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Fine Scottish Basket Hilted Sword of Stirling type of the mid 18th century

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Price: £

Ref: 045.18

Item Description

A fine Scottish basket hilted sword of “Stirling” type dating to the period of the last Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. The sword is a finely balanced example and mounted with an impressive triple fullered double-edged blade.

The distinctive hilt design identifies this sword as a rare survivor of a group of mid 18th century Scottish swords made in Stirling. The complex hilt structure is a divergence from the preceding, and more usual, traditional hilt designs formed from primary and secondary guard plates mounted between supporting bars. In contrast, the front section of this hilt type consists of vertically aligned flattened bars pierced with keyhole shapes and circles, as are the secondary side guard plates. The overall effect is an elegant hilt which occupies a unique place in the evolution of Scottish basket hilted swords.

Walter Allan, a sword maker with a workshop in Stirling in Scotland, was responsible for this imaginative divergence in form. His most flamboyant hilts occupy pride of place in main institutional and private collections. Walter was born into a sword-making family, being the son of John Allan, another prestigious armourer in Stirling. Walter’s two brothers also worked in the business. Walter was incorporated as an armourer burgess in 1732 and was elected Deacon in 1737. References to him in the borough records cease after 1759.

Although not signed with Walter Allan’s initials, our sword is clearly a Stirling hilt, and almost certainly from his workshop. It forms part of a small sub-group of Stirling hilts, less flamboyant than Walter’s most intricate and unique pieces made towards the end of his career, but non-the-less, an impressive piece which, together with its near relatives in the group, may have been made as a contract supply.

The guard arms of Walter’s most intricate hilts are secured by being forged onto a pommel ring into which the neck of the pommel sits. Some swords in the small sub-group of which our sword is a member, are secured in this manner. The arms of the guard of our sword are not secured onto a ring but instead tuck into a groove formed around the pommel just underneath its middle. This is an earlier feature and helps date the sword to the mid-century, from say 1740 onwards.

The exceptional double-edged blade is 33.5 inches long (just over 85 cm) and most likely of Solingen manufacture. Of broad form it tapers gently to its point. It has a short ricasso with a broad fuller of the same length near each blunt edge. From the termination of the ricasso the blade is double-edged, gently tapers to its point and is exceptionally well cut with three broad fullers running to a short distance from the tip on each side, the middle fuller being slightly longer than those on its flanks. The middle fuller on each side, somewhat near the hilt, is incised with the name “ANDREIA FARARA” interspersed and flanked with small crosses and dots. The fuller above is incised with “SONDEO” and below “GLORIA” also flanked by dots. The “FARARA” name, with spelling variations, appears often on blades mounted onto Scottish hilts, being seen as a mark of quality by sword slippers and users alike.

The cone shaped pommel is decorated with four wide grooves which radiate from the pommel button, flanked by narrower incised lines, with a single line cut into the middles of the spaces imbetween. The wooden grip is covered with shagreen and spirally bound with silver wire strip, now blackened, and mounted with decorative silver ferrules top and bottom. A coloured woolen fringe sits between the top of the grip and the pommel base. The hilt retains its buff leather liner with red velvet exterior and the remains of a silken blue hem.

Overall the sword is 39 inches long. The condition is fine with the metal surfaces in good order with minor age related blemishes in places around the hilt. The sword is of robust manufacture and well balanced in hand. Two similar examples can be seen in Cyril Mazansky’s “British Basket-Hilted Swords” pages 148 and 149, one in the Royal Armouries Ref: IX.874 with the other in the JD Forman Collection.

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