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As can perhaps just be seen, this piece was not in the best of condition: it was very pitted and also had repairs and replacements. However, certain stylistic features – notably the combination of a low comb and relatively compact head shape – singled it out as a piece from the Royal workshops at Greenwich of c.1540. Greenwich pieces from any period seldom come up for auction, but the dating of this would make it one of the ten earliest recorded examples and the second earliest Greenwich piece to feature a two-part visor (the first being on the Genouilhac armour in the Metropolitan Museum).

The helmet had belonged to Martin Holmes, a collector and academic, and had been shown at an exhibition on armour from the Greenwich workshops at the Tower of London in 1951, but, despite its academic interest, its condition prompted Sotheby’s to estimate it at a cautious £2000-2500 when they included it in this first sale of arms and armour in their Olympia rooms.

Notwithstanding, it was contested by several bidders in the room before being finally battled out by a British institution and the successful private collector who secured it at £12,000.

Overall the 292-lot sale generated just short of £658,000, with selling rates of 88 per cent by lot and 90 by value. The highest price, a double-estimate £60,000, was paid for a particularly fine cased pair of early-19th century gold inlaid flintlock target pistols made by the highly regarded French maker Boutet of Versailles, one of a 31-lot consignment of European antique pistols from the collection of W. Graham Lewis, formerly on loan to the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

At Bonhams’ (15/10% buyer’s premium) Knightsbridge rooms the day before, there was only a handful of armour entries of any type in a 360-lot auction that was dominated in content and money by modern sporting guns. There were, however, some strong results at a more modest level in the opening section of edged weapons, notably the trio of early British specimens pictured here. The most expensive was the Scottish basket-hilted broadsword on the right dated to the last quarter of the 17th century. In what the auctioneers described as ‘stablized rust patinated condition overall’, bearing traces of a stamped Andrea Ferara signature, as such swords often do, this came in at £2800, comfortably over the £1800-2000 estimate. But the other two – both backswords – improved on their more modest estimates by bigger margins.

The late 18th century British Cavalry officer’s backsword shown left, which sported a French blade etched with the crowned Fleur de Lys a trophy of arms and Vive le Roy, made £1800 against an £800–1200 estimate. The sword in the centre was of English Civil War period c.1654–50 with an iron hilt of so called Mortuary type with a running wolf mark to the blade. A category of edged weapon that has moved up in price in recent years, according to Bonhams’ David Williams, this duly doubled its estimate at £1900.

The sale’s highest price, by a considerable margin, was the £20,000 was paid out for a pair of Boss double-barrelled 12 bore, single-trigger assisted opening side lock ejector guns, but one interesting piece in the antique firearms section was an American Colt .36 side hammer six short percussion revolving sporting rifle of c.1855, one of only around 1000 thought to have been produced, which fetched £4200.

The 360-odd lots netted £252,615 with 78 per cent sold by lot, 73 per cent by value.