Antique Wilkinson Knives

Although Wilkinson Sword continued to sell knives right up until its doors closed in 2005, few of their modern knives could compare to the fine quality of their earlier hand-made or ‘bespoke’ knives, especially those superb examples produced during the Victorian era.  For me, the circa 1940 First Pattern F-S Fighting Knife signaled the end of the truly exquisite and finely crafted Wilkinson knife.  However finding any knife manufactured by Wilkinson prior to 1940 is a challenge, let alone one of their exceptional knives that were produced in the heyday of the British Empire during the nineteenth century. 

The Sheffield-based (Pinder) Colonial Works with its new Wilkinson logo was short-lived but produced a wide variety of cutlery which included many of the Wilkinson hunting and sporting knives.  The catalogue pages you can see on this web page date from the early twentieth century and show the variety produced.  An interesting and rare example (below) is the folding hunting knife or Bowie model W-2641 known as the ‘Explorer’.  This example shown complete with its rare  ‘pocket’ style sheath.

As previously mentioned, Wilkinson supplied a number of their commercial sporting knives whilst they were tooling up for production of the F-S Fighting Knife.  A number of R.B.D.’s and also model W-784 double edged knives were provided.  The R.B.D. has often been discussed by F-S collectors whereas the W-784 is often overlooked.  This is likely due in part at least, to the fact that although rare examples of the R.B.D. do occasionally surface, this cannot however be said of the W-784, to say this knife is rare is an understatement. In discussing this topic with Robert Wilkinson-Latham he recalls that he has only ever seen one other example and this was when he first joined the Wilkinson Sword under his grandfather as an apprentice in the 1960’s.

With an overall length of eighteen inches and a blade of twelve and one half inches, this impressive knife is a substantial side arm. Although the specific date of this knife is not known, it was likely made in the mid to late 1800‘s. Although made by Wilkinson it was retailed by Manton of Calcutta, India.  Joseph Manton having originally built a fine reputation as a London Gunmaker (not unlike Wilkinsons themselves) evolved into a retail outlet (again much like Wilkinsons).  This impressive knife was likely purchased by a British artillery officer as the blade etchings suggest with one side carrying the name ‘FRONTIER KNIFE’ in large letters and straddled by to ornate foliate devices, while the other side is elaborately etched with the Royal Artillery coat of arms which includes Queen Victoria’s cypher) along with ‘MANTON CALCUTTA’  on the ricasso.  However fortunately for us the reverse of the scabbards locket gives the maker away and reads ‘WILKINSON PALL MALL LONDON’.  To date this is the only known example of this pattern of Wilkinson knife and quite possibly could have been a privately ordered item.

As you can see from the adjacent circa 1920’s Wilkinson catalogue, they also offered ‘folding’ sportsman's knives.  To date I have not yet been able acquire an example and would be very interested to hear from anyone who has one.

This fine example of a Wilkinson R.B.D. (No1) Hunting Knife dates from

the turn of the century.

This handy little ‘Thistle’ hilted hunting knife is in near unused condition.  The blade is unsharpened and just shows a little age staining probably due to poor storage.  Shown in the catalogue (below) at the top of the page but with a cross-guard and larger blade.  Many patterns were offered with different options such as grip material but also blade length, as in our example here.  Although from the Pinder era this knife does not  show the blade etchings but instead is ‘stamped’ into the ricasso ‘WILKINSON LONDON & SHEFFIELD’ (right) so made date to slightly later or post Pinder (?).

This fine hunting knife has a six and three quarter inch blade bringing the overall length to eleven inches.  The clip-point blade is resplendent with etchings and tang stamps, ‘six’ in all!  As per the catalogue’s illustration (second from left) there are three etching panels including one not illustrated, with both sides of the ricasso also stamped this is one well marked knife.  This example sports an attractive checkered ‘Ivorine’ grip and nickel-silver fittings to both the knife and scabbard creating a very handsome knife indeed.  The standard (for his period) tang stamp of ‘WILKINSON LONDON & SHEFFIELD’ is shown below.

The adjacent circa 1920’s Wilkinson catalogue page shows the pattern W-631 second from left.  Note the example shown here sports an ‘Ivorine’ grip.  Different grip materials were an option

provided by Wilkinson

Sword on many of their

sporting knives.

Studying and collecting pre-war Wilkinson knives is not without its challenges, not least of which is the extreme scarcity of surviving examples.  Bringing together the modest group you see presented here has taken many years.  I hope that you have enjoyed seeing these rare knives and perhaps with luck on my side some more examples will be added to the collection which I will of course be happy to share here.  Please remember this page has been written primarily as an introduction and ‘overview’ of this topic, so if you have a desire to learn more about a specific knife please use the navigation bar towards the top left side of this page and click on the knife that interests you.

The knives that follow may not be entirely in chronological order, in fact precisely dating some examples can be extremely challenging, although I have attempted to place them in some a-semblance of period, starting with what I believe to the be earliest example (the ivory gripped Bowie).  The time period reflected here starts at approximately the mid 1800’s and ends at the beginning of WWII just prior to the introduction of the First Pattern F-S Fighting Knife.  Please note that this page is intended to be an introduction or ‘over-view’ only and as time allows I will create a unique page for each specific knife which can be navigated to by clicked on the desired knife in the secondary navigation bar at left.  You may also wish to read my article on this topic, graciously published by Knife World in July of 2012, this can be found by visiting the ‘Published Articles’ page in the main navigation bar above.

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This splendid example of the ‘folding’ hunting knife is shown part open as advertised in the adjacent catalogue image (top right).

Early Wilkinson knives are notoriously difficult to locate let alone wonderful examples like the splendid hunting knife shown here.  This beautiful ‘Ivory’ gripped ‘Bowie’ with its eight inch blade is a purposeful knife indeed.  Along with its original sheath the condition is just spectacular for such an early Wilkinson knife.  One very special feature of this particular knife is the maker stamp to the blade which in this instance reads WILKINSON & SON PALL MALL LONDON’.  The date of this knife is very difficult to precisely determine but I suspect it dates from around 1840 - 1860.

This very special ‘Ivory’ gripped Bowie is exceptionally early as it carries the trade name of ‘WILKINSON & SON PALL MALL LONDON’ and most likely dates from the period 1840 - 1860.

Wilkinsons of London have been responsible for producing some of the most historically important knives known.  Of course the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife comes to mind for most people, especially during the twentieth century.  However not one but two knives often come to mind from the century prior.  The Shakespear and R.B.D. knives are almost mythical among collectors, partly I’m sure because of their extreme scarcity but also due (at least in part) to their association with the F-S knife, all be it tenuous where the Shakespear knife is concerned.

This exceptional example of a No1 Wilkinson-Shakespear knife fittingly sits atop a first edition circa 1860 copy of Henry Shakespear’s book ‘The Wild Sports of India’.

In 1860 Captain Henry Shakespear published his book ‘The Wild Sports of India’ in which he makes mention (many times) of his Shikar (hunting knife).  He left ‘his’ design with Messrs. Wilkinson & Son in 1857.  The fine example shown here was made in 1870.  Such a precise date was possible by comparing its serial number with Wilkinson proofing book records.

The RBD Hunting Knife has a much more tangible link to the F-S, although more correctly the link is to the Commandos (as does the model 784) rather than the F-S knife proper.  Prior to the first delivery of F-S knives, Wilkinson was asked if they could supply a small quantity of knives for Commando training.  This was of course a stop-gap measure while production of the new F-S got underway.  Wilkinson was happy to oblige and on 16th November 1940 a quantity of 144 (one gross) of their commercial hunting knives were supplied from old stock. From period documentation we know that this small order comprised mostly of the R.B.D. knife but other suitable knives were included and it is believed that the pattern 784 was amongst them.

This magnificent - possibly unique Victorian Artillery Officers knife with its name etched into one side of the blade the ‘Frontier Knife’.

It also has the ‘simple’ sheath

thought to have been the style provided

with those knives supplied to the Commando’s.

As far as I am aware this W-784 is the only one known.

The example shown here is identical to the one illustrated on the

This style of ‘Thistle’ gripped knife has long been a staple of many knife makers.

As the new century dawned Wilkinson’s were undergoing expansion in many areas and the cutlery side of the business was no exception.  A decision was taken to purchase a Sheffield based company to facilitate this and in 1905 Wilkinson’s acquired James Pinder & Co.  The original Pinder trademark was a letter ‘P’ within a stylized lozenge.  This was adapted by Wilkinson’s with the ‘P’ being replaced by a stylized ‘WILKINSON’ (right).  This new trademark was registered in 1905, but by 1908 was allowed to lapse.  It was not renewed and the Sheffield ‘Colonial Works’ was sold.  Although this was a short lived period in the companies history most (if not all) pre-war knives are marked either with the modified Pinder etching or tang stamped ‘London & Sheffield’.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth century London knife makers were a breed apart and in contrast to the enormous quantity of cutlery that was produced in the northern industrial town of Sheffield, famed for its cutlery trade, those knives produced in London are encountered far less often.  Even with the London knife trade being less prolific, the general quality of knives from this region was very high and many fine examples survive today if one is willing to diligently search.  Such names as Thornhill, Underwood and Weiss have produced some remarkably fine knives much sought after by today’s collectors.  Wilkinson can rightly count itself among the finest of makers from that period, although due to the extreme scarcity of their knives much of their contribution to the cutlery trade has been overlooked by all but the dedicated collector.

Contact DetailsContact_Details.html


Antique Wilkinson Knives

The front cover to an early twentieth century Wilkinson Sword Hunting & Sporting knife catalogue.

The rare Wilkinson makers mark stamped into the blade.  This style of mark is normally seen on their guns.

Of particular interest is the fine

quality scabbard and frog, the latter is

marked on the rear ‘Wilkinson Pall Mall, London’.

adjacent catalogue page save for

the etched panels.

This example bears the tang stamp of ‘WILKINSON LONDON & SHEFFIELD’ making it an extreme rarity.

~ Featured Knives ~

F-S Knife HistoryF-S_knife_history.html
Wilkinson a Brief HistoryWilkinson_a_brief_history.html
The First Pattern F-SThe_Wilkinson_First_Pattern_F-S.html
The Second Pattern F-SThe_Wilkinson_Second_Pattern_F-S.html
The Third Pattern F-SThe_Wilkinson_Third_Pattern_F-S.html
Webley & ScottWebely_%26_Scott_Pistols.html
Antique Wilkinson Knives
Wilkinson Guns & AccoutrementsWilkinson_Guns_%26_Accoutrements.html
The Etched BladeThe_Etched_Blade.html
 Period LiteraturePeriod_Literature.html
Published Articles Published_Articles.html
F-S VariationsF-S_Variations.html
For SaleFOR_SALE.html
General TopicsGeneral_Topics.html

The W-631 Hunting KnifeW-631.html


The W-384 ‘Thistle Hilt’W-384.html


                    The W-784   
                    Sporting KnifeW-784.html


                    Hunting KnifeThe_RBD_Hunting_Knife.html

            Frontier KnifeThe_Frontier_Knife.html

            Shakespear KnifeThe_Shakespear_Knife.html

A Victorian 
Ivory Gripped BowieIvory_Gripped_Bowie.html
Terms of useTerms_of_use.html
~ Wilkinson’s Sporting Knives From Around 1840 - 1940 ~
~ An Early Wilkinson & Son Bowie Knife ~
~ The Shakespear Knife ~
~ The ‘Frontier Knife’ - An Artillery Officers Sidearm ~
~ The R.B.D. Hunting Knife ~
~ The W-784 Hunting Dagger ~
~ Wilkinson Sheffield & London - The Pinder Connection ~
~ The W-2641 ‘Explorer’ Folding Bowie ~
~ The W-384 Hunting Knife ~
~ The W-631 Hunting Knife ~
~ End Notes ~

~ Antique Wilkinson Knives ~