Rare Napoleonic sword to feature in bidding war

4 May 2002
Machinery & Furniture Auctions

An extremely rare Lloyds Patriotic Fund presentation sword awarded for bravery during the Napoleonic Wars is among items to be auctioned tomorrow from 11am by Australian Antique Arms Auctions at Eley Park Community Centre, Eley Road Blackburn.

The sword was presented to HMS Spartan captain Jahleel Brenton to commemorate his gallant action against a superior French naval force in the Bay of Naples on May 3, 1810, in which he was severely wounded.

Apart from the sword, valued at the time at 100 guineas, Captain Brenton was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St Ferdinand and the Order of Merit by the King of the two Sicilies for his effort.

He recovered from his wounds, was made a baronet and became resident commissioner of the Balearic Islands.

In 1815, he was transferred to the Cape of Good Hope as commissioner of the dockyard where he remained for six years. On his return to England, Captain Brenton was appointed a Colonel of Marines and in 1829 given command of the ship Donegal at Sheernese.

He was subsequently made a vice-admiral and lieutenant governor of Greenwich Hospital and retired in 1840, aged 70.

Australian Antique Arms Auction director Roland Martyn says the sword, valued at $100,000-$150,000, is probably onle one of six in existence.

"Lloyds originally only made 30 of that grade as presentation swords," he says.

This is the 18th auction for the company established 10 years ago by Martyn and his partner Gordon Morgan to service the needs of Australian antique arms collectors.

Australia has a large number of collectors and both men are executive members of the country's biggest formal collecting organisation, the Australian Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria.

Although auction items are assembled from all parts of Australia, there is plenty of interest from collectors in Europe, Britain, the US, South Africa and New Zealand.

Many people from all works of life collect firearms for history and investment purposes and can pay anything from $200 for a single shot percussion pistol to $20,000 for a rare "one of a kind" item.

Martyn says this auction features items from the 1740s to World War II.

"Apart from the sword, perhaps the rarest is an imperial Russian royal presentation gold inlaid and engraved double-barrel pinfire pistol valued at $30,000," he says.

The pistol was presented in 1884 to Minister of the Russian Imperial Court Count Illarion Ivanovish Vorontsov-Dashkov by their Royal Highnesses Nikolai and Alexander Adlerberg and has seldom been offered for sale.

Other rare firearms include a Webley five-shot percussion revolver, complete with its wooden case, valued at $10,000 and bearing the name J.McConnell, Hobart Town and a receipt for repairs in 1881.

There is also a Beaumont Adams five shot percussion revolver with the name B. Cogsweel, 224 Strand London inscribed on it.

Martyn says the auction also contained several 17th century crossbows, a British iron barrel ship's cammon from 1800 and a model of a Napoleonic cannon.

"The British cannon still has a shrapnel scar on the right side and its barrel is pitted from being exposed to the elements," Martyn says.

"This and another cannon were mounted outside government offices in Nauru before World War II and during the Japanese occupation were rolled into a gully behind the building.

"It is believed when US troops liberated the island, they recovered the gun as a trophy."

Martyn says he expects about 300 buyers and 1000 absentee bids at tomorrow's auction.

Viewing is today from noon-5pm and tomorrow from 8am.

This article can be found in The Age - Drive -Saturday, 4 May 2002.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.