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Civil War Coinage Minted from Combe Martin 


Modified on January 22, 2024

Combe Martin Silver Mines Society mentions a Civil War Royal Mint at Combe Martin. And that 'in the 1640’s, King Charles I. clothed his army from the Combmartin mines' (CMSMS, 2023).

Read about Sir Thomas Bushell The English Civil War | Combe Martin Silver Mines

Silver partly financed England’s wars, during the 1200s to the 17th century English Civil WarCoins in circulation were, historically, a means to spread propaganda and declarations. And they were a powerful device to win victory.

Combe Martin's silver mines were worked by Royalist mining engineer Thomas Bushell, who defended Lundy Island for King Charles I, and struck coins there. 

Forces loyal to King Charles I established their own means of production, striking oversized silver pound coins of equivalent value to their gold counterparts. Yet silver could not save the kingdom.

Coins from this era can be quite valuable today due to their historical significance and rarity. For instance, a rare hammered silver half crown of Charles I, struck at the mint of Oxford in 1645, was valued at around £1,475.

However, the value can vary greatly depending on factors such as the coin’s condition, rarity, and historical significance.

Silver has historic value as a precious metal for bullion, coins and tableware. Monarchs valued silver as finance for their wars and buying loyalties.

Royal Mines were requisitioned and regulated for sound reasons: in victory, coins were struck from the spoils of war. In times of crisis, coins were struck from whatever sources of precious metal were available.

Buried in hoards for safekeeping or covertly shipped overseas in case of invasion, coins were more than just currency.

The silver penny appeared around 660-680 when gold coins were phased out. By the reigns of the first two Norman kings, there were over 70 active mints in medieval Britain. 

A bullion coin is struck from refined precious metal (bullion) and stored for value or an investment, rather than used in day-to-day commerce.

The Royal Mint states that Britain’s military history and that of its money are inseparable; coins equipped, clothed and fed armies. They bought horses and weaponry and, behind enemy lines, hard currency bought release from capture.

Also according to the Royal Mint: war throughout history has caused coin production to become fractured; any weakening of state control risks allowing a usurper or regional power to assume the right and responsibility for making money.

Kings could be denied access to the mint and to supplies of imported gold. From the Roman invasion to the twenty-first century, this has been the case throughout British history. 

Edward I

Edward I (1272-1307) first passed the statute requiring all silver to be of sterling standard from 1275. At a purity of 925 parts per thousand, Longshanks began the testing or assay system that has lasted for over 700 years.

This is the standard for silver, identifying a silver item that is at least 92.5% silver mixed with copper for durability. Such pieces of silver are marked 925 or Sterling.

Silver would have been precious to Edward and his counterparts who were often heavily in debt at the start of their reign and afterwards, mainly because of wars. 

English Civil War Coinage

During the War (1642–1651), supplies of royalist coinage – while vital - were limited. Parliament controlled wealthier areas in the south and east of England together with most of the key ports.

And, critically, it controlled London, the financial capital of the kingdom. In order to win the war, Charles I needed to capture London, something which he consistently failed to do.

Parliamentarians had taken control of London and its Tower Mint. Charles established his own parliament in Oxford in 1644 and directed his affairs from there.

The king was forced to establish provincial mints in parts of England that were still loyal to him, and the King’s coins minted from Combe Martin silver bore his likeness and proclamations.

© Author

References:

Charles I – Combe Martin Silver Mines (combemartinmines.co.uk).

Civil War in Ilfracombe, north Devon (johnhmoore.co.uk).

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bushell, Thomas - Wikisource, the free online library

United Kingdom - Edward I (1272–1307) | Britannica.

Explore Coinage During Conflict | The Royal Mint.