History of the Mint at the Tower of London

History of the Mint at the Tower of London

Aerial view of the Tower of London

In 1279 Edward I began an ambitious building programme at the Tower to increase its size and security. He provided space for a new Mint, which remained and expanded for over 500 years. Discover key moments in the Mint's history.

Edward I moves the Mint into the Tower.

The Master of the Mint, Giles de Hertesbergh fails the Trial of the Pyx and is imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison for 6 weeks as punishment.

Medieval coin. Photo: The Royal Mint MuseumThe first gold coins are made at the Mint.  Previously only silver coins had been made.

The first instalment of the French king John II’s ransom arrives into the Mint to be melted down and made into new English coins.

There are complaints that the Mint porter insists on a small ‘donation’ before he lets people come into the Mint to conduct their lawful business.

Lord William Hastings, Master, is killed by Richard III at the Tower for disagreeing with him about the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Henry VIII orders the ‘Great debasement’ of his coins.  He reduced the purity of English silver and gold coins to fund foreign wars and an extravagant lifestyle

Elizabeth I orders a recoinage to get rid of the debased coins introduced by her father Henry VIII, and new ‘fine’ coins are made again.

In the bitter Civil Wars, Parliament takes control of the Tower and the Mint, but they continue using King Charles I’s portrait on coins.

The Crown Jewels are melted down at the Mint and made into coins.

All coins are now made by new machinery including new screw-presses.  The new machine-struck coins were more regular than the old hammered coins and harder to tamper with.

Isaac Newton is made Warden of the Mint.  He devotes his time to tracking down counterfeiters, and in making careful notes about how the Mint works and suggesting improvements.

On Christmas Day, Isaac Newton is the first ever official to be promoted from Warden to Master of the Mint.  He holds the post until his death in 1727.

Spanish treasure is captured at the Battle of Vigo Bay and brought to the Mint to be made into English coins.  Isaac Newton personally oversees the arrival of the treasure.

The Union of Scotland and England means the closure of the Edinburgh Mint and the Tower now makes coins for all of Britain. 

Britain narrowly averts a financial disaster. The Bank of England’s gold stocks are perilously low and as an emergency measure, the Mint begins to stamp, or ‘countermark’, George III’s portrait on foreign coins to make them legal money.

James Turnbull steals 2,308 guineas whilst working in the Mint. He is caught some weeks later at the port of Dover and is later tried, convicted and hanged for his crime.

A committee decides that the Tower is too small for a modern Mint and decides to build a new purpose-built Mint on Tower Hill.

The Mint begins to move from the Tower to the new Tower Hill Mint.Image: The Royal Mint Museum

The Mint hands the keys to the Tower over and the move to Tower Hill is complete.

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