British 1804 Royal Naval Cutlass by Gill. Figure of Eight Napoleonic Wars Cutlass.

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This scarce Napoleonic period, Royal Naval cutlass was made by Thomas Gill of Birmingham. Thomas Gill (1774-1826), received a government contract for 3,400 cutlasses in 1808. The order was completed in 1810.

The 736mm un-fullered blade has a flat spine and sharp single edge becoming double-edged for the last 80mm. The blade terminates in a spear point and retains a sharp fighting edge. The blade is in overall great condition given its service at sea, it has a mottled patina and some small areas of minor pitting. The forte bears a worn “GR” cypher of King George III and a stamped inspection/ownership crown above the War Department Broad Arrow. The obverse is stamped with the maker’s mark, a worn “T. Gill.”

The steel guard forms a “figure of eight,” giving this cutlass and its 1790’s predecessor their common name. The rear edge of the forward disk has a plain rolled quillon directed away from the hand. The knuckle-guard terminates over the pommel in a flat cap with a rectangular lanyard slot. The steel of the guard is in excellent condition.

The ribbed and shaped cast iron grip has the wonderful patina of old iron with traces of the original black paint remaining. The blade is firm in the hilt.

Scabbards are rarely found. Most cutlasses were ordered without scabbards.

Records of the 1808 contract show that scabbards were sold separately, as on optional extra for the cost of 2/3d (£2.03p old money). The cutlasses were sold for 4/10d each. In comparison, a seaman earned around 12/3d per year so a cutlass was worth four months wages!

Because of the constant fear of mutiny (many Royal Navy seamen were pressed), seamen were not allowed personal weapons. Cutlasses were the ship’s property and were stored in racks without scabbards, ready for use. 

This is a scarce Napoleonic period, 1804 pattern Royal Naval cutlass from a pivotal period in European history, in overall fantastic condition and marked by a sought after maker.


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