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A very fine English Plug Bayonet made for an Army Officer and dating to circa 1690 to 1700. Plug bayonets were used by the British military after the middle years of the 17th century until they were replaced with the socket bayonet in the early 18th century.
The bright, slightly curved, single edged blade becomes double-edged for over a third of its length towards the point. On one side near the hilt it is inlaid in brass with three inset comets. These 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 plug bayonets and several other examples of his work have been recorded.
The figured hardwood grip is of circular section tapering towards the pommel and has the characteristic swelling at the base with a thin turned collar below and brass ferrule mounted between the collar and the cross guard. The cross has a thick oval block with faceted edge with horizontal quillons vertically counter curved at their tips and mounted with the heads of monsters. The tapering brass pommel sleeve is surmounted with a cast helmeted warrior’s head.
The particular feature of helmeted heads forming pommel caps and / or quillon tips was noted by Harold Peterson as an “English pattern that seems to have been very popular during the very late 17th century, and possibly the opening years of the next century” which “boasted pommels and quillon terminals in the form of helmeted heads”. A survey of plug bayonets by R.D.C Evans devotes a section to English plug bayonets and notes that those with helmeted heads are English and illustrates several bayonets of this type.
Evans records only two other examples of a Hathaway blade bearing the triple comet mark and proposes that it was an indication of a high quality which is borne out by inspection of the bayonet discussed here.
Army officers wore plug bayonets. A portrait of Captain Francis Hawley of the 1st Foot Guards in 1685 shows the Captain wearing a plug bayonet which has a plain wooden hardwood hilt mounted with brass.
Acknowledgements: Peter Finer Ltd, 2003 Catalogue, item 30 “A Fine English Plug Bayonet for an Army Officer circa 1690”.
The bayonet is in fine condition overall. The blade is exceptionally well preserved with clear marks and is still razor sharp. A small amount of flaking has occurred to the thinly turned rim of the grip underneath the pommel sleeve. The grip exhibits a rich dark patina. The blade length is just over 11.25 inches (just under 29 cm) and overall the bayonet is 18 inches long (just over 46 cm).