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Interesting British Short Sword of George IV Reign


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I have got another sword I am struggling to ID reliably and would be grateful for any opinions on this piece.

It has the Gothic hilt with George IV royal cypher which helps to date it to 1820-1830. There is no maker, regimental or other marks whatsoever apart from the faint etching to the forte of the blade.

At first sight it seems to be a standard Pattern 1822 infantry officer sword with the Wilkinson blade BUT the length of the blade is far shorter than that required under the regulation which turns this sword into a hanger. Blade length 63.5 cm (25"). Total length 76.5 (30").

My another thought was this may be a sergeant's sword which explains its poor condition as sergeant's blades were not privately purchased but supplied and handed over to successors in rank. Robson in his book on Swords of the British Army, describes sergeant's swords as nearly identical to officer's swords but with plain blades and a brass, as opposed to a gilt, hilt. He also mentions there were sergeant's swords with the blades of an intermediate form between the original pipe-backed blades and the fullered, Wilkinson, design adopted in 1845.  Such a sword is shown on page 212 on the book but once again the measurements of the blade are totally different:  32 1/2" blade length with 9" spear point while mine is 25" in length with 8" spear point.

As sergeant's swords are scarce, I wonder if a shorter version was also introduced?  

Any thoughts are welcome.

 

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It is not a sergeant's sword as they were without engraving on the blade what-so-ever. There is a possibility for the short length and that is in the practice of rank purchase during this time period. A young man with "means" could purchase a entry level officer's rank and at times this could well result in the fine young officer and gentleman being of a shorter than average height compared with other officers. While it would appear that "regulations" were hard and fast rules when you read Robson and other experts work they are giving the reader what the regulations said but not necessarily what was always practised in the field. You can imagine a shorter than average young fellow with the regulation length blade looking quite odd so a shorter blade would make sense. There are examples of Royal Navy swords being shorter than regulation as these shorter bladed swords were worn by midshipmen who were often quite young.

I would add that your sword is most interesting and well worth a place in your collection; had it come my way it would surely reside in my collection. Well done.

Regards

Brian

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1 hour ago, Trooper_D said:

Is it possible it is a broken blade which has been ground down?

I doubt this as, taking some measurement from my examples, if this had been ground down the distance from the fuller to the tip would be about 2 inches. The example shown here has a proportionate distance from the end of the fuller to the tip which would indicate that the blade is as manufactured.  IMHO, of course.

Regards

Brian

 

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Thanks, Brian, for this explanation.

Though it sounds very logic and perfectly well explains the shorter length of the blade,  I still find it difficult to get used to this idea as this sword would fit quite well even to my 9-year old son whose height is approx. 135 cm (53"). 

The idea about the broken blade having been ground down has also crossed my mind but I dismissed it for two reasons.  First, if it was a standard blade it must have been shortened from both sides as it has very narrow ricasso where blade does not normally break. Second, this is not a standard Wilkinson blade as its fuller is 47 cm as opposed to 48-50 cm on the regulation blades in my possession. So this blade has been shorter than normal from the beginning.

I will give it some clean to see etchings on the blade better. Unfortunately, the sword is in rather poor condition - hinge is broken, fish skin is gone, wood grip is damaged. When I cherished the hope this piece was a sergeant's sword I had been thinking of investing in its restoration. I am not sure if this is still a good idea. What do you think?

 

 

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Edited by Volovonok
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Thank you for posting these side-by-side images, Volovonok. They give a clearer indication of the complications of this issue. It is almost like the blade has been shortened from both ends. Let us hope that your examination of the etching throws more light unto this conundrum.

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If it were mine I would spend the time and money (?) to restore this interesting sword. Another possibility might be that this was ordered "shorter" to be used as a levy or "walking out sword". Levies were official events such as balls and Royal functions. A walking out sword would be a sword use worn when not of duty and yet still in uniform and out in public. Either way I would certainly restore this sword. Just be sure not to use a steel wire wheel. better left "under-cleaned" than ruin it by removing more metal or leaving scratches in the surface.

On the topic of Sergeant's swords, the Sergeant's swords of the George IV era would most likely have pipe backed blades and not fullered. The Pattern 1854 is found with the pipe backed blades while officer's swords had the new Wilkinson Pattern (P.1854) fullered blade. Since Sergeants were issued swords I am assuming it was a matter of using up the old pipe backs as it would make financial sense since there would have been a lot of them in existence in warehouses that could not be used on officer's swords.

It's been a while since we had a sword post, thanks for posting this intriguing topic.

Regards

Brian

 

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6 hours ago, Trooper_D said:

Have we addressed the question as to why a blade introduced in 1845 would be on a hilt dating to no later than 1830?

I was waiting for somebody to comment on the blade being inappropriate for the hilt and vice versa.  Trooper-D spotted the smoking gun and now I'm going talk about the smoking cannon... the hilt.

In my opinion, the hilt is an appallingly bad, modern casting with absolutely no attempt made at chasing, deburring or detailing the openwork and inner casting lines...  and I was able to make this determination using the sub-standard, low-resolution photos posted above. The surface bears the characteristic pot-marks, voids, distortions, and irregularities one routinely sees on bad castings.  

The blade on the other hand, looks like a fine period-original item.

Furthermore, the hilt was subjected to an artificial, chemical patination process.  The surface has the unmistakable chocolate-brown colored smut produced by selinious and phosphoric acid when it reacts to a copper-based alloy.  The strange hue of the verde-gris deposits SCREAMS modern copper-sulfate. 

This kind of artificial patina is applied to make casting imperfections less obvious and to compensate for the lack of post-casting hand-finishing such as deburring and chasing. Selected "high-spots" of the surfaces are buffed down a bit to mimick the wear and tear of two centuries.  The objective is to make a bad casting look old, dark, dingy, multi-colored, and worn in order to draw attention away from the casting flaws.    

I would encourage the sword's owner to post multiple views of the hilt in high-resolution snapped in sunlight.  You should carefully study the excellent views of the hilt captured in this series of high-res photos and attempt to duplicate these angles in the photos you take of your sword:

 http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/antique-swords-uk/for-sale/1822-4/

If and when you post new pics, I will explain to you in detail why I believe your hilt is bad, although I've already provided you with an overview of my opinions.  

This highlights a problem that American sword collectors have had for many MANY decades with respect to Civil War sabers... ONLY IN REVERSE.  Our problem is that genuine hilts have had modern blades from Southeat Asia installed on them stamped with counterfeit maker's marks, dates, inspector's marks, and arsenal marks.  It presents a big problem for the sword collecting community, but it's nothing that membership in a good online sword forum can't remedy.         

Bogus Hilt II.jpg

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Bogus Hilt I.jpg

Edited by Simius Rex
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Well done, that man!  A convincing explanation for the oddity: it has been manufactured from parts.  We can only hope that a careful examination will prove or disprove the theory. 

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Posted (edited)

I am afraid you are looking for a black cat in the dark room where there is none. Here is the sword as acquired prior to the light cleaning I gave it.

https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/tayler-and-fletcher/catalogue-id-srta10031/lot-3914fbce-87a8-49dd-8bb4-ac10012095de

The verdegris deposits which hue "SCREAMS" at you modern copper-sulfate is in fact residue of AUTOSOL polish I used to lift rich oxidation. As my light hand cleaning has not been completed I have not brushed it all yet.

This type of brass hilts has been criticised profusely for being flimsy, soft, fragile and made of "bad metal badly tempered" for years. I have no issues with the hilt, I have seen far worse, broken and split. They are not all found undamaged and this one has years and years of age on it. 

Sword-1.thumb.jpg.f61ea26ca73477319fc42ee733794a0e.jpgSword-2.thumb.jpg.c453b79117b809cc58cfdf52c43e55fe.jpg


The 1845 style blade was not exactly a new design when introduced by Wilkinson. It bears quite a strong resemblance to cavalry troopers' blades as used by both the British light and heavy cavalry since 1821.

The spear-point is arguable more distinct of the 1845 type officers' blade, but overall it is hardly a revolutionary design. Henry Wilkinson more or less took the cavalry troopers' blade and mounted it on officers' hilts.

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And I have already mentioned above it does not seem to be a standard Wilkinson type blade. If you look at the tip it has no middle rib typical for many regulation blades post 1845.

There's a possibility the blade has been replaced to comply with the regulations on new blade type or to convert it into a picquet weight swords as known in the Foot Guards (Brian Wolfe uses term "levy" above) after 1845 which use was widespread and continued throughout the life of the Gothic-hilted patterns (please refer to p.159 of "Swords of the British Army" by B.Robson).

Edited by Volovonok
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I find it interesting how "regulations" were not always adhered to in use. At lot had to do with the personal preferences of the individual officers. Basically the introduction of the 1854 hilt (no folding section) did not mean that all officers either purchased a new sword or had the old one fitted with the new regulation hilt. I think the Gothic style is the British Infantry sword most often encountered. With the number of different rank insignia, branch of service and Monarch's ciphers found on these sword's hilts it can become a whole collecting theme onto itself. I have found infantry hilts fitted with cavalry blades; as long as the hilt and scabbard "looked" to fit the current regulations there seemed to be no official discouragement. I recall when I started collecting all of this was quite frustrating, we only had one or two books to draw information from and, of course, no Internet and therefore no forums to look to for advice and information. 

Regards

Brian

 

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I am well aware of the various flaws attributed to the hilt of this particular M1822-variant having been an avid edged weapons collector for almost 40 years.  

Frankly, I regret viewing the link to the photos of this sword before it was subjected to cleaning.  The sword, in the condition you acquired it, looked right as rain.  The luxurious, centuries-old, chocolate-brown patina of the hilt conveyed a sense of history, sophistication and permanence.  It looked like an authentic, untouched, AND legitimate 200 year-old M1822!

From an asthetic standpoint, the hilt's patina together with its inherent manufacturing flaws and the wear and tear one expects to see on a piece that may have actually been used in combat, all made sense.  In other words, the sword looked genuine.

Removal of that splendid patina now leaves only the flaws and the wear and tear... the latter of which now looks contrived.  Without the rich-looking, dark tone of the patina to visually soften the imperfections, the hilt now looks like a chintzy, substandard modern casting produced by an amateur in Southeast Asia.  It also negatively impacts the sword's value and desirability among discriminating collectors.

In situations like this, only the blade should undergo professional conservation to prevent further corrosion and deterioration.  

p.s.  Now I understand why the verde gris looks like modern copper sulfate.  Apparently, Autosol Polish was used to clean the metal.  It contains sulfated castor oil, ammonia, and sodium salt which reacted with the copper oxide to produce a residue of copper sulfate.           

 

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Edited by Simius Rex
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