Britain’s Oldest Naval Sword

Date Posted: 30/10/2011

Something rather exciting entirely slipped my mind until last night when I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered that, last week, in a quiet house in a leafy Wimbledon avenue, I enjoyed the privilege of wielding (yes wielding) Britain’s oldest known naval sword.

How old? How old? 1670s I thought. And I was wrong by some margin. It is known as The Neptune Hangar, a brass-mounted hilt with a large shell guard in silvered brass. The guard unmistakably displays Neptune with his trident and supported by two excellent Hippocampi – which are marine horses with webbed feet. It is unquestionably a fighting blade made for a man of the sea. And it dates to 1634, a bleak and almost entirely unknown period of British naval history, when the world was full of swimming horses with webbed feet. You would almost certainly need a sword.