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Old 18th September 2017, 11:59 PM   #1
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Default 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.
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Old 19th September 2017, 01:28 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum, K.
I hope you succeed in your research .
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Old 19th September 2017, 06:31 PM   #3
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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...
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Old 19th September 2017, 09:40 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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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.
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Old 19th September 2017, 10:14 PM   #5
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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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.

Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi; 19th September 2017 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 20th September 2017, 10:20 PM   #6
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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.
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Old 20th September 2017, 10:55 PM   #7
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Default Shotley Bridge History

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.
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