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CromwellCoins - Thames Hoard

1650 Claude de Jongh _View of Old London Bridge from the West_ oil on oak panel 71 x 126 cm Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1650 Claude de Jongh "View of Old London Bridge from the West" 
oil on oak panel 71 x 126 cm 
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

            The River Thames shown in the 1650’s is the site where it is believed a London trader lost a cache of silver coins around 1660. It happened near Blackfriars Bridge.

As reported by  Hazel Forsyth in BNJ in 1999 -  “This hoard of over one and a half thousand coins was recovered by its finder with great labour and skill from the Thames foreshore near Blackfriars Bridge. Following examination at the Museum of London, it was transferred to the British Museum, and a report was prepared on the coins for the City coroner. Under the definition of Treasure Trove as it has been applied under common law, material accidentally lost cannot constitute Treasure Trove. Although the hoard was recovered from the foreshore, an analysis of early London maps and archaeological evidence showed that the coins were originally deposited in the middle of the Thames as it existed in the seventeenth century. Subsequent land reclamation has reduced the width of the river and the find spot is now exposed at low tide. Thus, it was evident that these coins would not have ended up where they were found as a result of deliberate concealment and, in the absence of any other evidence, were assumed to be an accidental loss. Thus, the jury decided that the find could not be designated Treasure Trove. The find was therefore passed back to the finder. It was sold at auction by Baldwin's on 13-14 October 1997.23 It was at this point that the hoard was cleaned, to remove a layer of silver choride, enabling Michael Sharp of Baldwin's to refine and correct some of the identifications, and his catalogue should be referred to, particularly as he was able to note details of legends and punctuation which were not previously visible, and to increase the number of certain counterfeits. The catalogue in this report takes account of his corrections where possible, but several discrepan- cies remain. Also, it seems that a few coins recovered subsequent to the original find were made available, giving a total of 1,582 listed in the sales catalogue.

           The face value of the coins at the time of deposit was 92 14.

           The great interest and importance of the find lies in the presence of such quantities of Commonwealth material. This sort of evidence is rare in hoards, since Commonwealth issues were demonetised after the Stuart Restoration, being ordered to be returned to the mint for recoin- ing. The recoinage was announced on 7 September 1661 and was largely completed by late sum- mer 1662.24 Commonwealth coin ceased to be useable in common payments on 30 November 1661, as Pepys noted, though a further three months was allowed for public payments to the government.  Pepys also attested to the success of the withdrawal of Commonwealth coin: in 1663 he reported that, of around 750,000 coined, 500,000 was recovered and another 100,000 accounted for in Ireland and Scotland, plus perhaps another 100,000 exported, leaving relatively little unaccounted for; in 1665 he amended the overall figure for coin recovered to 650,000 at 23 Baldwin's Auctions, no. 14, 13-14 October 1997, pp. 29-42. 24 C.E. Challis (editor), A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992). pp. 338-9. 25 The Diaiy of Samuel Pepys, edited by R. Latham and W. Matthews II (London. 1970). p. 224.  158 NEW HOARDS FROM SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND least'. There was thus little more than a decade available for the deposition of Commonwealth hoards.

            There are individual pieces of great scarcity in the find. They include previously unrecorded half-crowns of 1657 (two specimens) and the second known 1659 half-crown. The contents run down to the latest issues of the Commonwealth period, 1660, of which there are ten coins present. The find must have a deposit date of 1660 or not much later. It is tempting to link the find, lost in the mid-Thames in presumably unusual or emergency conditions, with the period and circum- stances of the Restoration itself. This may have inclined many people to seek to conceal or move their available cash, particularly if they were linked to the Commonwealth regime (as many in the City were). The Commonwealth coins also represent a large proportion of the find: nearly twenty five per cent of the coins, and over 30 per cent of its face value. It presumably originated in London itself, where newer coin would be most readily accessible. However, it is difficult to say that its propor- tion of Commonwealth coin is unusually large, given the shortage of recorded hoards with which to compare it. There are just two substantial hoards on record from the Commonwealth period of a scale suitable for comparison with Blackfriars Bridge, but neither corresponds very closely to this find. Both close with coins of 1655, and have Commonwealth coins present in small quantities: two per cent of the 660 coins of the Stainton-by-Langworth, Lines., hoard; and nine per cent of the Laughton, Sussex, hoard of 524 coins (mostly half-crowns).

            It may be relevant to note the comments made by Samuel Pepys in 1665 about the demonetisa- tion of Commonwealth coin. He noted that, before this was cried down, some goldsmiths had made 'pellicular trials what proportion that money bore to the old King's money, and they found that generally it came to, one with another, about 25/. in every 100/. ‘Presumably the 'old King's money' would include all royal issues, and not just those of Charles I himself. As the Commonwealth coin in the Blackfriars Bridge hoard amounted to the equivalent of about 35 pounds out of a hundred, it may be felt likely that it over-represents new coin. However, Pepys also noted the goldsmiths' opinion that this level (25 in every 100) was an underestimate, since, when the probability of the Restoration became clear, 'people began to be fearful of this money's being cried down, and so picked it out and set it a-going as fast as they could, to be rid of it'. If this opinion is valid, it may be that the Blackfriars Bridge find does in fact fairly represent the state of coinage in the late Commonwealth years. Within the Commonwealth coin, its proportions reflect quite well the output of silver from the mint in the years 1649-60: for example, 46.8 per cent of this silver output occurred between December 1651 and November 1653, while the coin in the Blackfriars Bridge hoard dated 1652 and 1653 provides forty seven per cent of the Commonwealth coin present, reckoned in shilling units. The average weights of coins in the hoard indicate a currency moving away from the profile familiar from the Civil War period, in that they show a very clear fall from the generally high level present in hoards of the 1640s). This is probably not surprising. As the high output levels of the mid 1640s receded, the issues of that period experienced the con- sequences of use and abuse, while the decline of mint output in the 1650s reduced the amount of good, new coin regularly joining the currency. The condition of the hoard may also reflect the con- sequences of its long river-bed residence, but this was probably not the major factor in this change, as the non-Commonwealth material in the find compares reasonably well with that of the only slightly later Burgclere and Redditch hoards, and even the unusually good quality money of the Congleton hoard of 1670 is not too far away in standards.”         

Thames Hoard Coin Nos

Thames Hoard - coins found by denomination and reign.

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CoinClip HCR
Face Vakue of Thames Hoard

           This plot reveals the rise of the halfcrown - non existent till Charles I reign and then becoming increasingly popular in the Commonwealth Period. The popularity of the sixpence was the exact opposite with a declining use. The shilling was the most popular denomination in day to day use. Notably the silver crown and all the gold denominations are absent in this and other hoard finds. 

CoinClip Sixp
CoinClip Shil

The weights of all the coins in the hoard were measured so it is possible to look at the
distribution of weights for the Commonwealth coins. Shown are weight distribution plots for Halfcrowns, Shillings and Sixpences. Target weight is the red line. Under weight by increasing amounts is to the left and overweight by increasing amounts is to the right. Incidences of overweight decrease as one moves from the halfcrown to the sixpence. The highest percentage being overweight is with the halfcrown - 14%. All sixpences were either on weight or below.