Charles I (1625 – 49) Halfcrown York mint (1643-4) Halfcrown, Group 2 [type 2], mm. lion, grass groundline, rev. oval garnished shield, (Bull 551; Besly 1B; SCBI Brooker 1077, same dies; N 2310; S 2864) – weight 14.67 grams
Although the flan has split from the pressure of the screw press, this doesn’t detract from the attractive specimen. Very fine with a pleasing old tone.
Ex Spink Numismatic Circular Oct 1990 (6038) – “Dupree Collection”
Beslys – The York Mint of Charles I
York was Charles I’s ‘second capital’, and after being forced to leave London early in 1642 he made his way there, arriving on 19 March. Until the middle of August his court was based at York or Beverley, whence he directed operations against the port of Hull. The establishment of a mint at York was being planned long before the outbreak of formal hostilities. Nicholas Briot, the king’s engraver, was summoned to York by a letter from Secretary of State Edward Nicholas dated 6 May in connection with Briot’s proposals concerning currency standards.
Shortly after, arrangements were made for Sir William Parkhurst,
warden of the Mint, to advance Briot the money necessary for his journey. On 15 July, these plans received a severe setback when a ship carrying Briot’s equipment and personal baggage was held up off Scarborough by one Captain Stevens, who seized the equipment on the grounds that no authority had been given for its removal. Meanwhile on 7 July, David Ramage, a member of Briot’s staff, was paid £85 10s. for the provision of ‘several instruments for the two Mints at York and Shrewsbury’.8
All of the above information is well known. However, one further document exists from the summer of 1642 which relates to the proposed mint and is possibly the most important of the series, if the information it contains is correct, since it supplies us at last with aterminus post quern for the York mint. On 15 July, a warrant arrived at York for the establishment of the mint. This information comes from a letter from Beverley dated 16 July 1642 and printed in London on 20 July. Communication with London was still fairly easy, and there exist printed copies of many such newsletters. The information they conveyed often exaggerated such matters as numbers of troops, sums of money and so on, but they give a lively picture of royalist preparations for war, and there seems little reason to doubt the accuracy of this piece of news. It is worth quoting in full, because although it was printed in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal in 1882, it seems hitherto to have escaped numismatic attention.9 The main text of the letter deals with events at Hull, but tucked away at the end we read:
FRIDAY, a warrant under His Majestie’s Broade Seale came to Yorke for the erecting of a new Mynt there, some commissioners appointed for the same came to view the place, where the old Mynt stood, which is now in Sir William Saviles possession, near the Minster, where it appears money was coyned in Hen. 8. Raigne.
The same letter tells us that on the Monday the king had left Beverley on a journey to the north Midlands, visiting Doncaster and Newark. The building referred to is St Leonard’s Hospital, whither the mint had been transferred in 1546.10 However, we hear nothing further of the mint until the statement published by Christopher Hildyard in 1664, and brought to light by Davies in 1854, that ‘about the latter end of January , the King’s Mint began to coin in Sir Henry Jenkins’ house in the Minster Yard’, which at first sight appears to contradict the earlier statement.” This building is better known as St William’s College, a college of priests built c. 1465 and dissolved in 1549, after which it passed through various hands. Today it belongs to the Church and is used by the convocation of the province of York.12 It seems to have been taken over by the royalists immediately on Charles’s arrival in 1642, since Hildyard also tells us that the king’s printers set up their presses there on 24 March 1642.13 Hildyard’s statements come in a year-by-year list of lord mayors and sheriffs of York, together with notable events of each year, which on the whole seem to be fairly accurately recorded.
The case for St Leonard’s Hospital as the site of the mint rests on the York mint’s location there under Henry VIII and the fact that the commissioners appointed in 1642 promptly went to examine its suitability. It was also referred to as ‘Mint Yard’ in notices referring to sequestered assets in 1646-48,14 but a place name need not reflect the continuing use of a locality for that purpose. Against this must be weighed Hildyard’s single, but positive, statement that coining actually did take place at ‘Sir Henry Jenkins
house in the Minster Yard’. His statement that coining began in January 1643 is almost certainly correct (below, p.223), so unless new evidence comes to light to the contrary, it is proposed that Hildyard’s statement that the York mint of Charles I was located in St William’s College in Minster Yard should be accepted (pi. 7). Farquhar, unaware of the reference to the warrant and Sir William Savile’s house, suggested that minting operations were carried on at St Leonard’s Hospital until January 1643 but ‘being inadequate to the strain cast upon it, it was supplemented in 1643 by the presses in the King’s printing house’. This probably overstates the case. The two possible locations for the mint can perhaps best be reconciled in terms of its transfer from one to the other (if indeed any operations had started) in the autumn of 1642, when the vacation of St William’s College by the king’s printers may have provided more suitable accommodation for the mint.