With this small collection – an officer’s sword and associated ephemera from the first half of the 19th Century, it’s possible to imagine episodes from the life of a young man in Nelson’s navy, considered the “Wooden Walls of Old England” at the height of its prowess and glory.
William Walker served under some of the most famous naval commanders of the day, from his first posting in 1801 as landsman under Sir Edward Pellew, then under Lord Nelson and his friend and flag captain Thomas Masterman Hardy on the Victory in 1804. He was dispatched to the Mediterranean and though he missed serving at Trafalgar, he continued to distinguish himself in a long and varied career in the Napoleonic Wars, and later, in all theatres of war from the West Indies and Americas to the Channel and Portuguese Atlantic coast. His sketch book contains charming views of various ports where he was stationed during his career including the Azores, Lisbon, Falmouth, Mt Edgecumbe in Cornwall as well as rural scenes in Wales and England. The poignant invitation to Commander William Walker’s funeral in 1860 indicates the rank to which he rose.
This sword is called “The 1805 Pattern” as it became the regulation issue naval officers’ sword by the Admiralty in August of that year: “A sword of each pattern to be sent to the Port Admirals…as the uniform swords to be worn in future by Officers of His Majesty’s Navy…” and apparently Nelson wore his at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October of the same year. This example is called a levee weight sword, which was more suitable for formal occasions, and many officers preferred a more robust cutlass for the heat of battle. The elaborately decorated blued steel blade and ivory grip indicate it was made for a higher ranking officer and it is signed “Read Sword Cutler Portsmouth” by the maker John Read who traded in 15 Little Charlotte Street, Portsmouth from 1805 until 1850.
We look forward to presenting the sword within our next Collector’s Auction in Sydney.
RONAN SULICH / Senior Adviser
Banner Image: 19th Century Royal Navy Officer’s Dress Sword With Scabbard. Accompanied by the officer’s waste book, sketch book of thirty watercolours depicting ports and places visited, and funeral card, belonging to commander William T. Walker who served at the time of Trafalgar ex H.M.S Victory. Accompanying provenance from Ministry of Defence, London. $2,500-4,500