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17th-Century Farthing Trade Tokens

It is with infinite regret that the Editor has to record the death of one of the most energetic helpers and generous men whom it has ever been his good fortune to know.

Mr. W. A. Cotton, of Bromsgrove, to whom the Editor is indebted for almost all of the notes and the preface to the tokens of Worcestershire, died in June, 1889, at the very early age of 37, before he was able to rejoice in the completion of his labours. Few men have been of greater service to their native town than Mr. Cotton, and almost every public work owned much to his self-sacrificing energy. As the historian of the locality, and as the author of the important work on the "Coins, Tokens, and Medals of Worcestershire," his aid in the compilation of the following pages was of the highest importance, and his stores of knowledge were always most generously placed at the disposal of the Editor whenever required.

Mr. Cotton's abilities as a token and coin collector were of a marked order. He was scrupulously exact in details, and punctilious in descriptions, and he possessed a merit that immediately commended him to the Editor, in that he always answered letters.

The blocks that illustrate the county, and the very fine folding-plate of coins and tokens, were lent by him to the Editor, and all he knew and all he possessed was, in his own warm-hearted way, placed at the service of the book. No tribute can be paid to his memory that is too warm, and with deep regret the Editor deplores the loss of a dear and valued correspondent, helper, and friend.

The four plates of the tokens that follow this part are very kindly presented by Mr. John Cotton, architect, of Birmingham, "in memorian" of his brother.

The workmanship of the Worcestershire tokens is, as stated by Mr. W. A. Cotton in the book above referred to, creditable, generally, to the period, and will compare favourably with some of the productions of later date. They afford much curious information, especially as to trades carred on in the various towns, and the unsettled state of English orthography, as instanced by the variety of ways in which the same word is spelt. Many of them are ingenious in their style, some being of brass with a plug of copper in the centre, others square, octagonal, and heart-shaped; buy by far the larger number are round. Those issued in the county now under notice furnish one or more of all these varieties. They are all halfpennies and farthings--no pennies being issued, and about two-thirds of the entire number are farthings. They frequently bear heraldic devices on the obverse side, usually indicating the trade or business in which the issuer was engaged, or else the arms of the town where he lived. A few of the issuers bore arms, which appear on their tokens. In the case of the "town-pieces" issued by "The Wardens of Bewdley," THE BVRROW OF EVESHAM, and the City of Worcester, the arms of the respective places appear. Stourbridge also issued an interesting "town-piece," bearing the Ironworkers' Arms on the obverse, and the Clothworkers' Arms on the reverse, thus showing the principal trades carried on in the town at that time. In the centre part of the reverse of the tokens the trader's initials with that of his wife very frequently occur, as in the case of Walter Palmer, of Bewdley, P / W A, who married Anne Clare, the initial of the surname being uppermost. Only one trader--William Chetle, of Worcester--issued a token bearing a merchant's mark.

"Every community, tradesman, or tradeswoman, that issu'd this useful kind of specie, was obliged to take it again when it was brought to them, and therefore in cities and larger towns, where many sorts of them were current, a tradesman kept a sorting box, into the paritions of which (which we may suppose were nearly as many as there were people there that coin's) he put the money of the respective coiners, and at proper times, when he had a competent quantity of any one person's money he sent it to him and got [it?] changed into silver. One of these sorting-boxes I once saw in the city of Rochester, in Kent, with ten or a dozen partitions in it." --S. P., in Gentleman's Magazine, 1757, vol. xxvii. An illustration is given of the token and the dies.

The writer has one of these boxes, with twelve compartments, believed to have been used for this purpose by Henry Jefferys, a grocer in Bromsgrove at that period. In London, the changing of these tokens became a business, and there are examples of tokens issued by those who styled themselves "farthing changers."

Some of the tokens bear a remarkable resemblance to each other leading to the belief that many of the dies were engraved by the same person. An illustration of this is found in the ornamentation(?) partaking of the same character--a device something like the W[?]and Ormond knot, from the ends of which flowers apear, to be found on the tokens of Porter, Rogers, and Timothy Jefferys, all of Bromsgrove; and on those of Fransham, of Evesham, and William Finch, of Worcester.

these tokens "originated with a public necessity, but in the end became a nuisance." They partook largely of the nature of trade advertisements, and, as they were payable only at the shop at which they were issued, they were inconvenient.

With reference to the "clipt" money, various summs were collected throughout the county, and in the accounts of the parish of Bromsgrove we find that on "April 5th, 1700, Granted on Houses to make [good?] the Clip'd Money, £47 8s." A like entry, on May 2, 1702, informs us that the sum raised for this purpose amounted to £73 16s.

Boyne (first edition) describes 112 varieties of tokens issued in Worcestershire in the seventeenth century, which are included in the present list, additions being marked. Green gives engravings of thirty-six tokens issued in Worcester, and Nash of thirty-six issued in the city and county. The collection in the possession of the Corporation of Worcester has been eamined, and private friends and collectors have afforded much valuable information.

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