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British Basket Hilted Life / Horse Guards Officer’s sword circa 1750

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Price: £6,450

Ref: 034.18

Item Description

A fine basket hilted sword made for a British Life Guards or Horse Guards officer dating to 1750 to 1760. The decorative iron hilt is a scarce type, this example being probably unique, due to the survival of most of its original black “Japan” protective exterior coating, plus the finely incised and chiselled grooves to the bars retaining highlights in gilt. The sword is in attractive and complete original condition. The basket guard has the open ring for a horseman built into the hilt on one side.

The most distinctive feature of the hilt is the lateral row of conjoined arches formed as a crescent across the basket guard just above its middle. The arches are believed to represent the distinctive window arches at the Horse Guards HQ building in London for which construction started in 1750. The protrusions on top of the arches in the hilt represent the key stones in the masonry.

The shell-like forms beneath possibly depict flowing water, with the terminals either side formed as an eel above and leaping salmon below. The quality of the engraving is exceptional, with the salmon scales clearly visible, although slightly obscured by the Japanned protective coat. The royal connection as a “Guards” officer’s sword is indicated by four looped crown-shaped lower bars which form the base of the hilt with the wrist guard additionally hollowed into a crown shape.

The pommel is finely formed in a bun shape typical of many British military swords in the middle of the 18th century. The integral pommel button is attractively grooved, as is the pommel base, which sits tightly in a ring forged onto the tops of the main guard bars. The spirally grooved wooden grip is covered with shagreen, bound tight with twisted copper wire and mounted with Turks Heads top and bottom. The hilt retains its original full leather liner stitched with red velvet on the outside.

The tapering back sword (most likely British) blade is of the finest quality, with a short ricasso, from which a broad fuller, tapering nicely in proportion with the sides of the blade, extends to the tip. Along the back edge a deeper, narrower fuller extends from the hilt for three quarters of the blade length where it gradually disappears as the blade becomes double edged to the tip. The blade length is just under 31.25 inches (79.25 cm) long and overall the sword is 37.25 inches (94.5 cm) long.

References: “A Survey of British Basket-Hilted Cavalry Swords” 1690 to 1760, pages 18 & 19, Ron L McAllister, curtesy of the library of the Royal Armouries in Leeds. For further images of this hilt type without Japanning see “British Basket-Hilted Swords”, Cyril Mazansky, Boydell Press, 2005, page 179, ref: G23 (in the Royal Armouries) and G23a (York Castle Museum). Also Southwick, “The Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons”, Antique Collectors’ Club,  1982 page 146 ref: 396.

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