Victorian era police memorabilia goes up for sale at Tennants

An extensive collection of police helmet plates, badges, belts, handcuffs, and helmets dating from the Victorian era and the first half of the 20 th century are coming up for sale in Tennants Auctioneers’ Militaria and Ethnographic Sale on June 15.

By Gemma Jimmison
Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 2:28 pm

The collection, which is being sold in 130 lots, is expected to sell for a combined hammer price of £15,000-25,000. Highlights of the collection included a rare Victorian Officer’s helmet plate to Grantham Borough Police, the force having been established in 1836 (estimate: £2,000-3,000 plus buyer’s premium), a rare Greenock Police black leather belt (estimate: £150-200), and a rare Pre-1935 Lincolnshire Constabulary woman’s helmet (estimate: £400-600).

Amongst further private collections in the sale is an interesting collection of powder horns and flasks. Unusual examples in the collection include a 19th Century South African powder horn, of polished cow horn with scrimshaw decoration depicting the Battle of Blood River with Boer trackers and Zulu warriors (estimate: £500-800). Exhibited at Houldsworth Hall, Manchester in 1953 and at Granada Television in 1960, the powder horn was once the property of the pawn brokering Gilberts family of Manchester, three generations of which collected powder horns 
and flasks.

Further interesting lots from the collection include a good 19th Century large copper entwined dolphin powder flask by Bartram &Co. (estimate: £350-450), and a good 19th Century large copper gun stock powder flask by Dixon & Sons (estimate: £200-300).

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Of aviation interest is a group of early aeroplane propellors and part-propellors, many of which were used to illustrate books on the subject which are also included in the sale. Interesting lots include an early 20th Century half propeller blade for a Sopwith Scout by Morris &Company Ltd (estimate: £200-300). Also of note is an observer’s and Air Gunner’s flying log book, relating Field Marshall Montgomery’s D-Day bluff (estimate: £150-250).

The book belonged to Flight Officer Donald Rawnsley, an RAF Air Gunner who flew from Northalt to Gibraltar on 26th May 1944 with Lieutenant Clifton James of the Royal Army Pay Corps, who was on a mission to mislead the Germans.

James was Montgomery’s double (with the exception of a missing finger, for which a prosthetic was made), who was sent to deceive Hitler’s high command that the Field Marshall was in the Mediterranean, away from his invasion base, thus confusing the Germans who were taken by complete surprise by the D-Day invasion. The log book, which records the flight, is accompanied by a signed copy of James’ book ‘I Was Monty’s Double’, and a letter from the author to Rawnsley.

A strong selection of guns in the sale include a rare early 18th Century 18 bore breech-loading Flintlock sporting gun by John Willowes of London (estimate: £3,500-4,500), a pair of 19th Century officer’s percussion pistols by Wilkinson of London (estimate: £3,000-4,000), and a Westley Richards ‘Monkey Tail’ service pistol (Portuguese contract) (estimate: £1,800-2,500).

Amongst the Ethnographica section of the sale is a collection of Inuit art, comprising 30 lots of knives, weapons, utensils and decorative objects.

Of note are a 20th Century Inuit soapstone figure group depicting a woman and child (estimate: £400-600), and a 19 th Century Inuit Fid, a brass spike inserted into a horn handle (estimate: £400-600).

All hammer prices are correct at time of publication; however, they can be subject to change.

Prices quoted are an estimated hammer price, which is subject to 26.4% buyer’s premium. For more information, go to: