British 1889 Pattern Naval Cutlass by Enfield
Straight unfullered blade, steel bowl guard with turned-over edges. Black leather washer, ribbed cast iron grip, steel pommel. Black leather scabbard with steel throat and chape pieces, the throat piece with teardrop frog stud.
The ricasso of the blade is stamped on one side with a broad arrow and ‘WD’, indicating War Department property, a crown inspection mark over E, indicating manufacture at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, and an ‘X’ indicating that the blade passed a manufacturer’s bending test. On the other side it is stamped with ’92, its year of issue, and another Enfield crown inspection mark. The top of the guard is marked with an ‘N’ indicating naval use.
The 1889 Pattern cutlass resulted from a rethink in British cutlass design. Its blade was straight rather than curved and a little heavier than its predecessors - almost a step back towards the massive 1804 Pattern. Its sheet steel guard looked to the Army’s 1882 Pattern cavalry trooper’s sword for inspiration, offering good hand protection with a rolled edge making the guard more rigid as well as reducing rubbing against the wearer’s uniform.
The blade has been polished bright, with visible polishing marks, and the scabbard fittings have been either nickel-plated or possibly chromed, while the grip, hilt and pommel are painted black.
This piece formed part of a decorative pair with this example. For some reason decorative pairs of 1889 Patterns seem to me to be relatively common: perhaps as it was only briefly in service until the introduction of the 1900 Pattern there was at one time an abundance of surplus 1889s in good condition. I think this pair may have been refinished to enhance their decorative nature. The scabbard fittings show signs of having been removed and restapled: the scabbard would have had to be disassembled in order to plate the metal parts. Some or all of the paint and blade polishing may have been done at the same time. How period-correct its finishes are is difficult to say – some cutlass hilts were kept bright and even overcleaned as the Victorian navy favoured ‘shiny cutlery’ on parade, while others were treated by painting or blackening to reduce the need for constant cleaning.