Victorian London - Finance - The Royal Mint

MINT (THE ROYAL), on TOWER HILL, originally stood within the Tower. The elevation of the present building was by a Mr. Johnson, and the entrances, &c., by Sir Robert Smirke, who finished the works. The coinage of the three kingdoms, and of many of our colonies, is executed within these walls. Mode of Admisgion.-Order from the master, which is not transferable, and is available only for the day specified. In all applications for admission, the names and addresses of the persons wishing to be admitted, or of some one of them, with the number of the rest, are to be stated. The person or persons named in the application are held responsible for those accompanying them. The various processes connected with coining are carried on by a series of ingenious machines in certain rooms known as the rolling room, the cutting-out room, the milling room, the analysing room, the coining press room, &c. The most curious process is that called "the drawing-bench," by which the metal, when tested to show that it contains the proper alloy, is drawn through rollers to the precise thickness required for the coin which is to be cut out of it. In the case of gold, the difference of a hair's breadth in any part of the plate or sheet of gold would alter the value of a sovereign. By another machine circular disks are punched out of the sheets of metal of any size required, and by a number of screw presses these blanks, as they are called, are stamped on observe and reverse at the same time. The force with which the blow is struck; the rapid motion by which sixty or seventy sixpences may be struck in a minute, and half-crowns or sovereigns in minor proportions ; the mode in which the press feeds itself with the blanks to be coined, and, when struck, removes them from between the dies, is very interesting. The mode of forming the dies, and the hardening of them by a chemical process, are kept secret. A matrix in relief is first cut in soft steel by the engraver to the Mint. When this is hardened, many dies may be obtained from it, provided the metal resists the great force required to obtain an impression from it. Many matrices and dies split in the process of stamping. There are few periods in the annals of our coinage when the coins of the realm have been more distinguished as works of art than while executed by the present engraver, W. Wyon, R.A. No coin whatever is issued from the Mint until a portion of it has been assayed by the Queen's assayer. When that process has been gone through, one coin of each denomination is placed in a pix, or casket, sealed with three seals, and secured with three locks, the keys being separately kept by the Master of the Mint, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Queen's assayer; the pieces of coin so secured are given to a jury to assay and compare with the trial plates which are kept in the ancient treasury in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, the keys of which and of the pix in which the trial plates are deposited are in the custody of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lords of the Treasury. The process of comparison is called the trial of the pix. Within the Mint is a collection of early matrices for coins, which the coin-collector should exert his interest to see. A remarkable robbery occurred at the Mint in 1798, when a man of the name of Turnbull entered with a loaded pistol, served himself with 2804 guineas, and then made the best of his way off. The present Mint Board was established in 1815; the old office of warden was abolished in 1817.

source: Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

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Mint, Royal, Little Tower-hill. Hours 10 till 4. Contains some of the most beautiful and delicate automatic machinery the world. The process of converting bar gold into coins of exactly the same size, and the same weight to half a grain, can be see here in perfection. Until recently the Royal Mint was the only place whence gold coinage was issued having currency in the United Kingdom and its colonies, but of late years mints have been established in Sydney and in Melbourne whence by every mail arrives a large influx of colonial gold coin. Applications to view the Mint should be made in writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The orders are, however, rather charily given. NEAREST Railway Stations Cannon-street (SE.) and Fenchurch-street; Omnibus Route; Fenchurch-street and Aldersgate, Cab Rank, Royal Mint-street. 

source: Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

ROYAL MINT ... TOWER HILL. Here are conducted the gold and silver coinage operations of the country. For permission to view, written applications should be made to the Deputy Master.

source: Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895


This dignified-looking building, on the east side of Tower Hill, was designed by Johnson and Smirke, and built in 1811, but it was greatly enlarged and transformed in 1881-2. Orders to view the process of coining are granted by the Deputy-Master of the Mint (Mr. Horace Sevmour) and over seven thousand people annually seize the opportunity of inspecting the extremely delicate machinery and the Mint Museum, containing a collection of coins and medals of great interest to others besides numismatists. Coins of more than forty denominations are now struck for Imperial and Colonial use, and in 1894 upwards of six million pieces were turned out. For the Imperial currency, during the twelve months, gold, silver and bronze were coined to the value of £6,654,441.

source: The Queen's London, 1896