The Royal Family at the inauguration of London Museum, Kensington Palace
1912; ID no. 91.172
By a confusing coincidence, another sword was found at
about the same time, during the building of the new Vauxhall Bridge itself. A
fine early 11th-century ‘Viking’ sword, it’s now in the Royal Ontario Museum in
Toronto, Canada. To add to the confusion, at one time it had actually been on display in the London Museum, the Museum of London's predecessor.
The Viking sword belonged to Sir Guy Laking, who was the first Keeper of the London Museum from its opening in 1912 until 1919. Several items from Laking’s private collection of arms and armour were included on loan in the London Museum displays, until his death in 1919. Among them was this ‘other’ Vauxhall sword, which thus acquired a museum loan number and a temporary London Museum identity. On Laking’s death, it and other items that had been on loan to the museum were returned to his executors and sold at auction.
The London Museum tried to acquire the Viking sword several times over the next decade, finally losing out when it was bought for the Royal Ontario Museum at a Sotheby’s auction in 1928. Thus we have a file of correspondence about the Royal Ontario Museum’s ‘Vauxhall Bridge’ sword – and, to return us to our starting point, that is where Joseph Taylor’s note about the discovery of our own ‘Vauxhall Temporary Bridge’ sword had inadvertently been placed, until I spotted it in the summer of 2016. London has many secrets left to discover - some within the museum's own records!