Centuries-Old Sword and Gun Found in Attic Belonged to Famous Sultan and Could Fetch Millions
Wrapped in a newspaper and forgotten in the corner of a dusty attic in a townhouse in the English county of Berkshire, a couple have discovered a hoard of highly-valuable gold-encrusted swords and guns from legendary pillaged armory of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century Muslim usuper who took on the might of the East India Company.
In 1799, the Duke of Wellington’s forces defeated Tipu Sultan at the Siege of Seringapatam, which was the final battle in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War between the East India Company, a British joint-stock company that traded in the Indian Ocean region, and the Kingdom of Mysore, a kingdom in southern India founded in the 14 th century.
The collection of unique and valuable artifacts discovered in the Berkshire attic was originally stolen from Tipu Sultan's palace and brought back to England by Major Thomas Hart of the East India Company.
An article in The Daily Mail says that the artifacts “were passed down through his [Major Thomas Hart’s] family and now belong to a couple who have kept them wrapped in newspaper in the dusty attic of their semi-detached home in Berkshire for years.”
The Relics Could Fetch Millions
Right now, the rare treasures are being prepared to go under the hammer at auction on March 26 as eight individual pieces. Anthony Cribb, of Antony Cribb Ltd auctioneers, is a specialist in arms and armory valuations and sales and he told reporters “This is a very exciting discovery, made in an ordinary little home in Berkshire after lying wrapped up in an attic for 220 years.”
The “special” nature of the discovery means the artifacts have not been estimated but they are expected to spiral into the millions of pounds. Mr Cribb told The Daily Mail that “The family is not motivated by money and sincerely hopes these items find their way back to India, maybe to a museum, for future generations to have access to it.”
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The Discovery and Valuation
In January this year the couple contacted Anthony Cribb Ltd about a sword they had in their attic which was discovered to have a golden "Haider" symbol, which confirmed its previous owner was Haider Ali Khan - Tipu Sultan's father. Three more swords with gold markings along with a bayonet and gun were also discovered soon after.
The gun is definitely the highlight as it not only bears the symbol of Tipu Sultan's armory but is also battle-worn. There is a chance that this gun was among the weapons used by the ruler in his famous last stand against the British in the Anglo-Mysore battle,” said Mr Cribb.
An inscribed sword that belonged to Tipu Sultan. Credit: National Museum, New Delhi
Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore
Tipu, who is also known as the Tiger of Mysore for his fearsome reputation, was an influential historic figure who defeated the British on several occasions. He was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore and embarked on an ambitious program that established Mysore as a major economic power with some of the highest wages and living standards in the world at that time. For much of his life, he was an unrelenting enemy of the British East India Company, but he was finally defeated and killed in 1799 while defending his fort of Srirangapatna during the fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
The Last Effort and Fall of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (public domain)
The items unique to him have already drawn interest from artifact collectors ‘in India, America and the Middle East’ according to the article in The Daily Mail. Among the most highly esteemed items is a 21-shot repeating flintlock musket gun that was used by Tipu in battle which “clearly demonstrates the Bubri design which was unique to Tipu Sultan”. Two identical guns of his were given to the King of England by a returning general and they are today kept at in Windsor Castle.
A gold four-compartment betel nut box with three two century old nuts still trapped inside the chamber. Used as a powerful stimulant, it is recorded that Tipu ingested one of these nuts before his last battle. The collection of treasures including: the gun, four swords, the betel nut box, black lacquered shield, and the gold seal ring will be auctioned at the Milton House Hotel, near Abingdon, Oxon, on March 26.
And if the last sword of Tipu that was sold at auction is anything to go by, the finders are about to become very rich indeed. In 2010, The Times of India reported that in 2003 Sotheby’s auctions sold one for a whopping 505,250 pounds, that’s a cool half-mill. And in this newly discovered collection, there are four. You work it out…
Top image: Tipu Sultan’s battle-damaged flintlock musket found in an attic in England. Credit: Phil Yeomans
By Ashley Cowie