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Thread: Antique Scottish Basket Hilt Sword

  1. #1
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    Antique Scottish Basket Hilt Sword

    I recently managed to win a Scottish Basket Hilt Sword at auction. I dont know a lot about them, but have been wanting one over the last couple of years. They are not exactly common here in the U.S., and have tended to be expensive when found. This one is a bit of an enigma to me, and I present it here with a hope of some clarification on a few points. It was presented at auction in 'as found' condition; without a scabbard (I happened to have a Scottish Scabbard that fit it fine) and completely covered in a surface coating of rust and old dirt that made any real identification of features problematic. When I got it, I carefully cleaned it off using mostly 0000 steal wool, ATF, and finally Simichrome to eliminate the rust and somewhat polish the metal. Here are my questions: The pommel, though having the same patina as the sword and unscrewing for easy disassembly is probably a replacement (?). The blade is marked to Wilkinson and has a number on the spline, but it lacks a proof rondel. Even though the number is for mid 1890's production, the engraving seems to be of a Kings Crown not a Queens as one would expect for a Victorian Era sword. Under the crown is a completely incomprehensible (for me) crest of initials. The blade is marked to the 'Highland Light Infantry' and is well worn but intact, as is the ray/fish skin handle and triple wire. Thoughts, comments or further questions are eagerly solicited.
    Thanks, Charlie
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  2. #2
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    Hello Charlie yes the hilt is made to disassemble. I believe that the pommel nut is a replacement and doesn't match known Wilkinson pommel nuts, however a minor issue.
    The sword dates to 1895. I would contact Richard and get the blade proof page that may identify the officers name and then you can research this sword.https://www.armsresearch.co.uk/Wilki...n%20Swords.htm

  3. #3
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    I suspect the initials under the crown will be a VR entwined with it's own mirror image.

  4. #4
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    Thank you gentlemen for both of the replies. Will, I will indeed contact Richard with the link that you kindly provide.
    James, it is very likely that you are right about the VR initials. I know from experience that while the vast majority of VR monogramed crowns are 'Queens Crowns', I have seen more than one 'Kings Crown' over the VR monogram with a date range that is prior to Victoria's passing. Also there is the 'Empress of India' Crown to occasionally contend with.
    I will see if the site will let me post a photo of the Crown/Monogram that is on the sword. First I need to downsize the photo. (:
    Best, Charlie
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    Last edited by Charlie Sorrentino; 09-26-2022 at 02:23 PM.

  5. #5
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    I'm not sure that the pommel is necessarily inauthentic. It may be from a Highland cross hilt. These baskethilt were sometimes made, especially in the late 19th century, to change between a basket and a cross hilt by simply unscrewing the pommel. This way you could conform to parade regulations with the basket, but you wouldn't have to carry such a heavy sword with you in the field. Especially useful in this case as the sword is marked to the Highland Light Infantry (the crest you spotted). I just never saw one with this pommel and a basket combined. The pommel also looks very pristine compared to the rest of the hilt?

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  6. #6
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    The 1st Battalion HLI did not wear basket hilts on their broadswords. They always wore the field service hilt (the cruciform version) instead, regardless of dress. A basket hilt on an HLI blade says 2nd Battalion or others. See image.

    The pommel nut is correct for the HLI field service broadsword. The cypher is Victorian, and is relatively common in my experience.

    A 1st Batt. version from my collection, attached.




  7. #7
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    I see the example that Max posted from MDL has a hole drilled through the sidewall of the pommel nut. To provide the necessary leverage, the owner would insert a steel bar (a bit like a modern Allen wrench) through the nut, and would turn the bar to remove the nut.

    Mine, however, has two indents on the end of the cylinder, into which a special tool would have been placed to remove the pommel nut. The top of the nut on my example was etched with a cross design, which is barely visible in my photo (the result of the owner resting his palm on the top of pommel for more than a few years).


  8. #8
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    And here's a good description of the subject, excerpted from The Highland Light Infantry The Uniforms of the Regiment 1881 to 1914, by James McKay and Dougie Anderson.




  9. #9
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    Mark, thank you for this really helpful information. Here are some photos of the sword taken apart, and the top/bottom of the hilt piece.
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  10. #10
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    Very interesting to see the same cross motif on the pommel of your sword. Is yours drilled through the cylinder like the one shown in Max's post?

    I've breezed through my references to see if they describe how the 2nd Batt wore their swords on dress occasions: With the basket and the HLI pommel nut, as in your piece; or, with the basket and a conventional domed pommel nut. Not too surprisingly, that level of detail is not addressed.

  11. #11
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    Mark, No, there is no hole drilled through the pommel nut.
    Here is a photo of my Victorian Black Watch Sword. As you can see it does have the hole drilled.
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    Last edited by Charlie Sorrentino; 09-27-2022 at 04:48 AM.

  12. #12
    my scottish sword mfg by wilkison has a pommel just like the one above with a hole and all execpt mine does not have top piece on it just the two round pieces . bill

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