were often wire adorned in what is described at;

which is a must read for this style.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 27th September 2017 05:13 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Here is a half basket... as I begin to examine Scottish Basket hilts and since The Crown and Crossed Swords owned by the Swordmakers sports two giant swords as their Hotel Sign under a Crown..

Also below for library purposes sword blade marks.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 27th September 2017 06:53 AM

:shrug: I note that Blade making in Britain had fallen off so much that in 1783 the London Cutler’s Company sought government permission to import blades duty free from the Continent and this provoked a Birmingham tool maker, Thomas Gill, to declare that he could produce British blades of equal quality. In 1786 the Honourable East India Company ordered 10,000 blades and each was to be subjected to a bending test. Of the 2,700 English-made blades 1,084 failed the test; of 1,400 German blades only 28 failed, and of Gill’s 2,650 only 4 failed. In addition to the bending test Gill had his blades struck flat, as hard as possible, on a block of cast iron and edgeways on a block of wrought iron and it is reported that some cut through the block.

--Frederick Wilkinson Swords and Daggers (p.58)

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