The Baird Jewels and Archive (19 September 2003)

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Date of Auction: 19th September 2003


Estimate: £80,000 - £120,000

The magnificent and unique 200-Guinea sabre presented to Sir David Baird by the City of London for the Capture of the Cape of Good Hope, 1806

A stirrup-hilted sabre, the hilt mounted in ormolu and with a gold grip, in a gold-mounted and shagreen-covered scabbard, overall length 38ins. (965mm.), blade length 32ins. (813mm.).

The pommel in the form of a cast and chased lion’s head, erased. Issuing from the lion’s mouth, the tail of a serpent, the serpent’s body forming the knucklebow, crossguard and rear quillon, curling inward twice to form the corners of the knucklebow, wrapping itself around the base of the grip to form the crossguard and curling again to form the quillon with its open-mouthed head. The grip in heavy sheet-gold around a central core, its upper and lower ferrules formed in relief as continuous wreaths of oakleaves, either side of the grip decorated in relief with armorials and iconography as follows: on the outer side, the Arms of the City of London flanked, above, by the sword and mace of the City in saltire within a wreath of laurel and, below, by a mural crown within sprays of laurel and palm; on the inner side, the Arms of Sir David Baird similarly flanked above and below.

The blade curved and with a broad central fuller, engraved, blued and gilded over its entire length with decoration as follows. On the outer side acanthus foliage flanks the presentation inscription, on three lines,


the mayor’s name being flanked, above and below, by devices depicting the sword and mace of the City in saltire upon a wreath of laurel.

The remainder of the outer side of the blade decorated with the Arms of the City of London, a mural crown, the crowned Royal Cypher GR, a figure of Fame, a cornucopia, the Rod of Aesculapius and a Union spray. On the inner side, the decoration comprises acanthus foliage, a trophy of arms, the British Royal Arms, a figure representing the City of London, the star of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath (K.B.), a figure of Britannia, a phoenix and a trophy of arms.

The scabbard of wood, covered in polished black shagreen and with three gold mounts.

The upper mount formed of a single sheet of gold joined at the back, struck with the maker’s mark of Richard Teed, the standard mark (lion passant) and the duty mark (the King’s head), and bearing, on both sides in relief, upon a complex Classical trophy of arms and within an oval on a stippled ground, a depiction of Hercules slaying the Lernaean Hydra; entwined sprays of laurel decorate the front and back edges of the mount, which is engraved with the retailer’s name


and scratched with the National War Museum of Scotland accession number L1932-110. The throat of the scabbard is assymetrical, to fit the quillon of the sword.

The middle mount similarly formed and hallmarked, with similar decoration on the front and back edges, its decoration, on both sides and in relief, consisting of a classical trophy of arms.

The bottom mount similarly formed and with similar edge decoration, with similar hallmarks but with its decoration pierced in three panels on either side and consisting of differing classical trophies of arms; the chape edge formed of an attached band of blued steel decorated in engraving and gilding incorporating a Greek Key design, Union sprays and sprays of laurel.


This magnificent, historic and highly important sabre truly reflects both the greatness and the deeds of its recipient and the standard of workmanship in such items available in early 19th century London.

This sabre is important not only as a surviving historical artefact, one of few that commemorate the earliest British involvement in southern Africa, but also as a work of decorative art associated with a great man and a great institution. The City of London awarded only eight sabres, among their 35 presentation swords, between 1797 and 1816. Of these, Baird’s was the first; four of the others were awarded to foreign dignitaries; one is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and two others are in private hands. Of the four sabres with this remarkable design of hilt that are known, Baird’s was the last to be made and sold: the other three are in museum collections.

The City of London began awarding swords, together with the Freedom of the City, to victorious British sailors and soldiers of high rank in 1797 and was active in presenting such swords until the ending of the wars with France in 1816. The majority of such swords were small-swords, their decoration and presentation inscriptions being incorporated, with differing degrees of lavishness, into their hilts, which were often set with enamels and sometimes set with diamonds. Presentation sabres, although not uncommon as regimental gifts during the period 1794-1816, were very rare when given by the City of London: only seven others of the 35 awarded between 1797 and 1816 were sabres. The City of London was not unique as a sword-awarding institution at the time: the Patriotic Fund at Lloyds also awarded swords of varying values to deserving individuals, most of which were naval officers.

The City used a number of different retailers to provide their presentation swords; the retailers each had their own favoured sub-contractors who would make and supply the various sword components which the retailer would then assemble ready for presentation. Robert Ritherdon (1757-1826), the retailer of this sword, began working on his own at 3 Aldgate in the City in 1788 and remained at that address until 1808; he was eminent in the Goldsmiths’ Company and described himself as a “Goldsmith & Jeweller”. He sold the City two 200-guinea swords in the 1806-07 period: Baird’s sabre was one, the other was a spadroon awarded by the City earlier in 1806 to Admiral Sir John Duckworth (National Maritime Museum No. 121). In both cases, Ritherdon went to Richard Teed for components of the swords and, unsurprisingly, there are similarities between elements of both swords.

Richard Teed (1757-1816) appears to have begun working in London in 1784, at which time he was described as a “Goldsmith and Hairworker”; he moved to 3 Lancaster Court, off the Strand, in 1788 and those remained his premises until his death. In 1804, he became “Dress sword maker to the Patriotic Fund”, a Fund newly established at Lloyd’s, the insurers, and which awarded swords to the value of £100, £50 and £30. Because the swords awarded by the Patriotic Fund were, irrespective of their intrinsic values, quite similar to each other, there was a great deal of duplication of work, especially with the decorative designs on the sheet-metal mounts of their scabbards; Teed found these designs in contemporary renderings of Classical mythology. Thus, the depiction of Hercules slaying the Lernaean Hydra that appears on the upper mount of Baird’s sabre is the same design as that which appears on the middle mount, outer side, of the Lloyd’s £100 and £50 swords. The intricately pierced bottom mount of the Baird sabre has close similarities to the pierced scabbards of the Lloyd’s £100 swords: although smaller in scale, its incorporated Classical iconography has clearly come from the same source.

Whereas it is indisputable, from the presence of his maker’s mark, that Teed supplied Ritherdon with the mounts for the Baird sabre’s scabbard, it seems extremely likely that he designed and made the sabre’s hilt too. He had made and supplied a very similarly-hilted sabre to the Assembly of Jamaica in 1804 for that body to award to Admiral Sir John Duckworth: its hilt’s design is virtually identical to that of the Baird sabre, while its scabbard is very like that of a Lloyd’s £100 sword. The Jamaica-Duckworth sabre (National Maritime Museum No. 120) has, however, a hilt that is entirely rendered in gold, as opposed – as is the Baird sabre – to being a mixture of elements in gold and ormolu. This design of serpent knucklebow and erased lion’s head pommel was clearly one that Teed had made his own by 1806, two other examples (as well as the Duckworth and Baird sabres) being recorded and bearing his mark. All four such sabres were made between 1802 and 1806, Baird’s being the latest in date to have been made and recorded in print thus far.

The similarity between the Baird sabre and the Jamaica-Duckworth sabre extend beyond their hilts though: their blades are of the same style and with remarkably similar decoration. Although neither is signed, and both may, in fact, be imported blades decorated in England, their essential similarity must mean either that they were decorated in Teed’s workshop or that Teed used the same blade decorator for both swords.

The generous award of this sabre by the City of London to Sir David Baird marked a crowning achievement in his career; it also marked a significant shift in British mercantile history – although this would only become apparent as the importance of India, and thus the route around the Cape of Good Hope, grew later in the nineteenth century. This sabre, and the freedom of the City that accompanied it, were magnificent gifts to a very distinguished man.

Stephen Wood, M.A., F.S.A.


Southwick, L., Notes on two presentation swords awarded to Vice-Admiral Sir James Duckworth in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich,and on the swordmaker, Richard Teed. Journal of the Arms and Armour Society (J.A.A.S.), Vol. XI, No. 2 (1983), pp. 47-55.

Patriotic Fund Swords, part 1
. J.A.A.S., Vol. XII, No. 4 (1987), pp. 223-284.

Patriotic Fund Swords, part 2.
J.A.A.S., Vol. XII, No. 5 (1988), pp. 291-311.

The Recipients, Goldsmiths and Costs of the Swords presented by the Corporation of the City of London. J.A.A.S., Vol. XIII, No. 3 (1990), pp. 173-220.

London silver-hilted swords: their makers, suppliers and allied trades, with directory (Leeds, 2001); entry for Ritherdon, pp. 207-09; entry for Teed, pp. 238-239.