In very good condition for its age, a rare “Strap Guard” British Royal Naval cutlass made by Woolley and Deakin of Birmingham, England, with period enlarged grip.
A rare Napoleonic British RN cutlass we have had examples of before but not like this one. This cutlass has had the grip enlarged, clearly period, almost certainly by the ship’s / squadron’s blacksmith (they used to have blacksmiths on ships), plus with hammered guard, again likely to have been the possibly idle work os the ship’s smith. The original (slimmer) grip appears to be complete under the enlarged grip. The narrow smooth grips of the so called 1800 pattern cutlass was its greatest issue and the reason it was quite soon after replaced by the 1804P.
This was probably done under the order of the captain or even the Admiral of the squadron. The idle time unofficial enhancement of the guard suggests a time at sea when the ship was in clam waters waiting for enemy vessels to come out from their harbours, such as the time spent by the English fleet under the command of Lord Horatio Nelson as he waited for the French and Spanish navy to leave the Port of Cadiz, just before the Battle of Trafalgar. Clearly, the grip modification shows the cutlass was expected to see action. Clearly, the dimpling shows signs of a lazy wait before action (sea bound RN ships would be rolling around in the waves and swell to make such idle work impossible). Given this model of cutlass was superceded in 1804, it was however still the one mainly in use on RN ships at the time of Trafalgar and beyond. There is a very good chance this cutlass was at Trafalgar.
Strap guard cutlasses are much rarer than figure of eight hilt cutlasses. Strap guard cutlasses take up less storage space than those with full disc guards, so this cutlass was most probably stowed in an open barrel or trunk on one of the gun decks of a British warship, amongst the canons, the noise, the smoke, the splintering wood.
The 25 5/8 inch blade is in good condition for its age, with markings still clear, but is very slightly shorter than other examples from Wooley and Deakin (others being 26 1/4 inches), and has some damage evident to the forward / end cutting edge that appears to be period and suggests it may well have seen action and been repointed during its service life (it would likely have stayed in service for several if not many years after Trafalgar). The blade is a tiny bit loose in the hilt. The guard is very good, as is the grip.
What a rare and evocative cutlass; an absolute must for the serious cutlass collector. Our price is just £1250. Please quote item reference number O77. Further / full sized images available upon request. Box 1391-1m (2.178)