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Thread: Pre-numbered Wilkinson - patent hilt

  1. #1
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    Pre-numbered Wilkinson - patent hilt

    Hi all,

    Help wanted to test my research on a lot won in Wednesday's auction at Bosleys; if anyone was watching there were a number of very nice sword up for grabs.

    I was going to wait until I had this in hand before posting but with 800 lots to process it could be weeks before I see it.

    It's a pre-numbering, Wilkinson patent hilt, 1821 light cavalry sword etched with initials 'RB'.

    I have my own opinion on the likely owner but is anyone else willing to take a look and offer an unbiased opinion?

    Regards

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  2. #2
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    James that is a very nice Wilkinson with leather grips. I was looking at that one but with recent problems finding anyone who will ship swords I've really cut back on UK sales.

    I do not know who's sword yours was, what is your idea? Obviously someone with some wealth. Would be great to connect it to the Light Brigade.

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    James,
    The sword has been service sharpened which is good. Checked the Army List and there is only one RB, cornet Dec 1853, so probably the same guy you've found. Now, I have a list of Bengal Army officers and there is a Captain R. Baring, Bengal Cavalry. Cornet 1851, Lt 1854, so correct period. There is also a Richard Boulton, Bengal Cavalry. I don't have early officer lists for the Madras Army or Bombay, but I think the FIBIS Wiki site does, so then you can make a short list of eligible RB's and begin playing detective. To bad that R.B. didn't put his crest or some regimental etching on the sword.
    Last edited by MikeShowers; 07-04-2019 at 11:31 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    but with recent problems finding anyone who will ship swords I've really cut back on UK sales.

    I am puzzled by that statement, Will. Absolutely everyone I deal with, from auction houses to dealers to shipping companies will ship swords as normal! Mailboxes are shipping swords all the time and using various companies to send them, including Parcelforce, DHL and others.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeShowers View Post
    James,
    The sword has been service sharpened which is good. Checked the Army List and there is only one RB, cornet Dec 1853, so probably the same guy you've found. Now, I have a list of Bengal Army officers and there is a Captain R. Baring, Bengal Cavalry. Cornet 1851, Lt 1854, so correct period. There is also a Richard Boulton, Bengal Cavalry. I don't have early officer lists for the Madras Army or Bombay, but I think the FIBIS Wiki site does, so then you can make a short list of eligible RB's and begin playing detective. To bad that R.B. didn't put his crest or some regimental etching on the sword.
    Like Mike, I had a little search and concluded, unfortunately, that it would be impossible to ever match it to one individual as there are a few likely suspects. I think it's adequate to appreciate it as a really nice example of an early patent solid hilt, though wow, that price. Never sell it

  6. #6
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    That is one fantastic sword, I was watching it too.

    I had a long look through the army lists and thought that a good contender was Robert Bickerstaff of the 6th Dragoon Guards. I think his original commission was in the late 1840s, but the 6th converter to light cavalry in the early 1850s so would have had a light cavalry sword at some point.

    Do you have any thoughts on the scabbard drag being not the usual one?

    Kind Regards

    Ian

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeShowers View Post
    James,
    The sword has been service sharpened which is good. Checked the Army List and there is only one RB, cornet Dec 1853, so probably the same guy you've found.

    Yes Mike, Robert Blair of 2nd DG exciting because he is a V. C. recipient from the Mutiny as was private Donohue who saved Blair after his act of bravery and as was Blair's close friend Alfred Jones with whom he had made a pact to try and win the new V. C. award during the Mutiny.

    On 26th December 1856 Blair had exchanged from 9th Lancers to 2nd DG however as his new regiment was waiting to be posted to India he remained doing duty with 9th Lancers until the time of his V. C. action. This suggests that there was no reason (or perhaps even opportunity later, during the Mutiny) for him to have dispensed with his light cavalry pattern sword.

    Blair won his V. C. At Boolundshuher (varied spellings) on 27th September 1857. There are numerous discrepancies in reported accounts, whether he killed 3 men or 4, whether he was wounded by his first kill or his last. Whether his arm was severed/amputated/or neither (he wore his 'arm' in a sling at his investiture).

    By all accounts he recieved a severe sabre cut to his left shoulder after thrusting a native officer through the body. A more detailed report is offered by an officer identifying as John Evans who suggests the humerus was severed and the upper part of this bone amputated. This same source states he killed 4, one with a thrust; one a cut and two with pistol shots. This source is controversial and partly contested as it also alleges a mutiny of her Majesty's forces (75th Regiment) who it is said declined to charge as ordered during another action at the same town.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 07-05-2019 at 08:51 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    Like Mike, I had a little search and concluded, unfortunately, that it would be impossible to ever match it to one individual as there are a few likely suspects. I think it's adequate to appreciate it as a really nice example of an early patent solid hilt, though wow, that price. Never sell it
    Yes, Matt I got very carried away. Money, you can't take it with you..... but you can use it to buy food and medicines and rent so..... I'm not thinking about it.

    I sadly agree that it's going to be impossible to pin this one down difinitively.

    I cannot even rule out yeomanry officers, officers with short term or cancelled commissions or perhaps even a civilian purchase.

    However, numbered Wilkinsons begin 1st Jan 1854 and patent hilt examples began to show in the proof ledger immediately. So this example is 1853 or prior.

    With reference to your own excellent article on the early Reeves patent hilt, Reeves patent was applied for [April] and granted [October] in 1853 and Robert Wilkinson-Latham elsewhere on swordforum surmised that Wilkinson manufactured the patent hilt under licence from Reeves. So it would seem that 1853 would be a reasonable date for this example.

    I'm unclear on the earliest confirmed date of a Wilkinson patent hilt, though if 1853 I think puts Robert Blair in the hot-spot.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 07-05-2019 at 08:54 AM. Reason: Grammar

  9. #9
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    I think we can presume a few things (even if they are never 100% in reality): RB should only use those two initials in army lists, no middle names. RB should have seen active service - anybody who didn't I think we can rule out. RB could have been in the army before purchasing the sword, as many officers updated their swords - in my experience quite often after serving in a campaign, presumably because their campaign sword got trashed. So any simple RB in the Queens or Company army who saw active service at some point after 1852/53, and who in 1852/53 was in the light cavalry. Blair seems like a very good suspect and I presume whoever the under-bidder was would have suspected that provenance also, to have driven the price up that high.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by IMoran View Post
    That is one fantastic sword, I was watching it too.

    I had a long look through the army lists and thought that a good contender was Robert Bickerstaff of the 6th Dragoon Guards. I think his original commission was in the late 1840s, but the 6th converter to light cavalry in the early 1850s so would have had a light cavalry sword at some point.

    Do you have any thoughts on the scabbard drag being not the usual one?

    Kind Regards

    Ian
    Ian, I hadn't considered regiments converting. Good spot. I'd better look into the dates.

    I'd also be interested in an opinion on the scabbard drag. If any Wilkinson records exits describing the supply of swords prior to the numbering system it's the sort of detail that might prove useful.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 07-05-2019 at 06:26 AM.

  11. #11
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    The sword has no etching regarding the hilt type. Previous to the patent solid hilt of Wilkinsons is Reeves Patent Hilt and before this Reeves Registered Hilt. Would have to know when Wilkinsons bought the rights to make Reeves patent hilts. May be later than 1853 for Wilkinson to etch and advertise patent solid hilts as Reeves would first have to be granted the patent.

  12. #12
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    Can you picture the scabbard drag? The scabbard most likely is leather lined.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Can you picture the scabbard drag? The scabbard most likely is leather lined.


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  14. #14
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    I have a Wilkinson within a two year period of yours with virtually identical if not identical drag.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    I have a Wilkinson within a two year period of yours with virtually identical if not identical drag.
    Are you aware of the terminology for this design?

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    I don't know the terminology for this or if anyone has even classified them.

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    Having thoroughly checked the India army lists for Bengal, Madras and Bombay: 1852 - 1856 inclusive I find 22 officers with the sole initials 'RB'. Of these: -

    16 served throughout that period with infantry Regiments.

    1 Bengal Supervising Surgeon (who disappeared from the lists anyway after 1852)

    2 Assistant Surgeons - branch not stated.

    Presumably it is reasonably safe to discount these 19 officers?

    Of the remainder:-

    Robert Baring (appt. 1851) cornet 3rd light cavalry.

    Richard Boulton (appt. 1835) capt. 1849 7th light cavalry. Regmt arrived India 1839.

    Ronald Bayne (appt. 1845) Surgeon 1st sind irregular horse - I am unaware of what pattern this officer would carry but am aware of the sind irregular horse pattern.

    Any observations on these options with a view to confirming they are in the frame or to rule them out?

    Regards
    Last edited by james.elstob; 07-06-2019 at 01:04 PM.

  18. #18
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    With the light cavalry sword pattern and narrow date it was made in using the info provided Robert Baring (appt. 1851) cornet 3rd light cavalry would be your only conclusion.
    Was the Baring family fairly wealthy? This sword was expensive.

  19. #19
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    Will, that was just the Indian list, it still leaves the hoped for Robert Blair v.c. from 9th lancers/2nd DG and also Robert Bickerstaff of 6th DG who were ordered to be fitted out for light cavalry in 1851 although I understand it this was delayed due to the crimean war and the exact dates are obscure about the conversion.

    As Matt points out, serving officers might have chosen to replace their swords in the date range so I intend to go through the British Army lists again just to be sure I have covered all bases.

    I also have more detective work to do on the above Indian officers. I hope to be able to cull the list further.

    In the mean time any info from other sources is welcome.

  20. #20
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    I was just going by the info in #17. Hopefully you can narrow it down, but to one with these other officers seems difficult. Just pick the officer with the best history!
    I have a Coldstream Guard Wilkinson with Toledo blade but no initials and nothing on the Wilkinson proof page so no hope of identifying the owner unless the sword is described in some obscure writings.

  21. #21
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    Incidentally, if this is the same Baring family of Baring Bank fame, I own a sword (Wilkinson patent hilt) from that family also.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by james.elstob View Post
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    I have at least a couple of Wilkinsons with this style of drag.

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    I think Baring and Boulton would be contenders so far, not sure about Bayne for the reason you state. Baring was ADC to the Governor General of India during the Mutiny so that might explain why he has no official Mutiny service, but would have probably had a sharp sword. Boulton retired, or died, sometime in 1857 or 58 but I haven't looked up the exact date.
    Last edited by MikeShowers; 07-08-2019 at 09:56 AM.

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    I have good reason to suspect that Robert Baring can be ruled out but I am hoping for further information before I can say more.

    Re Richard Boulton I should have specified that he was with 7th Bengal light Cav. and I was incorrect in stating they arrived in India in 1839. However I can say that Boulton arrived India in April 1846 presumably with sword although that does not rule him out buying a replacement.

    edit: Richard boulton died 20 January 1878 following a fall from a horse. He retired March 1857, is he going to be buying a patent hilt sword in 1853? Possibly although his Regiment was involved only in minor operations against the southern Mahrattas from 1844 to 1855. - Wikipedia .

    Having now reviewed all cavalry regiments from British Army lists 1851-1855. I find the following 2 RB's with the wrong pattern sword so safe to discount: -

    Richard Bateson (1849) 1st life guards
    Robert Bell (1835) 5th DG (disappeared anyway after 1853)


    This leaves only two more possible candidates from British lists in addition to the 3 above from the India lists. Both have been mentioned before.

    Robert Bickerstaff (commission: 1844) 6th DG. The Regiment were ordered to be refitted as light cavalry in 1851, but am I correct in thinking that this process began but was reversed having never been fully completed? Is anyone aware of any light cavalry sword attributed to the 6th DG?

    Robert Blair (1853) 9th lancers. appointment as cornet fits the date of a Pre-numbered Wilkinson solid hilt.

    A helpful piece of info would be to know the date of the first Wilkinson patent hilt.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 07-08-2019 at 11:44 AM.

  25. #25
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    Hi James,

    I have been giving this a bit of thought and would have responded to the post before now but am away in the sun.

    I did look into the possible RB owners prior to the auction as bidding imaginary money on swords is a hobby of mine. There is a book on line (google books preview) which has images of swords attributed to the 6th DG and there is three bar hilt pictured. I am sorry as I am doing this from my phone I can’t find the link, I think (but am probably wrong) that the special pattern hilt wasn’t formalised for the 6th until the 1870s. Bickerstaff was also pictured in the book (portrait only and sword not too visible but possibly three bar).

    I suspect that the only definitive answer is to find a picture of one of the named guys and hope it shows the drag! Bickerstaff was witj the 6th though the Crimea and Mutiny so there is an off chance one of the photographers from the period got him, or a colleague,

    Finally, I am not sure if this is anything that adds light but there is a wonderful pen portrait of Bickerstaff available on google books from an unnamed cornet during the mutiny, he is described as being vain and egotistical beyond belief! It might be the kind of man to buy a flash and unusual sword!

    Whoever did own it, it is a great sword in good condition, and you have multiple officers to research.

    Kind Regards

    Ian

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