EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
These are some vexing questions indeed, and now that you and Ibrahiim are 'on the case' I think we can get somewhere. Despite the apparent lack of community interest on this topic here, it seems that has been an inherent posture in the arms community at large for too many years. Little has been really done on this for 70+ years beyond simply conveying old material over again.
In my opinion, and writing off the cuff here, the 'Hollow Sword Co.' was created, more as a front for banking enterprises and real estate speculation. There was a good degree of interest in the developing new forms of rapier blades and fencing forms, which I think was a genuine interest at first. The Hounslow enterprise had ended after the end of the civil wars, and it seems the blade production had gone to London/Birmingham. However, these centers were plagued with notably poorly regarded blade quality.
The descendants of some of the Hounslow families were recruited to establish facilities at Shotley Bridge, where the Derwent river and standing grist mills could be converted to blade producing mills.
Under the guise of this, the Hollow Blade Co. began, and I believe were indeed intending to produce such rapier blades, however geopolitical unrest both overseas and with the Jacobite issues resulted in the clear need for supplies of military weapons. I think that there was actual production in degree, but that much of the volume was 'salted' with imported blades from Germany via Holland. Much of this stock coming in seems represented by the shipment Mohll was caught with, a number of such blades, and also of hangers.
The reason the banking set up was contrived was that the Bank of England held a monopoly on banking and loans etc. The syndicated speculation in real estate in trade in the South Seas (South America) and confiscated Irish properties in the political troubles of the times, was filtered through the 'sword company'.
The actual mills in my understanding used grindstones converted from existing ones there already. In the lists of Shotley Bridge, many of the names show them as 'grinders' as well as proprietors. There does seem to have been actual production in addition to the furbishing of imported or 'salted' products.
While I have presumed that some of the blades were marked with a 'fox' instead of the German wolf of Solingen products, I have seen the German wolf next to SHOTLEY BRIDG on blades. I think this may be a mix due to the combined German and English workers there so perhaps both existed, just as variants will.
While sword blade production waned with the advent of Birmingham and London in mid 18th century, I believe Shotley probably continued with cutlery and such sundry products into the final days in the 19th c,
Whether some sword blades were either produced or fitted there in these later times is hard to say. It does not seem official records recognize Shotley as an entity active in such enterprise so possibly other business records and ledgers might have them showing what their function was.
Most of this is simply reiterating what Ibrahiim has explained in much greater detail in the previous post.