9th July 1637. Sinews of War.
In the early 17thc all English minting in precious metals took place at the Tower of London, a monopoly only broken in 1637 with the establishment of a branch mint at Aberystwyth for the coining of newly refined Welsh silver.(1)
This resulted from an Order in Council by Charles I from Greenwich, ‘on the 9th day of July 1637’ empowering Sir Hugh Bushell, lessee of the Royal mines in Cardiganshire, to ‘erect the suggested mint at Aberystwyth at his expense the same to be regulated by Sir William Parkhurst, Warden of the Mint’.
Thus the resources of Charles I to later wage civil-war was boosted by breaking the monopoly of the Tower Mint in 1637 when Bushell bought the leases from the widow of Sir Hugh Middleton.
It was Middleton pioneer of London’s water supply, who said that, ‘in Wales there are likely to be many hopeful mines discovered on the mountains and great store of silver left unwon by ignorance and want of skill’.
Bushell it appears was the man to win this silver for as writer John Aubrey described him: ‘He had so delicate a way of making his projects alluring and feasible and profitable’.
So despite the Tower Mint demurring, a mint was set-up at Aberystwyth Castle, ‘at his own expense to work under the Warden at the Tower and all the silver in Wales was to be coined there’.
The Comptroller, Clerk of the Irons, Assayer and Porter for Aberystwyth, were to come from the Tower.
In the opening year of the Civil War, Parliament seized the Tower Mint on 10th August 1642 and the masters and supervisors of the Melting House either left or were dismissed. Warden Parkhurst went over to the King.
Briot the Engraver supplied the ‘dies’ to the King who appointed Rawlings in 1643 as Chief Engraver with men and tools from Aberystwyth, after the mint moved to Shrewsbury in 1642. However after 3 months it removed to Oxford now the the King’s HQ., thus giving Charles the sinews of war. Bushell’s mint-mark and Prince of Wales’ Plume continued to appear on the Oxford coins.
By the 17thc Pound Sterling had become synonymous with English money in general at the time when a pound of the silver was becoming the ‘quid’ and much in demand by the adversaries in the Civil War.
‘Quid’comes from the Latin ‘What’ and slang for £1, which describes the essence or ’whatness’ of something as in ‘quid pro quo’, something for something, and a word still in use today.
(1) The Saxons had only two coins, the silver penny (pennig) representing a day’s wages and the mancus, which derives from a Latin unit of weight.
Originally the word penny (Latin panna was a piece of cloth then the readiest pledge), from which we get pawn. By 1087 ‘Sterling’ was the name for the English penny, meaning ‘tough’ or ‘strong’, which in the 12thc were ‘Silver Sterlings’-decorated with stars (sterre).
Until 1257 the silver penny was the universal coin showing the king’s image on one side with the other depicting symbols of the ‘moneyer’ and mint.
The Mint. Sir John Craig. CUP, 1953.