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Silver groat or fourpence of Edward I, authorised in 1279

Silver groat or fourpence of Edward I, authorised in 1279



Plan of the Tower Mint, drawn up by William Allingham in 1701

Plan of the Tower Mint, drawn up by William Allingham in 1701

The Tower of London

By about 1279 the mint had moved to more secure quarters within the Tower of London. The contemporary Pipe Roll records the expenditure of £729 17s 8½d for work on the mint in the Tower. There are also references to ‘the little tower where the treasure of the mint is kept’ and to timber bought for ‘workshops in the barbican for the needs of the moneyers’. What is not clear is whether the Royal Mint’s first quarters in the Tower were in the area which it subsequently occupied between the inner and outer walls.

For the next 500 years the Royal Mint remained in the Tower of London. A plan of 1701 shows the mint buildings forming a narrow horseshoe running round the three sides of the Tower not bounded by the river. These buildings were ‘largely of wood; the chief of them were two stories; most were crazy with age, held up by timber shores and pinned together with clamps of iron’. Well might an overseas visitor in 1710 express surprise that handsome coins could emanate from such wretched buildings.

Minting processes were finally mechanised in the 17th century. The installation of mills and presses, while improving the appearance of the coins and making them more difficult to clip and to counterfeit, served also to aggravate the cramped conditions in the Tower. Occasional disputes with the garrison caused further tension, and as the 18th century drew to a close there was talk of moving the Royal Mint.

One of the coining press rooms in the Tower of London, c.1809
One of the coining press rooms in the Tower of London, c.1809