Edward I: The Mint comes to the Tower
Currency in crisis
In the 1270s King Edward I's currency was in crisis. England's coins were old, worn and many had been deliberately damaged. This caused the prices of essentials such as bread and livestock to rise sharply. The King had to act decisively.
In 1279 Edward I began an ambitious building programme at the Tower. He built a new ring of towers and walls around the existing castle. This increased the size and security of the fortress and provided space for a new Mint at the Tower.
Edward I introduced new denominations of coins including the groat, worth four pennies. Previously, only pennies had been produced. Because coins were made of silver, criminals often cut the edges off to pocket the precious 'clippings'. If caught, clippers could lose all their property or be sentenced to death.
Tools to make money
A pair of tools, called dies, was used to make all medieval coins. An image was engraved into each die and hardened by heat. The die with the spike was set into a block, and a blank coin placed in-between the two dies. The top die was then hit with a hammer, which stamped the images onto the coin.
While medieval Jewish people were barred from many occupations, they could work with money and in banking. When people lost faith in England’s coins, the King turned on the Jewish community. In November 1278, many Jewish people in England were imprisoned on charges of coin clipping, with over 600 held at the Tower. Most were heavily fined, but about 270 were executed. These arrests were part of a wider persecution and eventually all Jewish people were expelled from England in 1290.
Story of The Mint continues...
The story of The Mint jumps to the 1560s with Elizabeth I and the restoration of currency.