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Tower of London


In Alfred's time London was merely one of many mints. There were by then about thirty mints and by the reign of Ethlered II (978-1016) the number had grown to more than seventy. These were mostly in the southern half of the country and there can have been few market towns of any consequence where coins were not struck. By the Norman Conquest, however, their number had begun to decline.

Tower of London

During the second half of the twelfth century the work of individual London moneyers became more closely linked and eventually they moved to a single location. In the thirteenth century this mint is placed in Old Change, conveniently close to the goldsmiths' quarter in Cheapside. By 1279, however, it is known to have occupied secure quarters within the Tower of London. Between 1279 and 1281 the Pipe Roll records the expenditure of £729 17s 81/2d for work on the Mint in the Tower. There are also references to 'the little tower where the treasure of the mint is kept' and to timber brought for 'workshops in the barbican for the needs of the moneyers'.

 

For the next 500 years the Mint remained in the Tower of London. A plan of 1701 shows the Mint buildings, between the inner and outer walls, forming a narrow horseshoe running round the three sides of the Tower not bounded by the river. Apart from the welcome security, it was not an ideal situation. The buildings were 'largely of wood; the chief of them were two storied; most were crazy with age, held up by timber shores and pinned together with clamps of iron'. The cramped conditions in the Tower were aggravated when minting processes were finally mechanised in the seventeenth century and by the installation of rolling mills and coining presses. These innovations improved the appearance of the coins and made them more difficult to clip and counterfeit.

Tower of London

As the eighteenth century drew to a close there was talk of moving the Mint. Following the outbreak of war with France, the demands of the garrison and the need to accommodate new steam-driven machinery created additional difficulties and a decision was made to leave the confines of the Tower.

 

 

 

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