My name is Carl Savage and I volunteer for the PAS by identifying medieval and post medieval coins. I work as a freelance field archaeologist and also a medieval and post medieval numismatist. This blog will focus on the medieval coin finds in Cheshire. Volunteering with the PAS is extremely useful for my research into medieval coinage in the north of England.
The study of coins is important as they can tell us how people spent their money and the type of money they were using at different periods. The distribution and archaeological context of a coin find can be important in determining how a coin was used and the type of areas they were found. Regional studies of coin finds can give more insight into the economy and society of a particular region, such as changing denominations and determining regional identity.
In total 461 medieval coins dating 1066-1544 from Cheshire have been recorded on the PAS database at the time of writing. Coins of Edward I (1272-1307) are the most represented type in Cheshire with 112 coins. Most of the coins recorded are English issues however there are also Scottish issues present such as nine coins of Alexander III 1249-86). The presence of Scottish coins suggests that small numbers circulated in Cheshire as well as England up until the start of the Scottish debasements under Robert III (1390-1406) in 1393. Four coins of Edward I from the Dublin mint and four soldinos from Venice suggest that was well as Scottish finds small numbers of Irish and Venetian coins made up the local circulating medium in medieval Cheshire after 1279. The Venetian coins entered England in the mid 14th and 15th centuries and again in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. They were known as ‘galley halfpens’ or galley halfpence and were used in England as halfpence in lieu of small chance which was often in short supply in England due to the cost of producing the smaller denominations.
In terms of mints London is the most represented followed by Canterbury. London was active throughout the medieval period while Canterbury was shut temporarily in the 1320s and again in the 1340s not reopening until 1464/5. Sometimes in areas where there was a mint active (in this case Chester, which was active under the Norman kings, Henry II and briefly under Edward I) there can be a slight bias in favour of the local mint. This is not the case in Cheshire there is presently no single coin find recorded minted at this mint, however it is most likely that they were in circulation in the county.
The denomination breakdown shows the changing structure of the currency in Cheshire. The penny was the most common denomination as is to be expected since the penny was the base denomination used in most everyday transactions. The larger denominations such as the gold noble are a lot rarer as these coins would not have been used for everyday transaction except for large exchanges normally carried out in the larger cities.
On initial evaluation medieval coin finds in Cheshire do follow the pattern observed in other counties in the Northwest such as Cumbria. However a more detailed study on the distribution, context and a more detailed breakdown of the coin types is need to answer the questions on the regional medieval coin use and loss in medieval Cheshire.
Carl Savage Bsc MA FSA Scot PCIfA