Important Scottish Basket-hilted Broadsword, the Hilt Signed by Walter Allan

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Walter Allan of Sterling is generally considered to be Scotland’s finest sword hilt maker, and
was a supporter of the Jacobite cause. Walter was the first son of John Allan Senior, and
brother to John Allan Junior. He signed his work on the underside of the quillon “WA” over
“S”, for Sterling. He was admitted as an Armourer Burgess of Sterling in 1732 and became
a Freeman of the Incorporation of Hammermen in the same year. His early work generally
followed the same basic style as the typical Scottish basket hilt of the period, as did his
father’s, but as he progressed and improved his skills, he made very decorative and unique
hilts. While his style is distinctive and certain features often duplicated, we have not seen
any two hilts by him that are exactly alike. This example is constructed of Allan’s signature
flat fluted bars with incised line borders; the sides with openwork opposing hearts and
pierced circles. The forward portion of the hilt features a series of interlocking circles, ovals,
and diamonds, all of which is further decorated with a tiny wrigglework border. Broad scroll
quillon, the underside stamped “WA” over “S”, with Allan’s distinctive slanted “A”. The
pommel is a low cone shape with diagonal crossing flutes outlined with incised lines, and
topped with a turned button. The original shagreen grip cover is bound by a pair of twisted
copper wires. The basket guard retains its original buff leather lining with red baize covering
, showing wear and minor mothing, as well as the remains of its original red tassel between
grip and pommel. Imported double-edged 32 5/8″ blade of lens section, with 10 ½” central
fuller, stamped with “MD” over a cross inside a shield. Very good original condition, the hilt
with several shallow dents and two forge welds separating, as often found. Blade with age
staining and light pitting, having clearly seen battle and exhibiting several nicks from blade
strikes. Though we have no specific provenance, it undoubtedly saw action at Culloden, as
a sword of this quality would likely have been owned by a Highland clan chieftain. Overall
length 38 ½”. A sword with Allan-signed hilt featuring the same side decoration can be
found in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. An unsigned hilt with similar
frontal pattern, but lacking the wrigglework borders, can be found in the Royal Collection in
the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. This is by far the finest Scottish basket-hilted
sword we have ever had and worthy of any museum or advanced private collection.
Another sword with high grade Allan-signed hilt sold at Bonhams in 2003 for nearly 20,000
GBP, more than $25,000 USD at the time.

Not currently for sale.