Silver siege money of the English Civil Wars

From England, Carlisle (AD 1645), Scarborough (1645), Newark (1646), and Pontefract (1648)

Issued by towns loyal to the king

One of the main tasks of an army in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was breaking a siege, and military technology greatly reduced the ability of garrisons in cities to resist them. At times 'money of necessity' was issued among the besieged. This may have been to reassure mercenaries, or allow simply to allow everyday transactions.

In 1645-6, during the English Civil Wars, three royalist fortresses under siege produced coinage. When Carlisle was surrounded by a Scottish army, coinage worth £323 was produced. A 17-year-old resident, Leslie Tullie, recorded in his diary that 'an order was published to every citizen to bring in their plate [i.e. silverware] to be coyned, which they did chearfully'. Tullie's mother gave five spoons which weighed 6¼ oz of silver. Overall, 1,162 oz of silver was gathered on that occasion, producing £280 of coin.

During the year-long siege of Scarborough Castle, the commander Sir Hugh Chomley handed out the siege money himself, at a rate of sixpence a day, to encourage the morale of those who were repairing the walls.

The Newark coinage was produced during its third siege. It is of a very good quality, with weights of the correct official standards.

The Pontefract siege occurred during the so-called 'Second Civil War', a group of royalist rebellions that broke out in 1648. The later issues of the coin, struck in 1649 between the execution of Charles I (30 January), and the surrender of the castle (22 March), were changed to read 'for the son [Charles II], after the father's death'.

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Silver siege money of the English Civil Wars

Obverse (front)

  • Reverse

    Reverse

 

More information

Bibliography

P. Nelson, 'The obsidional money of the Great Rebellion (1642-1649)', British Numismatic Journal-1, 2 (1905), pp. 291-358

E. Besly, Coins and medals of the Englis (London, Seaby, 1990)

Dimensions

Diameter: 32.000 mm (Carlisle)
Weight: 15.710 gm
Sides: 53.000 mm (Scarborough)
Weight: 15.710 gm
Sides: 53.000 mm (Scarborough)
Weight: 15.710 gm
Sides: 53.000 mm (Scarborough)
Weight: 15.710 gm

Museum number

CM Grueber 664;CM 1956-10-10-7;CM E4343;CM 1935-4-1-7732

CMB32868;CMB32949;CMB32881;CMB32935

Bequeathed by T.B. Clarke-Thornhill (Pontefract coin)

Location

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