Rare sword from Charge of the Light Brigade to be auctioned in Ripon
Aug 9, 2023
Julia Matyear from Ripon-based Elstob Auctioneers pictured with the sword.

A sword that saw action in the Charge of the Light Brigade will go under the hammer at an antiques and fine art sale in Ripon on Saturday.

The sword was carried by Lieutenant John Chadwick, a troop leader in the charge of British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854.

Measuring just over a metre in length, the sword has been put up for sale by Lt Chadwick’s descendants and is expected to fetch between £500 and £700.

Regarded as one of the most infamous days in British military history, the battle lasted only 20 minutes and resulted in the deaths of 110 British soldiers with a further 161 wounded.

The near-suicidal charge was immortalised in Alfred Tennyson’s poem, depicting the plight of the 600-strong cavalry who rode into the ‘Valley of Death’.

Lt John Chadwick was one of only two officers taken prisoner at the battle. He managed to reach the Russian guns but his injured horse was unable to move any further and he was knocked from the saddle by an enemy lance.

The officer was taken prisoner by the Russians and released 12 months later at the end of the Crimean conflict. He died in Liverpool aged 52 in 1869.

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Made by London firm Firmin & Son, the sword is decorated with an 1847 pattern. It is etched with a crowned VR royal cypher and accompanied by the name XVII Lancers, which is surrounded by scrolling foliage.

It is one of more than 700 lots at Elstob Auctioneers sale in Ripon

Auction house director David Elstob said:

“It is amazing to have an object with such a fascinating backstory.

“The Charge of the Light Brigade is such a well-known event in its own right but the fact that we know such a lot about the sword’s owner adds even more to its appeal.

“Lt Chadwick’s Crimea Medal, with clasps for Alma, Balaclava and Sebastopol were sold for £14,000 at a London auction house in 2020, so we are expecting a considerable amount of interest in the sword.”

The silver, jewellery, antiques and fine art sale features ceramics and glass, metalwork, silver, Asian art, objects of vertu, militaria, textiles, rugs and carpets, clocks and instruments, antique furniture and Yorkshire oak.

Other militaria highlights in the sale include an officer’s full dress sabretache of the 2nd Durham Artillery Volunteers, Seaham – a flat leather pouch with long straps traditionally worn by cavalry officers to the side of the waist belt – and a Victorian officer’s full dress sword belt of the Ordnance Department.

The auction starts at 9.30am on Saturday. All lots can be viewed online at www.elstob.co.uk and bidding on the day of the sale can be made in person, over the telephone or online.

Items can be viewed at the Ripon-based saleroom the day before the sale from 10am until 4pm.

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