17th-Century Farthing Trade Tokens
In the original edition of this work Cornwall appeared as one of the least prolific of token-issuing counties, Cumberland, Monmouth, Northumberland, Rutland, and Westmoreland alone being credited with fewer examples. Further investigation has, however, proved that Cornwall is entitled to a more prominent place, and that, instead of the 41 tokens given to in in 1858, it had over 100. We are obliged, however, to be somewhat cautious here, for it unfortunately happens that no county in England affords so many opportunities for misidentification. Not only do its St. Ives and St. Neot clash with the Huntingdonshire towns of the same name, but Falmouth, under its ancient appellation of Smethwick, has been confused with Smethwick in Staffordshire; and it has its Newport, Millbrook, and Stratton, indistinguishable in themselves from many other towns and villages similarly called. It has been thought advisable in the compilation of this series to include all the tokens which may by possibility be Cornish; and hence, among the 107 enumerated there are 9 that may be regarded as doubtful. Some of these, however, do really belong to the county, though the positive evidence is defective; and the issue of Cornwall in any case cannot be put below 105 tokens and varieties. Of the additional 67 tokens, 20 were given by Mr. Boyne under other counties; the remainder were unknown to him. One token which he had attributed to Cornwall, the penny of Richard Preece, of Porthelly, has to be disclaimed. There was a Porthilly in Cornwall, near Mevagissey, and another near Padstow; but the most diligent researches have failed to trace the name of Preece in either locality. As Preece is a Welsh name, and Porthelly is a reasonable phonetic approach to Pwllheli, in all probability this token belongs to Wales.
There are several peculiarities in the Cornish issue. In the first place, there are no town pieces; in the second, an unusually large proportion--over a fourth--bear the arms of the issuers, showing the extent to which old families engaged in commercial pursuits; in the third, not one of the coins has any reference to the ancient local industry of mining. No less than 32, however, bear the arms of the old incorporated companies of mercers, grocers, haberdashers, salters, chandlers, vintners, and apothecaries, the first-named largely predominating. Some of the devices are, no doubt, intended to represent the signs of the houses of the issuers; but this can hardly be the case with the "sheep in a fold" of Newport, the "ferry-boat" of Saltash, the "post-boy" of Truro, and it certainly was not with the "three men round a globe" of Scilly.
With one exception, a heart-shaped token, issued by George Whitford, of Liskeard, all the Cornish tokens known are circular. They are nearly all farthings, only 10 of the 107 being halfpence. Allowing for those which are merely varieties, there were 96 issuers, and of these only two were women. If the double initials are to be regarded as conclusive evidence that the men issuing them were unmarried, more than half the issuers must have been bachelors at the time the coins appeared. Just a third bear triple initials, and a few afford no evidence either one way or the other. The earliest date is 1651; the latest 1671.
Treating East and West Looe, and Launceston and Newport, as in fact what they were and are topographically, each a single community, tokens were issued in 31 towns and villages in the county. Of these Callington, Ludgvan, Millbrook, Penare, St. Austell, St. Ives, and Stratton do not appear in Mr. Boyne's list.
It is difficult to understand why some other places of greater relative importance than several recorded are unrepresented; and it is quite possible that additions may yet have to be made for Bossiney, Camelford, Grampound, St. Germans, and Wadebridge.
The largest number of undoubted Cornish tokens was issued at Truro--ten varieties by nine issuers. Next comes Liskeard with eight, but of these three are varieties. Penryn, with eight tokens and seven issuers, really, therefore, takes second place. Falmouth has seven tokens, but one of them is a variety. Helston has six, and the Looes the same number. St. Ives has nine assigned to it, all by different issuers, but some of them are doubtful, though the total is quite in accord with the importance of the place. Launceston and Newport have eight between them, but here, again, some doubt exists. No fewer than 14 towns are represented by single tokens or issuers--Callington, Kilkhampton, Ludgvan, Marazion, Millbrook, Padstow, Penare, Probus, Scilly, St. Agnes, St. Austell, St. Mawes, Stratton, and Tregony.
R. N. Worth
© 2007-2017 BritishFarthings