London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles


LIII.-The Mint.

LIII.-The Mint.




A striking illustration of the magnitude of the transactions of the British Empire may be drawn from the recent records of the Mint. Between the years and the money coined in it amounted in round numbers to a quarter of a million of copper, millions of silver, and considerably above millions of gold, making a total of between and millions of money sent into circulation within years. Whilst we are dealing with figures, we may add that the charge for coining this enormous amount of precious metal was nearly , and the actual cost about , leaving a profit to the Company of Moneyers not much less in amount. Any may send bullion to be coined, but for many years the alone has been the medium between the foreign importer and the Mint. During the lapse of time the sources of our supplies of bullion have been frequently changed. Time was when even England itself added silver to the other inexhaustible stores which it was for ever pouring forth from its bosom; Edward I., for instance, received no


less than of silver during the year from Devonshire, and down to the reign of George I. silver money has been coined from the proceeds of the Welsh and other native mines. The principal sources of supply at present are the mines of Peru and Mexico for both silver and gold; and from the mines comparatively recently discovered in the Russian Ural mountains a large quantity of gold is also received. The Bank buys silver at the market price, which fluctuates; gold at per ounce; but it will make no purchases of gold without having sent specimens for assay to the king's assay-master of the Mint. This is the simple history of our uncoined money generally. But there are some notable exceptions. A few weeks since the newspapers of the day informed us that considerable interest was excited by the arrival in the Borough of the portion of the ransom payable by the Chinese nation to the British Government, which amounted to millions of dollars. It was packed in wooden chests, and filled waggons and carts, forming a train of considerable length; and was escorted by a detachment of the regiment. The whole passed over , and was conveyed to the Bank. This money, which weighs upwards of tons, was brought from China by Her Majesty's ship


It will, no doubt, .ultimately be coined into British money, and we shall be circulating our shillings and sixpences to and fro without the slightest notion of their having once formed a part of the price of Canton-nay, for aught we know, some of them may in their state of transformation find their way back again to the Celestial Empire, to gladden, possibly, for a time the eyes of some unconscious Chinese, and be treasured for their novelty in the same cabinet where they had previously been hoarded for their intrinsic value. In a somewhat similar convoy passed through the streets, which had been taken under no less memorable circumstances. Political considerations having determined our Government to commence war with Spain, a bright notion occurred to it before making a formal declaration of its purposes. Some Spanish vessels with treasure were then expected home; accordingly Captain Moore, with vessels, was despatched to intercept them. He was successful, but did not obtain possession of the prize till the Spanish admiral's vessel had blown up, and some hundreds of persons had gone to their last account. To the honour of the British people, their indignation was all but universal. There was incident that did much to deepen the general impression of the affair. A Spanish gentleman was on board of the ships, who, after years' industry and economy in America, had realised a fortune, and was now returning to his native country, contented in its possession, and blessed with a numerous and beautiful family to share it. Before the action commenced, he, with of his sons, went on board of the largest ships, the better perhaps to assist in repelling so unexpected an attack; and in a few minutes beheld the in which he had left his wife and his other children surrounded with flames. This was the admiral's ship already mentioned.

None of the humiliating and painful reflections attached to this case belonged to the preceding it by some years, and which accordingly seems to have been marked by a very joyous sort of procession. The day was a remarkable , being that on which the young sovereign George the 's son and successor was born.

Just after Her Majesty was safely in her bed, the waggons with the

treasure of the



St. James's Street

; on which His Majesty and the nobility went to the windows over the palace-gate to see them, and joined their acclamations on


such joyful occasions; from whence the procession proceeded to the Tower in the following order, viz. :--A company of light horse, attended with kettle-drums, French horns, trumpets, and hautboys. A covered waggon, decorated with an English jack, and a Spanish flag underneath, hanging behind the waggon.


more covered waggons.


waggons uncovered. And, lastly, a covered waggon, decorated with an English jack and a Spanish flag. In the whole


waggons. The procession was concluded with an officer on horseback, carrying an English ensign, attended by another holding a drawn cutlass. The escort to each waggon consisted of


marines with their bayonets fixed. The whole cavalcade was saluted by the people with acclamations of joy. On opening some of the chests at the Bank they were greatly surprised to find a bag full of gold instead of silver in


of them; several have since been found of the same kind.

[n.35.1]  The treasure weighed tons, and was valued at nearly a million sterling. In the last incident of this kind we shall mention, which occurred just a century before, the money was obtained without violence of any kind from its owners, yet not the less disgraceful was its possession. It was the purchase-money of Dunkirk, acquired by Cromwell, and so much valued by the English people, that just before the sale was concluded the merchants of London offered through the Lord Mayor any sum of money to Charles rather than it should be lost. The offer, however, was declined. We have already, in our account of the Tower, noticed Charles's visit there to see the wealth he had so dearly purchased. Pepys had a hope of getting some portion of the treasure to pay off the naval arrears, but the king knew better how to dispose of it than on such merely national purposes.

These passages refer to of the extraordinary modes of supplying the Mint with bullion. Another proposed method, which has engaged a great deal of attention, is of a very interesting, though, unfortunately for its projectors, not of a very practical character. The name of Raymond Lully, the alchemist, is well known. He was the chief of those who, in the middle ages, helped to spread abroad through Europe a belief in the possibility of transmuting the baser metals into gold. He appears to have been a simple-minded, enthusiastic man, who in this matter probably imposed upon himself by his discoveries in the then wonderful science of chemistry. His chief object, to which he adhered with the most exemplary fortitude through all kinds of difficulties and dangers, was the conversion of the Mohammedans; and when he came to England, during the reign of Edward I., it was to engage that monarch in some new holy war. Edward had, however, plenty of business on hand with the Scotch and Welsh patriots; but the temptation held out by Lully was irresistible, being no less than that of filling his treasury on the cheapest possible terms. The alchemist set to work in

the chamber of St. Katherine

in the Tower; and Ashmole says,

gold is affirmed, by an unwritten verity, to have been made .

and, besides the tradition, the inscription is some proof, for upon the reverse is a cross fleury, with lioneux, inscribed,

Jesus autem transiens per medium illorum ibat

, that is, as Jesus passed invisible and in the most secret manner by the midst of the Pharisees, so

that gold was made by invisible and secret art amidst the ignorant.

[n.36.1]  Ashmole here refers to an inscription seen on the gold noble of Edward III., and continued on various coins down to the period of Elizabeth. Much speculation has been excited by it, but to little purpose. The reader may wonder why the work did not proceed, since the great secret was discovered. It appears that, after a time, Edward refused to keep his promise, and Lully, on his part, declined any longer making the King rich. He was, in consequence, confined in of the Tower dungeons. Such is the story; and it does not seem very difficult to extract from it the essential truth, that alchemy was yet to be ranked amongst the undiscovered secrets of science. Not such was the conclusion of the government. of the most curious parts of the history of the Mint is the continual faith our sovereigns have had in being able to supply it with cheap gold and silver. The patent roll of the year of Edward III.'s reign states that the King had been given to understand that John le Rous and Master William de Dalby could make silver by art of ; that they had heretofore made it, and still did make it; and that by such making of that metal they could greatly profit the realm. He therefore commanded Thomas Carey to find them out, and to bring them before the King, with all the instruments, &c., belonging to the said art. If they would come willingly, they were to be brought safely and honourably; but if not, they were to be seized and brought before the King, wherever he might be. All sheriffs, &c., were commanded to assist the said Thomas Carey. Either rumour had a little enhanced the skill of

John le Rous and Master William de Dalby,

or they had themselves assumed too readily their

blushing honours,

for no alchemic money poured into the Mint in consequence of the mandate. In the reign of Henry VI. the tempting cup of wealth seemed again brought to the royal lips. In that monarch's year John Cobbe presented a petition to the King, stating that he was desirous of operating upon certain materials by art philosophical, viz., to transubstantiate the inferior metals, by the said art, into perfect gold and silver, so as to endure every trial; but that certain persons had suspected this to be done by art unlawful, and therefore had power to hinder and disturb him in giving proof of it. The King, in answer, granted a special licence of protection, and, hoping at least to find among a multitude of alchemists the treasure he desired, soon after bestowed a similar mark of his grace on several other persons. Growing more and more impatient for some tangible result, in his year he appointed a commission to inquire into the truth of the art, the professors of it having promised him wealth enough to pay all his debts in gold and silver, to the great advantage of the kingdom. The members consisted of Augustine and Preaching friars, the quoteueen's physician, the master of St. Laurence Pontigny College, an alderman of London, a fishmonger, grocers, and a mercer-certainly of the oddest mixtures of persons for a tribunal of judgment on a scientific question we ever remember to have read of. The result must have been, we should suppose, partially favourable, for years later we find the King again granting a licence for the pursuit. The people's faith in alchemy, during all this period, seems to have been no less earnest than that of their sovereign, but it was a faith of a


very different nature. They appear to have believed that gold and silver might be made, but only by the assistance of the Evil . An alchemist was a wiser, subtler, and infinitely more mischievous sort of witch, who would soar above the vulgar desire of sticking pins into people, and preventing butter from being churned, in order to play at ducks and drakes with the national money. Many and many a time, no doubt, has the rustic (and perhaps even higher than he), when he has heard some of the marvellous tales of the alchemists and the Mint, blessed himself as the thought crossed him that his little hoard might be of money made in the mysterious way, and gone to look at it once more to be sure that it had not disappeared. We have already seen that John Cobbe was obliged to petition the King for a licence, on the ground of having been disturbed by persons who suspected him to practise by ; another evidence of a similar kind, and in connexion with a new instance of the royal hankering after this

new way to pay old debts,

occurs in the Leet Book of the corporation of Coventry, under the date of the , in the year of the reign of Henry's conqueror and successor, Edward IV.

The mayor received a privy signet by the hands of a servant of the King, the tenor whereof after ensueth:

By the King.-Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well, and let you wite (know) that it hath been showed unto us that our well-beloved John French, our servant, cominying [query, coming in] and commonly abiding in our city there, intendeth by his labour to practise a true and a profitable conclusion in the cunning of transmutation of metals, to our profit and pleasure; and for to make a clear showing of the same before certain our council and servants by us therefore appointed, is required a certain time to prepare his materials: we, not willing therefore our said servant to be troubled in that he shall so work or prepare for our pleasure and profit, will and charge you that ye ne suffer him in any wise by person or persons to be letted, troubled, or vexed of his said labour and practice, to the intent that he at his good liberty may shew unto us, and such as be by us therefore appointed, the clear effect of his said conclusion. Given under our signet, at our palace of Westminster, the 29th day of December.

The excessive courteousness of tone perceptible in this epistle will not escape observation. From this time, if the art of alchemy still continued for a time to find believers, the sovereigns of England appear to have grown too wise by experience to rank themselves publicly among the number.

The establishment of the Mint in London must date from the remotest periods of the known history of the latter. There can be no doubt some of the Roman emperors coined money here, and specimens bearing the name of London in an abbreviated form still exist. In the Saxon period, also, we know not only that London had a Mint, but that it was the chief in the kingdom. There were moneyers (as the chief officers were called, to whom the coining of money was intrusted in early times) in London in the reign of Athelstan, and at Winchester, the next place in rank. The Mint in the Tower is as old as the erection; and it has been worked in every reign from the Conquest to the present time, with or unimportant exceptions. In treating of the


through the remainder of this article, we propose to direct our attention chiefly to the , as illustrated by the introduction of the most important new coins from time to time into it. The engravings introduced will at the same time show the nature and extent of its artistical progress, from


the earliest period up to that of the Commonwealth; for since then, if there has been progress at all, it has been in the wrong direction. This is no place to enter into disquisitions on the uncertain subject of the money of the ancient Britons, of the Roman-British, or of the Saxons: suffice it, therefore, to observe that to the period of the are assigned the ring coins of the character here represented; to that of the the rude coins, bearing some-inscriptions
supposed to refer to Boadicea, and others to Cunobelin, a British king of the time of Augustus; whilst to the may be assigned the real coin having a direct connexion with our present system. The silver is mentioned in the laws of Ina, king of the West Saxons, who reigned from to . It most probably derived its name from the word , to weigh, being then, as now, the th part of a pound. Its weight was grains, and would now be worth This coin was for several centuries the chief circulating medium.

The silver penny of Alfred,

says Ruding (to whom we must express our obligations),

is the


authentic coin yet discovered which can with certainty be appropriated to the London Mint.

The history of the silver penny offers a good illustration of the disgraceful as well as foolish system adopted by our older sovereigns of depreciating the real value of coin, in the hope of preserving at the same time the original current value. From grains, in the Anglo-Saxon period, it had fallen to grains by the reign of the Edward, to grains


by the reign of the Edward, to grains by the reign of the Edward, and during the reign of Elizabeth was fixed at -H grains, its present weight. The silver halfpenny and farthing are both mentioned in the translation of the Saxon gospels; they would now be worth respectively about l-d. and--d.: these also continued for several centuries in circulation. The last halfpenny was struck during the Commonwealth; the last farthing in the reign of Edward VI. Next in antiquity to the Saxon penny is the styca, or copper money of the kings of Northumberland, and which appear to have been confined to that kingdom. Their date is from to about the close of the century. The styca would now be worth about a of a farthing.

The rudeness of the money during these early times, and of the system under which they were coined, offered a wide field for knavery; and the consequence was that the currency was at all times in a deplorable state. Punishments more and more severe were tried on the great offenders, who were the moneyers themselves, but with only the most temporary benefit. We learn that in the reign of Edgar the penny had become at time scarcely equal to a halfpenny in weight; and on Whit Sunday, St. Dunstan, who had become very indignant at this state of things on the part of the public officers, refused to celebrate mass till moneyers had received immediate punishment. Accordingly their right hands were struck off. A more frightful instance of the kind occurred in the reign of Henry I., the

Lion of Justice

as he has been called, who had a very significant testimony of the baseness of his money in the refusal of dealers to take it in the market. He was then in Normandy, but, determined upon swift and sweeping vengeance, he sent over his mandate to Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, to summon the moneyers throughout England to appear at Winchester against Christmas Day. As they arrived, they were taken apart singly, and underwent the most cruel and disgraceful mutilations. They were afterwards driven into banishment. alone out of persons escaped punishment, and to them was committed the charge of making a new coinage to supply the whole kingdom. The rudeness of the money offered, of course, facilities to others beside moneyers for living upon the coinage. Makers and utterers of false coin flourished. In a curious anecdote of King John and Pandulph, we see that even learned ecclesiastics occasionally were to be found in their ranks. Immediately after sentence of excommunication was pronounced on John by Pandulph at Northampton in , the King, doubtless with the view of intimidating Pandulph for continuing the interdict he had promulgated, ordered the sheriff to bring before him all the prisoners then in his custody. Some of these he caused to be hung, some to have their eyes torn out, and some their feet cut off. Among the prisoners was a priest, a clerk, who had counterfeited money, whom the King ordered to be hanged. Pandulph at once stepped forward, and threatened to excommunicate whoever should touch the priest, and went himself in search of a candle to fulfil his determination. John was now frightened, and, following the legate, delivered the prisoner into his hands that he might himself execute justice upon him. The latter, however, was immediately set at liberty. The chief offenders against the King's coin, if history has not belied them, were the Jews, of whom no less than persons of both sexes were hung in London alone by Edward I. His bigotry against them, coupled with his


rapacity, which their wealth was so well able to gratify, may account for a great part of these horrible proceedings, without taking it for granted that his Jewish were so infinitely worse than his Christian subjects. But Edward did not punish only. He was too much of the statesman to allow all the evils of his monetary system to remain unchecked, save by the irregular operation of such influences : to him the Company of Moneyers are indebted for a confirmation of the privileges they still enjoy (including the great of being the only national coiners), and most probably also for a general consolidation and improvement of their body, so as to make it more responsible; for we find that by the following reign the reformation of the Mint may be said to have been essentially completed: then an officer called the Comptroller was appointed, who, like the Warden and the Master, was to send in his accounts separately. From this time no fraud could take place without the conjunction of the officers. The Company now consists of senior and junior members and a provost, who undertake the coinage at fixed prices.

The improvements carried into effect among the coiners appear very wisely to have been closely connected with a similar reformation of the coinage. From the reign of Henry III. English money begins to improve in appearance, as well as to exhibit more variety. According to a manuscript chronicle in the archives of the city of London, the King, in , made a penny of the finest gold, which weighed sterlings, and willed that it should be current for . This was the English coinage of gold. Under the date of Edward I.'s reign, our old writers speak of a coinage of silver halfpennies and farthings, then for the time made round, instead as of old, square. These new coins were issued in , and are connected with an interesting story. An old prophecy of Merlin had declared that whenever the money of England should be round, the Prince of Wales should be crowned in London. Llewellyn, the last prince, was slain by Edward in : his head was cut off and sent to London, where it was placed in the Tower, crowned with willows, in mockery either of its late unhappy owner's pretensions or of the prophecy.


Edward III. introduced several new coins into circulation, namely, the gold florin, with its half and quarter; the gold noble, also with its divisions; the groat and the half-groat. The gold florin, intended to pass for , now worth about , was found an inconvenient sum, and also, it is said, priced beyond its real value: so it soon gave place to the gold noble, or rose noble, as it was sometimes called, of the value of , or half a mark. On this coin we perceive


Edward, completely armed, in a ship--a reference most probably to his great naval victory over the French at Sluys in , when the latter lost from to men. This is the coin bearing the extraordinary legend before mentioned, and which was supposed in ancient times to have been made of Lully's wondrous gold. The noble of Richard II. (shown above) is almost an exact fac simile of this famous coin, which was subsequently (temp. Henry VI.) raised to the value of , and called the rial. The silver groat borrowed its name from the French word , and was no doubt so designated from its being the largest piece then known.

No new coins appeared from this time until the reign of Edward IV.; but a story of a remarkable kind is told by Speed, Hollinshed, and other writers, of which, according to a high authority, the silver coins of Henry V. probably present a permanent memorial. In the coin here shown the reader will perceive

below the flowing hair small round circles. These are the only distinguishing features of Henry V.'s coin from his father's, and are, it is supposed,

intended for eyelet holes, from an odd stratagem when he was prince.

[n.41.1]  The following account of the

odd stratagem

is from Speed. The period referred to is the latter part of Henry IV.'s reign, when the King being

somewhat crazy, and keeping his chamber, hearing news daily of his son's loose exercises, too mean for a prince, and their constructions--(ever made to aim at his crown), he began both to withdraw his fatherly affection, and to fear some violence against his own person; which, when Prince Henry heard of, by some that favoured him of the King's council, in a strange disguise he repaired to his court, accompanied with many lords and noblemen's sons. His garment was a gown of blue satin, wrought full of eyelet holes, and at every eyelet the needle left hanging by the silk it was wrought with. About his arm he wore a dog's collar, set full of SS of gold, the tirets thereof being most fine gold. Thus coming to


and the court of his father, having commanded his followers to advance no farther than the fire in the hall, himself, accompanied with some of the King's household, passed on to his presence, and, after his duty and obeisance done, offered to make known the cause of his coming. The King, weak then with sickness, and supposing the worst, commanded himself to be borne into a withdrawing chamber, some of his lords attending upon him, before whose feet Prince Henry fell, and with all reverent obeisance spake to him as followeth:--

Most gracious sovereign and renowned father, the suspicion of disloyalty and divulged reports of my dangerous intendments towards your royal person and crown hath enforced at this time and in this manner to present myself and life at your Majesty's dispose. Some faults and misspent time (with blushes I may speak it) my youth hath committed, yet those made much more by such fleering pickthanks that blow them stronger into your unwilling and distasteful ears. The name of sovereign ties allegiance to all; but of a father, to a further feeling of nature's obedience: so that my sins were double if such suggestions possessed my heart: for the law of God ordaineth that he which doth presumptuously against the ruler of his people shall not live, and the child that smiteth his father shall die the death. So far therefore am 1 from any disloyal attempts against the person of you, my father and the Lord's anointed, that if I knew any of whom you stood in the least danger or fear, my hand, according to duty, should be the first to free your suspicion. Yea, I will most gladly suffer death to ease your perplexed heart; and to that end I have this day prepared myself, both by confession of my offences past, and receiving the blessed sacrament. Wherefore I humbly beseech your Grace to free your suspicion from all fear conceived against me with this dagger, the stab whereof I will willingly receive here at your Majesty's hand, and so doing, in the presence of these lords, and before God at the day of judgment, I clearly forgive my death.

But the King, melting into tears, cast down the naked dagger (which the prince delivered him), and raising his prostrate son, embraced and kissed him, confessing his ears to have been over-credulous that way, and promising never to open them again against him. But the prince, unsatisfied, instantly desired that at least his accusers might be produced, and, if convicted, to receive punishment, though not to the full of their demerits: to which request the King replied that, as the offence was capital, so should it be examined by the peers, and therefore willed him to rest contented until the next parliament. Thus by his great wisdom he satisfied his father from further suspicion, and recovered his love that nearly was lost.

The gold angel, and angelet or half-angel, were struck by Edward IV. in , and were intended to pass in the room and at the value of the noble and


half-noble, but were considerably inferior in intrinsic value. The next new coins issued from the Mint during the reign of Henry VII.: these were the sovereign, with its double and half, of gold, and tie testoon or shilling of silver. The term shilling is, at least, as old as the Saxon period, when, however, it expressed money of account only: it now became a coin of currency. The name testoon
was derived from the French word or , a head, the royal portrait being stamped in the novel form of a profile, The coin itself was often called a groat. The testoon in the course of a reign or obtained a bad reputation, having become greatly debased. Heywood has several epigrams on the subject. Here is of them :

These testoons look red; how like you the same?

Tis a token of grace: they blush for shame.

The debasement here referred to commenced with the reign of Henry VIII., who, to the other characteristics of his reign, added the feature that he was the English sovereign who corrupted the sterling quality of his coin. His predecessors had often tried the effect of making a small piece of silver or gold pass for the value of larger ones; but in some cases this may have arisen from erroneous notions as to the laws which govern the value of money, and, at the worst, it was a sort of frank dishonesty: it was reserved for

bluff King Hal

to try to cheat the nation; to keep the coin of promise to the eye, but break it to the hope; to place, in a word, the British Government on the level of the poor wretches who were being continually strung up for the same crime, without having the same excuse for its commission. Among the coins struck by Henry VIII. may be mentioned the George noble, so called from the representation of St. George and the Dragon stamped on the reverse. A specimen of a silver crown-piece was coined by Henry, but that coin was issued for currency by his son Edward, with the half-crown, sixpence, and threepence.


During this reign the corruption of the coin was carried even still further. Henry had reduced the proportions of his silver from ounces pennyweights of the pure metal and eighteen pennyweights of alloy, to ounces of silver and of alloy. Edward's government now left only ounces of silver in the pound of mixed metal. Old Latimer, in of his sermons (), complains bitterly of the interference of the ecclesiastics of his day in the affairs of government:


he says,

are ambassadors, some of the privy council, some to furnish the court, some are lords of the Parliament, some are presidents, and some

comptrollers of Mints

. Well, well, is this their duty? Is this their office? Is this their calling? Should we have ministers of the church to be comptrollers of the Mint? .... I would fain know who comptrolleth the devil at home at his parish while he comptrolleth the Mint?

The honest bishop was also very probably thinking at the same time the Mint was comptrolled by them, but left that part of the business untouched, as being beyond his sphere. All this evil was now to be remedied, and, above most other features, the reformation of the coinage is the perhaps that adds the greatest lustre to the reign of the virgin queen. In our account of the Exchange, we have had occasion to show that Sir Thomas Gresham was of the most strenuous promoters of this reformation, if indeed he was not its chief originator. The silver was now restored to its original proportions of eighteen pennyweights of alloy in the pound of standard metal, which are also the proportions observed to this day. In making this alteration it was necessary to recall the corrupt coin of her brother and father, and melt it down for re-casting. The real value of what was received at the Mint for this purpose was about , Whilst the process of reformation was going on, Elizabeth went publicly to the Tower, where she coined several pieces with her own hand, and distributed them among her suite. This queen added silver -halfpenny and -farthing pieces to the money of England; and during her reign the milled money appeared; the


of which Master Slender was robbed.


During the period commencing with the reign of Charles I. and ending with that of his son, the history of the Mint is highly interesting; we can here only notice in the fewest words its chief points. of Charles's most despotic acts in the contest with the Parliament was the seizing the money placed in the Mint by the merchants of London (a custom with them at that time) to the amount of , and, like most of his other acts of a similar nature, recoiled terribly upon himself: some of the most influential moneyed men of the, empire were made hostile to him. The coins of Charles I. are in themselves a history of his


subsequent life, showing in the variety of their shape and the places of their coinage the troubled character of the period, and the shifts to which he was continually reduced. We have them lozenge-shaped, round, and octangular; and others again are small bits of silver plate, an inch and a half long, with a scarcely legible drawing of a castle. Among the places of mintage we find Oxford, York, Shrewsbury, Newark, Carlisle, Pontefract, &c. Silver and pieces were struck by Charles. In marked contrast with the money current during the war appears that of the Commonwealth when the contest was over. Unquestionably the finest coins we can boast of belong to the period in most other respects so unfavourable to the arts. Prior to the war Nicholas Briot, a French engraver, had produced for Charles I. the most beautiful money then known: it was a pupil of Briot's, Thomas Simon, who, in the service of Cromwell, outstripped his master, and produced the coins here shown, in which the bust of the great Protector is considered to be, with few exceptions, the most masterly
production of any modern artist who has exhibited his genius in this mode. It is probable that Simon's very excellence in connexion with such a subject was his dire offence when Charles II. came to the throne. How else are we to account for the treatment he then received? He was superseded; and although in a generous spirit of emulation he prepared a crown-piece, esteemed to this day of the noblest specimens of medalling known, and presented it to the King, with a petition for his restoration, the application was unsuccessful. We must not quit the subject of the Commonwealth money till we have referred to the coins which so long furnished a standing joke for the Cavaliers. These appeared before Cromwell's appointment as Protector, and presented on the side the English arms, and on the other the arms of England and Ireland, with the inscription

God with us.

Royalist jest was, that it appeared from their own coin that God and the Commonwealth were on different sides; another, that the shields were the breeches of the Rump Parliament: this last was a prolific source of amusement. So late as , we read in a prologue, spoken in Bury School, of

A silver pair of breeches neatly wrought, Such as you see upon an old Rump groat, Which emblem our good grandsires chose to boast To all the world, the tail was uppermost. Gentleman's Mag., 1731 .


We may now dismiss rapidly the only remaining coins that require notice. The guinea was coined by Charles II., and was so called as being made from the gold brought over by the African Company from Guinea, whose stamp, the elephant, appears upon all the coins made from their bullion. Accompanying the guinea were struck in the same reign the -guinea piece, the two-guinea, and the half-guinea. The present copper coinage of halfpennies and farthings also dates from Charles' reign; and the figure of Britannia, still preserved, was modelled after the celebrated Miss Stewart, afterwards Duchess of Richmond. Charles II. also coined a tin farthing, with a stud of copper in the centre. James, and William and Mary, continued that coin, and added a halfpenny of the same kind. This tin coinage was recalled in . The reign of William and Mary is memorable in the history of the Mint, from another great reformation of the coinage, which had become so much depreciated by clipping, that bags of silver coins brought into the Mint in , which ought to have weighed above bs., did actually weigh but a little more than half, or lbs. This single re-coinage must have cost the Government nearly millions. Anne's reign is chiefly noticeable to the connoisseur in coins for the famous farthings, about which there has been so much misunderstanding. A complete set of this quoteueen's farthings comprise no less than different coins, though these are all more or less rare, but in particular the here
engraved, which is consequently valuable. The gold quarter-guinea was coined by George I., and is remarkable as bearing for the time the letters F. D. (Fidei Defensor). Gold pieces and copper pennies and twopences appeared during the reign of George III.; both the and the last have since been withdrawn. The guinea and half-guinea were withdrawn in , when they were replaced by the present sovereign and its half. The last new piece added to our coinage was the fourpenny-piece by William IV. in , which is of a different type from the existing groat.

Till the present century the Mint remained in the Tower. But about the Government, finding the military department had greatly encroached upon the buildings originally used for coining, intrusted to Sir Robert Smirke the erection of a new edifice upon . It was completed about , at an expense of above a quarter of a million of money. This immense sum, however, included Boulton's expensive machinery, which, by successive improvements, has been brought to such a surprising degree of perfection, as, in conjunction with the other admirable arrangements of the establishment, places a power at the disposal of the Moneyers that will enable them, if required, to receive worth of gold morning in bullion, and return it the next in coin. It is amusing to contrast this rapidity with the state of things existing when every


piece was struck by hand, or when the entire process of coining could be carried on in a single room, as we see it in the engraving at the end of this paper, which evidently agrees in its essentials with the old English methods. In the present interesting process of coining the ingots are melted in pots, when the alloy, of copper, is added (to gold, part in ; to silver, eighteen pennyweights to a pound weight), and the mixed metal cast into small bars. And now begin the operations of the stupendous machinery, which is unequalled in the Mint of any other country, and is in every way a triumph of mechanical skill. The bars, in a heated state, are passed through the breaking-down rollers, which, by their tremendous crushing power, reduce them to only - their former thickness, and increase them proportionally in their length. They are now passed through the cold rollers, which bring them nearly to the thickness of the coin required, when the last operation of this nature is performed by the draw-bench--a machine peculiar to our Mint, and which secures an extraordinary degree of accuracy and uniformity in the surface of the metal, and leaves it of the exact thickness desired. The cutting-out machines now begin their work. There are of these engines in the elegant room set apart for them, all mounted on the same basement, and forming a circular range. Here the bars or strips are cut into pieces of the proper shape and weight for the coining-press, and then taken to the sizing-room to be separately weighed, as well as sounded on a circular piece of iron, to detect any flaws. The protecting rim is next raised in the marking-room, and the pieces after blanching and annealing are ready for stamping. The coining-room is a magnificent-looking place, with its columns and its great iron beams, and the presses ranging along the solid stone basement. There are presses, each of them making, when required, or (or even more) strokes a minute; and as at each stroke a blank is made a perfect coin--that is to say, stamped on both sides, and milled at the edge-each press will coin between and pieces in the hour, or the whole between and . And to accomplish these mighty results the attention of little boy alone is required, who stands in a sunken place before the press, supplying it with blanks. The bullion is now money, and ready for the trial of the Pix, which, at the Mint, is a kind of tribunal of judgment between the actual coiners and the owners, as the greater trial known by the same name in the Court of Exchequer is to test the quality of the money as between the Master of the Mint and the people. This trial generally takes place on the appointment of a new master before the members of the Privy Council and a certain number of the Goldsmiths' Company; from the latter a jury of persons is sworn. The Lord High Chancellor, or, in his absence, the Chancellor of , presides. Ruding was present at the trial of the Pix in , when, after a variety of minute experiments, it was found that a certain quantity of gold which should have weighed , ounces, pennyweights, and grains, did weigh just pennyweight and the grains less: a closeness of approximation sufficient, no doubt, to satisfy the nicest tribunal.

At the time at which we are writing it has been announced that some change or re-coinage of our gold money is in meditation. It may be worth while therefore to recall an idea put forth by Swift on a somewhat similar occasion. In he delivered to the Lord Treasurer a plan for the improvement of the British


coinage, which, among other matters, proposed that they should

By this means,

he says,

medals that are at present only a dead treasure, or mere curiosities, will be of use in the ordinary commerce of life, and at the same time perpetuate the glories of her Majesty's reign, reward the labours of her greatest subjects, keep alive in the people a gratitude for public services, and excite the emulation of posterity. To these generous purposes nothing can so much contribute as medals of this kind, which are of undoubted authority, of necessary use and observation, not perishable by time, not confined to any certain place; properties not to be found in books, statues, pictures, buildings, or any other monuments of illustrious actions.

Process of Coining.



[n.35.1] Gent. Mag. Aug. 12, 1762.

[n.36.1] Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. The translation of the inscription is, however, a very loose paraphrase. Literally it is- Jesus passing over went through the midst of them.

[n.41.1] Leake's History of British Money.

[] Speed's History of Great Britain, ed. 1632 , p. 767.

[n.48.1] Guardian, No. 96.