Under the Spotlight


In 1858 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s eldest child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, married the Crown Prince of Prussia, Frederick William.  The wedding was celebrated in the chapel of St James’s Palace in London, and, amongst a very large number of gifts, the couple received a special saw made by the Sheffield firm of Taylor Brothers.

This saw is unique: nothing like it had ever been made in England, or was ever made subsequently.  It brought together the supreme skills not just of the saw maker’s art of shaping, polishing and finishing steel and brass, but also of the ivory carver, and the designer and etcher of the decoration on the blade.

The presentation etched in bas-relief on either side of their royal arms reads:

May God’s Blessing attend the Marriage of his Royal Highness Prince Frederick William Of Prussia With her Royal Highness the Princess Royal of England

The decoration includes the two national symbols of oak leaves and laurel leaves, and the toe (end) of the blade is cut out in the form of a swan - a bird that symbolises marital constancy. The handle of ivory includes a symbolic cornucopia (horn of plenty) and a dolphin, and is attached to the blade by two nickel-plated screws.

The brass back is engraved with the words:

Presented By Messrs Taylor Brothers, Saw Manufacturers, Adelaide Works, Sheffield

We do not know what induced Taylor Brothers to present this saw, but they may have known of the centuries-old practice of European royalty owning and using highly decorated tools for their hobbies. The firm was unusual in Sheffield for their decorated saws, being the first in the city to employ a firm of engravers and printers (James Bagshaw) to make the increasingly elaborate designs to decorate the blades.

It is believed that the saw left the ownership of the royal couple’s family sometime in the twentieth century and became part of a collection of ornamental tools owned by the famous Swiss collector, Luigi Nessi.  After his death in 2012, the saw was bought by a dealer in Austria from whom the Ken Hawley Collection Trust acquired it as the result of a public appeal in 2016.

The largest part of this funding came from the Arts Council England/Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, with substantial grants also from the JG Graves Charitable Trust, the Freshgate Trust Foundation, Daniela Nessi and many individual donors in Britain and across the world.  To all of these the Trust is deeply grateful for being able to bring back to the city of its manufacture one of the most remarkable tools ever made here. It is now on display in the Saw Wall in the Gallery - do come and have a look!