English Circa 1800 Fighting Dirk
Double-edged, spear-pointed blade 15½ inches in length, overall length ~20¼ inches, with full length tapering central fuller. Reeded wood grip, flat square gilt brass ‘pillow’ pommel with ball finial, simple chamfered square gilt brass ferrule, brass cross hilt with forward and reverse quillons.
Black leather scabbard with gilt brass throat and chape, with teardrop frog stud.
This is an example of the early non-regulation type of English officer’s dirk, carried by officers in both the Army and Navy from around 1770 until the mid 1800s. The lack of any uniform regulations during this period allowed officers the freedom to buy and carry weapons of their choice, leading to great variety in weaponry. Dirks were a form of dagger or long knife typically carried in addition to an officer’s full-size hanger or smallsword, used either as a backup weapon or held in the off-hand in the manner of a parrying dagger. This example is gilded for a more pleasing appearance than many fighting dirks, which could be quite simply constructed. Without specific ornamentation or markings one cannot tell if it was carried by an Army or a Navy officer.
The blade has been previously cleaned back from a slightly corroded state and has minor pitting to its surface. There is slight movement to the pommel cap. The grip is in excellent condition with only some very minor chipping near the pommel cap. The gilding has worn on raised edges of the ferrule and pommel cap. The scabbard may be a later replacement, in the correct style.
An example with a very similar blade and grip (this time of ivory) is illustrated in Peter Tuite’s ‘British Naval Edged Weapons - An Overview’, in the American Society of Arms Collectors Bulletin, 86:37-57, made by Francis Thurkle. The scabbard is not shown but is described as ‘brass-mounted leather’.