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Mid 17th c basket sold to Simon Frame

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Price: £


Item Description

An English munitions grade basket hilted sword dating to during, or just after, the English Civil War
periods. The inside of one of the frontal guard plates is stamped “R S”, almost certainly for Robert
Stedman, recorded as a supplier of swords to the Board of Ordnance from 1637 to 1663.
The guard is a fully developed early English basket hilt consisting of square structural bars with
rounded corners, two square frontal guard plates and a flat stretched oval shaped knuckle bow and
side guard bars with wide rounded terminals at the base, plus forward loop guards. The hilt structure
has clearly evolved from English and Scottish hilts of “Irish” type but has not yet evolved the
secondary rear guard bar, wrist guard or iron ring which surrounds the base of the pommel and onto
which the top terminals of the guard arms are forged. Instead, the arms are tucked into a groove cut
around most of the pommel. This generally ceased to be an English method of securing the guard arm
tops by the end of the 17th / early 18th centuries but continued to be the preferred method adopted by
traditional hilt-makers in Scotland until the mid-18th century *.
The hilt is clearly the production of a skilled armourer tasked with producing a minimalist hilt, with
low cost of production, whilst maintaining a pleasing standard, high operational functionality, and
sturdiness. The blade is typical of a type of munitions grade produced in German workshops and
exported to many different countries including England during the 17th century. The tapering blade is
of infantry length, has a short ricasso and is of hollow ground flattened diamond section, lacking
embellishments such as engraved devices or armourers’ marks. It is feasible that the sword was
produced at the height of the Civil War period when demand from both sides for weapons was at its
highest. Swords like these were probably made for pikemen and arquebusiers.
A very similar hilt is mounted on a sword featured in Robert Brooker, “British Military Pistols And
Associated Edged Weapons”, Colorcraft Ltd, 2016, page 40, Fig 44, described as being in the author’s
collection and as “an English basket hilt, allegedly from Apenthorpe House, Peterborough,
Northamptonshire. Apenthorpe House was a Civil War arms depot, 1642-1651. The sword is dated by
Brooker to 1650-1690.
The grip of our sword is of spirally grooved patinated hardwood bound with brass twisted wire. The
grip may have had a shagreen cover at some time which is now lost. The original thick leather liner
The blade is 33.25 inches (84.5 cm) long and the full length of the sword is 38.75 inches (98.5 cm).
*Note: An English exception to this was the sword type produced for enlisted men in Scottish
Highland infantry regiments in the third quarter of the 18th century. The style was first developed in
Scotland then adopted in England for mass production by makers such as Jefferys and Drury. See
Anthony Darling, Swords for the Highland Regiments 1757-1784, Mowbray Incorporated, 1988.
Robert Stedman is recorded as a Gun maker and sword maker in London of the Parish of St Katherine
who supplied swords to the Board of Ordnance from 1627 to 1663 and repaired the same. He was a
refurbisher of weapons at the Tower of London from 1654 to 1664, and in 1663 is recorded with
Joseph Hadley and Samuel Low as having repaired and cleaned 500 short swords and bayonets for the
Board of Ordnance.
For further reference on the Stedman family of armourers see Richard H Bezdek, Swords and Sword
Makers of England and Scotland, Paladin Press, page 157.

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