An 18th century Woodstock Smallsword
The movable diamond shaped iron studs decorating the hilt were made in Woodstock, near Oxford (UK). These studs were made from imported Swedish horse shoenails which were transverted into these beads. They became so popular that in 1742 this Woodstock work was introduced to the British Consul in Florence to be given as diplomatic gifts. A similar example is in the Victoria & Albert museum and the Metropolitan NY.
Materials: Steel, Iron, Wood
An exquisite 18th century smallsword made in Woodstock, England.
The hilt was made of facetted-cut iron beads wich are all individually movable. Surrounded by typical late 18th century style pearl rims. The triangular blade was blued and has gilded engravings. Fashionable in the late 18th to early 19th century. This sword was made to be worn on a civil tunic to show status and being able to defend one self. The scabbard was made of thin wooden sheets covered in white paint with iron fittings. The chape is engraved: Gray & Son Bond street. (Robert and William Gray, goldsmiths, jeweler and metalworkers from London) It’s assumable that this sword was sold there because quite many of this Woodstock metalware was sold to the upper-few in London.
This quality smallswords has became very rare and most of these are in the well known musea and private collections.
A similar example in the same quality is in the Victoria & Albert museum London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The studs decorating the surface of the hilt are fitted individually and threaded onto the main body. Similar works from Birmingham, including the renowned factory of Matthew Boulton, made rivetted studs that were not removable and lack the same definition.
A contemporary diarist, Sylas Neville wrote: “Steel goods and gloves are the two staples of Woodstock. Their watch-chains and sword hilts are more highly polished and better standard than those of Birmingham. They polish all with hand. Their studs screw, and everything they make can be taken to pieces and cleaned whereas the Birmingham studs are rivetted.”
Conclusion: A very rare piece which was even in it’s own time referred to as ‘the best quality’. Two similar examples are exhibited in the Metropolitan NY and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. A fair chance to get your hands on a museum piece like this rarely occurs.
Condition: Good, there are three lines of beads missing in the guard. The scabbard has some surfacial ware, but further in good condition.
Total length: 101cm
Provenance: a Dutch private collection.
Victoria & Albert Museum item number: M.29-1957
Metropolitan NY association number: 26.145.307
Copyright by Peter Andeweg – 2020
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