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Old 14th February 2024, 02:43 PM   #1
Triarii
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Default Hounslow Sword Factory

Afternoon all.

I have been attempting to read up on the Hounslow sword works. I can find fragmentary articles, with the longest being a rather good one which is a part of an article by John F. Hayward on MyArmoury.com (here: http://myarmoury.com/feature_engswords.html)

Does anyone know if a) the Hounslow article or b) the whole article is available anywhere else - what publication was it drawn from? I'd like to reference it properly in some work on the so-called New Model Army.

Are there any other longer articles on Hounslow available anywhere?

Found it - Hayward John F. "English Swords 1600–1650." Arms and Armor Annual (1973), pp. 142–61
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Old 15th February 2024, 07:08 PM   #2
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I am surprised that members well qualified on the Hounslow subject don't come around to help !



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Old 15th February 2024, 07:36 PM   #3
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Keith (Urbanspaceman), Peter and I did extensive research in 2017 on English sword makers of the 17th century
primarily on SHOTLEY BRIDGE which was the later culmination of the German blade production concept begun with the Hounslow shops.

That work, discussed extensively in 2017 onward on the thread SWORDMAKERS OF SHOTLEY BRIDGE (by Urbanspaceman) held profuse notes, cites, titles and references on Shotley Bridge and associated material, including HOUNSLOW, so Im surprised that this did not come up in the SEARCH function here.

While the work on Shotley Bridge resulted in the outstanding book on this by Keith Fisher, "THE CROWN AND CROSSED SWORDS: GERMAN SWORDSMITHS IN SHOTLEY BRIDGE", with Peter Hudson and myself as co authors.....does contain references to Hounslow, it is not of course focused on it.

Hounslow faltered during the English Civil Wars and was captured by Oliver Cromwell, who turned many of the mills to powder production, with many of the smiths going to Oxford with the Royalists, some of the Germans returned to Germany.

There is not as far as I know, a single BOOK on Hounslow, but there are many references which have full chapters, and there are some pamphlets and articles. This topic is pretty esoteric it seems, and even the thread mentioned did not bring a great deal of interest or 'traffic' so it is indeed heartening to see this interest.

The thread I mentioned is actually a book in itself, and thoroughly filled with titles from the corpus of material on these subjects.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...shotley+bridge
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Old 18th February 2024, 08:59 PM   #4
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Default Hounslow

Hello folks. Stuart Mowbray did some extensive research for Bezdek's book on English swords and swordmakers.
During my research on SB I came across lots of bits and pieces here and there. I'm out of the country at present so I do not have access to my notes.
Who arrived in 1629; who stayed; who went with the king to Oxford; who returned; what happened to the various mills and their owners; when did it actually finally end (1685) and some other stuff all came to light.
It was/is my intention to collect all this detail into a bundle and add it to the addenda of my book on SB; it is already almost as big an addenda as the principle story because - again - I wanted to package it all into one bundle.
My SB book can be found online and as a free pdf download (16mb) on www.shotleybridgevillagetrust.com along with details of how to obtain a hard copy at cost price direct from the printer.
Re. Hounslow: watch this space... I'll be back!
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Old 23rd February 2024, 11:09 AM   #5
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Thankyou Fernando and Jim - and urbanspaceman.

Thanks to your prompts I've now re-found the pdf of the book by Kevin which covers Hounslow.

I think the summary of my interest is;
  1. How reliant on imported blades was England (seems to be very - certainly of my ECW era collection, of those where the blade can be attributed, German blades make up 50% of my collection and the vast majority of those with identified makers names or nations).
  2. How much of that dependency was intended to be addressed by Hounslow or was actually addressed by Hounslow.
  3. Did Hounslow produce blades only (the London Cutlers Company seemed to spend its time hilting imported blades for example).
  4. Did Hounslow specialise in any way at all (discounting the so-called 'Hounslow Hangers' which I think are misnamed and noting that Hounslow blades can be found on rapiers, hangers, Irish hilts and other backswords).
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Old 23rd February 2024, 03:31 PM   #6
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Thank you for itemizing your specific areas of interest, so that they can be addressed more accurately.
1. England, just as most of Europe was highly reliant on Germany for blades, however it was not just Solingen, which was the main center for centuries.
It is important to know the concept of CUTLERY, which prevailed in England and Scotland.
A cutler is an artisan who assembles swords to essentially be supplied or retailed, using acquired blades, primarily imported or by other means. They fashioned hilts according to locally preferred styles and current fashion.

A good case in point is Scotland, where the famed basket hilt broadsword has always been the traditional icon of the Highlander, but of course was extant in Lowland variation as well. While the basket hilt of course existed in form much earlier in Europe and diffused into England, its development is fascinating and beautifully detailed in "The Early Basket Hilt in Britain" by Claude Blair, in "Scottish Weapons and Fortifications" (ed. David Caldwell, 1981).

There are virtually NO Scottish basket hilts with blades other than from Germany , and the ubiquitous blades with the name ANDREA FERARA (of course spuriously applied) were the virtual hallmark of Scottish basket hilts.
There were NO Scottish bladesmiths (though there are cases where there might have been few made locally, possibly by Allen).

In Scotland, the men assembling these swords and producing the hilts were sword 'slippers' essentially cutlers. There were many of these of course, and over the years all over Scotland.
It was much the same throughout Great Britain, and with cutlers they often included other trades in their repertoire, mostly as jewelers, metal workers, even toy makers.

There were virtually NO bladesmiths in Scotland, England, Ireland or Wales, save a few isolated exceptions who have basically been unrecorded in most accounts.

Most of the blades found on British swords will be German, from Solingen primarily, however early blades from Passau and Munich are also likely..
Many blades may have Styrian origin (Austria) and as always the blades of Toledo and Italy were highly regarded.
This is why they were so highly copied by Solingen and Munich (among the key blade centers, which are of course numerous others).

Remember that swords were often rehilted through their working lives, which often of course covered generations if not centuries. Blades were expendable and often damaged or broken, so obviously refurbishing used different options of blades. They were traditional and heirloom, so often much older blades occur in more currently fashioned hilts.

There is no concise or easy answer to the distribution of sword blades in a categorized area it depends on many mitigating factors.

2/3 . Hounslow was essentially an isolated enterprise which was basically experimental in hoping to develop an English blade making center with skilled smiths trained by the famed German makers. It remained isolated in its production while the overall assembly of swords throughout Britain remained in its traditional reliance on local cutlers.
Important to note..........there was never any commercial exportation of swords FROM Britain. Swords from British sources in other spheres were entirely from colonial circumstances.

Another important note the LONDON CUTLERS COMPANY by definition was a guild of CUTLERS who of course assembled swords using blades from other sources (mostly German).
It is unclear how many blades were actually produced in Hounslow, however clearly there are blades inscribed with the Hounslow name and inscribed by makers who are among the German makers known there. Actually it seems that the larger volume of swords produced in Hounslow used the 'salting' of blades primarily from German sources (mostly Solingen).

The reason Hounslow was chosen as a location was for the river where mills could provide the water power for mills, and most important, it was OUTSIDE the geographic jurisdiction of the London Cutlers Company. The mysterious Benjamin Stone was an entrepreneur who capitalized on the desires of Charles I to bring in German makers hopefully to AVOID reliance on German imports.
This concept had been used earlier by Henry VIII, who brought German armorers to Greenwich to augment his armor making enterprises.

4. Hounslow does seem to have had favored forms, however these were locally favored forms of the period not necessarily exclusive to there.
Keep in mind there were many individual shops and makers, not one sprawling factory and they operated independently.
The notion of a Hounslow 'school' of hilt form evolved as usual from the popular thoughts of collectors who sensationalized the character of some of the hilt forms directly associated with Hounslow. There was no 'standard' Hounslow form hilt but the distinctive hilts of the hangers seems well established.

When Hounslow was taken over by Cromwell during the Civil Wars, many of the smiths went to Oxford with the Royalists, and most of Hounslows mills were repurposed to powder production. It does seem that so called 'mortuary' swords (another collectors term) were made there as well as some rapiers, but predominating were hangers, as discussed.

Picture 1 a Hounslow hanger
2 'mortuary', typical English half basket attributed to Hounslow with ANDREA FERARA blade, German blades clearly were a
strong component of Hounslow produced blades.

I am delighted to see someone take an interest in the Hounslow topic, and see you have read one of the articles on this. There are of course many, but there has never been a neatly packaged book with all the details of this tremendously under researched subject. Actually over many years of research I was able to find numerous brief articles, but these are quite esoteric and had to be searched extensively to locate.
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Old 23rd February 2024, 07:18 PM   #7
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Default Hounslow cont'

Hey Jim. Well done-as usual.
I will attempt to drop in bits and pieces where I can although you have pretty much covered it... as much as is possible for now, as I do think I will take it on now I have essentially finished with SB.
The book 'The Mark of the Sword' (I am away from home as you know and do not have access to my archives) by - if memory serves - Mark Girtin gives a thoroughly comprehensive history of the London Cutlers Guild. While 90% of it is of little interest to us, I did skim it well enough to locate all the passages relevant to Hounslow, SB and the current industry: much of which is in my book in the addenda.
The issue of the total lack of British bladesmiths is a topic I have never got to grips with... watch this space.
Re-hilting and re-blading was inevitably widespread. Again, in my book, there are examples of the initial batch of Solingen made blades with SB scripts found with a Hounslow mushroom cap hilt, and a half basket also (see my book) then, of course, there is the hunting hangar with a shortened blade that was obviously once a horseman's broadsword; plus a plug bayonet as well.
I would like to stress that the Germans in Hounslow were quite entitled to use their family version of the Passau Wolf. Peter Munsten is a strong case in point and his stylised latten wolf is regularly seen on blades with typical Hounslow hilts (hangars in particular seemed to be his forté). I don't know when or why the use of me fecit hounslow (or London!!!) came about but I will try and establish this when I take up the Hounslow sword story.
Cromwell was far from stupid and certainly maintained blade mills and smiths alongside the powder mill. I say mill because up till now I have only established one (in my book addenda) and Johannes Dell is a perfect example of a young German - trained in his apprenticeship in London who went to work for Kindt I believe - and was still active in 1685 in Hounslow.
So much of this stuff is in my book so anyone seriously interested in the establishment of the British sword industry should read it (for free!).
BTW: the so-called mortuary hilts were made predominently on the Hebridean island of Islay. As to why? Watch this space.
It is possible that - using a Solingen import - the entire sword was made there. The forge on Islay had been the McDonald's armoury for centuries. Islay was - of course - the home to the Lords of the Isles. Now it is home to eleven (and counting) whisky distileries.
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Old 24th February 2024, 11:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Triarii View Post
Thankyou Fernando and Jim - and urbanspaceman.

Thanks to your prompts I've now re-found the pdf of the book by Kevin which covers Hounslow.

I think the summary of my interest is;
  1. How reliant on imported blades was England (seems to be very - certainly of my ECW era collection, of those where the blade can be attributed, German blades make up 50% of my collection and the vast majority of those with identified makers names or nations).
  2. How much of that dependency was intended to be addressed by Hounslow or was actually addressed by Hounslow.
  3. Did Hounslow produce blades only (the London Cutlers Company seemed to spend its time hilting imported blades for example).
  4. Did Hounslow specialise in any way at all (discounting the so-called 'Hounslow Hangers' which I think are misnamed and noting that Hounslow blades can be found on rapiers, hangers, Irish hilts and other backswords).
Hello Triarii, Until Keith produced his book on the Shotley Bridge Swordmakers I didnt really know much about the English involvement in sword making either there or in Hounslow...That was rather a shock to me since I was actually born in Shotley Bridge!!!... but I soon caught up with proceedings and supported by Jims incredible knowledge on all things swords and Keith whose work on the SB Swordmakers is brilliant...I got quickly in step with proceedings although I have to say I found information hard to come by especially on Hounslow...and it is fair to say getting a grip on Hounslow is key to understanding Shotley Bridge...and without those two cornerstones Birmingham, London and Sheffield make no sense; thus they are foundations vital to understanding English Swords....

As Jim was saying books on the subject of Hounslow are few n' far between...so you need to hit all the buttons you can on anything about Hounslow on the web...and scoop up any details you find on museums and references you can..Use everything available at Forum Library and if in doubt just ask...The PM system is good for that...You might want to develope a hit list of details you want to focuss upon but I suggest you just vacuum up all the information you can and once that is all catalogued then decide what is important ... and I bet by then your priorities will have changed...
Regards,
Peter Hudson.
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Old 25th February 2024, 06:13 AM   #9
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Keith and Peter, thank you guys!
This really brings back all the research we did which Keith brilliantly put together in his book, and as noted Hounslow was indeed the cornerstone for Shotley Bridge. It is amazing how little attention these important chapters in British swords making history have received in all the literature published through the years.

The complexity and intrigues in these areas of sword making in Britain are fascinating topics, but challenging, which is likely why there does not seem to be a great deal of interest overall in these topics. In my view, that very esoterica is what makes these kinds of topics so fascinating.
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Old 25th February 2024, 04:06 PM   #10
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Thanks all.

I have indeed been scraping together all sorts on Hounslow, however fragmentary. Benjamin Stones PR puff when he sets it up gives an idea of intended if not actual output, though the total demand of the wars vastly exceeded Hounslow so I'm still inclined to believe that import blades formed the majority of those used, though mainstream histories of the ECW just state that large amounts were imported.

C17th Birmingham I am just looking into for an idea of its volume of production, though Prince Rupert wrecked a lot of the town in April 1643 following the skirmish at Camp Hill. At least one of the premises burnt was a cutlers as the owner writes an account of the destruction.

The first use of Me Fecit Hounslow will be interesting - the format seen seems to vary, indicating that individual smiths had their own choice. Of course many Hounslow swords blades may be unmarked or have only the smiths name on the blade. As we don't have an definitive list of those smiths then anything is possible.

"The Early Basket Hilt in Britain" by Claude Blair, in "Scottish Weapons and Fortifications" (ed. David Caldwell, 1981) is an excellent book I acquired after a recommendation on here after I bought an Irish Hilt (with the blade by Wilhelm Tessche of Solingen). Far more useful than Mazansky to be honest.

I have Bezdek so will see what English makers names appear for the early to mid C17th, if any.

On the so-called Hounslow hangers, of my three, one has the crowned orb typical of German blades, another has the Passau wolf of Solingen and the third has the spurious 'Andrea Ferrara'.
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Old 25th February 2024, 04:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Hudson View Post
Hello Triarii, Until Keith produced his book on the Shotley Bridge Swordmakers I didnt really know much about the English involvement in sword making either there or in Hounslow...That was rather a shock to me since I was actually born in Shotley Bridge!!!... but I soon caught up with proceedings and supported by Jims incredible knowledge on all things swords and Keith whose work on the SB Swordmakers is brilliant...I got quickly in step with proceedings although I have to say I found information hard to come by especially on Hounslow...and it is fair to say getting a grip on Hounslow is key to understanding Shotley Bridge...and without those two cornerstones Birmingham, London and Sheffield make no sense; thus they are foundations vital to understanding English Swords....

As Jim was saying books on the subject of Hounslow are few n' far between...so you need to hit all the buttons you can on anything about Hounslow on the web...and scoop up any details you find on museums and references you can..Use everything available at Forum Library and if in doubt just ask...The PM system is good for that...You might want to develope a hit list of details you want to focuss upon but I suggest you just vacuum up all the information you can and once that is all catalogued then decide what is important ... and I bet by then your priorities will have changed...
Regards,
Peter Hudson.
Thanks Peter. My focus is pretty much on what was Hounslow's volume of production and how far did it go to offset imports, especially when it came to equipping the army under Sir Thomas Fairfax from spring 1645 onwards. There's an account of 200 swords with Dutch blades being supplied, which may be German weapons supplied via Amsterdam or Rotterdam intermediaries. The other references are very vague. EDIT: typo - there are 1000's of swords with 'Dutch blades' ordered.

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Old 25th February 2024, 07:20 PM   #12
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To give an idea of the complete apathy toward swords in general history references, the book "Dealing in Death:The Arms Trade and the British Civil Wars, 1638-52", Peter Edwards, 2000 (enticing title).......the meticulously detailed study describes everything BUT swords.
Guns, powder, bandoliers, and all manner of ordnance to equip armies are described even down to the unit cost etc................but swords?

NOT A WORD, even going through index, the word sword exists only to describe a person with that surname; cutler? not a word; blades, no.
So it would be presumed that swords were not important? Then why do we know of thousands being ordered? but this 'study of arms' dismisses the sword entirely.

Yet the theme of the book concerns the fact that the Netherlands were a global clearing house for arms for the armies of many nations.


For a remarkable, beautifully illustrated, and detailed reference on the swords of this period I recommend highly,
"British Military Swords 1600-1660" (Stuart Mowbray, 2013). While the detailed analysis of Hounslow & Shotley are not focused upon greatly, the basic details are well placed in the contexts of the period, and the illustrated sword examples are so clear it is as if holding the actual example in hand. For any serious study of the arms of the English civil wars a must.
The Thirty Years war (1618-48) had depleted the production capacity of Germany, primarily Solingen of course, which would seem to have been a mitigating factor for Charles I to bring over German swordsmiths to Hounslow (this was from OTHER sources) . These smiths were found in Holland. It has often been thought these smiths were fleeing Solingen because of religious persecution...............in essence yes.........but it was the WAR, and lack of ability to work that was a primary factor.

Pages 9-17 in "Swords and Sword Makers of England and Scotland" (Richard Bezdek, 2003) has a COMPREHENSIVE study of Hounslow is laid out in the chapter : THE SWORD AND BLADE MAKING CENTER OF HOUNSLOW HEATH".
It would seem that virtually all the questions asked here are remarkably well covered.

The blades inscribed are well noted in the text, and actually the names of presumably all the makers known are listed.
The use of the ME FECIT HOUNSLOW etc. is an inscribing convention taken from the well known Solingen phrase ME FECIT SOLINGEN. Often the word ANNO and date also occur (meaning made in date).
Naturally the smiths used their own manner of marking etc......Hounslow was a center of private shops, independent and there was no regulatory control, pattern books etc. so it would be presumed that they would mark their work as they wished.

Regarding the variance of hilts and blades, in "The Hounslow Swordsmiths" by John Tofts White(Hounslow Chronicle, Vol. 1, #2, 1978, pp21-24), the author notes at least two examples he is aware of ANTE dating the 1629 start of Hounslow. The blade is inscribed to William Hurst, by JOHN KINNDT HOUNSL 1634.....on a crab claw hilt likely Italian from the previous century.

The other with blade ION HOPPIE HONSLO ME FECIT HONSLO, on an English swept hilt of c. 1610.
Naturally this does not suggest Hounslow began prior to 1629, but that the blades of Hounslow were often refitted on other hilts, whether older or newer depending on circumstances.

f

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Old 26th February 2024, 01:26 PM   #13
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Yes, Dealing in Death is disappointing in that respect. I was looking through it last night to find the 'Dutch blades' source. I need to create an index of topics as it took me a while to find where I'd buried my copies of the Mungeam papers for the parliamentarian munition orders for 1645/6. I finally found some hand written notes...

You know what, I'd forgotten Bezdek covered Hounslow. Tend to only look at it wrt looking up specific makers rather than actually read it cover to cover.

I really like Stuart Mowbray's book - I had some comms with him about his riding sword that is pictured there. I was getting a functioning repro made of it as I like the style of the hilt with the big flat loops.

I also acquired the 'AVB Norman type 87' hilted sword-rapier that's featured, though didn't realise when I was bidding on it. Very pleased to acquire that as an identical example was used by a Colonel Francis Billingsley who was killed at Bridgenorth in 1646 and hung on his tomb there until it disappeared in 2000.

Do you have a source for the Solingen smiths which were brought to Hounslow being found in the Low Countries please? Being displaced from Solingen due to the TYW is a good point and makes lots of sense.


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Old 28th February 2024, 06:48 AM   #14
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All the smiths not from London who arrived in 1629 came over from Holland. Sir John Heyden was sent to commandeer them.
This brings me to an issue that I have struggled with over the years, was there production foundaries in Holland or simply furbisheurs; both would obviously staffed by Solingen smiths and workers.
They had set up in Wira Bruk for the Swedish king so why not in Holland where they were supplying the UK.
Of course, Rotterdam, where Heyden got the Hounslow workers, was also the direct route from Solingen to England so maybe he simply met them there.
I think they were already working there, although the lists in Bezdek's book of German swordmakers doesn't imply this.
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Old 28th February 2024, 07:55 PM   #15
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I agree Keith, there had to have been locations in Holland where there were numbers of swords assembled, and the VOC swords were one of the prime examples. It seems I was told at some point that VOC blades were effectively German and from locations in Holland, implying Solingen smiths were working there.
We know that Solingen smiths went to Sweden, Russia, France, probably Holland and of course to England. It seems to me the religious persecution card has been overplayed as far as the exodus from Birmingham. The movement of German smiths to other places to work seems to have been acceptable given the number of instances of Solingen smiths were worked in Toledo while retaining connections in Solingen.

With England, the number of blades entering both Hounslow and later Shotley were via families in Solingen with connections to the workers who had gone to England. The fact that the original 'recruiting' was from smiths in Holland suggests that they had relocated there voluntarily and without issues with the Solingen guilds.

As I have understood in reading passim, it was suggested that the Thirty Years War had impeded resources (including Swedish steel) to supply the blade making industry in Solingen. There were dramatic restrictions as to numbers of blades allowed for each smith, impairing their ability to make a living, so they moved accordingly. I was a bit surprised at this as I thought that iron deposits in Germany provided the required ore needed, but since the Swedish steel was already processed into ingots it would be more commercially viable.

With Rotterdam, while Amsterdam was of course the seat of power in Holland for the VOC and key trade port, the problems were traffic and weather as well as navigation. Some of the larger ships could not get through many smaller entering, and often these clustered around an island in the harbor. In cases where these large jams of ships remained outside the relative safety of the harbor, they were fair game for the weather, in some notable cases of over a hundred ships destroyed in one storm.

Rotterdam was far more favorable and easier access to avoid all the VOC traffic for the more specific trade commerce to England.
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Old 3rd March 2024, 06:18 AM   #16
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Some of the imported blade trade information can be tracked through ship manifests, aboard inbound ships. London port records go way back. Unfortunately, they don't detail the receiving merchants as much the simple numbers of barrels of blades, point of origin, etc.

Was it 1490 or 1590 when the English ruler was angry at floods of Flemish quality steel goods and demanding/ruling there be better English steel? I forget but used to https://www.british-history.ac.uk/ my old shelf there seems to be gone.
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Old 3rd March 2024, 05:01 PM   #17
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Thanks Glen!
The issue with English armor and weapons and poor quality was a problem well beyond this period, in fact through the 17th century into the 18th. Henry VIII who took reign in 1509 was the first to establish the Greenwich armories . He brought in German, Italian and Flemish artisans from 1515 until death in 1547.

the 2nd period 1547-1605 maintained the armories, with the Stuarts continuing through the English Civil Wars.
As the armouries/primary focus from beginning had been on armor, the sword element was pretty much incidental, and when Charles I brought in German swordsmiths to Hounslow, it was very much in line with a long established tradition of bringing in foreign workers to avoid having to import arms.

It was not as far as I know an issue with steel, as there were resources for steel in England, it is the matter of the acquiring of raw material, smelting and processing, then properly forging it. It had long been a practice in centers in Europe of acquiring steel ingots, typically from Sweden, that provided for production.
Most of the blades brought into Hounslow as well as Shotley, were raw forged blades, which were then ground and finished, though there were numbers of fully completed blades and often swords.

It has been suggested that there is the possibility of Solingen even adding the Hounslow name, etc. on blades in the manner of their convention of 'branding' such as with the ANDREA FERARA; SAHAGUM; Spanish motto; and others TOMAS AILA etc .
With Shotley, not as much so, where it is believed the running FOX was likely contrived as a parody of the famed running wolf of Passau/Solingen. In the York castle references it is even described as a running horse!

With the manifests etc. it seems there was a great deal of smuggling which went on through the 17th into 18th c. which was again a considerable issue.
Even when blade makers began to flourish in the mid 18th c. (there had been only 3 or 4 recognized in the UK) the 'importing' and smuggling continued.
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Old 5th March 2024, 08:56 PM   #18
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What I've read so far on the German smiths at Hounslow is that they didn't let the English workers there into the secrets of their craft. A number of mills are mentioned and are described as being for grinding, polishing and forging, and some of the German smiths were definitely blade forgers or smiths. That indicates that some blades were made from scratch and would be the key activity that the German smiths kept secret.
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