The Coins of King Aethelstan of the Nottingham Mint.
Frank E. Burton, J.P., F.S.A.
ALTHOUGH we know that at the time of Athelstan (A.D. 925-940) the mints must have been in existence for a very long period, we have no documentary proof. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle and writers of the period afford us no information respecting the constitution of the Mints or even the laws by which they were governed, and it is only in Athelstan's reign that authentic information is in existence.
It was in the year 928 or exactly 1000 years ago that he held a grand synod at Greatley near Andover, Hampshire, at which Wulferhelme, Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the great and powerful men of the kingdom, were assembled. They decided that the whole coinage of the realm should be alike and should bear the King's portrait only, withdrawing the privilege from the Bishops, Abbots and Barons of having their portraits struck upon the coins.
They also agreed that money should only be minted in a town and that each burg was entitled to one moneyer, but that certain places on account of their importance were entitled to two or more. Nottingham had two, London eight, Canterbury seven, Winchester six.
The fact that London, Canterbury and Winchester were the greatest cities in the kingdom, and that in comparison, Nottingham had two moneyers, goes to prove that even in those far off days this town must have been a place of no little importance.
From this edict and the actual coins illustrated we have the positive proof of the existence of the Nottingham Mint in this reign. In all probability the Mint was in working before this time, possibly in the reign of Edward the Elder, for one of his moneyers, Osulf, was also a Nottingham moneyer in Athelstan's reign.
There are no coins struck at the Nottingham Mint after the reign of Stephen, but the Mint was in existence as late as the reign of King John, as the following extract from the Red Book of the Exchequer, 1201, proves:—
"Fines made before the King. Beatrice, the widow of Theobald, 10 marcs for having in peace the mint (domo Monetaria) at Nottingham, paying ½ marc annually to the King."
so we have coins and documentary evidence of the existence of the Mint from the year 928 until 1201, with the exception of the following Kings :—
Eadmund, Eadwig, Eadgar, and Eadweard, of whom no coins are known struck at Nottingham.
The incoming of the Saxons brought along with it the introduction of their coinage, and it was not until the reign of Offa, King of Mercia A.D. 757-796 that we have the silver penny in the form afterwards produced at the Nottingham Mint.
From now onwards we find these silver pennies the sole current coin of the realm, and it remained so with very few exceptions until the reign of Edward I., a period of about 500 years.
Of these silver coins of Athelstan (925-940) struck at Nottingham there are very few in existence. The National Collection in the British Museum have two and I have three in my collection, which are illustrated. Number one is a fine example with the reading on the obverse Edetstah R.L. Saxorum, cross pattee (each side) and on the reverse Edelnod on Snotenceham. This coin bears the King's title of King of the Saxons, Edelnod being the moneyer. It does not bear the King's portrait, therefore it may have been issued in the early part of his reign before the edict of 928 came into operation.
I know of no coin of Athelstan of the Nottingham Mint bearing his portrait.
The other two coins are both struck from the same dies and have the same reading Edelnod on Snotenceham, Edelnod being again the moneyer. They do not bear the King's name or any of his titles and the reading on the obverse and reverse is the same. The moneyer probably broke his obverse die or he had sent him down from London or Winchester two reverse dies in mistake, instead of one obverse and one reverse, and being short of money used the two reverse dies until such time that the error was rectified.
Major Carlyon-Britton, D.L., J.P., F.S.A., gives in the British Numismatic Chronicle the following explanation;—
"Towards the close of Athelstan's reign Nottingham, in association with Derby, Leicester, Lincoln and Stamford, was again in the power of the Danes and it is to this period that we attribute these curious pennies of Athelstan's money. This method was doubtless adopted to avoid the appearance of the name of Arthur, King of the Saxons, upon the coins circulating in a confederacy of Danes."
The reading Snotenceham on these coins is exceptional, and is only found on the coins of Athelstan and is abbreviated on all other coins struck in Nottingham by any other King.