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William Webster
William Webster

William John Hocking
William John Hocking


Over many years the Royal Mint Museum has maintained a respected research and publication profile. Through papers for academic journals, articles for magazines, the publication of books, lectures to a wide range of people and the help offered to those studying the Royal Mint and the British coinage, the collection has been and continues to be made more accessible.

Some current research projects are outlined here but, just as importantly, we welcome your help in adding to our knowledge. The dialogue built up with people interested in family history, for example, has led to some fascinating revelations and helped to unlock elements of the Royal Mint’s history that would have otherwise remained hidden.

Current research

When their other duties permit, members of the Royal Mint Museum staff undertake research for lectures and articles on subjects that relate more or less directly to the interests of the Museum.

Well on its way to publication is a paper, delivered to the British Numismatic Society in October 2010, on the rationalisation of the Museum collection in preparation for its display to the public in 1874. The decision was made to focus the collection on coins of Britain and the British Empire and the task of selection was entrusted to the London coin dealer William Webster, who disposed of pieces he considered duplicates and of hundreds of foreign coins acquired in 1818 from the collection of Sarah Sophia Banks. Much as the loss of this material may be regretted, the collection from then on was properly looked after and added to in a systematic fashion.

Another paper intended for publication was delivered to the Annual Congress of the British Association of Numismatic Societies in March 2011 on the career of William John Hocking, appointed as the first Curator of the collection in 1913. A Royal Mint officer of prodigious energy, Hocking had long devoted his spare time to the care of the collection and in 1906 and 1910 he published the two volumes of the Museum catalogue that have made his name familiar to subsequent generations of numismatists. As a member of the Plymouth Brethren, he was also a prolific author of religious tracts and it would be helpful to hear from anyone who has information on this aspect of his life.

In collaboration with Lancaster University, the Museum has secured funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council for a full-time PhD student to examine the life of the 18th-century Royal Mint assayer Stanesby Alchorne. As well as being a highly respected Royal Mint official – who took the art of assaying ‘to a correctness never til his time conceived practicable’ – Alchorne was also a significant figure in the wider scientific and intellectual communities; he published articles in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, was heavily involved with the Society of Apothecaries and the Chelsea Physic Garden, and compiled an impressive library of rare printed works and manuscripts. At the heart of the research will be an assessment as to whether scientific and technological innovations in the 18th century were best supported by state institutions or by private entrepreneurs.

Recommended reading

C E Challis (ed), A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992)

C E Challis & G P Dyer, The Arms of the Royal Mint (HMSO, 1986)

Kevin Clancy (ed), Designing Change: the Art of Coin Design (Royal Mint, 2008)

Sir John Craig, Newton at the Mint (Cambridge, 1946)

Sir John Craig, The Mint: a History of the London Mint from AD 287 to 1948 (Cambridge, 1953)

G P Dyer, The Proposed Coinage of King Edward VIII (HMSO, 1973)

G P Dyer, The Royal Mint: an Illustrated History (Royal Mint, 1986)

G P Dyer (ed), Royal Sovereign 1489-1989 (Royal Mint, 1989)

Royal Mint Collector Coins: the story behind the 2006 collection (Royal Mint, 2005)
Royal Mint Collector Coins: the story behind the 2007 collection (Royal Mint, 2006)

H G Stride, The Royal Mint: an Outline History (HMSO, 1951 and subsequent editions)