Shotley Bridge swords

Post Reply
Jim McDougall
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:50 pm

Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Jim McDougall » Thu Feb 21, 2019 7:09 pm

For some time now I have been researching the swords of Shotley Bridge, and one question has come up regarding Oley who was a maker there. While he has been reputed distinctly as a maker there, no blade has his name marked. I would presume that the Shotley makers did not mark blades but wondered just the same. Also there have been suggestions that Oley family later moved to Birmingham where they may have had associations with the famed 'fox' marking (takeoff on the running wolf of Solingen) used by Samuel Harvey. These typically have SH within the body of the fox (with bushy tail) but many are blank.
Could these 'blanks' have been used by other maker there? Could the fox be associated with Oley? with recalling of Shotley?

Many questions on this mysterious sword making venture and would really like to open some discussions on it.

User avatar
Richard
Posts: 113
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:54 pm
Location: Bath, Somerset, UK
Contact:

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Richard » Thu Feb 21, 2019 7:35 pm

Hi Jim

First many thanks for re-joining the forum, really great to have someone of your knowledge and experience here.

So, as to Oley. I have never seen any blade marked with his name although he must have been quite a renowned maker. At the time of trial of J J Runkel for smuggling in 1787, it was said that Runkel had smuggled ‘many thousands of swords into this country ... to the very great injury of our own manufacturers who it now appears are but five in number in the whole kingdom, viz. Messrs. Gill, Woolley, Harvey and Dawes who all reside in Birmingham and Mr Oley of Newcastle Upon Tyne’. (Reported in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette 30th July 1787 and The Times 5th December 1787).

So, it would it seem that Oley was still in Shotley Bridge in 1787 (its very close to Newcastle) which is long after Shotley Bridge was at its zenith. But did he use a running wolf mark? Possible of course and maybe even probable as it is very much associated with Shotley Bridge but I don’t have any evidence to confirm. I know that Mark Cloke was researching Harvey and the running wolf mark, I wonder if he can shed any light on the subject.

Richard

Jim McDougall
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:50 pm

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Jim McDougall » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:49 pm

Hi Richard, thank you so much for the kind words, and looking forward to restoring the wealth of material that was in these pages, and of course, then some!
I really appreciate your response and especially with the great insight you have with the profound research you did on JJ Runkel. If Oley was still in Shotley in 1787, that would negate any notion I had that he might have been responsible for creating the BTF (=bushy tailed fox) in Birmingham. With that of course the BTF would have been a Samuel Harvey innovation (with SH on the foxes' side)......the blanks (no initials) could have been Dawes. Gill and Wooley were after the heyday of the BTF which seems to have waned after 1760s.

What information I have seen suggests that blades WITH running wolf were being brought into Shotley from Solingen (via Rotterdam) along with the 'hollow blades' for the notorious "Hollow Sword Blade Co." enterprise. These Solingen blades must have then had the SHOTLY BRIDG stamped. The hollow blades were an entirely different matter, and as far as I know there have been none of these smallswords that can be definitely attributed to Shotley or this 'company'.

It is interesting that Oley is listed along with four Birmingham makers but in Newcastle and the only one who never placed his name on blades.

Jim

Jim McDougall
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:50 pm

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Jim McDougall » Fri Feb 22, 2019 12:27 am

One more question, on the Birmingham BTF (Bushy tail fox).......am I correct in presuming this mark to have begun c. 1750 with Samuel Harvey? and to be an exclusively central ti Birmingham mark which seems to have ceased around 1760s?

Does this mark occur only on one side of the blade (as the running wolf usually does) or on both sides. I have seen BTF blades on Moroccan swords as well as Scottish dirks and these blades turn up various places. Determining authenticity might benefit from known characteristics like this.

User avatar
Richard
Posts: 113
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:54 pm
Location: Bath, Somerset, UK
Contact:

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Richard » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:09 am

Hi Jim
The running wolf mark seems to me to be a bit like the Andrea Ferrara marking found on Scottish blades - not so much aligned with any single maker but more a talisman or sign of quality that many makers may have used.
As to the use of the BTF mark by Samuel Harvey, I have prompted Mark Cloke on this question as I know he was specifically researching Samuel Harvey. I hope he can provide some answers - watch this space ....
Richard

admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:23 pm

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by admin » Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:13 am

Hi, Great subject and something I have been looking at for time. I have been compiling a library of images of the "BTF" for a number of years but I am yet to complete the research. The trouble is that I believe this mark was used on 'trade' blades that have been hilted and rehilted in different styles making dating quite troublesome. I also think it's been copied in later years.

It also doesn't help that the 'Harvey' family were 'non conformists' which means they didn't attend the Church of England. During the riots in Birmingham in the late 18th century a lot of the non conformist churches were burnt and the family records lost. I have some research of the family tree but there are gaps.

There is actually quite a lot of variations in the mark from more 'greyhound' like to more plump with a large tail. They come with either nothing, S.H, H and 'HARVEY' all stamped within (with some other names also). I'm trying to determine if I can establish any sequence in their use but my research isn't complete enough to draw any conclusions (my time available for research has reduced significantly in recent years).

I believe the mark was started to be used in early 18th century. We have a documented purchase of a batch of weapons in 1736 that previously "belonged to a short-lived Irish mounted militia unit, commanded by Pitt" (Goldstein, E 2002 18th century weapons of the Royal Welsh Fuziliers from Flixton Hall. Gettysburg, Pa, Thomas Publications). These are on display at Chevening House (the official home of the foreign minister and closed to the public) . I have viewed these and most have the running fox mark in various styles (mostly of a style I will attach to this post). If it was just a few of the swords with this mark, they could have been replacements but the vast majority have the same, so I would conclude they are the original batch.
IMG_7319 copy.jpg
So appeared at least early 18th century. I haven't seen any 'early' examples with an attribution other than Harvey but quite a few are blank, so may well have been an earlier stamp that the family adopted. Was at it's peak around the time of the creation of numerous Militia units in the mid 18th century. But I've seen examples with a 'fox' mark variation that are certainly late 18th and possibly early 19th century.

I also found in my files a reference to a book that mentions Oley. I'll also attach images.
P1010113.JPG
P1010116.JPG
P1010117.JPG
Sorry I can't be more exact but the research is ongoing and wouldn't want to draw any conclusions yet.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Jim McDougall
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:50 pm

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Jim McDougall » Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:28 am

Thank you again Richard! and Mark for this great response. I really appreciate you both sharing these insights and ideas in the conundrums of these markings.
I agree Richard with the analogy on the 'Passau' wolf being more of a general marking used on blades as either a quality mark which may have begun as a talismanic imbuement, but very much like the ANDREA FERARA. I think the jury remains out on a lot of the Andrea Ferara mystery, and while there is evidence in recent research that there was indeed an Andrea Ferara and his brother in Belluno, it would appear the nature of the name was capitalized upon. i.e. Andrea (true) Ferara (iron) as in Eisenhauer (=iron cutting in German) .

The use of the term 'fox' for sturdy blade etc. in Shakespeare (and there were some others of the period) seems to have been a kind of an English play on words toward the well known 'wolf'of Germany. This is where I got the impression that this well known colloquial term for sound blade, 'fox' might have been employed in the BTF (bushy tail fox) of Birmingham in the mid 18th c. by Harvey. I was not aware of this grouping of swords with a fox on them from this reference (Goldstein) and could be dated to 1736. I am presuming these must be from Birmingham, which would predate the blades by Harvey.
As far as I have found, just as with Hounslow, sword blade to Shotley , blades seem to have brought in from Germany and they were stamped with the running wolf. With the Hounslow examples the wolf was latten filled.
The Solingen wolf (typically termed 'Passau') was a chop mark chiseled affair which was stylized but in similar manner and running. The 'fox' (BTF) was more artistically applied and with a plumed tail, clearly different than the chiseled wolf.

I am not sure the BTF blades would be considered trade blades as much as simply refurbished and perhaps repurposed (as in dirks in one case I know of). It seems Nuemann ("Swords and Blades of the American Revolution", 1972) has a couple of hangers later than the mid 18th c. examples I have seen typically, but again these may have been rehilts . It does seem several of the BTF blades were taken from the battlefield at Culloden, and as this was 1746 this would support the pre 1750s period as Mark noted.

The SH and H initials in the BTF are well known, and the 'blanks' mysterious....but I am not aware of other names in the BTF.


So the really big question is whether the BTF was EVER used at Shotley. Personally I dont think it was, only the wolf on blades that came from Solingen. I dont think the BTF was ever copied in the manner of the Solingen wolf, as Birmingham was ever trying to shake the poor reputation of its blades from earlier years, and its use on blades was in my impression a kind of jab at the German blades that constantly dominated markets.

Jim McDougall
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:50 pm

Re: Shotley Bridge swords

Post by Jim McDougall » Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:48 pm

Just to reiterate pondering on the BTF conundrum.
Mark, these swords at Chevening House are truly intriguing....especially the consistent use of this 'fox' (with bushy tail) on them. I cannot read the lettering in the fullers. As these are c.1736 with this Irish unit they certainly predate the Harvey use of the BTF (1850) but seem slightly varied from his examples (the initials notwithstanding on Harvey's).
I was revisiting the Elizabethan colloquial use of the term 'fox' to refer to a sturdy sword/blade ("Henry V" , Act IV, sc. i.v.….."....thou diest on point of fox". ...and it seems used as well in another reference. This was undoubtedly referring to the German 'running wolf'......but in English parlance they must have referred to it as a fox. In Spain, there was a great deal of discussion over the mark of the perillo (=little dog) used by a famed swordsmith of Toledo and thought of perhaps this figure used in the manner of the running wolf so well known at the time. While the rampant (standing instead of running) stance clearly separated it from the wolf, it seemed perhaps the same kind of oblique note as with the BTF (?).

As mentioned before, could this 'fox' image be asserting British character superceding the well established German dominance of quality blades in a kind of parody toward the wolf? These kinds of often almost cartoonish lampoons are well known in slogans and markings etc. in these times.

There has been some thought toward Oley using the 'fox', and he is listed in a directory of c. 1750s (I think in Bezdek) with Dawes and Harvey in Birmingham, but him in Newcastle. I have never found evidence of the BTF in Shotley (though the running wolf was notably present) nor have any swords marked Oley ever been established. However blades by Harvey were marked with the BTF w/initials SH. Dawes I think later used the name stamp on blade back.


The 'fox' shown in the illustration in the book on Consett, is clearly the BTF while noted as the running wolf of Germany. There was never such a bushy tailed figure in Germany (until squirrels used by Eickhorn 19thc) and the running wolf figures on blades at Shotley are believed imported via Rotterdam from Solingen. ..these were military, not the elusive 'hollow' smallsword blades. Therefore this BTF shown in the book is I believe a Birmingham blade, not Shotley.


I know this gets complicated, but matters which have been conveyed into and through 'lore' typically are complicated when we try to dig through the web which gets more tangled through time and retelling.


I would ask for any examples of either blades or swords marked to either OLEY or Shotley with BTF known. I recently saw a dirk with BTF from a cut down blade similar to the Harvey types (no initials) that was claimed to be c. 1730. This blade was more the type of 1750s (Harvey) with back fuller and not with the elliptical center fuller of the 'Irish' (c 1736).

Post Reply