We have always known that Oldknow owned a sword. In fact he had two - a sabre and a rapier but as far as we know he never used them in anger.
He first wore the sabre when he was appointed a major in the North Peak Volunteers in 1802. This was an auxiliary force supporting the regular army. They could be called out for local police actions, to keep the peace and in the event of a national emergency such as the Napoleonic Wars.
We know less about the rapier except that it was Spanish made and had been owned by a gentleman called Don Francesco, as the inscription on the blade shows.
Perhaps Oldknow bought the rapier for exercise, although his appearance belies this as portraits show that he ‘lived well’. This was testified by the magnificent breakfast served to his neighbours before he travelled to Derby to be installed as High Sheriff and by the contents of his wine cellar when he died.
In 1820 Oldknow presented both weapons to the Masons’ Benevolence Lodge 336 Marple. Several weeks ago, I was invited to the Masons’ Guildhall to see the swords. Now based in Stockport, they are carefully preserved in a specially made display cabinet.
Much as we would like to possess these swords, the Masons have kept them safe for over two hundred years so they surely have a better claim. It is just gratifying to know that they are in good hands and that we still have a connection with Samuel Oldknow through an organisation of which he was a member.
Hilary Atkinson, December 2022