Saxon & Norman Coins

In Anglo-Saxon and Norman times coins – silver pennies – were struck at many towns around England. In Wiltshire six towns had a mint; Malmesbury with Cricklade, Great Bedwyn, Marlborough, Salisbury and Wilton.

The coins are small, 12 to 13mm in diameter (a modern penny is 20mm), and made of silver. The correct weight of silver was placed on a die and then hit hard with a hammer bearing the die for the obverse side. This is why coins are said to be struck. The dies were issued centrally by the king. Usually one side bears an image of the king with an inscription giving his name and titles; the other bore a central cross, which differed slightly and round the perimeter the name of the moneyer where the coin was struck and the mint.

Coinage was used as a form of taxation. New coins were issued every few years. The old ones were no longer considered legal tender and so had to be handed in for less than heir face value. In addition the mint had to pay a fee. The Domesday book records that Malmesbury paid 100 shillings a year for the right to have a mint. Malmesbury mint started c.985AD under Aethelred II and closed c.1095 in the reign of William II. Aethelred the Unready paid large amounts of Danegeld and so most of the Malmesbury coins have been found in Denmark. The output of the Malmesbury mint was low; initially it had two moneyers but in later years only one. This means Malmesbury silver pennies are scarce and hence expensive. With help Friends of Athelstan Museum have acquired five of these.