Original British Royal Navy Press Gang Cosh with Concealed Blade
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. The British Naval pay scale was established in 1658 and basically remained unchanged for almost 140 years. There was zero inflation up until the 7 years war (1756-1763) known as the French and Indian War in the United States. However by the end of the 1700s with increasing British Government debt Naval pay was well behind causing great unpopularity. This led to two mutinies, that at Spithead near Portsmouth and at The Nore in the Thames Basin in London, both occurring in 1797.
Navy enlistment dramatically declined so the age old tradition of Press Ganging which was equivalent to kidnapping able bodied men, usually by alcohol or brute force then enlisting them in the Royal Navy. A Cosh was an item much feared by men in the 18th & 19th century as it was used by the Royal Navy to coerce men into joining up. Press gangs would roam the streets of inns & taverns looking for the slightly worse for wear. Imagine enjoying a night out and waking up, hung over, finding yourself an involuntary volunteer at sea, on board one of the Navy's finest.
This is a fine example of a Press Gang "Persuader" in those days referred to as a "COSH" . It is constructed from a 12" length of Oneinch Bamboo bound in the center with cord. It features a cord woven lower mount incorporating a leather thong and wrist cord. The business end has a cord wound egg shaped head weighted probably with a lead core.
In this case there is also housed a six inch blade for use in case the situation became nasty. A most unpleasant item. What makes this special however is the old museum or collector attached to the central cord grip of white metal engraved:
HMS Ajax was an Ajax class 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the British Royal Navy. She was built by John Randall & Co of Rotherhithe and launched on the Thames on 3 March 1798. Ajax participated in the Egyptian operation of 1801, the Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1805 and the Battle of Trafalgar, before she was lost to a disastrous fire in 1807 during the Dardanelles Operation.
This cosh is an extremely well made, a poignant reminder of how cruel life was just two hundred years ago. The the wrist cord and leather grip binding, being over 200 years of age are delicate and should be treated carefully.
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