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Numismata Cromwelliana: or the Medallic History of Oliver Cromwell Illustrated by his Coins, Medals, and Seals.
by Henry William Henfrey, 1877

London: John Russell Smith, 36, Soho Square, W. 1877.

[Pages 52-58]
The Pattern Farthings of 1654

It is well known by most of our readers that a great variety of small brass and copper tokens, made and issued by tradesmen, tavern-keepers, etc., came into use upon the discontinuance of the royal farthing tokens of Charles the First, about the year 1649. The confusion and loss arising from the former were, however, soon perceived, and several proposals were made for the coinage of a state farthing, or an universally current copper coin to be issued by the government, to supersede all the private tokens. Patterns of such state farthings were made in 1649 and 1651, and petitions and proposals on this subject continued to be received by the authorities up to the year 1654, but in a newspaper of that date it is remarked that-

"It is uncertain also what will be done about Farthing Tokens."-Page 3704, No. 233, of Severall Proceedings of State Affaires, 9-16 March, 1653-4.

The Protector's Council of State, however, disposed of the matter by the following order:-

Thursday, 16th March, 1653-4.--"Col. Jones reports from ye Comittee for ye Mint their opinion touching the sevrall peticons & proposalls made conc'ning farthings,

"Ordered that the said peticons be layd aside."--Page 12, Draft Order Book No. 78.

We have not been able to discover, either in the Public Record Office or in the British Museum, any of the petitions or proposals mentioned in this order of the Council, except one small tract [No. 18, vol. 598, sm. 4tos, Kings Pamphlets], which is, very probably, a printed copy of one of these proposals. It contains fourteen pages, small quarto, including the title-page, which reads as follows:-

"A Declaration Concerning State-Farthings; or, Certain Remonstrative Reasons for the allowance thereof; Wherein is comprised, 1 The Honour of the States vindicated, 2 The Peoples hearts contented, 3 The Commonwealths good propagated, 4 The Relief of the Poor increased. By Thomas Dunstervile, Citizen of London. Imprinted for the Author, 1654."

The date of publication, "Aprill ye 6," 1654, is inserted in contemporary handwriting by Thomason, the collector of these pamphlets.

The work commences on page 3, with the heading -- "A Declaration concerning the allowance of Brass-Farthings, &c." The writer throughout urges the necessity of state farthings, or a national coinage of authorised farthings, and begins by discussing the different kinds of metal out of which it is proposed to make them. The three materials proposed by other persons were -- "1. Pure copper, 2. copper and brasse semented together, 3. tin intrinsick," (page 9); and each farthing was to consist of as much metal as would be intrinsically worth a farthing. Dunsterville objects to all these substances, giving his reasons at length, and offers a new alloy of his own invention, "made up by art," of which specimens seem to have been submitted to the Committee of Council for the Mint, for on page 5 he says: "And such a Mettal (viz: not easy to counterfeit) now lyes before their Honours relating to the Mint."

On pages 12 and 13 of this pamphlet, Dunsterville gives an account of the properties of the new metal or alloy invented by him, in these terms:

"1. It beareth in it two colors, the one a pale fac'd red, imbodied with Azure throughout, so that it is different from all sorts of mettal in color, 2. It is hard and beautiful like silver, in its own kind. 3. It is in color as durable as silver. 4. It is much easier to counterfeit silver than the same mettal; which last, wel weighed, wil take off the fear of counterfeiting Farthings, because (I conceive) no man wil counterfeit farthings, that can counterfeit silver with more ease, provided the State make a penal Order against it, as in like cases it is for silver and gold."

Concerning himself, the author informs us that he was "bred a Silkman, and lived twenty years or thereabouts in Cheap-side, and Paternoster-Roe, a Master for my self" (page 8).

The proposals of Thomas Dunsterville having been "laid aside" by the Council's order of the 16th March, 1663-4, no more notice was taken of his projects during the Protectorate; but Mr. J. H. Burn has published a petition from Dunsterville to the Parliament which governed after Richard Cromwell's resignation, May to October, 1659. In it, Dunsterville prays the Parliament to make use of his newly invented metal for state farthings, and to pass an act for their allowance, granting to the petitioner the preparation of the metal. A paper of reasons annexed to the petition is written in nearly the same words as his pamphlet of 1654, and need not therefore be reproduced here. See pp. lx. et seq. of J. H. Burn's Catalogue of the Beaufoy Collection of Tokens, 2nd edition, London 1855.

There are, however, some of the farthings of 1654 still in existence; and we will now describe the two pewter farthings of that date which were actually put into circulation, as we learn from the following passage in a contemporary newspaper:-

Wednesday, 26th April, 1654. -- "This night are come out new Farthings, weighing a quarter of an ounce fine Pewter, which is but the price of new Pewter; that so the people may never hereafter fear to loose much by them; with the Harp of one side, and a crosse on the other, with T. K. above it." -- Page 3802, No. 239, of Severall Proceedings of State Affaires.

That the issue of these farthings was unauthorised and contrary to the wishes of the government, appears from an official notice which was speedily published, prohibiting their circulation in these terms:-

"An Advertisement.

"Whereas several persons have presented unto his Highness and his Councel, divers patterns for the making of a common Farthing for the use of the Common wealth; and have attended several times about the same, and at this day the business is depending before his honourable Councel, and their pleasure as yet not signified therein. And yet notwithstanding in the mean time several persons have presumed without any Authority or Declaration of the State to set the Common-wealth of Englands Arms on a piece of pewter of the weight of about a quarter of an ounce, and have procured intimation in Print to be made, that these pewter farthings are allowed to pass currant through the Common-wealth of England, &c. and in pursuance thereof, have and do daily vend these unauthorized pewter farthings in London and other parts of this Commonwealth, to the great deceit and dammage of this Nation.

"These are to give notice to all men, that if there be not a sudden stop of the making and vending of those pewter farthings, the Commonwealth will be greatly deceived, both by mixing the Pewter with Lead, and also every Tinker and other lewd persons will get molds and make the said pewter farthings in every corner. Therefore all people ought to take notice that no farthings are to pass but such only as shall be authorized, by his Highness and his Councel to pass through the Common-wealth." -- Page 3474, No. 204, of Mercurius Politicus, 4 -- 11th May, 1654.

It will be observed that the latter portion of this extract seems to show that it was actually the intention of the Protector to issue a properly authorised state farthing, to be legally current over all the nation; and we shall have more to say on the subject of his pattern farthings under the year 1658.

The above advertisement (now for the first time noticed in any numismatic work) confirms the view that the pewter farthings bearing the initials T. K. were coined by some private individual, as supposed by Thos. Snelling, who remarks -- "We should almost suspect from the T. K. and the different cross on this piece, that it might rather belong to a private tradesman." -- View of the Copper Coin and Coinage of England, 1766, p. 33 note. The Editor of the second (1780) edition of G. Vertue's Works of Thoas Simon, also concurs in Snelling's opinion: see appendix, page 79.

There are two varieties of these pewter farthings, apparently from the same dies, but one has the addition of a sun with long rays over the shield on the reverse.

No. 1. Obverse, a shield bearing a cross. Above it, a wreath of what appear to be roses, enclosing the initials T K. Legend--¼ OVNCE.OF.FINE.PEWTR. Reverse, a similar shield bearing the Irish harp; a wreath of laurel above: Legend--FOR.NECESSARY.CHANGE. On each side is a beaded inner circle. Size ·9 of an inch in diameter. See illustration, plate ii. no. 4, taken from a specimen in the British Museum.


No. 2. Nearly similar to no. 1, being from the same dies, but with the addition of a sun over the centre of the reverse, its rays reaching to the inner circle. See plate ii. no. 5, which is from a coin in the Author's cabinet. It was the best specimen available, since, although it shows much decay, it is less corroded than that in the British Museum. On a very fine specimen sold at Mr. J. B. Bergne's sale, 27th May 1873, lot 874, the eyes, nose, and mouth could be distinguished on the face of the sun.


The pewter farthing no. 1 is engraved in G. Vertue's Works of Thomas Simon, 1753, plate xxvi. no. 6, and in T. Snelling's View of the Copper Coin and Coinage of England, plate vi. no. 5. No. 2 is engraved in Folkes's and Ruding's plates of Silver Coins, plate xxxi. no. 12.

The weight of each of these farthings, according to the inscription on the obverse, should be a quarter of an ounce, which, if avoirdupois, would be 109 grains and a fraction: therefore each farthing ought to weigh about 100 grains troy, but pewter being a metal which corrodes very quickly when exposed to the air, most of the pewter farthings that now exist are very much lighter from this cause. A corroded specimen of No. 2, in the British Museum Cabinet, weighs 102 grains, so that when new it may very possibly have weighed, as well as the other examples, the necessary amount of 109 grains, or a quarter of an ounce.

We have been unable to discover what name is represented by the initials T. K. on the obverse of these pewter farthings. The fullest explanation hitherto given is that they are the initials of some private trader, as before mentioned, but none of the London traders' tokens of the period afford any clue. There was a T. K., viz: Thomas Kencie, who lived in Southampton Buildings, Holborn, and issued a half-penny token, but what his trade was we do not know. The only other London trader issuing tokens, who had for his initials T. K., was Thomas Knight. He was a baker, and it is therefore improbable that he should have projected the coinage of national farthings. But, without further evidence, it is impossible to identify this T. K.

The pewter farthings of 1654 having been peremptorily suppressed by the above quoted notice of the Protector's Council, it is only to be expected that few specimens should have come down to our times. This is actually the case, and both varieties of these farthings are rare, especially when in fair preservation. No. 1 is the rarest of the two.

Before leaving this subject it may be useful to give a brief list of some pattern farthings, which, judging from their similarity of type and execution, were probably made about the same time and by the same person as the pewter farthings of 1654. They also bear the English and Irish shields of arms (the form of the cross varying slightly), with similar wreaths above, and have the same inscription on the reverse--FOR NECESSARY CHANGE. The legend on the obverse, ENGLAND'S FARTHING, shows that they were patterns for a national or state farthing, doubtless made by one of the persons who sent in the proposals referred to in the Council's order of March 16, 1653-4.

Pattern Farthings of uncertain date. -- No. 1. Obverse, a shield bearing St. George's cross; a laurel wreath above. Legend--ENGLANDS.FARTHING. Reverse, a shield bearing the Irish harp; also with a laurel wreath above. Legend--FOR.NECESSARY.CHANGE. There are beaded inner circles on both sides. Size ·9 inch in diameter. A rubbed copper specimen in the British Museum weighs 80 grains. Engraved by G. Vertue, Works of Thomas Simon. plate xxvi. no. 5.

No. 2. Obverse and reverse exactly similar in type to no. 1, but smaller in size. Diameter ·8 inch. A copper one in the British Museum weighs 57 grains. It is of good work, and well preserved.

No. 3. Obverse and reverse similar to no. 1, but reading CHANG (instead of CHANGE) on the reverse. There is also a lozenge after each word in the legends. Diameter ·8 inch. This farthing is of good work, and is struck in copper. A well preserved example in the British Museum weighs 69½ grains. Another copper specimen was in Mr. J. B. Bergne's sale, 27th May 1873, lot 871, 1 8s. Engraved by Vertue, plate xxvi. no. 4, and in Folkes' and Ruding's plate xxxi. no. 15, but in these engravings the lozenges are not properly represented.

No. 4. Obverse, shield and laurel wreath as on No. 1. Legend--ENGLANDS.FARTHING: Reverse, also with shield and wreath as on the reverse of No. 1. Legend--FOR.NECESSARY.CHANG. On each side is a double inner and outer circle, one of each pair being beaded, the other a plain line. The diameter of this pattern is ·7 inch; and it is struck in brass, with a copper stud in the centre. A fairly preserved specimen in the British Museum weighs 51 3/4 grains. In the Martin and Murchison sales was a pattern in brass, similar to No. 4, but reading FARTHIN. on the obverse.

No. 5. Obverse, a shield bearing St. George's cross; a laurel wreath above. Legend--ENGLANDS FARTHING. Reverse, a shield bearing the Irish harp; also with a laurel wreath above it. Legend--FOR NECESSARY CHAN. There are no dots between the words of the inscriptions. Inside of the wreath on each side is the letter K. There is also a beaded inner circle on each side. Diameter ·85 inch. Brass, with a copper stud in the centre. A fairly preserved specimen in the British Museum weighs 106½ grains. One was in the Pembroke cabinet, see the plates, part iv. tab. 20. A very fine specimen, also brass with a large copper stud in the centre, formed lot 870 in Mr. J. B. Bergne's sale, 27th May 1873, and sold for 2 12s. In the sale catalogue of Mr. E. Hawkins' collection, lot 26, is described one of these farthings (apparently), but it is said to have R. for Rawlins within each wreath. This must, however, be a mistake for K.

No. 6. Obverse, a shield bearing St. George's cross; a laurel wreath above. Legend--ENGLANDS FARDIN. Reverse, a shield bearing the Irish harp, also with a laurel wreath above it. Legend--FOR NECESSARY CHA. A beaded inner circle on each side. Diameter ·8 inch. This pattern is of good work, and is made of some white metal: perhaps that invented by Dunsterville, mentioned above. A well preserved specimen in the British Museum weighs 70.8 grains. [Engraved in T. Snelling's Copper Coinage, plate vi. no. 4.] One of these patterns no. 6 occurred in brass and copper, at Mr. Bergne's sale, lot 869, 1 16s., very fine.

No. 7. Exactly similar to No. 6 in types and inscriptions, but smaller in size, its diameter being ·7 inch. One in brass, badly preserved, is in the British Museum, weight 72½ grains.

All the seven farthings described above appear to have been executed by one man, the same who also engraved the pewter farthings with "T.K." Farthing No. 5 even has the latter initial, K, upon it, probably denoting the same person as T. K., and that it was done by him. He must have been some private manufacturer, like Dunsterville, and not any one connected with the Mint, since there was no moneyer or workman in the Mint with those initials at this period (see list of moneyers on pp. 40, 41 of T. Violet's Answer of the Corporation of Moniers, &c., London, 1653).

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