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