Historical British Sword Manufacturers

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Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby Dangermouse » 21 Apr 2011 16:50

Hello Chaps

Anybody know any of any british sword manufacturers from history other than Wilkinson. More interested in the mass producers with military contracts etc. And are there any still making them (very, very unlikely I know)?

Thanks in advance
Bryan

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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby admin » 21 Apr 2011 17:29

Hi Bryan,

No there are none left, largely because the market contracted on one hand and because Wilkinson bought them all out on the other hand! Germany and France still have a couple left.

The most reputable British sword makers in mid to late-Victorian Britain were:

Wilkinson
Reeves
Mole
Thurkle
Pillin
Manton

Most makers were based in London or Birmingham, with a couple in Sheffield.
There was also the government factory at Enfield, which made lower quality mass-produced items in general.
Many blades on British swords in the late-19thC were mass produced by factories in Solingen, like WK&C, and imported.

One by one the British sword makers all either folded or were bought out by Wilkinson. By WW1 it was only really Wilkinson and Mole left. They both also made bayonets, but couldn't really compete with the mass production at the Enfield arms factory.

As I understand it, some of the equipment used by Wilkinson and even some of their contracts, have passed to Windlass (India), Pooley Sword (UK) and WK&C (Germany). Pooley Sword are, to my knowledge, the only British company offering swords to the military - though they are made in India (maybe by Windlass?). Robert Wilkinson-Latham, who is a descendent of John Latham (who co-ran Wilkinsons in the mid-19thC and was a celebrated fencer), formerly worked for Wilkinson and now has some kind of business relationship with Pooley Sword. He also, like his father, publishes books on British swords and has published books on the history of both Wilkinson and Mole.
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby Dangermouse » 26 Apr 2011 09:09

Cheers Matt - interesting stuff.

Reckon you are spot on about Windlass as well.

Off to buy some books now :D
Bryan

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The Knight Shop Intl. Ltd.

Buried in each man's soul lies the noble spark that will make a hero of him - when the fateful moment arrives, it will leap up like a flame and illuminate great deeds. - Tolstoy
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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby admin » 26 Apr 2011 09:30

This is the bible for British military swords:
http://www.naval-military-press.com/swo ... ition.html

It doesn't talk much about makers though - Wilkinson-Latham's books are the main works on Wilkinson and Mole, who were both the biggest sword manufacturers of the later part of the 19thC. You can get the books through Pooley Sword's website.
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby Gerald » 26 Apr 2011 14:36

For Cutlers and sword retailers specifically Annis and May's Swords for Sea Service Vol 2 is still the best resource IMHO but if you don't want to pay the exorbidant price for this now days, Bezdek's book on British swords is OK or better still log into www.Oldswords.com.
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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby admin » 26 Apr 2011 15:30

I didn't realise how lucky I was to pick up both volumes of A&M for £30 until you told me to look at the usual prices online!

I like A&M, but there seem to be a lot of common proof disc marks which are not covered in it - the OldSwords.com database is becoming incredibly useful to me now.

For those who are reading this who don't understand what David and I are talking about:
In the 19thC there were quite a few *manufacturers* of swords, and LOTS of *retailers*. Many antique swords are marked with retailer's marks, but this does not often tell you who made the sword. If you have a British sword then they sometimes had makers marks as well - on some swords this took the form of a proof disk (a brass disk, inset into the ricasso), but often you will need a reference book of some sort (for example Annis & May) in order to identify the maker from the proof disk. Some proof discs were used by several manufacturers, so it's not always easy to identify the manufacturer (it is often impossible in fact). One retailer might sell swords made by several different manufacturers, and one big manufacturer might supply 30 (or more) different retailers.

Retailers in this case were normally shops selling uniforms and all the other gear than an officer would need to buy for himself. They stocked everything from hats and boots to swords and revolvers.
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby Mearcstapa » 26 Mar 2014 21:10

Robert Pooley came to Sandhurst to give a talk on swords today. I was struck by how frail he is, and by how ropey his knowledge of sword manufacturing at least seems to be.

I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until I did some quick poking around online just now to cross-reference what he said, and it appears that he was merely a middle-man between Wilkinson (the manufacturers) and the MOD etc. until Wilkinson sold up in 2005. It also seems that the bulk of the serious gear went to WKC in Solingen rather than Pooley.

He claimed that all their swords are completely manufactured and assembled in the UK, mostly Sheffield. The blades say 'Made in England' on them. Can anyone confirm this? There seems to be some ambiguity about whether they are made in India or not.
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Re: Historical British Sword Manufacturers

Postby admin » 28 Mar 2014 12:37

As a matter of interest, I would like to know the answer to that question too :)
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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