CHAP. XXV. OF THE COINES OF MENGLAND.
THE Saxon coine before the conquest is in maner vtterlie vnknowne to me: howbeit if my coniecture be anie thing, I suppose that one shilling of siluer in those daies did counterpeise our common ounce, though afterward it came to passe that it arose to twentie pence, and so continued vntill the time of king Henrie the eight, who first brought it to thrée shillings and
foure pence, & afterward our siluer coine vnto brasse & copper monies, by reason of those inestimable charges, which diuerse waies oppressed him. And as I gather such obscure notice of the shilling which is called in Latine Solidus so read more manifestlie of another which is the 48 part of a pound, and this also currant among the Saxons of our Ile, so well in gold as in siluer, at such time as 240 of their penies made vp a iust pound, fiue pence went to the shilling and foure shillings to the ounce. But to procéed with my purpose. After the death of K. Henrie, Edward his sonne began to restore the aforesaid coine againe vnto fine siluer: so quéene Marie his successour did continue his good purpose, notwithstanding that in hir time the Spanish monie was verie cōmon in England, by reason of hir mariage with Philip king of Spaine.
After hir decease the ladie Elizabeth hir sister, and now our most gratious quéene, souereigne and princesse, did finish the matter wholie, vtterly abolishing the vse of copper and brasen coine, and conuerting the same into guns and great ordinance, she restored sundrie coines of fine siluer, as péeces of halfepenie farding, of a penie, of three halfe pence, péeces of two pence, of thrée pence, of foure pence (called the groat) of six pence vsuallie named the testone, and shilling of twelue pence, whereon she hath imprinted hir owne image, and
emphaticall superscription. Our gold is either old or new. The old is that which hath remained since the time of king Edward the third, or béene coined by such other princes as haue reigned since his deceasse, without anie abasing or diminution of the finesse of that mettall. Therof also we haue yet remaining, the riall, the George noble, the Henrie riall, the salut, the angell, and their smaller peeces, as halfes or quarters, though these in my time are not so common to be séene. I haue also beheld the souereigne of twentie shillings, and the peece of thirtie shillings, I haue heard likewise of péeces of fortie shillings, three pounds, fiue pounds, and ten pounds. But sith there were few of them coined, and those onelie at the commandement of kings, yearelie to bestow where their maiesties thought good in lieu
of new yeares gifts and rewards: it is not requisit that I should remember them here amongst our currant monies.
The new gold is taken for such as began to be coined in the latter dales of king Henrie
the eight, at which time the finesse of the mettall began to be verie much alaied, & is not likelie to be restored for ought that I can see and yet is it such as hath béene coined since by his successors princes of this realme, in value and goodnesse equall and not inferiour to the coine and currant gold of other nations, where each one dooth couet chiefelie to gather vp our old finer gold so that the angels, rials, and nobles, are more plentifullie seene in France, Italie, and Flanders, than they be by a great deals within the realme of England, if you regard the paiments which they dailie make in those kinds of our coine. Our peeces now currant are of ten shillings, fiue shillings, and two shillings and six pence onelie: and those of sundrie stamps and names, as halfe souereigns (equall in weight with our currant shilling, whereby that gold is valued at ten times so much siluer) quarters of souereigns (otherwise called crownes) and halfe crownes: likewise angels, halfe angels, and quarters of angels, or if there be anie other, in good sooth I know them not, as one scarselie acquainted with any siluer at all, much lesse then (God it wot) with any store of gold.
The first currant shilling or siluer péeces of twelue pence stamped within memorie, were coined by K. Henrie the eight in the twentith yeare of his. reigne, & those of fiue shillings, and of two shillings and six pence, & the halfe shilling by king Edward the sixt: but the od péeces aboue remembred vnder the groat by our high and mightie princesse quéene Elizabeth, the name of the groat, penie, two pence, halfe penie, and farding, in old time the greatest, siluer monies if you respect their denominations onelie, being more ancient than that I can well discusse of the time of their beginnings. Yet thus much I read, that king Edward the first in the eight yeare of his reigne, did first coine the penie and smallest péeces of siluer roundwise, which before were square, and woont to beare a double crosse with a crest, in such sort that the penie might easilie be broken, either into halfes or quarters: by which shift onelie the people came by small monies, as haife pence and fardings, that otherwise were not stamped nor coined of set purpose.
Of forren coines we haue all the ducats, the single, double, and the double double, the crusadoes, with the long crosse and the short: the portigue, a péece verie solemnelie kept of diuerse, & yet oft times abased with washing, or absolutelie counterfeited: and finallie the French and Flemish crownes, onlie currant among vs, so long as they hold weight. But of siluer coines, as the soules turnois, whereof ten make a shilling, as the franke dooth two shillings, and thrée franks the French crowne, &c: we haue none at all: yet are the dalders, and such often times brought ouer, but neuerthelesse exchanged. as bullion, according to their finenesse and weight, and afterward conuerted into coine, by such as haue authoritie.
In old time we had sundrie mints in England, and those commonlie kept in abbaies and religious houses before the conquest, where true dealing was commonlie supposed most of all to dwell: as at Ramseie, S. Edmundsburie, Canturburie, Glassenburie, Peterborow, and such like, sundrie exemplificats of the grants whereof are yet to be seene in writing, especiallie that of Peterborow vnder the confirmation of pope Eugenius: wherevnto it appeereth further by a charter of king Edgar (which I haue) that they either held it or had another in Stanford, But after the Normans had once gotten the kingdome into their fingers, they trusted themselues best with the ouersight of their mints, and therefore erected diuerse of their owne, although they afterward permitted some for small péeces of siluer vnto sundrie of the houses aforesaid. In my time diuerse mints a-e suppressed, as Southwarke, Bristow, &c: and all coinage is brought into one place, that is to saie, the Tower of London, where it is continuallie holden and perused, but not without great gaine to such as deale withall. There is also coinage of tin holden yearelie at two seuerall times, that is to saie. Midsummer and Michaeilmas in the west countrie; which at the first hearing I supposed to haue béene of monie of the said mettall and granted by priuilege from some prince vnto the towns of
Hailestone, Trurie, and Lostwithiell. Howbeit, vpon further examination of the matter, I find it to be nothing so, but an office onlie erected for the prince, wherin he is allowed the ordinarie customes of that mettall: and such blocks of tin as haue passed the hands of his officers, are marked with an especiall stampe, whereby it is knowne that the custome due for the same hath ordinarilie béene answered. It should séeme (and in my opinion is verie likelie to be true) that while the Romans reigned here, Kingstone vpon Thames (sometime a right noble citie and place where the Saxon kings were vsuallie crowned) was the chiefe place of their coinage for this prouince. For in earing of the ground about that towne in times past, and now of late (besides the curious foundation of manie goodlie buildings that haue béene ripped vp by plowes, and diuerse coines of brasse, siluer, and gold, with Romane letters in painted pots found there) in the daies of cardinall Woolseie, one such huge pot was discouered full as it were of new siluer latelie coined; another with plates of siluer readie to be coined; and the third with chaines of siluer and such broken stuffe redie (as it should appeere) to be melted into coinage, whereof let this suffice to countenance out my coniecture. Of coins currant before the comming of the Romans I haue elsewhere declared, that there were none at all in Britaine: but as the Ilanders of Scylira, the old Romans, Armenians, Scythians, Seritans, Sarmatians, Indians, and Essences did barter ware for ware, so the Britons vsed brasse or rings of iron, brought vnto a certeine proportion, in steed of monie, as the Lacedemonians & Bisantines also did, & the Achiui (as Homer writeth) who had (saith he) rough peeces of brasse and iron in stéed of coine, wherewith they purchased their wines.