By Combe Martin History and Heritage Project (2023-2024)

Modified on June 08, 2024 | Posted on August 07, 2023

Combe Martin Silver and the English Civil War 1642-1651

Was there Combe Martin Silver in English Civil War Coinage?


This article discusses the potential involvement of the Combe Martin silver mines in the English Civil War (c1640-1660). It explores whether Royalist miner Thomas Bushell minted silver coins from the Combe Martin mines, to support King Charles I during the conflict.

The page cites historical sources that suggest Combe Martin silver was used to mint "siege money". Moreover, in 1911 a reliable historian recalled that a Combe Martin minted half-crown coin, dated 1645, was sold at a London auction.

An early twentieth-century paper by Lt. Col. H.W. Morrieson (numismatist), argued that Bushell struck Royalist coins from Combe Martin silver between 1646-1648, though this has been disputed.

While no records of Civil War battles in Combe Martin are available, the article notes the town's proximity to Parliamentarian-held Ilfracombe, suggesting Combe Martin was likely affected by the wider civil war.

The article concludes that even if the mines did not yield enough raw silver, silver plate from Combe Martin could have been melted down to mint coins for the Royalist cause. 

The key evidence comes from specific historical accounts of Combe Martin-minted coins, letters referencing Bushell's efforts to utilize the mines, and broader circumstantial claims about the mines supplying silver or lead for the Royalist cause.

While not conclusive, available sources provide reasonable grounds to believe Combe Martin's resources were involved in the 17th century English Civil War.


Combe Martin Silver Mines Society (CMSMS) refers to the seventeenth-century 'English Civil War', when the Royal Silver Mines Of Combe Martin were managed by the "devoted and indefatigable" Royalist Thomas Bushell.

Bushell was an English mining expert who governed and defended one of the last bastions of the Royalist cause: Lundy Island off the coast of North Devon.

During the English Civil WarsBushell is said to have minted silver coinage at Combe Martin - mint mark Lis - and on Lundy Island.

Dive into Combe Martin's History ˃| Royalist Sir Thomas Bushell ˃

The Old Combmartin Silver Mine on Bowhay Lane is usually open for visits on Thursdays 10:00 am until 4pm, and Sunday mornings 08:00 am until 12-noon.

Read about Combe Martin Silver Mining˃ 

Did Combe Martin Mint Coins for King Charles I?

Our question is, were coins minted and issued from Combe Martin for King Charles I, during the series of conflicts that spanned the entire British Isles. 

In that period, according to extant letters, Thomas Bushell 'attempted to recover the distressed mines at Combemartin'; and instead of producing silver he may have succeeded in supplying lead for bullets (Amery, Devon & Cornwall notes & queries, 1911). 

The English Civil Wars Explained

The so-called 'English Civil War' was not only an English war but a series of wars, starting in Scotland in 1637 and ending with the Anglo-Scottish conflicts during 1650-1652 (Worden, B., 2010). Nor was it very civil. 

Historian Blair Worden (2010) dates the broader English Civil Wars as having lasted from 1640 to 1660, rather than being a single, discrete conflict (The English Civil Wars: 1640-1660).

The wars were fought between the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and the Royalists (Cavaliers), in the Kingdom of England. This occurred after the crowns of England and Scotland had been united under King James I/VI in 1603. He became the first monarch to rule both kingdoms.

It's worth noting that the wars occurred before the Acts of Union in 1707, which united the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain.

This further reinforces the view that the "English Civil War" was not solely an English affair, but rather a series of interconnected regional conflicts across the British Isles prior to the establishment of the unified Kingdom of Great Britain.

Civil War Battles and Combe Martin

We found no records of battles in Combe Martin during the English Civil War, yet the neighbouring town of Ilfracombe was involved in the conflict. Ilfracombe was Parliamentarian when the Civil War broke out in 1642.

In the summer of 1644, the Royalist Sir Francis Dodington of Somerset attacked Ilfracombe from Minehead, aiming to capture Ilfracombe Castle (see Bloody Meadow).

A Probable Royal Mint at Combe Martin

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

Greuber (1899), places the local mints at Aberystwyth, Bristol, Chester, probably Combe Martin, Exeter, Oxford, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Weymouth, Worcester, and York ("English Coins", p. 106). 

The question may be academic, for even if those mines did not yield enough raw silver in time: silver plate of Combe Martin origin could have been melted down for minting King Charles I coins or 'siege money'.

Combe Martin Civil War Coinage

Considering Combe Martin's silver-lead mines, and records from the period, it seems plausible that the village minted Royalist coinage. Unfortunately the specific details remain unknown and under debate.

According to the British Museum's numismatist Herbert A. Greuber in 1899: it is likely that local coinage in the King's name was struck at Combe Martin.

In 1911, English historian and artist Frederick J. Snell B.A. recalled reading that 'a Combmartin half-crown of 1645 was sold in an auction room in London, for the sum of £5. 12s. 6d' (The Blackmore Country, pp. 272-275).

Combe Martin Silver Mines | Silver Bullion in War | Combe Martin Civil War Mint

Snell wrote articles for the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica and was also an alumni of Balliol College, Oxford. Thus he may be considered to be reliable.

Evidence from H. W. Morrieson, F.S.A.

Lt Col H. W. Morrieson, F.S.A, President of the The British Numismatic Society in the early twentieth-century, submitted a persuasive paper titled The Coinage of Coombe-Martin 1647-1648.

Morrieson produced coins which, he logically concluded, were issued by Royalist engineer Sir Thomas Bushell (b.1593 – d.1674), whilst Bushell was in charge of the Combe Martin silver mines during 1647-1648.

Following the death of his mentor Sir Francis Bacon in 1626, Bushell had moved to southwest England to become a mining engineer and Warden of the Mint.

During the conflict, coins were struck in several provincial Mints to supply the coinage for the regions under Royalist control. The Mints were set up to melt down silver plate, and allegedly Combe Martin silver, to make coins.

Many of these coins carried an abbreviated form of the Wellington Declaration - a manifesto by King Charles I near the start of the English Civil War- on the reverse. 

If Morrieson's analysis was correct, he appears to settle the argument over whether or not Combe Martin silver mines ever produced any Civil War coinage. 

On retirement from the Royal Artillery in 1905, Lt Col Henry W. Morrieson (1857-1933) took up numismatics. He was President of the British Numismatic Society during 1915-1919, and 1928-1932.

Morrieson contributed a paper on the Bristol Mint, one of four papers for the British Numismatic Journal on the coins of the Civil War Mints of Charles I.

See the report by Lt.-CoL H. W. Morrieson (F.S.A.) at the British Numismatic Society. Morrieson also reported Bushell's difficulties in working the Combe Martin silver mines for the Crown's monetary supply.

He also contended that a small issue of Combe Martin silver coinage was minted between 1646 and 1648, thus 'these coins were extremely rare'.

To support his theory, Morrieson asserted that Bushell spent most of his time at Combe Martin between February 1646 and May 1648. Bushell also appears to have had a house at Northam between Bideford and Appledore, a mere twenty miles from Combe Martin.

How the Wars Started

The Civil Wars were fought between Charles I and Parliament between 1642 and 1651. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms - a series of British Civil War battles and rebellions - had begun in 1639. By 1642, King Charles I needed money for his Royalist army. This was when the Combe Martin mines became important. 

Charles I appears to have believed in his divine right to rule, anointed by the Almighty. During the winter of 1641-42, relations broke down between King Charles I (1600-1649) and Parliament.

The unity of purpose between the Lords and Commons also collapsed, starting the descent into civil war, the transition to a Commonwealth republic, and government without a King.

In April 1640, Charles was forced to summon a Short Parliament, asking them to fund his army against Scotland. At this juncture his personal rule without a Parliament came to an end. Parliament began a programme of legislation to restrict the King’s powers and purge ‘popish’ practices from the Church. 

It further tried to govern England’s armed forces by means of a Militia Bill, for which Charles refused assent. Three weeks later, Charles dissolved the Short Parliament. 

Opposition to Royal policy was almost unanimous at the time, yet distrust of the Scots and alarm at Parliament's extension of powers eventually rallied support for Charles. 

Parliament passed the Militia Ordinance - legislation without royal assent - in March 1642, taking control of the army and excluding the King from appointing militia commanders. 

Ordinances sanctioned by the Commons and Lords were to be regarded as valid in law without the need for royal assent. This was the trigger for the outbreak of the First English Civil War in August 1642. 

To cut a long story short, popular support for Parliament forced the King and the royal family to leave London, on January 10 1642. And a month later, the King refused to surrender control of the militia to Parliament. 

During June 1642 he revived medieval commissions of array in response to the militia ordinance. 

On 12 July 1642, Parliament voted to raise an army and commissioned the Earl of Essex as Captain-General. A month afterwards, Charles raised his Royal Standard at Nottingham.

The New Model Army and the Financial Dynamics

The Civil Wars marked the beginnings of the modern British Army tradition with the creation of the New Model Army, the country’s first national army comprised of trained, professional soldiers. 

During the ensuing Civil War of 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, 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. 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. They were a means to spread propaganda and declarations, also a powerful tool to win popular support and victory. 

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 bore his proclamations. 

Both sides were surprised that the King was able to maintain a field army against Parliament. How it was achieved cannot be fully ascertained because most of the contemporary records are lost. 

Forces loyal to Charles established their own means of production, striking oversized silver pound coins of equivalent value to their gold counterparts. 

The Execution of King Charles I and the Financial Costs 

After a devastating death toll which saw up to 200,000 people dead, Charles I was brought to trial before the victorious Parliamentarians at Westminster Hall, in 1649. He was found guilty of treason and beheaded in the same year, the only British monarch ever to be executed. 

Silver could not save the kingdom, for "Parliament was supplied not only with the money, plate and other contributions of the most disloyal city of London, but also the rest of their faction throughout the Kingdom. 

There was money raised for suppressing the rebellion in Ireland, the twentieth part of all men's estates, the excise on all commodities, and lastly the sequestration of the estates and plundering of all in their power" (Jens Engberg, 1966). 


The evidence presented in this article suggests that Combe Martin's silver mines and resources were likely involved in supporting the Royalist cause, during the English Civil War from 1642-1651.

If Morrieson's analysis and conclusions are accurate, this appears to settle the longstanding debate over whether the Combe Martin silver mines produced any coinage during the civil war period.

Morrieson's research provides persuasive evidence that they did mint Royalist coins, under the oversight of Royalist engineer Sir Thomas Bushell.

While no direct records of battles in Combe Martin are available, the town's proximity to the Parliamentarian-held town of Ilfracombe indicates it was affected by the wider conflict.

Multiple historical sources point to the possibility that Royalist mining expert Thomas Bushell minted siege money or other coinage from Combe Martin silver to support King Charles I. In 1911, Snell recalled a Combe Martin half-crown coin, dated 1645, being sold at auction.

While the full extent of Combe Martin's involvement remains unclear, it seems reasonable to conclude that even if the mines did not produce enough raw silver, silver plate and other resources from the town were commandeered to aid the Royalist war effort.

However, the lack of direct records of civil war battles or minting activities in Combe Martin itself, makes the degree of the town's involvement an uncertainty.

The circumstantial evidence, combined with references to Bushell's efforts to recover the Combe Martin mines, provides a strong case for Combe Martin playing a role in the English Civil War, through its valuable natural resources worked by Combe Martin locals.

© Author J.P., Aug 7, 2023


British Numismatic Society (2023);

Boundy, Wyndham Sydney (1961). Bushell and Harman of Lundy. Bideford: Gazette Printing Service. . August 2023. 

Combe Martin Silver Mine online, 2023.

Engberg. J., 1966: Royalist Finances During the English Civil War 1642- 1646. August 2023.,_1715-1886/Snell,_Frederick_John. August 2023.

French, Michael J. (n.d.): SIR FRANCIS DODINGTON (1604–1670). S.A.N.H.S. Acc. 16.02.2024.

Gaunt, P. The English Civil War: A Military History (2019). London, Bloomsbury Academic. August 2023.

Greuber, Herbert A. (1899): Handbook of the Coins of Great Britain and Ireland in The British Museum. London; Trustees of The British Museum.,%20April%20'21.pdf. 12. 04. 2021.

Morrieson, H.W. F.S.A. (n.d.), The Coinage of Coombe Martin, 1647-1648; August 2023

Open Library (2023): Bushell, Thomas (1594 – 1674).

The Coinage of Coombe-Martin, August 2023.

UK Parliament: The breakdown of 1641-2. August 2023.

Worden, Blair (2010): The English Civil Wars: 1640-1660. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Available from Amazon. August 2023. August 2023.