EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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.