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  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1775 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Boulton, Matthew, born 1728 - died 1809 (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Faceted steel and copper wire

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 2

Object Type
In the past children were dressed as small adults. As a result small, light versions of the fashionable civilian sword, known as a small sword were often worn by boys, especially on formal occasions. This is a miniature version of the type of sword worn by adults in England in the late 18th century.

Materials & Manufacture
The hilt of this sword is made of cut and polished steel and was made in Matthew Boulton's Soho Manufactory in Birmingham. The blade was made in Solingen, Germany, famous for the production of blades. Similar hilts cut with facets are shown in the Boulton and Watt pattern book, now in Birmingham City Library. The facets were cut into the surface of the steel to improve the reflecting qualities of the highly polished surface.

Production Methods
This sword hilt was manufactured by the most modern production techniques available at the time. The steel was polished using wheels powered by a steam engine. At his Soho Manufactory Boulton used mass-production methods to produce his wares. As a result he could make a large number of wares very quickly which were cheaper than those of his competitors in Woodstock and London.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)


ca. 1775 (made)


Boulton, Matthew, born 1728 - died 1809 (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Faceted steel and copper wire


Length: 60.5 cm approx., Width: 7.3 cm hilt, approx., Depth: 5 cm hilt, approx.

Object history note

Manufactured by Matthew Boulton (born in Birmingham, 1728, died there in 1809) during his partnership with John Fothergill ( 1762-1781) at the Soho factory, Birmingham

Descriptive line

Boy's sword, manufactured by Matthew Boulton at the Soho Factory, Birmingham, ca.1775

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Stemp, Sinty, "Ornamental or Useful: A Cut Steel Chatelaine by Boulton and Wedgwood", The Journal of the Antique Metalware Society, Vol. 17, June 2009, ISSN. 1359124X, p. 5, ill.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Boys wore skirts until they reached the age of eight or nine. They were then 'breeched' (put into men's clothes ) and sometimes given a small sword as a fashionable accessory. Similar sword hilts are shown in the Boulton pattern book dated 1775. In the factory ledgers the best quality cut steel hilts were priced as high as ten guineas in 1776. [27/03/2003]


Arms & Armour; Children & Childhood; Metalwork; Accessories; Fashion


Metalwork Collection

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