Tulwar sold for £109,500 at Gardiner Houlgate.

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It was offered at Gardiner Houlgate of Corsham, near Bath, on June 27 and after a competition on sale day with 225 bids recorded it will now form “part of a curated fine art collection overseas”.

The hilt decoration on this sword, an expert in this field told ATG, was immediately recognisable as being connected to ‘the Tiger of Mysore’ Tipu Sultan because of the very distinguishable tiger stripe (bubri) pattern. The quality, age and elaborate use of the bubri all pointed to it being a personal sword of the king.

The provenance was not noted on the catalogue entry but the auction house said later that it was consigned by a local vendor with Scottish ancestry.


Tulwar sold for £109,500 at Gardiner Houlgate.

It was thought to have been handed down by family descent and was once owned by a William Dick, believed to have served in the 41st Foot Regiment as an army surgeon in India during the 19th century and in Afghanistan from 1839- 42, suggesting that the sword could be linked to the the Sikh Empire (which fell in 1849).

As reported in ATG No 2649, another tulwar thought to be linked to Ranjit Singh, the ‘Lion of the Punjab’, first maharajah of the Sikh Empire, sold for £44,000 at Bamfords of Derby in the sale held from April 30-May 3.

However, an online search by the expert who spoke to ATG came up with an Eliza Sernea Anne Dick, whose father was a William Dick (born in Scotland) and her husband William George Harris, 2nd Baron Harris of Mysore & Seringapatam (1782-1845).

The expert said: “Tipu was ultimately defeated and killed in 1799 and many of the treasures held in important UK collections that appear on the market were taken at that battle.”

A Wiki link to William George Harris says he fought at the siege and capture of Seringapatam in 1799 under his father, “so it seems very likely that the sword was taken at that time”. The expert added: “Tipu swords do always create a buzz on the market.”

Indeed, the world record (at £12m hammer) for an Indian or Islamic object at auction was set in May 2023 by Bonhams with a sword belonging to Tipu (see ATG No 2595).

With the quality and provenance of the Gardiner Houlgate sword, “the price seems to be a real steal - great news for the buyer,” added the expert.

Chris Baker of Gardiner Houlgate said: “The sword was entered into auction among an eclectic mix of items which included a selection of other varied swords, art work, pottery and porcelain etc. This tulwar sword and the others were family heirlooms by inheritance and although nothing is known of why exactly this sword came into family possession, our vendors are aware of ancestors who served in the British forces and in particular having spent time in India during the mid-19th century.”

The sword and others were “stored in a cardboard box in the back of a wardrobe for as long as they have had it in their possession, and before that it was forgotten in their parents’ family home attic with very little interest shown and with no research into the piece”.

Baker added that the vendors were “simply staggered and astonished at their result”.

The market for Indian arms and armour - swords in particular - has been very active recently. The Olympia Auctions sale on June 26, for example, included 42 lots from Part IV of the Roy Elvis Collection of Indian Arms & Armour which were all sold.

Among the highlights was a late 16th/17th century fine south Indian sword, also known as a pata, sold for a hammer price of £35,000 against an estimate of £1500- 2000, and an 18th century fine south Indian translucent hide shield, also known as a dhal, guided at £1000-1500 but also sold at £35,000 hammer. Both were purchased by private collectors (with 25% buyer’s premium on top).