Shotley Bridge Sword Makers

Keith Fisher, a north east historian, has been researching sword making for many years and has now published his research.

He has kindly given the Village Trust a compressed .pdf version of his book to post as a free download.

If you prefer a hard copy it can also be acquired as a fine book, purely for the printing cost of £15.00, and will be available from Newcastle Cloth Market print-shop Photoline: call 0191 232 5454 to order; the book can be collected, or posted to you [in a stiff cardboard package] for an additional £5. [NB: The resolution of the images has been reduced to allow it to be downloaded, while images in the hard copy book are much more detailed.]

Keith explains:

“A request from my friend Yvonne Young (who is a local historian, lecturer and publisher of books on North Eastern heritage) to suggest a topic she could use at men’s clubs and associations, prompted me to give her David Richardson’s famous book on the German swordmakers of Shotley Bridge.

As I attempted to precis the book for her, and studied others like it, I realised this was a huge story that could finally be fully researched given modern information access.

As the story grew it became obvious there were all the ingredients for a TV documentary and I pursued my research with this end in view.  None-the-less, the story makes a splendid local history book; so while we wait for TV production to resume, I have converted my research into just such a narrative.

Ultimately, it will end up as a national companion publication to the TV documentary, but until then I am making it freely available to all interested parties, in particular the residents of the Derwent Valley.”

Revised version 8 uploaded 18/7/22.

Note: The title of the book has been changed from “The Sword in the Hat” – Shotley Bridge and the Bushy Tailed Fox

10 Responses to “Shotley Bridge Sword Makers”


    Loved The Sword in The Hat book. Great photos and illustrations. Well done for taking the time and dedication in help keeping the fabulous history part of the present for all to enjoy.

  2. Yvonne Bertram-Jones Says:

    So interesting to read about the Bertram family. They seem to be related to my family in Sweden. I live in England and my sister in Sweden , she has done a lot of research about the Bertram family at Wira Bruk. We are trying to find the Vinton family in Sweden now.

  3. Paul Adams Says:

    Thank you for the upload.. I have read about the SB sword makers before… looking forward to increasing my knowledge..

  4. Edith Ward Says:

    Yes, thank you for the upload… I am enthralled, especially as I am descended from John Vinton 1803 Gateshead. (x3 g.father)
    I also have connection to the Oley family.

    I have researched the ‘Vinton’ line extensively back to about 1655.
    However all the baptisms state they were from Germany. It is certainly news to me regarding the Swedish connection. Although my DNA says I am 4% Swedish. I would love to know for sure.

  5. Keith Fisher Says:

    Hello Edith.
    The Vintons were a part of the troupe of Ingenious Artisans that Daniel Hoechstetter brought over at the request of Queen Elizabeth (1st) to survey the country and establish the mining of metals. As Hoechstetter was from Bavaria, and as most of his troupe were German, it is not surprising that records lumped the Vintons in with them. The Vintons were mining and smelting experts.
    When I first began searching for the origin of the name Vinton on the Continent – it was Sweden that popped-up.
    Further genealogical searches found the family name alive and well and still in the lead business down in Essex.
    Then I found them in Lynn Massachusetts where they were involved in the first unified metals facility in the USA. At around the same time (1640s) Joseph Jenkes of Hounslow fame appeared and also established a metals industry. Both names became famous in American metal-working history.
    The Saugus ironworks excavations (1948 – 1953) by Roland W. Robbins was documented and published and makes much mention of John Vinton – who was considered the first Vinton to arrive in Massachusetts – working along with Joseph Jenkes. I suspect that John Vinton had been working in the south of England and became acquainted with Jenkes in Hounslow.
    The town of Vinton in the USA has no idea where their name came from: I communed with the senior local history researcher there and he could only hazard a guess, i.e. derived from vintners. Their only claim to fame was Bobby.
    I spoke at length with a local history researcher from Winlaton and he knew the last two Vinton sons in the South Derwent area and also their father – who was a ‘founder’ in a metal-works in Blaydon. He told me it was common knowledge they were of Swedish descent. He also mentioned a curious fruit associated with the family, Åkerbär or Arctic Bramble, that was very much a novelty thereabouts.
    The first Bertram (Berhtraban) in the area (Allensford) was known to have a Swedish wife; it had been her connection to the Vintons that alerted Bertram – then working in Wira Bruk, which was the Swedish royal sword manufactory – to the opportunity of working the forge at Allensford, which I feel comfortably certain (but have no proof unfortunately) had been established by Hoechstetter and worked by Vintons brought over from Cumberland copper mines. They then moved down to Ryton to establish the reverbatory furnace lead smelter around the time Bertram started working in Allensford. Subsequently, the Bertram and Vinton descendants would work together for the next 100 years in various iron and steel works in the Derwent Valley.
    So, adding it all up, I felt more than comfortable assigning the Vintons to Sweden.
    I would appreciate any information you feel might augment my documenting of this family – who I have been at pains to proclaim were the principle reason why the Derwent industry, and subsequently the beginning of our industrial revolution, came about. A much overlooked family hereabouts who are, in-fact, worthy of great notice. I would also appreciate hearing of your connection to the Oleys, who are part of a new episode of the BBC’s TV program “Who do you think you are?” currently in research and looking for any descendants.

  6. Edith Ward Says:

    Hello Keith,
    Many thanks for your reply.

    Firstly, my connection to the Oley family is Nicholas Oley 1774-1852
    son of William.
    Nicholas married a Barbara Walker born c1771 Corbridge Northumberland. They married 18th March 1797.
    Barbara died 1847 Shotley Bridge (she was my x5th great aunt)
    Her father was Joseph Walker born 1745 haydon bridge northumberland. Listed as a gentleman in the Corbridge register. Her mother was Elisabeth Hospeth Morpeth born 1742 Corbridge. My x6 grandparents.
    I do have quite a lot of information on the Walker family, including wills.. you are more than welcome to my research.. I feel these stories should be out there.

    Below are the marriage and death of Barbara Oley (nee Walker)

    Place Corbridge

    Church name St Andrew

    Register type Unspecified

    Marriage date18 Mar 1797

    Groom forename Nicholas

    Groom surname OLEY

    Groom parish Lanchester

    Bride forename Barbara

    Bride surname WALKER

    Bride parish Corbridge

    Witness1 forename William

    Witness1 surname OLEY

    Witness2 forename Mary

    Witness2 surname WINSHIP

    Notes”additional witnesses

    Biddy RICHLEY

    Elizabeth HORSLEY

    Bridget WINSHIP

    and Barbara LUMLEY.



    Place Ebchester

    Church name St Ebba

    Register typeUnspecified

    Register entry number619

    Burial date21 Jul 1847

    Person age76

    Burial person forename Barbara

    Burial person surname OLEY

    Burial person abode Shotley Bridge

    Regarding my direct line ‘Vinton’

    I am back to John Vinton c 1655 Solingen Germany(or so I thought) and his wife Margaret.

    I have five children to the union that I know of.

    All my research is on a popular genealogy site, if you are not a member we could think of another way.

    As I said before you are more than welcome to share my research.

    Best wishes,


    • Keith Fisher Says:

      There’s never been any Vintons making swords in Solingen but they may well have been founding in Remscheid which was the protestant steel and iron working area associated with Solingen.
      Was there any information associated with John Vinton?
      If so, where did you see it?
      If you have read my book you will have seen the portraits of Nicholas’s two brothers. We may have a portrait of Nicholas also but it is not named and is in bad condition; I don’t have a photo of it but if it is of serious interest to you I can acquire one.

      • Edith Ward Says:

        This is one of the records for a son of John Vinting and Margaret

        Son: William Vinting

        William Vinting from England Births and Christenings

        William Vinting Male14 Nov 1685


        John Vinting Margaret Indexing Project (Batch) Number: P00069-1 , System Origin: England-ODM , GS Film number: 0252775, 0090787 IT 1, 1252775, 0090787 IT 1

        This record is for a daughter An Vinton born c1692

        I have enclosed her marriage as the note at the bottom was written in the register.

        County Durham Place Ryton
        Church name Holy Cross
        Register type Marriage
        date 8 Jan 1712/13
        Groom forename Rich
        Groom surname SMART
        Groom condition Bachelor
        Bride forename An
        Bride surname VINTON
        Bride condition Spinster

        Notes Winlaton Mill. An Vinton Of Winlaton Was A Member Of A German Family Some Of Whom Settled At Shotley Bridge Some At Blackhall Mill And Some At Winlaton Mill. Those At The First Two Places Were Employed In Sword Making. Those At Winlaton Mill In The Iron Works Of Crowley Millington And Co

        Obviously the different spellings of the surname make it difficult for research. Have seen Vinting/Vinten/ Vinton/ there are also possibilities under ‘VINT

        My main source of records is Family search(mormon site)
        Durham records on line
        Ancestry (for later records)
        Free reg is very good also.. although you have to use name soundex.

        This is the record for John Vintings’ death



        Church nameSt Ebba

        Register type

        Burial date 5 Jun 1710

        Burial person forenameJohn

        Burial person surnameVINTIN

        Burial person abodeThe Forge, Ryton parish.

        I have a newspaper cutting from the Newcastle Courant dated 1/3/1890.

        It is a write up about some registers regarding the ‘German Swordmakers.

        The entries of baptisms, marriages, burials are mixed up with scaresley any order. I have thus copied them. As will be observed, there are many records of the Shotley Bridge Swordmakers, of German origin, given as Mohl, (given as Moll and Mole) Voper, Vose and Oley.
        There are one or two early instances of the use of the two christian names, for instance Anna Maria Voper in 1695.
        These are, however, confined to the German Immigrants.
        The word “pauper” sometimes occurs. This is not to be taken in the modern sense, but simply the man was a poor man – RB

        I would so love a photograph of Nicholas Oley.

        I thought the ones in your book were amazing.

  7. John William Vinton Says:

    As a member of the Vinton family who was and had engaged in the metal trades, Indeed probably one of the last. I am naturally interested in the history of my family and it’s endvour to earn a living and create a unique history in arming our country.
    I certainly shall be purchasing at least 2 of the books mentioned in the texts referred to.

    • Keith Fisher Says:

      Hello John. Good to hear from you.
      Please contact me directly via email if you prefer:
      but consider anyone else interested in your family history and respond via this portal.
      Ryton Parish registers offer some info regarding BM&D in the local area which at the time (1600s) included Winlaton and thereabouts.
      As you will see from my book, the Vintons were still around the Derwent Valley in the 1960s according to one resident who remembered two brothers well and spoke of their father as a ‘moulder’ in Blaydon on Tyne.
      His opinion was that they were definitely descended from Swedish ancestry: he referred to a family fondness for an Arctic fruit called Åkerbär
      (Rubus arcticus, the Arctic bramble or Arctic raspberry, is a species of slow-growing bramble belonging to the rose family, found in arctic and alpine regions in the Northern Hemisphere.)
      Here are some notes from my interview with him:
      The last of the Vintons in this area – living at Winlaton Mill – were Arthur (father, born around 1900 possibly earlier) and his two sons Jack and Keith. Only Arthur was involved in the local iron and steel industry and was known as a Moulder i.e. he would cast iron for domestic goods and worked at Smith-Patterson and Sons of Blaydon:,_Patterson_and_Co.
      The two sons were Winlaton tradesmen: Jack: electrical, and Keith: painter & decorator.
      I also found Vintons down in Essex recycling lead from car batteries; according to Companies House the business was closed last year – at least trading under that name.
      There is extensive history regarding the John Vinton who emigrated to Massachusetts and became a significant player in the birth of the North American metals industries: Google Books offers plenty of detail from “The Vinton Memorial” a book that can still be obtained from various dealers. His involvement was with the Saugus works.
      That is what comes to hand immediately but my notes are extremely extensive and not always well catalogued.
      Let me know of any questions after you have read my book.
      Regards, Keith.

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