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Old 1st December 2022, 05:20 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Pommel Ring on British Dragoon Swords 18th c.

With the dragoon swords that evolved for British cavalry from the basket hilt forms of Scotland in the first part of the 18th century, it seems that the guard shields were welded to a ring, which then mounted UNDER the pommel in many cases.

I have a stirrup hilt 'four slot' sword which has this ring guard type setup (I posted it about two years ago) but did not resolve more on this topic.
What I am wondering is when did this means of securing the guard end? and go to the knuckleguard or guard assembly going into the side of the pommel begin?

It seems by 1759 these type swords were being made by Jeffries in London, with the pommel side mount (apparently number of these were made in 1759 for 21st Light Dragoons, who disbanded in 1763).
These were apparently produced in 1756 as a 'test pattern'? for light dragoon regiments being proposed, and I believe first issued to the 15th Light Dragoons.

As this has the pommel ring fixture, I am wondering if possibly this one might have been of these early prototypes (loosely termed pattern 1756)?

In Belvoir Castle, the swords of the 21st Light Dragoons are displayed in a circular panoply, and are of the form described of the 1759 with the pommel side mount. (thanks to Bryce for the photo).

In 1778, the American swordsmith POTTER made cavalry swords designed after these British light dragoon types, and notably included the pommel ring method.

As always, Bryce, Radboud, Will, Glen, I would really appreciate insights.
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Old 2nd December 2022, 01:33 AM   #2
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An interesting sword, are you sure that the unique pommel ring isn't unique to the American-made example?

It might be me, but I don't see it represented in any of the other photos you post. It looks like on those, the guard terminates in the pommel.

Possibly an American variation? I'll see if I can dig up similar examples in my copy of George C Neumanns' book.
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Old 2nd December 2022, 03:05 AM   #3
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These pre 1788p swords become less likely to have a fixed beginning or end date for use of the ring for the guard.
I have a British 17760's to 1770's cavalry sword with the ring to secure the guard.
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Old 2nd December 2022, 03:10 AM   #4
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No, the American (Potter) in 1778 was unusual in copying the earlier British form. These rings were on many British basket hilt types shown in Mazansky, Darling, Neumann et al. up to about mid 1750s it would seem. That was why I was showing these other examples 1759+ as they no longer had the ring.

I got this sword in London about 1978.

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Old 2nd December 2022, 03:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M View Post
These pre 1788p swords become less likely to have a fixed beginning or end date for use of the ring for the guard.
I have a British 17760's to 1770's cavalry sword with the ring to secure the guard.
Thanks Will, Thats what I suspected, that there would be some cases of holdouts, but in periods up to 1750s, there was a propensity for the ring on the developed basket hilt types. My example seems unusual in having the ring as it is of course a stirrup hilt, simple guard.

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Old 2nd December 2022, 03:35 PM   #6
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The ring is a stronger connection and would add time to the manufacturing and therefore cost. Your sword is possibly from a maker that had not made any other form and he stuck to what he knew worked?
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Old 2nd December 2022, 11:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
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The ring is a stronger connection and would add time to the manufacturing and therefore cost. Your sword is possibly from a maker that had not made any other form and he stuck to what he knew worked?
That makes sense, perhaps Jeffries, who was known making British dragoon hilt swords might have followed that course, but it changed as he is known to have produced the '1759' patterns.
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Old 3rd December 2022, 12:53 AM   #8
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Interesting, thank you for the share. It looks like a transitional design from the ‘screw in the pommel’ to the later, simpler join of the slot-hilts you show.

I hadn’t noticed it before, so went back to my catalogue of basket hilt photos and you can almost see the transition of the earlier ribbon hilts to these ring joins and later ones that follow.
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Old 4th December 2022, 03:57 PM   #9
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I think that is a pretty likely possibility, and while I am far from being a metal fabricator, it seems logical that rather than the individual placement of guard components into a slot in the pommel...joining the entire assembly with a ring and placing it under the pommel would be an easier bet.

I'm not sure offhand when the ring method began, but these are seen on many of the 'garrison' town versions of basket hilts for British dragoons of first half 18th c. They are clearly seen in Nuemann, Darling, Mazansky et al .

"..in 1755, in common with the three regiments of dragoon guards and four other regiments of dragoons, it was augmented by a seventh, or 'light' troop".
-""The Princes Dolls", John Mollo, 1997,p.8
This reference concerns the 10th Light Dragoons (later hussars) which were the regiment belonging to the Prince of Wales (later George IV).

The author goes on to explain that the 'light troop' was disbanded after return from Seven Years War, and that in 1759, the first entire regiment of Light Dragoons was raised, the 15th, followed by 16th and 17th, and 1783 the 10th.

It would seem that this attraction to the potential of these light cavalry units came from primarily French influences, though German military influence overall was certainly well known. Infantry sword patterns that developed in first half 18th were of German form.
The French 'light' cavalry were a fashionable and effective force, which seems in turn to have developed from their interest in Hungarian cavalry units, some of which were actually factored into the French army.

Further interest in the 'exotica' of these influences may have been the fascination with the 'pandour' phenomenon, which was a key element in the Austrian forces, made up of Hungarian and Croatian cavalry.

One of the features on my sword posted in OP is the 'clipped point' of the blade. This particular feature is of unusual character for British swords, but was known in Europe as the 'pandour point' (Seifert, "Schwert Degen Sabel",1962).

It would seem that the interest in the 'light dragoon' concept, as noted of 1755, would perhaps bring about the notion of a lighter sword resembling the sabers of these European units. Keeping to the existing style of the basket hilt dragoon swords, but keeping the 'ring' and adapting the straight backsword blade using the 'pandour point' , seems a logical 'styling' move for the swords of these new units.

As noted previously, there seems to be some notation of this type sword as a 'pattern' or model of 1756, but this of course is not widely recognized.
We do know however, that in 1759, the swords apparently supplied to these 'light dragoon' units, at least for certain to the 21st, were by Jeffries of London largely, and of this same 'four slot' guard form.
These no longer use the 'pommel ring' method and a side entry mount for knuckleguard is used.

This is basically why I am suggesting this example of four slot sword is quite possibly a prototype form for the first units of light dragoons, and from 1755-56 reflecting the influence of the European light cavalry as noted.
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Old 9th December 2022, 12:07 AM   #10
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To add to hilts already shown with the pommel ring, this is a Glasgow hilt, often associated in references to Royal Scots Greys (Royal North British Dragoons pre.1713). The notable feature in the guard structure termed the 'horsemans ring' has been pretty much resolved to have been for holding reins while discharging firearms while still holding sword.

It was long thought this feature was after 1750, however it is now known to have been used in British dragoon hilts much earlier, possibly the early years of the century.

The pommel ring is seen at top of the guard assembly to rest just below pommel, and in the manner I am noting in the light dragoon sword c.1756 (?).
There are numbers of other British dragoon basket hilts with varying guard structures , but all using this pommel ring.

It is of course possible, perhaps likely, that a number of hilt makers of 'old school' still held to this manner of construction, but largely this seems a convention that was popular in British dragoon swords first half 18th c.
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Old 9th December 2022, 07:43 PM   #11
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What was the question again?

Quote:
What I am wondering is when did this means of securing the guard end? and go to the knuckleguard or guard assembly going into the side of the pommel begin?
If we look at the English 1788 as the 'beginning' of a pierced pommel, in the sense of a four slot hilt, then the AR would be the end of the ring.

Yet, we can go back more than a century to find compound hilts piercing pommels along with screws instead at the same time.

I would believe that the ring assembly adds significant strength in a blow and how a backstrap was also a means to an end. Curious then that the 1788 heavy was inherently weaker

Cheers
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Old 9th December 2022, 07:50 PM   #12
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Also, my brass slot spadroon and others do without the ring and are 1780s
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Old 9th December 2022, 08:09 PM   #13
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Thanks Glen, I had hoped to see you here on this. What I am trying to figure out is concerning the 'ring under pommel' type of setup to secure the guard, and when this method began and ended. I know that with Scottish baskets, the arms of the assembled shields were inserted into a slotted ridge in pommel.
English swords from the time of mortuaries etc. screwed the guard attachment to the side of the pommel.

But at some point, seemingly with British dragoon swords, this circular ring evolved, and as you note, by 1770s, it was to the pommel side mount by single insertion. This is seen on the 1759 light dragoon forms similar to mine.

On that note, it seems that Potter in New York modeled his saber after the same style hilt as my example, and DID use the pommel ring, this was I think 1776.
Can you shed some light on the Potter, and how these differ from my example, and I think the Potters had curved blades.

I apologize for the wording and not being able to describe these features properly.

P.S. what is AR ?
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Old 10th December 2022, 03:09 AM   #14
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Just a conjecture, that different sword fighting produced different attachment methods with some needing to be stronger. I like to think that Scots punch harder using their hilts.
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Old 10th December 2022, 03:52 PM   #15
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Potter


https://americansocietyofarmscollect...h-Behind-t.pdf

AR=American Revolution

Cheers
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Old 10th December 2022, 05:22 PM   #16
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Glen,
I had recalled this article, which was published also in "Man at Arms" magazine, and have been frantically trying to find it......so THANK YOU so much.

The author, Erik Goldstein, placed one of the most resounding statements in the world of arms study:

"...complacency with long held and extensively published notions has all too often stood in the way of the true understanding of a particular weapon and its importance to history".

That is the very reason behind the lifetime of obsessive research I have spent, and thankfully shared by you and so many of the guys here.

Will, that is a perspective I had not thought of. However these rings in the structural circumstance I am referring to seem invariably on British dragoon swords....not directly Scottish.
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Old 11th December 2022, 10:50 PM   #17
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I was looking through my reference books (Bezdek, Wilkinson and Robson) on an unrelated topic, they show several illustrations of sword hilts with these pommel rings on cavalry swords that they date as late as the 1790s.

Looking at a couple of the basket hilts, one example was even dated into the early 1800s.
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Old 12th December 2022, 03:37 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
I was looking through my reference books (Bezdek, Wilkinson and Robson) on an unrelated topic, they show several illustrations of sword hilts with these pommel rings on cavalry swords that they date as late as the 1790s.

Looking at a couple of the basket hilts, one example was even dated into the early 1800s.
Interesting, which ones? I have the books, pages, item #.
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Old 12th December 2022, 11:22 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Interesting, which ones? I have the books, pages, item #.
Of course you had to ask!

British Military Swords - John Wilkinson Latham:
Plate 45. Dragoon officers sword

Swords of the British Army - Brian Robson:
Pg. 109 Plate 92. Hourse Grenadier Guards
Pg. 179 Plate 167. Grenadier Company Officers basket hilt
Pg. 190 Plate 183. Broadsword, Sergents, 42nd Foot
Pg. 194 Plates 187 and 188

Swords and Sword Makers of England and Scotland - Richard Bezdek
Pages 282 - 283
Pg. 284 - English Dragoon backsword c1755
Pg. 342 - English half basket infantry officer’s backsword
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Old 12th December 2022, 04:37 PM   #20
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Thanks very much.............turns out all I have at the moment is Bezdek, my Robson is the old one (1975, which is about beat to death as I've had it since then); Wilkinson-Latham I have but not here.

I see what you mean on p.342 in Bezdek. That is a commemorative dragoon sword for an officer of loyal North British volunteers c.1790. It makes sense that they would use the older features in creating this sword.

In looking into these pommel rings, my goal has been to get an idea of when these began in use in British cavalry swords and roughly how long the feature remained in place. As suggested earlier, it is possible that certain makers might have kept the design in place longer than others, as swords were privately commissioned by the colonels of regiments and not officially regulated.

There were of course numerous variations of dragoon swords due to this.
Also, I would not expect there to be an exact terminus ante quem for the occurrence of the 'pommel ring'. There were bound to be instances of these in later sword hilts, and with the very attractive example from Bezdek (p.342) this is as noted a commemorative type and as such understandably rare, as noted by Bezdek. This was to the Loyalist North British Volunteers, again denoting the 'pommel ring' to British rather than specifically Scottish weapons.

Thank you for specifying the other examples, I'll check them further.
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Old 12th December 2022, 06:35 PM   #21
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Here is another with ring and a search here could find more..

https://collections.royalarmouries.o...ject-7439.html
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Old 12th December 2022, 07:16 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M View Post
Here is another with ring and a search here could find more..

https://collections.royalarmouries.o...ject-7439.html
Thank you Will, that 'triangle' guard is another of those that fall into the same period as my example being discussed, around 1750, give or take a few years.
The thing I have been noting is that it seems by 1759, the pommel side mount became used, and the pommel ring seems to have largely ceased.
I'll need to locate another image of the one you note here as we are unable to post the Royal Armouries example.
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Old 12th December 2022, 09:01 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Thanks very much.............turns out all I have at the moment is Bezdek, my Robson is the old one (1975, which is about beat to death as I've had it since then); Wilkinson-Latham I have but not here.

British Military Swords - John Wilkinson Latham:

Name:  IMG_8823.jpg
Views: 98
Size:  839.4 KB

Swords of the British Army - Brian Robson:
Pg. 109 Plate 92. Hourse Grenadier Guards

Name:  IMG_8824.jpg
Views: 98
Size:  710.0 KB

Pg. 179 Plate 167. Grenadier Company Officers basket hilt
Name:  IMG_8825.jpg
Views: 97
Size:  702.6 KB

Pg. 190 Plate 183. Broadsword, Sergents, 42nd Foot
Name:  IMG_8826.jpg
Views: 96
Size:  691.8 KB

Pg. 194 Plates 187 and 188
Name:  IMG_8827_jpg.jpg
Views: 98
Size:  693.7 KB

Apologies that I clipped the description on 188; that's what happens first thing in the morning.

The 1798 Pattern Highland Regiment officers' swords are interesting because the ring pommel appears to be used regularly as part of that pattern. Probably not exactly what you're after, but it shows that the design continued to be used on basket hilts after it disappeared from other swords.

Looking at the examples, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the form is a hangover from basket-hilted swords, which remained as the cavalry officers' hilt form changed in the mid-18th century and finally fell out of use with the advent of pattern swords with a solid backstrap in 1796.

Of course, with all things of the period, there will be exceptions, but the popularity of a solid backstrap likely was the end of the 'pommel ring' for cavalry officers' swords.
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Old 13th December 2022, 12:28 AM   #24
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Thank you so much for posting these!
Well observed on the solid backstrap terminus.
I think what we see here is the transitory situation, and all great examples of that.

The one from Wilkinson-Latham (45) is indeed identified as c.1780 dragoon officers sword and appears in Blair as noted. I recall getting this around '78, and it had a brass hilt. I was surprised in seeing other examples being steel rather than brass. There never seemed to be a consensus on what these were...in a rather bizarre note Stone (1934) has one of these among several other swords and listed as Italian! ?
I no longer have it, wish I still did.
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Old 13th December 2022, 03:25 AM   #25
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I found this picture in Canadian Journal of Arms Collecting but not the RA sword I gave the link to though I should come across it.
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Old 13th December 2022, 05:02 AM   #26
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Thank you Will, this publication was one of my favorites, and Jim Gooding, the publisher, was a great guy. Sadly after he was gone, it ended. The issues are virtually treasure.
This is an excellent example, and again the 'pommel ring' clearly seen.
Interesting is the typical straight blade with this single back fuller typical of the period and it seems turned up on most forms of hangers, cutlasses and of course these basket hilts.
The fluer de lis is seen on many blades of this type (as found on some of the blades from the terrible Twickenham fence with Culloden blades) and from late 1730s-40s.

This is my example of a dragoon of that period, with fluer de lis, but in this case the guard attached in the 'Scottish' manner rather than pommel ring, which of course shows that one method was not exclusive to these sword variations.
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Old 13th December 2022, 04:49 PM   #27
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Jim that is a nice earlier sword and has never been disassembled. I find too many unknowns are in swords with recent disassembly.
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Old 13th December 2022, 06:33 PM   #28
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Thank you so much Will. Actually when I got it (back in the70s) I was putting together a group of Scottish basket hilts. This one was a puzzle to me with shorter blade, shields were plain, no piercings etc.and then, I had no idea on it. In later years of course I was delighted to find out more !
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Old 13th December 2022, 06:43 PM   #29
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Jim I wish I had interest in the 70's with swords. The internet has changed much for good and bad. Much information you can easily find now without travelling to the UK. Information has also increased the value of may swords by placing provenance to them. Aslo more interest in collecting today with more collectors and the same amount of antique items. I used to get lucky buying swords at auction that had poor description and bad photos. Now all eyes are on them. Recently I've had more luck at militaria shows in Ontario but the quantity and selection is not nearly what the UK has.
Most collecting here begins around the War of 1812 and onward.
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Old 13th December 2022, 06:49 PM   #30
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Hi,
As an aside, if anybody is interested in the Flour de Lys stamp on the blade Will posted No 25 and the one Jim posted No 26 this discussion may be of interest.
http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread...ighlight=fleur

Regards,
Norman
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