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Old 8th October 2021, 11:27 AM   #1
Radboud
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Default A peculiar 1796 Pattern 'Spadroon'

I have an interesting sword coming my way, it is a 1796 Heavy Cavalry dismounted service sword. But instead of the regular double-edged spadroon blade, this sword has been mounted with a backsword blade that is marked 'Andrea Farara'.

From what I have seen the sword does not appear to be an out of period frankensword. The scabbard fits well and looks period made. Also, the sword would have been three times more valuable if it was in a basket hilt, as the blade is in very good condition.

I'm thinking that this is a family blade put in a dress hilt, either for a superior officer or a heavy cavalry officer that didn't want to risk losing a family heirloom on the field of battle. As always this is pure speculation and all comments are welcome.

Video: 1796 Pattern HC Dismounted Service Sword
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Old 8th October 2021, 07:25 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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This is an absolutely beautiful sword, and it does not seem we see many of these. The video is excellent as well, as it shows how well this sword responds to handling, it seems very well balanced.

The term spadroon is always confusing as it derives from Italian and German fencing styles using lighter swords, but in England became a fashionable term used for single edge officers swords in 1780s into early 1800. It seems that mostly it is used for stirrup hilt straight sabers of the 'five ball guard' type. These were used 1780s into early 1800s, and became the model for French swords of the type as well as the American eagle head pommel swords into 1820s.

The blade appears to be of the regular cavalry backsword forms used from 1770s to 1790s. Obviously of course the ANDREA FERARA markings are spuriously added, but in degree following the convention of that makers named applied to Scottish basket hilt blades in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Only physical handling and close up forensic examination can say if the sword and blade are homogenous, but as well balanced as it appears being handled I think optimistically. My only concern is the unusual application of the Andrea Ferara marks.
This does not appear to be a heirloom blade from the early basket hilts of the early part of the century, but the notion of adding this marking might well suggest a Scottish officer of cavalry unit.
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Old 8th October 2021, 08:02 PM   #3
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Hello Jim,

Thank you for the comments, when the sword arrives I’ll measure it and add the results to this post with photos. However, according to the vendor it does not balance that well with the blade being heavy for the hilt.

Regarding the Andrea Farara markings there seems to be a lot of variation on these as they were being added to blades for the Scottish market by Solingen makers by the time this one was made. However I have seen photos of two basket hilt broadswords dating to the mid 18th C. That have a similar shape and markings with the Xs and the name across two sides (with the same orientation).

I’m fairly confident that this blade is a few decades older than the hilt the only thing that concerns me in that regard is that it is in very good condition without many of the usual age blemishes.
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Old 8th October 2021, 08:12 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
Hello Jim,

Thank you for the comments, when the sword arrives Iíll measure it and add the results to this post with photos. However, according to the vendor it does not balance that well with the blade being heavy for the hilt.

Regarding the Andrea Farara markings there seems to be a lot of variation on these as they were pretty much all spurious, being added to blades for the Scottish market by Solingen makers by the time this blade was made. However I have seen photos of two basket hilt broadswords dating to the mid 18th C. That have a similar shape and markings with the Xs and the name across two sides (with the same orientation).

Iím fairly confident that this blade is a few decades older than the hilt the only thing that concerns me in that regard is that it is in very good condition without many of the usual age blemishes.
The balance issues as you have noted sound more in line with what I would have expected, and I think I was more impressed with actually seeing it in person, but not in the necessary holding postures.
The ANDREA FERARA blades for Scottish markets began appearing early in the 17th century and remained pretty standard up until Culloden (1746).
After that the only 'Scottish' swords were those made for the British army Highland regiments, as they had been produced in garrison towns since early 1700s.
Naturally the ANDREA FERARA blades were from Solingen and that mark became a kind of 'brand' to Scottish clients, however they did occur on English blades as well (I have a 'mortuary' c. 1642 with Ferara blade).

I share your concerns on the remarkable condition, as well as the character of the Andrea Ferara despite its following earlier configurations.
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Old 8th October 2021, 08:31 PM   #5
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Here is a photo of the markings from one of the swords I mentioned earlier:
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Old 8th October 2021, 08:38 PM   #6
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Here are the photos the vendor sent me of the markings plus a couple of the sword
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Old 8th October 2021, 08:44 PM   #7
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Apologies, I meant to add this one as well:
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Old 9th October 2021, 05:02 AM   #8
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This is more bizarre than I thought. This is a heavy cavalry M1796 sword scabbard of the standard troopers form, also of the 'ladder hilt' pattern carried by officers.
Apparently in little known circumstances which have been remarkably researched by Richard Dellar (author of "The British Cavalry Sword: Some New Perspectives"2013) and presented in his "Did the French National Manufactory at Klingenthal Make British Blades ?" ("Man at Arms" Vol.43, #4, Aug. 2021),
there are some interesting possibilities.

As the author notes, despite the compelling evidence that some blades were mounted with Klingenthal markings, these may have been Solingen blades may have been acquired from there as surplus after the end of the Runkel enterprise.

This was during the post Waterloo occupation of Paris. Several British officers had weapons that needed refurbishing and contacted the Klingenthal works, known for high quality blades. However as they did not have the necessary patterns to produce the British heavy cavalry blades , they used contacts in Solingen to acquire a number of blades. As noted these 'anomalies' have turned up with Klingenthal markings.


After this "...other British officers followed suit and ordered replacement blades either as a result of damage or for ENHANCEMENT".

Could it be that this blade, which is basically of the width and profile of a heavy cavalry blade of the heavier form of 1796 for combat, was made at Klingenthal or in France in this situation ? If being commissioned privately for 'enhancement' the Andrea Ferara might have been so placed.

Clearly this is a tenuous suggestion, but the remarkable evidence in the Richard Dellar article offers compelling plausibility.

These swords all have such stories to tell!

This image (from MDL, for informational purposes only, not in stock) is the M1796 heavy cavalry officers 'honeysuckle' or 'ladder' hilt noted.,
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 9th October 2021 at 05:20 AM.
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Old 9th October 2021, 07:27 AM   #9
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Hi Jim,

Thank you for your comments. I still think this is more of a backsword blade of the profile of the basket hilt swords from the time, especially with the double fullers. Most 1796 HC undress swords Iíve seen have the single broad fuller and follow the shape and style of the trooper version.

But like you say the scabbard is of the heavy cavalry style.

Truely a puzzle, but then this era did create some unique designs. I recently passed on a flank officers (grenadier) sabre with a boatshell guard combined with a P-shaped knuckle bow and a 1796 light cavalry like blade marked to J J Runkel.

As it will be coming up for auction soon I canít post photos alas.
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Old 9th October 2021, 01:05 PM   #10
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G'day Guys,
This sword is a cracker. I would love to have it in my collection. I would say it is definitely an heirloom blade from the 17th or maybe early 18th century. It could be a 1796 heavy cavalry officer's dress sword, or maybe something like a general officer's sword. I have seen a few of these types of swords. Similar type of blade to this 1788 HCO sword with heirloom blade of mine.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 9th October 2021, 01:58 PM   #11
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Thanks for the feedback Bryce, that 1788 of yours is an amazing sword as well!
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Old 10th October 2021, 01:56 AM   #12
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Guys, these are all totally amazing swords! and Bryce and Will I was glad to see you guys come in as you are pretty much specialized in this field of British regulation swords.

I see what you mean Bryce, on the heirloom blade thing, and the fullering is remarkably similar except for the extra 'flute' at ricasso. What puzzles me, beyond the pristine appearance of the blade, is that the width and length seem to correspond to the 1796 heavy cavalry blade size......enough to 'appear' to fit this regulation pattern neatly.

The heirloom blades, which would have dated pre 1746, seem a bit more slender as backswords if I am not mistaken.

The M1788 is outstanding Bryce! I had one of these many years ago, but the pommel had been replaced with a spherical one that seemed from a much earlier rapier, the blade was huge, 40" long! Wish I still had it.
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Old 11th October 2021, 01:06 AM   #13
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G'day Jim,
I agree this isn't the sort of blade you would expect to find on a mortuary hilt like mine, but it is exactly the sort of blade you would find on an early 18th Century basket-hilt. The scabbard would have been custom made for this blade when it was mounted on the boat-shell hilt. They weren't making blades like this in the 1780's/90's. Regarding the condition of the blade. There are plenty of examples of much older blades in pristine condition. As long as a blade is looked after, it can stay in pristine condition for centuries. You wouldn't remount an older blade if it was already in poor condition.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 12th October 2021, 02:41 AM   #14
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G'day Jim,
I agree this isn't the sort of blade you would expect to find on a mortuary hilt like mine, but it is exactly the sort of blade you would find on an early 18th Century basket-hilt. The scabbard would have been custom made for this blade when it was mounted on the boat-shell hilt. They weren't making blades like this in the 1780's/90's. Regarding the condition of the blade. There are plenty of examples of much older blades in pristine condition. As long as a blade is looked after, it can stay in pristine condition for centuries. You wouldn't remount an older blade if it was already in poor condition.
Cheers,
Bryce
I agree Bryce, the blades being made in the 1790s were either hollow ground wide fuller, or the Montmorency type fullered blades typically used by Wooley. It does seem the fullering here may be of the type seen on the British examples of 1750s in the units using basket hilts still.

If this was a heirloom blade, and the officer had it custom mounted to wear at dress occasions, why would they custom make a scabbard of field service form rather than the leather and brass types made for dress wear.?

Good point on remounting a blade in poor condition, whether heirloom or not.
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Old 12th October 2021, 03:16 AM   #15
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Quick question for Jim and Bryce, does 'heirloom blade' have a specific meaning for you that I may have missed?

I was thinking in terms of 'this is the sword my father passed on to me from his service' rather than 'this is the sword my ancestors carried at battle X' the latter implying more age to the blade.

On another forum, Richard Dellar posted a photo showing two 1796 Heavy Cavalry swords from the same officer in the Scotts Greys (Undress and dress) that have Andrea Ferara blades on them. But as you point out Jim, the 1796 for Dismounted service has a leather scabbard. I suspect there is still a lot that is not known around the reasons some have steel scabbards while others have leather.

Cheers
Bas

Last edited by Radboud; 12th October 2021 at 03:23 AM. Reason: More info added.
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Old 12th October 2021, 06:44 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
Quick question for Jim and Bryce, does 'heirloom blade' have a specific meaning for you that I may have missed?

I was thinking in terms of 'this is the sword my father passed on to me from his service' rather than 'this is the sword my ancestors carried at battle X' the latter implying more age to the blade.

On another forum, Richard Dellar posted a photo showing two 1796 Heavy Cavalry swords from the same officer in the Scotts Greys (Undress and dress) that have Andrea Ferara blades on them. But as you point out Jim, the 1796 for Dismounted service has a leather scabbard. I suspect there is still a lot that is not known around the reasons some have steel scabbards while others have leather.

Cheers
Bas

Hi Bas,
The ANDREA FERARA suggests this blade has a 'heirloom' Scottish potential, as that name was a key tradition in the blades carried by Highlanders. It is understood that that term here suggests a family blade, but the implication is that it is from a Scottish source.

For me, I think my perspective has been based on the proscription of weapons in Scotland after 1746. The exceptions were those produced in less than Scottish tradition but following rudimentary form. I had been under the impression that the ANDREA FERARA 'brand' on blades effectively passed under these circumstances.

Dont get me wrong, this is an extremely attractive sword, and distinct anomaly. I had not been aware of the Scots Greys swords with Andrea Ferara blades posted by Richard Dellar, but would really like to see them. It makes perfect sense that with Scottish officers would wish to carry forth this marking tradition.
You note they are dress and undress, which suggests one is this boat shell and the other ''honey suckle' ?

The thing with the steel scabbards is that they were confined to field or campaign swords used by officers (sometimes selected examples of 'fighting' swords they chose) or obviously troopers swords.
For officers dress swords, to be worn at official events, levees, and dress occasions wearing dress uniform. The leather and brass scabbards were of course, 'dressy' but fragile.

My question was if this was a custom mounting of a heirloom (or other than usual) blade in this dress sword, and this hilt was chosen for such occasions..so it would not suffer damage on campaign, and scabbards were special made for such instances.....then why defer to a steel service scabbard which seems to be a regular M1796 heavy cavalry trooper or undress sword?

It is strictly meant in a 'devils advocate' posture, not to challenge the sword.
The examples you mention from Richard Dellar strengthen this being a sound example from a Scottish officer and increase my intrigue with this sword!
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Old 12th October 2021, 07:29 AM   #17
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Hi Jim,

Please don't misunderstand me, your comments, including the 'devils advocate' ones are appreciated and taken in the spirit of learning.

I try to remain pragmatic about these things, the sword, or its parts are likely to be 200 plus years old (older than the founding document of my country!). That is a lot of time for things to happen that are difficult to unravel and I purchased it mostly because it appealed to me as an oddity. The possible Scottish connection is a nice touch because it brings us a tiny fraction closer to who the original owner might have been.

Regarding the iron scabbard, maybe the officer ordered two but the leather one was lost or didn't survive?

I have asked Richard if I can post his photo here, but he has not replied to my message so I will wait.

However, yes, one sword (a backsword with three narrow fullers) has a ladder hilt and an iron scabbard while the other is a broadsword (double-edged with a single short fuller) with a boat-shell hilt and a leather scabbard. Both are more 'Scottish' looking blades than is usual of the 1796 pattern heavy cavalry swords. Richard commented that the dress sword is reasonably balanced and that blades were often cut down when re-hilted.

This was posted in reply to my post about this sword on the Antique Sword Forum that he moderates.
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Old 12th October 2021, 07:56 AM   #18
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Hi Jim,

Coming back to the iron scabbard, I've had a look through my reference photos and this style is fairly typical for 'field service' scabbards on 1796 Pattern officer swords with the boat-shell guard.

Cheers
Bas
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Old 12th October 2021, 04:24 PM   #19
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Hi Bas,
Thank you so much for this response, and for reaching me privately on the swords you mention involving Richard Dellar. Those two examples, apparently with sound provenance, perfectly answer my questions regarding what seems to be a known practice with Scottish officers in at least some degree.

The variation in the Andrea Ferara markings would appear to be a normal circumstance with these earlier Scottish blades coming from different Solingen makers, who had these applied in expectedly different interpretations.
That these two swords, from the same family, would be held and only sold as a pair, highlights the provenance as well as integrity of the seller.

It also illustrates your suggestion of a Scottish officer having two 'heirloom' (family) blades used in swords for both dress and campaign situations.
I would suspect that these swords may be the subject of further research and publication so possibly deferring on more on them likely the best course. Very prudently handled on your part with this.

I have learned from this discussion notably, and look forward to the arrival of the sword, and hopefully more research forthcoming.

Best regards
Jim
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Old 23rd October 2021, 05:09 AM   #20
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So the sword finally arrived yesterday and I was able to take some photos of it and get more of an impression of it in the hand.

The stats are:
Length Over All: 975 mm
Blade Length: 823 mm
Point of balance: 125 mm
Sword Weight: 870 grams
Total Weight: 1250 grams

Guard
- Length (Across the hand) 125 mm
- Width (Across the hand) 87 mm
- Height (Including langets) 21.9 mm
- Thickness 2.0 - 4.0 mm
- Inside (Grip to guard) 39.7 mm

Grip
- Outside Length 135 mm
- Inside Length 100 mm
- Width 31.7 to 17.9 mm
- Thickness 24.0 to 20.0 mm

Blade Width Thickness Thickness Inside Fuller
- Ricasso 32.0 mm 6.1 mm 3.8 / 5.2 mm
- 200mm 28.9 mm 4.5 mm 1.9 / 2.8 mm
- 400mm 27.7 mm 3.2 mm 2.0 / 2.5 mm
- 600mm 25.2 mm 2.7 mm 1.3 / 1.5 mm
- 800mm 16.5 mm 1.3 mm

My initial thoughts are that while the stats appear fine on paper and the sword balances fine, I don't think that the grip is optimal to the style of fighting this type of blade favours i.e. cut over thrust. But when held at the lower end of the grip it feels serviceable. Naturally, these are just the opinions of someone who has never trained in sword fighting.
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