Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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CutlassCollector 4th February 2021 12:30 PM

The British Broad Arrow Mark
 
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What is your earliest firearm or sword that is marked with the British broad arrow (pheon) mark of government ownership?


The mark has been around for centuries and was mainly used for marking stores and equipment to discourage pilfering but also used for prisoner clothing and boundary marking stones. It was used with letters to signify different countries.
It does not appear to have been used on firearms or swords until much later.

There was a large gap between the issue of cutlasses from 1804 which were generally marked with the crown and Royal Cypher in script form and the 1840s cutlasses that were marked with the broad arrow. It must have been sometime between these dates.

Does anyone know when the broad arrow was first used on weapons to signify government ownership?

fernando 4th February 2021 04:31 PM

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David, i risk talking nonsense but, a version of the broad arrow, one under a crown, appears in guns dated 1800 ... and even earlier :o .
Lots of New Land Pattern pistols with it may bee seen out there ... mine included.
Others with deeper knowledge will tell you better.


.

Will M 4th February 2021 04:51 PM

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Broad arrow was also used on British cannon ball pre 1800, I'd like to think so the enemy knew who was shooting at them!
This ball dates to be fired in 1760 at Isle aux Noix fort near Montreal.

Jim McDougall 4th February 2021 05:41 PM

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This is truly an interesting topic, and as I'm sure most are aware this is pretty much a waltz through a bureaucratic administrative web which seems to have begun around early 1300s.
It sounds strange but the keepers of the 'Privy Wardrobe' were the first official 'keepers of ordnance'.
This strangely appointed office for royal stores became more clearly designated to ordnance in the time of Henry VIII in the 1540s.
In 1683 Charles II issued a warrant specifying use of the 'pheon' on official stores, which we may presume included arms.
In 1806 the board was ordered to mark ordnance stores again.
This chronology is admittedly vague, but it seems such is the history of the Board of Ordnance.

Most items of issue from the Napoleonic period until 1855 were marked BO topped by the arrow.
After 1855, it was changed to WD under the arrow (War Department).

So the question is:
When was the broad arrow first implemented as a marking on arms?

As Will has shown, we know artillery had it in 1760, so we can presume that larger segment of ordnance had such use in place then and earlier.

This background is not the answer needed, just some perspective, pending search further re: actual arms markings.

Attached is a post 1855 wooden canteen with the WD instead of BO accompanying the broad arrow.

From: "Treasures of the Tower of London"(1982, A.V.B. Norman, G. Wilson)
While swords remained in the control of regimental colonels until c. 1788, firearms were purchased and controlled by the Tower and Board of Ordnance.
It would seem that the locks of guns were marked with the crowned broad arrow as early as 1731, probably earlier, from these examples;

#97, Long Land pattern musket , crowned arrow, date 1731
#98 cavalry pistol date 1744 crowned broad arrow
#99 cavalry carbine c.1770 crowned broad arrow

I had hoped that bayonets might yield some clues, so to "The Plug Bayonet" (R.D.C.Evans, 2002);
It would appear that the Board of Ordnance was involved in degree with bayonet supply (then plug bayonets) by c. 1685, however the Board preferred that colonels privately purchase these. Most of the bayonets seen have the dagger mark of the LCC (=London Cutlers Co.) but obviously no crowned arrow.

Possibly in Queen Anne period (1702-14) the advent of the socket bayonet may have changed that, but remains to be seen.

On an aside, the East India Company, which clearly had its own bale mark, seems to have pretty faithfully marked all their gun locks, and the socket bayonets marked accordingly. With swords, as I was told by David Harding ("Small Arms of the East India Company") the Company did not place bale marks on its swords.
Perhaps this may suggest BO arrow markings might be on socket bayonets for British government ordnance?

corrado26 4th February 2021 06:07 PM

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Here are fotos aof a carbine made during the reign of James II. which has no broad arrow, so its introduction must have been later.

corrado26 4th February 2021 06:12 PM

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.........and here a pistol of 1747 with the boad arrow

corrado26 4th February 2021 06:14 PM

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.........and here a pistol of 1747 with the boad arrow and a pistol of Dragoon Guards 1738 with the arrow on its barrel

fernando 4th February 2021 06:36 PM

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... So the question is:
When was the broad arrow first implemented as a marking on arms? ...

Yes Jim; that is the original question indeed ;). Udo is coming close, so it appears :cool:.
As for this mark having been used since early times as a symbol of the King's property, the most bizarre things are found with such mark; meaning that, finding it in plausible property like canteens, is nothing comparing to bizarre items like screws :rolleyes: :eek:.


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Jim McDougall 4th February 2021 07:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fernando
Yes Jim; that is the original question indeed ;). Udo is coming close, so it appears :cool:.
As for this mark having been used since early times as a symbol of the King's property, the most bizarre things are found with such mark; meaning that, finding it in plausible property like canteens, is nothing comparing to bizarre items like screws :rolleyes: :eek:.


.

Wow Fernando! now that is bizarre, a screw??? But then I guess in those days, these were not as common as going to the hardware store buying them by the box.

Jim McDougall 4th February 2021 07:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by corrado26
Here are fotos aof a carbine made during the reign of James II. which has no broad arrow, so its introduction must have been later.

Given the civil unrest of these times, it seems likely that the Board of Ordnance may not have been involved in the issue of this gun, thus that stamp of broad arrow while prevailing earlier on gun components might not be present.

Jim McDougall 4th February 2021 07:24 PM

"...before 1855, swords obtained by the Board of Ordnance were often stamped with the Board's mark, a broad arrow and the letters BO. After the abolition of the Board in 1855, this marking was replaced by a broad arrow and the letters WD, standing for War Department."
"Swords of the British Army", Brian Robson, revised 1996, p.279

Fernando K 4th February 2021 07:56 PM

Hi there




just or for a question. I have read somewhere about the origin of the "broad arrow". The deer, which roamed freely in England, were owned by the Crown (Like our horses and wild cows, in Argentina, called for that "reyunos"). To hunt them, an arrow with a wide iron was used. The archer who was found with this arrow was hanged with the string of his own bow. Is that?

Will M 4th February 2021 08:24 PM

Fernando that's an interesting theory. Certainly wide arrowheads are made to hit arteries and bleed the animal before it runs too far away, the same reason we use them today.
Steel was a valuable commodity and placing govt. marks on the products would make selling or having it in your possession a dangerous thing. I would think the average person would not have access to steel files or other means of removing the arrow marking.

adrian 4th February 2021 08:45 PM

Does anyone know when the broad arrow was first used on weapons to signify government ownership?

During the reign of of Queen Anne, the Rose and Crown mark was replaced by the Crown and Crossed Sceptres mark, and the Royal Cypher had a broad arrow added underneath. (Ref H.L. Blackmore, "British Military Firearms 1650-1850". p265.) So it seems accepted that the arrow appears of firearms from the very early 1700's. In "The Brown Bess" by Goldstein & Mowbray they depict a style of early crowned arrow stamp used from from 1706-11.

I have a heavily restored musket of King William's reign, it has a no arrows at all and a paper written by David Williams "The Flintlock Ordnance Muskets of William III and their Supply" includes a description of their markings (ten muskets were used for his study) and there is no mention of an arrow used to lock, stock or barrel. King William III died in 1702 & his wife Ann became queen, this supports the evidence that the arrow appears, on firearms, during Queen Ann's reign.

Jim McDougall 4th February 2021 09:08 PM

"...the BROAD ARROW mark now making its appearance on ordnance stores was a Government mark which can be traced back to the 14th c. , when in 1386, a certain Thomas Stokes was condemned to the pillory for pretending to be a Kings officer and marking some barrels of ale with the 'AREWHEDE' mark. Although the Broad arrow mark s mentioned in the 1699 notice it does not seem to have been generally introduced until the reign of Queen Anne. Throughout the reigns of Charles II, James II and William III, the two government marks stamped on gun barrels were the rose and crown mark and the Royal Cypher. On the locks the Royal cypher was engraved in the middle, with the name of the maker across the tail".
"British Military Firearms 1650-1850"
Howard L. Blackmore, 1962, p.262

The reference to the 1699 notice refers to a notice in the London Gazette, Feb. 1699 drawing attention to an act of Parliament against the embezzlement of stores: "...the marks on his Majesty's arms...which are, the Kings cypher in the reign in which they were made and the rose and crown on the barrels, and SOMETIMES THE BROAD ARROW........".

It would seem that beyond these provisions for marking of the locks and barrels of firearms, it was the STOCK that was marked with the broad arrow and BO. ...according to plates in Blackmore.

Jim McDougall 4th February 2021 09:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by adrian
Does anyone know when the broad arrow was first used on weapons to signify government ownership?

During the reign of of Queen Anne, the Rose and Crown mark was replaced by the Crown and Crossed Sceptres mark, and the Royal Cypher had a broad arrow added underneath. (Ref H.L. Blackmore, "British Military Firearms 1650-1850". p265.) So it seems accepted that the arrow appears of firearms from the very early 1700's. In "The Brown Bess" by Goldstein & Mowbray they depict a style of early crowned arrow stamp used from from 1706-11.

I have a heavily restored musket of King William's reign, it has a no arrows at all and a paper written by David Williams "The Flintlock Ordnance Muskets of William III and their Supply" includes a description of their markings (ten muskets were used for his study) and there is no mention of an arrow used to lock, stock or barrel. King William III died in 1702 & his wife Ann became queen, this supports the evidence that the arrow appears, on firearms, during Queen Ann's reign.


Excellent entry Adrian!!! We crossed posts :)

CutlassCollector 4th February 2021 09:28 PM

That's great info guys. Obviously my knowledge of firearms is limited so thanks Corrado and Fernando for the pistol markings. The crown and cypher are obviously not necessarily exclusive of the broad arrow.

And great cannon ball Will.

CC

CutlassCollector 4th February 2021 09:44 PM

And thanks Jim and Adrian for your great research that really pushes the date back for firearms to the early 1700s and still earlier for general use. That pretty much agrees with Corrado's estimate.

Nice screw Fernando! Apparently the British government even marked trees with the broad arrow in North America which were suitable for masts and claimed for government use. No doubt indicating to the colonists which ones they would get the most enjoyment out of cutting down for firewood.

CutlassCollector 4th February 2021 09:57 PM

Fernando K and Will - yes according to Wiki it does seem to be a stylised representation of a metal arrow head. The symbol pointing down is used in English heraldry. And I guess the link may well be the royal sport of deer hunting.


Does anyone have any swords marked with the arrow?

Regards,
David.

scinde 4th February 2021 10:23 PM

Inspection/mark of ownership.
 
Hi Cutlass Collector,

During the first half of the 19th Century, swords acquired by the E.I.Co were purchased direct from makers or merchants, and in general terms, I believe Jim is correct when he said they were not identified with a "bale Mark" as such however, they were inspected and marked accordingly.

The main *change occurred circa 1855-56, after which swords purchased by the E.I.Co, were acquired via the British War Department; and at which point in time the "I" over Broad Arrow mark came into vogue.

Probably? the earliest, but certainly the most commonly found use of this mark, is on swords made during the period of the Indian Mutiny for Bengal European Cavalry; thus this mark can definitely be found on E.I.Co swords for as long as the company survived, say from circa *1856 through to 1858.

Then came The Government of India Act of 1858, the demise of the E.I.Co, the somewhat dramatic post mutiny reforms and the creation of the Queens Indian Army.

Jim McDougall 5th February 2021 01:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CutlassCollector
Fernando K and Will - yes according to Wiki it does seem to be a stylised representation of a metal arrow head. The symbol pointing down is used in English heraldry. And I guess the link may well be the royal sport of deer hunting.


Does anyone have any swords marked with the arrow?

Regards,
David.

There are some tenuous suggestions of the 'arrow' relating to heraldry etc. but such are matters with arms lore.
I have continued looking into the artillery factions of ordnance, and have found numerous examples with the BO and arrow on various types of cannon of 17th c. Apparently the Board of ordnance did an inventory in 1698 in which control numbers were placed on the guns. There were BO arrow marks on many and just how old many were at this time is unclear.

As noted, while firearms for government use were controlled by the Board of ordnance, swords for rank and file were privately purchased by the colonels of the regiments and not marked as government property (thus no BO arrow). Proof and view marks were present however and often, if not typically, the swords were regimentally marked.

I know that many years ago in my collecting I also wondered about the BOarrow as far as on swords, but seems they were not so marked. I also wondered about the EIC balemark on swords, but found they were not either.

The exception for EIC was for officers, who often had hilts and blade inscriptions on their privately commissioned swords.

kronckew 5th February 2021 10:17 AM

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Quote:

Originally Posted by CutlassCollector
...

Does anyone have any swords marked with the arrow?

Regards,
David.

Just my 1804 spectacle cutlass it has the broad arrow halfway down the blade as it's only mark, and a reverse arrow almost touching the two points together as it's only marks. (this indicates it was sold out of service as surplus. that is, Govt. ownership cancelled).

fernando 5th February 2021 11:59 AM

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Quote:

Originally Posted by adrian
Does anyone know when the broad arrow was first used on weapons to signify government ownership?

During the reign of of Queen Anne, the Rose and Crown mark was replaced by the Crown and Crossed Sceptres mark, and the Royal Cypher had a broad arrow added underneath. (Ref H.L. Blackmore, "British Military Firearms 1650-1850". p265.) So it seems accepted that the arrow appears of firearms from the very early 1700's. In "The Brown Bess" by Goldstein & Mowbray they depict a style of early crowned arrow stamp used from from 1706-11.

I have a heavily restored musket of King William's reign, it has a no arrows at all and a paper written by David Williams "The Flintlock Ordnance Muskets of William III and their Supply" includes a description of their markings (ten muskets were used for his study) and there is no mention of an arrow used to lock, stock or barrel. King William III died in 1702 & his wife Ann became queen, this supports the evidence that the arrow appears, on firearms, during Queen Ann's reign.

So it does, Adrian :cool: .


.

kronckew 5th February 2021 04:03 PM

An Order in Council of 1664, relating to the requisitioning of merchant ships for naval use, similarly authorised the Commissioners of the Navy "to put the broad arrow on any ship in the River they had a mind to hire, and fit them out for sea"; while the Embezzlement of Public Stores Act 1697 (9 Will. 3, c. 41) sought to prevent the theft of military and naval property by prohibiting anyone other than official contractors from marking "any Stores of War or Naval Stores whatsoever, with the Marks usually used to and marked upon His Majesties said Warlike and Naval or Ordnance Stores; ... [including] any other Stores with the Broad Arrow by Stamp Brand or otherwise".

This implies it was 'usually used' on ordinance stores for a fair amount of time previous to the 1697 date.

fernando 5th February 2021 05:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kronckew
... An Order in Council of 1664, relating to the requisitioning of merchant ships for naval use, similarly authorised the Commissioners of the Navy "to put the broad arrow on any ship in the River they had a mind to hire, and fit them out for sea"...

Would hou say Wayne that, the marking with the broad arrow (AKA crows foot) on military 'equipment' started at a first stage (1600's), and only much later this procedure was extended to actual weapons, like swords and firearms ?



.

fernando 5th February 2021 05:23 PM

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Here is another 1804 pattern cutlass marked with the broad arrow. Assuming that this pattern has only ceased being made circa 1845 (?), in this case the example shown has its actual production date limited to prior to 1807 as its blade spine is signed by BATE, who became Reddell & Bate during 1806.


.

CutlassCollector 5th February 2021 05:48 PM

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Thanks everyone for the input.

So summing up - broad arrow on firearms definitely go back to Queen Anne's reign which started in 1707.
For cannon it seems even earlier and perhaps through the 17th century.
For stores and equipment and to indicate ownership of everything from screws, to cannonballs perhaps much earlier.

Swords were purchased privately by regimental colonels until around 1788 which explains why swords are not generally marked with the broad arrow. But did this change in the 19th century when presumably the BO took over the purchase of swords?

The arrow started appearing on cutlasses around the middle of the 19th century, both with BO and the later WD marks. Wayne - I can't explain the arrow on your 1804 unless both were applied at the same time when it was taken out of service.

Scinde thanks for the info on the E. I. Co and I attach a picture of a Mole cutlass with the I for India mark. I guess that dates it to around the 1855.

Regards,
David

fernando 5th February 2021 05:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CutlassCollector
... The arrow started appearing on cutlasses around the middle of the 19th century ...

Maybe in early 19th century. Are you considering my recent post 26#, David ? :o.

Fernando K 5th February 2021 06:45 PM

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Hi there

In some Belgian copies of English arms, the "broad arrow" has been forged, replacing it by a feathered arrow, without a crown, and also the word TOWER and the royal crown, with the figures G.R,

I have other attachments, but they are too heavy, I have to reduce them

Affectionately

kronckew 5th February 2021 07:07 PM

The pre-1804 pattern 'Spectacle' two disk guard cutlass initially had a smooth steel grip, the 1804 pattern steel grip was 'improved' to replace the slippery smooth round grip with a circumferentially grooved one, the grip also grooved fore and aft - like mine - which I suspect was surplused in the 2nd half of the century and the two arrowheads added. - I forgot, they are actually about 4 in. from the guard, not halfway. The next model1845 had a more bowl-like guard and a circumferentially grooved grip.


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