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Canadian sword collection that includes British Prime Minister's blade sells for £242,350 at Bonhams Oxford
The former Prime Minister's sword, Lot 224 was bought by a British collector in the room for £7,500, more than twice the upper pre sale estimate. Photo: Bonhams.

OXFORD.- One of the best sword collections to come to the market in recent years – 150 Victorian and Georgian swords including one once owned by a British Prime Minister, Lord Grenville who was PM from 1806 -1807 – was sold yesterday at Bonhams in Oxford.

The former Prime Minister's sword, Lot 224 was bought by a British collector in the room for £7,500, more than twice the upper pre sale estimate (£2,500 to £3,500).

Bids on the phone and on the internet came from around the world.

Robin Lucas, Head of Arms and Armour at Bonhams Oxford, commented: "We were very pleased with the final result of £242,350 and a selling rate of just under 90 per cent of the items. Many of these wonderful rare items had been off the market for 20 to 30 years, so the sale offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to serious collectors. The result is a real tribute to the collecting eye of Gary Bates."

Lot 224 was a particularly interesting weapon in this collection of British swords, believed to have been presented to Lord Grenville. It was valued at £2,500 to £3,500. The whole collection was estimated prior to the sale to be worth £160,000. Gary Bates is a leading Canadian collector of militaria.

Lord Grevile’s sword, a Georgian Agate Hilted Mameluke presentation sabre, made by Salter & Co, has two large panels originally containing inscriptions now removed. It would appear that the inscription has been deliberately removed to hide the identity of the recipient.

The Mameluke hilt has an agate grip with gilt rosettes, gilt crossguard cast with scrolls and trophies, the outer face with a removable disc which reveals the owner's crest. The crest is that of William-Whyndham Grenville, 1st and last Lord Grenville of Wooton-under-Burnwood, Bucks. 1759 -1834.

Grenville was an orator and statesman of high repute and filled some of the most important ministerial offices during the reign of King George III. He was elevated to the peerage in 1790.

He was appointed a Major commanding in the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry Cavalry 31/05/1798, though holding no prior appointment in the regiment since its inception in May 1795. He held this position until the signing of the Peace of Amiens.

Upon the renewal of hostilities in 1803, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the (1st or Southern Regiment) Buckinghamshire Yeomanry Cavalry. Lord Grenville held this position until his retirement in 1813, and this sword possibly dates from this time. He served as Prime Minister from 1806-1807.

The second half of the Gary Bates collection will be offered for sale by Bonhams on the 5th December 2012.

Gary Bates was born in Brandon, Manitoba on the 6th May 1935. As he was the only boy born in Brandon on that day, and it was the date of King George V’s Silver Jubilee, he was given the middle name of George by his Anglophile parents.

His first sword was a WWII dress sword belonging to a friend’s father. When he enquired about the price, he was told to go down to the basement and help himself, ‘if you can find it, you can have it’.

This fuelled Gary’s interest in antique weapons, although at first he concentrated on firearms. In the late 60s, however, he discovered swords, and at first he bought every sword he could find but soon his interest focused on British swords. In the early 1970s he paid his first visit to England which coincided with the London Arms Fair. This was a great spur to his interest which was followed up by visits to virtually every London Arms Fair for the next forty years.

Gary’s first love was Georgian swords, but as it became more and more difficult to find pieces which lived up to his high standards, he began to buy Victorian and even later examples. He concentrated on swords in fine condition, and virtually every sword in his collection can be described as excellent or better. Presentation and regimentally marked swords also figure large in the collection.

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