An Unusual Ormolu-Mounted Naval Presentation Sabre Of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth
Lot 125
An Unusual Ormolu-Mounted Naval Presentation Sabre Of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth
Circa 1815
Sold for £ 8,125 (US$ 10,901) inc. premium

Lot Details
An Unusual Ormolu-Mounted Naval Presentation Sabre Of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth
An Unusual Ormolu-Mounted Naval Presentation Sabre Of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth
Circa 1815
With oriental curved single-edged blade (minor rust patination) damascened in gold on one side towards the forte with a lozenge-shaped panel centring on an owner's name in naskh script against a dotted ground, hilt comprising pointed langets raised up centrally against a stippled ground, tapering quillons each with terminal formed as a hand grasping an oval, one with a ring for suspension, and rounded ivory grip secured by two transverse pins each with floret-shaped head on both sides, a gilt plaque between on one side engraved 'W to EP', and on the other with a fouled anchor, the inside of the grip with gilt rectangular plaque engraved 'This Sword Of Ad.l. Visc.t Exmouth Presented to his Flag Lieu.t & attached Friend Captn. J.S.W. Johnson R.N. By F.B.R.P. 1845.', and pommel with gilt-mounted piercing for a sword-knot, in original oriental wood-lined ormolu scabbard embossed and chased with a scaled design along both sides, engraved suspension mounts, pierced terminal with shaped strap extending up the scabbard on each side, and retaining most of its original gilding
79 cm. blade


  • Admiral Sir Edward Pellew GCB, 1st Viscount Exmouth (1757-1833) was educated at Truro Grammar School and ran away to sea at the age of fourteen. He first served on a voyage to the Falkland Islands, before sailing in the Mediterranean for three years until an argument with his captain caused him to be put ashore at Marseilles. With the help of a family friend he was able to make his way home via Lisbon, where he joined HMS Blonde under Captain Pownoll, sailing to America in 1776 carrying General John Burgoyne. He was detached to serve on the Carleton tender on Lake Champlain, and at the Battle of Valcour Island in October took command after the captain was wounded. In recognition of his valour he was immediately given the ship to command and promised promotion upon his return to England, but was attached to Burgoyne's force and served at Saratoga, where he was captured along with the remainder of the army.

    After his release he was raised to lieutenant but denied a sea-going post as Lord Sandwich still considered him to be under the terms of the Saratoga surrender agreement until the end of the war. He was eventually reunited with Captain Pownoll aboard the Apollo at the end of 1779, but in June the next year Pownoll was killed by a musket shot whilst engaging a French privateer off Ostend, leaving Pellew to continue the engagement, de-masting the French ship before running her aground on neutral coastline, forcing him to break off pursuit. As a result of this action he was made commander and served around the Scottish coast before being given a command in the Channel, where he successfully engaged several privateers.

    From 1786 to 1789 he served on the Newfoundland station, part of which was spent as flag-captain to Vice-Admiral Millbanke. In 1791 he was placed on half-pay and attempted to earn a living farming. After the French declaration of war in February 1793 he was given command of the Nymphe, fitting it out in remarkably short time by using a large contingent of Cornish miners and making up the rest of his compliment by pressing men from merchant vessels he encountered in the Channel. On 18 June he sailed from Falmouth after two French frigates were sighted and succeeded in capturing one of these, the Cleopatre, which was the first frigate captured in the war. In recognition of this action he received a knighthood.

    He transferred to a new command at the end of 1793, sailing as part of a detachment under Admiral Macbride. Whilst waiting for the Grand Squadron to assemble, five frigates were sent to form the Western Squadron under the command of Sir John Borlase Warren and with Pellew as second in command. Having learnt of a squadron of four French frigates in their vicinity, they caught them to the south-west of Guernsey on 23 April. In the ensuing engagement three of the French ships were captured, two by Pellew, but Warren lost his right hand. After a further action in late August which finished off the remainder of the French squadron, Pellew took command of the detachment in the temporary absence of Warren, but upon his return to port in November requested command of the Indefatigable, a faster frigate, which was ready for him at the beginning of 1795. Leading his squadron he destroyed or captured fifteen ships of the 'Bergen convoy' of twenty-five vessels, which was considered a great success, as the captured merchantmen contained ship-building material. After temporary repairs in Lisbon he eventually put into Plymouth for further repairs.

    Whilst there, he performed his most famous act of bravery. A strong storm forced an East Indiaman onto rocks at Plymouth Hoe, and although many of the men were taken off using a rope and rings the storm gradually made this procedure more difficult. Pellew ordered the men to winch him onto the ship, where he was able to take control of the evacuation, standing with his sword drawn to prevent too many trying to escape at once (many were drunkenly looting the stores) and remaining onboard until the majority of the compliment had been taken to safety. As thanks for his selfless act, he was given the freedom of Plymouth and was created Baronet of Treverry.

    On his return to Falmouth in the newly-repaired Indefatigable at the end of January, he set off on further cruises, supplying a revolt in Brittany in March and capturing two French frigates off Ireland in April, with the end of the year spent in attempting to contain a French invasion force at Brest. Although they escaped, the attempted invasion of Ireland proved a failure and Pellew was fortunate enough to encounter one of the returning stragglers off Ushant, wrecking it on a sandbank. After this he was to remain on station in the Channel, cruising near the Scillies throughout 1797 and 1798. In 1799 he was offered command of the Impeteux, a ship with a reputation for mutinous behaviour that was proved true off Ireland, although it was quickly crushed and the ringleaders hanged.

    Over the next three years he was involved in attempting to land a force in France with limited success, was raised to be a Colonel of Marines, and in 1802 became MP for Barnstaple, continuing his long association with the south-west. In 1804 he attained Flag rank as a Rear-Admiral, receiving the post of Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies Station. His official naval biography records that whilst there 'he succeeded in obliterating from the Indian seas the tricoloured flag of Holland'. In 1808 he was advanced to Vice-Admiral, returning to England the following year. He briefly served as Commander-in-Chief of the North Seas, blockading Schelt, before being transferred to command the Mediterranean Fleet which was blockading the port of Toulon, a post he held from 1811 to 1814 when, in recognition of his long and valuable service, he was created 1st Baron Exmouth of Canonteign. The following month he was raised to Admiral of the Blue, and returned to Plymouth in August that year following the capture of Napoleon and his imprisonment on Elba. In January 1815 he was raised to the Order of the Bath, making him a KCB, shortly before Napoleon's escape and return to Paris.

    Despite writing desiring rest, he was re-appointed to command the Mediterranean Fleet, sailing to Naples to assist in the downfall of Murat, who had attempted to conquer Italy but was defeated by the Austrians before escaping to France. This left Pellew to maintain order until the Austrians arrived, before sailing up the coast to Marseilles, which had risen on the side of the Royalists. In the face of a counter-attack by Marshal Brune, Pellew himself led an assorted force of 8,000 against Brune, forcing him to return to Toulon which promptly surrendered. After the final defeat of the French at Waterloo, he was ordered to remain in the Mediterranean, as he was to conclude certain treaties with the Barbary States. To accomplish this he had to winter in the Mediterranean, but by March 1816 had concluded treaties with the Deys of both Tunis and Tripoli to abolish Christian slavery and paying ransoms to ensure the release of a great number of captives on behalf of their respective nations. A similar arrangement was attempted with the Dey of Algiers, although a misunderstanding between the two men nearly caused war, and was only prevented after several days of further negotiations conducted by Pellew's brother, Sir Israel, the conclusion of which resulted in a gift of a horse and an ostrich from the Dey, and the two men exchanged swords.

    Upon his return to Gibraltar he discovered that public opinion felt that he should have suppressed the Corsair ports by force. However, a massacre of Christians gave cause for stronger action. Pellew was immediately dispatched to take whatever force he felt necessary to accomplish the mission, sailing in July 1816. At Gibraltar he was met by a Dutch squadron which offered to cooperate with him, sailing to Algiers with a combined force of twenty-seven various ships. After attempts to obtain their demands without violence had failed, the force attacked both the town and its defending batteries, and over the course of seven hours destroyed the defences and the fleet inside the harbour. Although his coat-tails were shredded by grapeshot, Pellew received only two slight wounds and remained on deck throughout the action. The Dey surrendered the following morning, and the success of the operation saw Pellew raised from Baron to Viscount, receiving the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, a sword from the City of London and a piece of plate of a value of 1400 guineas from his officers, described as 'a silver-gilt trophy of surprising dimensions'.

    He served as Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth from 1817 to 1821, after which he retired from active service. He remained active in the House of Lords, and in 1832 was raised to Vice-Admiral and Admiral of the Red Squadron. He is buried in St. James's Church, Christow in Devon. His swords and awards are known to be in various private collections.

    John Samuel Willes Johnson (1793-1863) was a nephew of Admiral Sir Davidge Gould, and entered the Navy in 1807. He served on the Home and Newfoundland Stations for two years before passing through several vessels in relatively quick succession, distinguishing himself in taking privateers, independent command and bravery under fire. By 1814 he had risen to the acting rank of lieutenant, and joined Lord Exmouth's flagship at Genoa. Following Napoleon's escape he served with the Admiral through his time in the Mediterranean and at the Battle of Algiers aboard his flagship. After a brief period on half-pay he served as Pellew's Flag-Lieutenant at Portsmouth until 1821 when he was promoted to Commander. He spent the next two years travelling through France, Italy and Switzerland, eventually publishing a journal of his tour. He then served in the Coast Guard for three years from 1835, before being given command of the Wolverine in 1841, sailing to China just in time to witness some of the closing operations of the First China War. He was promoted to captain in 1846, and in 1861 was returned as MP for Montgomery Boroughs, serving until his death two years later (a painting by Captain Johnson was sold in our New Bond Street Rooms. See Travel & Topographical Pictures, 29 April 2003, lot 25).

    Admiral Sir Fleetwood Broughton Reynolds Pellew CB KCH (1789-1861) was the second son of the 1st Viscount Exmouth, and joined his father at sea at the age of ten. They served together for the next eight years and he was raised to lieutenant by his father while in the East Indies. His actions in leading an attack on the Dutch fleet at Batavia earned him his first command at the age of seventeen, with confirmation in his rank of commander coming in October 1807. He served on three further ships in the next eight months, nearly causing an incident when he demanded supplies from neutral Japan having captured several Dutch officials in Nagasaki. He saw action in the invasion of Ile de France in 1810 and at Java a year later, returning to England in 1812 and receiving a reward of £500 from the East India Company for his services.

    His next command was in the Mediterranean, and although involved in various actions around Italy he was ordered home in 1814 after a mutiny on his ship, believed to be partly due to his harsh style of command. Although he was made a Commander of the Bath and had command of HMS Revolutionnaire in the Mediterranean between 1818 and 1822, he was to spend the next thirty years on half-pay. He continued to be promoted and receive awards as befitted his seniority, being knighted in 1836 as well as being appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order. He served as Naval Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, rising to the rank of Rear-Admiral in late 1846, before being returned to active service in 1852 as Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies and China station. Despite fears over his suitability, due both to his age and previous record, he reached Hong Kong in 1854. However, he decided not to allow shore leave in the interest of health, but without explaining this to the crew who were in a mutinous mood. Although quickly quashed, the mutiny was received poorly in Britain and he was recalled, never to serve at sea again. He was promoted to Vice-Admiral in 1853, and full Admiral five years later. He died in Marseilles, the same port his father had defended over forty-five years before
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