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An attractive and rare English silver hilted Hunting Hanger made by the sword maker and cutler William Knight of London. The hanger is mounted with a robust curved single edged blade with the copper inset mark of three comets for John Hathaway, a well known English maker of blades. Both men produced work of exceptional quality at the time. It is rare to encounter a sword of this date where the hilt and blade makers can be identified.
In the 17th and 18th centuries when swords were a popular weapon for gentlemen, hangers were a robust secondary side arm used in close quarter self-defence. They were also used in parts of the British Army and Navy. Hangers appear in some military portraits of the time. The fine quality hanger described here was a gentleman’s weapon.
The knuckle bow is stamped twice with William Knight’s pre-Britannia Standard mark of his initials “WK” conjoined in raised relief inside a depressed shield. The mark appears again on the pommel cap and on the base ferrule of the grip. This comprehensive set of marks attests to the homogeneity of the silver parts.
The hilt of this hanger is comprised of a bold faceted quillon block from which a downward facing rear quillon and upwardly curved knuckle bow emerge. The pommel is formed as a cap on top of the natural stag horn grip. The top of the knuckle bow is fixed into the side of the pommel. The flattened quillon terminal features a scroll in bold relief highlighted with a stippled background. The same style of scroll is applied in larger scale to a panel in the middle area of the knucklebow. On one side of the block a slightly downward facing shell guard is applied which has a thickened rim from the outside of which a secondary guard bar emanates and attaches to the knucklebow at its base to strengthen the structure. The rim, knucklebow, rear quillon and secondary guard bar are of the same approximate width giving consistency to the parts. The middle of the convex side of the shell guard is chiselled with a Romanesque bust flanked by scrolls highlighted with a stippled background. The blade tang end is secured on top of the pommel cap by a domed rivet. The shanks of the cap and base ferrule are punched with similar bands of concentric circles and square designs.
The curved single edged blade is 14.5 inches long (just under 37 cm). It is of robust form with a thick saw back for most of its length. The blade is double edged for a short distance to its point which is thickened to improve the performance of the weapon in thrusting. The worn remains of engraved decoration is present on each side of the blade near the hilt.
The three comets inlaid on the blade are the mark of John Hathaway who was granted the use of this symbol by the Worshipful Company of Cutlers of London on 26th September 1689. He is a well known maker of blades of exceptional quality for other weapons including plug bayonets and several other examples of his work have been recorded.
William Knight was one of a number of London-based silver hilted sword and hanger makers that excelled in their craft in the late 17th century. He is recorded as completing his apprenticeship to Hugh Humphreys of the Grocers’ Company and being sworn free by servitude to carry out his trade independently in 1685. He set up his business in Farringdon in the City of London and registered his first mark between then and the arrival of the Britannia Standard in 1697. As a result our hanger dates to within this 12 year period. Knight died around 1703. The outline of other marks, probably including a date stamp, are visible on the knucklebow but are too worn to be legible.
Knight lived in exciting times as London was remodelled after the turbulence of the Civil War period, plague and the Great Fire of 1666. The city was more outward looking, international trade was growing through London port, military success was being achieved abroad and more interest and investment was being expressed in art and culture. The quality of Knight’s work, like that of his leading contemporaries, represents the evolving style and fashions of late 17th and early 18th century Baroque London.
For further information on William Knight see Leslie Southwick, “London Silver-Hilted Swords, their makers, suppliers & allied traders, with directory”, 2001, Royal Armouries, page 160 for his biography. Southwick comments on a plug bayonet by Knight with a date stamp for 1693/4 sold through Peter Finer Ltd.