18th century Woodstock cut-steel sword

Contributed by Oxfordshire Museums

18th century short sword decorated with Woodstock cut-steel polished studs. C Oxfordshire Museums Service

This sword and many other Woodstock cut steel objects were reputedly made from old Swedish steel horseshoe nailsToday no one has heard of the remarkable 18th century polished steelwork for which Woodstock was once famous. It was reputedly made from horseshoe nails reworked to make delicate faceted studs, cut like diamonds and highly polished they were used to decorate watch chains, buckles, scissors, buttons, and other items. Cut-steel short swords were particularly sought after. Sold locally, but also in London its international reputation was spread by fashionable tourists visiting Blenheim Palace. In 1742 Horace Walpole sent Woodstock steel wares to the British Consul in Florence requesting that they be given as diplomatic gifts. In 1759 buckles were ordered for the King of Prussia and in 1768 the King of Denmark, on a visit to Blenheim, also bought steel. The early 18th century origins of the industry are obscure and within less than a hundred years it had disappeared entirely in the face of competition from the Birmingham manufacturers.

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