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Purchased at auction at Christie's, 12 April 1978, Lot 11 (repr. in cat.).

Physical Description

Silver hilt, of so-called slotted type but much wider across the area in front of the hand than normal and with more elaborate piercing. The end of the knuckle-guard is engraved in script, 'J Leche'. No hole for sword-knot ring. Lion's head pommel. Wooden grip with black false shagreen (i.e. leather) spirally grooved and bound with a silver foil. Silver ferrule near the blade.

Slightly curved, single edged blade, rather corroded and with deep nicks in the forward edge near the hilt.

Dark brown, unlined, leather scabbard, the outside tooled with lines, chevrons, and 'deer slots'. Silver locket with turned mouth (partly damaged) and invected lower edge, engraved on the front with the script letters I L (IL) within a foliate, oval cartouche (John Leche), and on the back JEFFERYS / Cutler to his Majesty / STRAND. Separate silver frog-hook. Silver chape with invected edge and bud-shaped terminal.


Dimensions: Overall length: 1019 mm (40 1/8 in), Length of blade: 848 mm (33 3/8 in), Width of blade at hilt: 32 mm ( 1 1/4 in.)

Inscriptions and Marks

On the stool of the hilt on the side towards the blade, in front of the blade, behind it and inside it, and on the lower end of the belt-hook: the letters GF with a point between, in a rectangular punch with cut corners (the maker's mark of George Fayle; illus. Southwick 2001B: 46).On the blade, on both sides, stamped: crown over GR over IEF / RIS (i.e. Iefris, the mark of Nathaniel Jefferys).

Bibliographic References

L Southwick, London silver-hilted swords, their makers, suppliers and allied traders, with directory, Leeds, Royal Armouries, 2001[A]: 289, pl. 68 (hilt and base of blade only) - 'maker's mark of George Fayle'.

L Southwick, 'Some silver-hilted swords by London makers in the Royal Armouries', Royal Armouries Yearbook, 6, 2001[B], pp. 32-54, at pp. 46-7, fig. 22.


According to the late Derek Spalding of Peter Dale Ltd, the sword belonged to Cornet John Leche of the 20th Light Dragoons. According to Southwick (2001B) 'John Leche joined the British Army as Cornet on 19 May 1760 and on 14 September 1764 was commissioned Cornet into the 16th (or Queen's) Light Dragoons, under Col. John Burgoyne, in which he served for 22 years. He was promoted Lieutenant (22 December 1769) and Captain (4 March 1773) and served with his regiment under Burgoyne in the American War of Independence (1776-1783). He was promoted Major (Army) (19 March 1783) and is last recorded in the 'Army List' for 1786'. According to research by Col. P S Newton of the Army Museum's Ogilby Trust (see letter on inv. file), Leche was commissioned into the 20th Light Dragoons on 26 September 1781 until the regiment's disbandment in 1783 when he went on half pay. He did not serve again and was still on half pay in 1787 (this information needs checking as it is slightly at variance with that given by Southwick).
An identical sword hilt appears on a portrait of Major James Kirkpatrick and his sons (Madras Army), about 1770 which in 1978 was on loan to the National Army Museum (inv. no. 7207-8) (owner given in Typed Inventory entry).
IX.1150 and IX.2786 have hilts of the same form in iron but with ovoid rather than lion's head pommels. An infanftry (Grenadier?) sword with similar hilt (but with a guard stopping short of the pommel) in a private collection was the subject of an enquiry from the owner in January 2004 (see inv. file). A sword with a very similar hilt is held by General John Burgoyne, Colonel of the 16th Light Dragoons (see above) in a portrait of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) in the Frick Collection, New York (see postcard on inv. file). Burgoyne surrendered to the American forces at Saratoga in 1777. Unfortunately the sitter's hand hides the pommel. Information on the Frick Collection web-site at May 2003 (on inv. file) suggests the portrait was painted in 1766, citing an entry for a sitting by Burgoyne in Reynolds's ledger for May of that year. The same source identifies the uniform as that of the 16th Light Dragoons 'as it was worn until that month'.
George Fayle (1734-1786), whose mark is on the hilt, operated from various London addresses. He registered his first known mark in 1767 (A. Grimwade, 'London goldsmiths, their marks and lives', London, Faber and Faber, 3rd edn, 1990, no. 797) though Southwick (2001A: 105) suggests he probably entered an earlier mark in the now lost Smallworkers' Book II. He entered his last mark in 1782 (for this and further information on George Fayle, see Southwick 2001A, pp. 105-6).
Nathanial Jefferys (I) (1710-1786) was at 32 Strand, Westminster from 1739. According to Southwick, the present weapon can be dated to about 1770, 'when Jefferys opperated alone in the Strand and before he was joined briefly in partnership by Dru Drury (II) in the summer of 1771, the year before being succeeded by Jefferys in 1772. It can also be suggested that as John Leche was promoted Lieutenant in the 16th Light Dragoons at the end of 1769, he may have purchased this sword to mark the occasion'. For further information and references to the maker Nathaniel Jefferys I, see entry for IX.1043.
A similar sword was up for sale in the 24/07/2018 Anthony Cribb sale, lot 93, having previously being offered for sale by Akeroyd & Son in 2016.