Osborn's Ladder Hilt

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Osborn's Ladder Hilt

Postby Bryce » Wed May 23, 2018 10:17 pm

G'day Guys,

One of the frustrating things about collecting British Napoleonic Period swords is that many were never maker marked. This often makes it difficult to accurately date them and find their "place" within this turbulent period. When it comes to 1796 heavy cavalry officer undress or "Ladder Hilt" swords this problem is more pronounced. For some reason these swords appear to have a much higher rate of not only no maker marks, but also no blade decoration at all, compared to their light cavalry cousins. This rules out the possibility of using changes in the royal crest over time to date them.


Although most ladder hilts follow a general form allowing us to classify them as ladder hilts, there is actually a wide range of differences between individual examples. Below is a photo of five examples in my collection, which shows some of the subtle differences between the hilts. The middle example is a commonly encountered form which is asymmetrical in its design with 4 "honeysuckles" on the right side of the guard and 3 on the left. The second characteristic of this particular hilt is the three trapezoidal and one triangular cutouts forming the "ladder" in the knuckle bow. The third characteristic of this particular hilt is the three lobed structure issuing from the swirl on either side of the "bouquet" forming the junction of the knucklebow and guard. The fourth characteristic is the rolled quillon. Most also have "comma" shaped ears on the back piece, but not all. Several of these features are also found on other forms, but the combination of all four of these features together defines this particular hilt style. I used to believe that this was just a later form of hilt probably made by several makers. I am now increasingly convinced that this design may be unique to Osborn/Osborn and Gunby. Most examples seem to be either marked to Osborn or have the "G" stamp on the ricasso we have discussed in another thread. All osborn marked swords appear to have a "G" stamp, as do earlier Osborn and Gunby marked swords. It is possible that at some point Osborn and Gunby discontinued the use of the "G" stamp. The example I have which is illustrated here does not have a "G" stamp, but as it has a transitional quill-point blade, it is likely to be produced later in the Napoleonic period.

I have not yet come across an example of this form of ladder hilt marked to another maker, so would be interested if anyone has one.


Cheers,

Bryce
Attachments
HCO Hilts1.jpg
HCO Hilts4.jpg
Hilt Rear.jpg
Hilt Right.jpg
Hilt Left.jpg
Hilt Bottom.jpg
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Re: Osborn's Ladder Hilt

Postby Bryce » Wed May 30, 2018 4:42 am

G'day Guys,

Osborn also made what I think of as the "original" or earlier ladder hilt. I came across these photos from an old auction catalogue on the net. The description says the scabbard throat was engraved with "Henry Osborn Sword Cutler". It just so happens that I have an identical unmarked ladder Hilt. I have checked this sword for G stamps several times before and not found one. After seeing this photo I thought that mine had to be by the same maker, so I had another look. Still couldn't see one and then I realized that you can't actually see much of the ricasso, because it is hidden by the guard. Got out a toothpick and had a poke around and I could feel something there. Low and behold there is a G stamp. (Also shows the sword needs a good clean behind the leather washer.) I have always wanted to know who made this one because although the blade is pretty worn, it feels beautiful in the hand.

Cheers,
Bryce
Attachments
Osborn Ladder1.jpg
Osborn Ladder2.jpg
Unmarked HCO Ricasso.jpg
Unmarked HCO G stamp.jpg
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Re: Osborn's Ladder Hilt

Postby Richard » Wed May 30, 2018 5:47 am

Well done Bryce, its great when you make that sort of discovery - keep going!
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Re: Osborn's Ladder Hilt

Postby Bryce » Mon Aug 27, 2018 12:36 am

G'day Guys,

I tried to get some better shots of the G stamps on the unmarked ladder hilt above. Because of the location of the stamps, it is difficult to be sure, but I think this is the sans serif "G" stamp of Osborn and Gunby rather than the G stamp of Osborn. This means that Osborn and Gunby were producing both forms of hilt at the same time. I had assumed the "new" hilt simply replaced the "original" design, but it seems officers could choose which style of hilt they wanted. I wonder if there were any regimental preferences.

Cheers,
Bryce
Attachments
Unmarked Osborn Style HCO G stamp2.jpg
Unmarked Osborn Style HCO G stamp1.jpg
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Bryce
 
Posts: 274
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:36 am
Location: Australia


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