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British Silver Hilted Military Spadroon Hallmarked for 1798/99 by Francis Thurkle of London

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Price: £1,835

Ref: 029.20

Item Description

A fine 1786 Pattern Silver Hilted Military Spadroon by Francis Thurkle of London. The 1786 Pattern was the first regulation sword design for officers in the  British Army as the spontoon was laid aside as a badge of rank for officers  who were instead ordered to be equipped with a more effective weapon. The sword type was  extensively adopted by the Royal Navy from around 1790 and later in the armies of France and the United States. For further information see Brian Robson, “Swords of the British Army … 1788-1914”, National Army Museum, 2011, pages 142 to 146.

The hilt is made in the usual manner with a stirrup guard and a secondary guard formed as a loop attached to the cross piece. The knuckle bow rises at an angle from the front terminal of the cross in parallel with the grip to curve at the top to terminate at the pommel front. To the rear the cross terminates in a downward wrist guard with swollen terminal. The pommel is four sided, slightly oblong in section, horizontally ribbed and has a separately manufactured pommel button on top. To the front of the pommel an aperture secures the knuckle bow terminal. The ivory grip is of similar section and decorated with cut vertical lines with a silver ferrule at the base.  The slightly curved single edged blade is 32 inches (81.5 cm) long, has a short ricasso from which a broad, shallow fuller extends to terminate 4.5 inches (11.5 cm)  from the spear tipped point. The blade retains much of its blued finish in the fuller for 13 inches of its length with panels of engraved gilt foliage on each side. The sword retains its leather scabbard with original silver mouthpiece and chape.

The maker’s mark of “F T” inside a rectangular panel is present on the underside of the hilt next to the blade. This is the mark of the second Francis Thurkle, a London cutler who was born in 1754 and died in 1800 shortly after this sword was made. Francis succeeded his father in the family business in 1779 and recorded his first mark of “F T” inside a rectangle with a pellet between in 1783. In 1792 he entered a variation of this mark and in 1794 registered his third mark of “F T” without a pellet, which is the mark on this sword, and which was used until his death six years later. The mark appears again on the pommel and on the mouthpiece.

The underside of the cross on the opposite side to the maker’s mark is clearly stamped with the crowned leopard’s head mark of the assay office, lion passant standard mark, duty mark and date stamp. The lion also appears on the pommel on the opposite side to that of the maker. Further worn stamps of duty and makers marks are present on the mouthpiece and chape, other marks in the suite have presumably worn away.

This type of sword hilt was most often made from steel and displays some variation especially when made of silver as individual commissions by London makers show. A flamboyant example by Elizabeth Tookey with hallmarks for 1792/3 is illustrated in J D Aylward, “The Small Sword in England”, Hutchinson & Co, 1960, Fig: 49. A similar sword to that discussed here by Francis Thurkle is in the National Army Museum Ref: 6607-7 (see Robson page 143). A silver hilted sword of this type may be depicted in Raeburn’s portrait of Lieutenant-General Hay McDowell as an officer in the 57th of Foot 1791-5, in the University of Rochester New York. See Norman, “Notes on some Scottish infantry swords in the Scottish United Services Museum” JAAS, Vol V, 1965, page 2 (quoted from Robson page 169).

Francis Thurkle was a prominent maker in London. He also made elaborate small swords as well as military swords. For an example see “London Silver-Hilted Swords”, their makers, suppliers and allied traders, with directory, by Leslie Southwick, 2001, Royal Armouries, page 296, for the silver-gilt dress sword made for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis with hallmarks for 1798/9. For Thurkle’s biography see the same pages 240-241.

Condition: the sword is in fine condition. The leather of the scabbard is repaired near to the chape which may have re-attached and near to the mouthpiece.

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