[From Castle Rushen, Armitage Rigby, 1927]
DJOINING what we will call the brewery are the remains of the mint. The question as to where the Manx coinage was minted having occupied local antiquaries for many years, it is perhaps well to go rather fully into what is on record about the mint; but as it may not be of general interest, it is confined to a separate chapter.
The records on the subject are not very satisfactory. They give some information about the issues of 1709 and 1733 which suggests that the coins were made in England.
The island seems constantly to have run short of small change, as did England. The result in both cases was the issue of tokens and paper money by tradesmen, a system which occasionally brought disaster to the holder of the token. Now and again the evil became unendurable, and the Lord was petitioned to issue copper money. This occurred in the two years mentioned. An Act was passed in 1710, authorising the issue of the 1709 coinage, containing these words, " and forasmuch as his Lordship hath been graciously pleased to comply with the said request, and hath sent over a considerable Quantity of Copper Pence and Halfpence," etc.* We also find an act passed in 1733 authorising the issue of the coinage of that year in which the same words are used, except that the amount sent over is specified, namely, " Three hundred Pounds in Copper Pence and two hundred Pounds in Copper Halfpence." The wording of these Acts certainly suggests that the money was minted in England and sent over to the island ready for use.
However, in " Disbursments on the coynage of Brass Money Anno 1733," we find that freight was paid on " eleven casks of blank pence," and this suggests that the coins were cast in England and stamped in the Isle of Man.
To add to the mystery we find from the same paper that a certain Mr. William Jackson delivered, about this time, " twenty two tun of coales into the Castle for the use of coyning." This cannot have been necessary for merely stamping, and the remains of the mint in the Castle clearly shew that it was used for casting copper discs the size of the coinage of 1733. There may have been stamps also in the Castle, but they have not been preserved. All that is left is a small furnace of brick covered with copper dross, around which were found several unstamped copper discs, and portions of two crucibles of the pattern used to the present day for melting small quantities of copper. These crucibles contain a small amount of run copper, and there was a considerable quantity of copper dross lying all over the floor round the furnace. Also to leave no doubt about the casting, several " gates" or " runners," as they are called by founders, were unearthed. These were used to form channels in the sand for guiding the molten metal into the circular depressions which would represent the shape of the coin.
In Vol. xxx of the Manx Society's publications the late Mr. John Frissell Crellin described the above-mentioned Book of Disbursements and recorded some of the items contained in it. From this description it would appear that the manuscript has two titles. That on the brown paper cover is " A book of disbursments on the coynage of new pence and half pence Anno 1733," while that on the front of the first leaf is " Disbursments on the coynage of Brass Money Anno 1733." Mr. Crellin goes on to say "The coinage of 1733 may with propriety, I think, be called 'Brass Money, my maternal grandfather having on more than one occasion informed me that his grandfather told him that he remembered brass guns on the top of Castle Rushen, and that these guns were removed thence, and were used for the purpose of this coinage. The question now arises, where was this coinage executed? Was there a mint in this island? To the latter question, which I shall answer first, I give the reply that there was; and, from all that I can learn, I believe that it stood on the ground at present occupied by the Castletown Branch of the Bank of Mona. At all events, the old house which was in existence upon that site about forty years back, went by the name of 'The Mint.' This house was pulled down by the late Mr. Jefferson, of Ballahot, Malew, who purchased the site from the Crown, and erected upon it the existing building, which was for many years after its erection occupied by the Messrs. Cubbon, who carried on there the business of drapers. I think also that we have sufficient evidence in the ' Book of Disbursments' in item dated March 3, 1733, that the coinage was executed in or near Castletown. . . . 'Mar 3, Pad Ambrose Place for fetching mettle from Peele sand from Douglas and clay for the furnas,' etc. The above shews that the mint was not in Douglas, neither was it in Peel. The item dated March 8th, 'Pad to Mr. Wm. Jackson for twenty two Tun of Coales, Delivd. into the Castle for the use of coyning.' This item establishes the fact that as there were two castles only-Rushen Castle and Peel Castle-on the island, the coinage must have been executed if not in, at all events not far distant from one of them. I have already disposed of the claim of Peel being the seat of the mint, and I must therefore give the honour to Castletown, which, as being the capital of the island, and also containing the residence of James, then Earl of Derby, was-devoid of any other consideration whatever-most likely to contain the Royal Mint of the Isle of Man."
Mr. Rothwell, in an interesting letter published in the " Isle of Man Examiner," at the time of the discovery of the remains of the mint in 1905, and referring to Mr. Crellin's article, very pertinently asks, in reference to the item for " coales" delivered into the Castle for the use of coyning, " Why should the coals for this purpose have been delivered into the Castle if the mint itself was outside the Castle cartilage?" Of course Mr. Crellin was unaware that any such remains were to be found within the Castle, and considering that he was guided chiefly by tradition, it must be admitted that he succeeded in placing his mint very near the actual spot.
Two further items from the Book of Disbursements strongly favour the view that the coins were cast in the island:-
" February 18th. 1733 Pad Mr. Oliver Gamar Mr. Winstanly Rect. for three Dozn & three files & a Rasp £1 . 6. 10 British, in Manx 1. 11. 4"
" June 13. 1733 Pad Richd Quirk fr. six Melting pots at sixteen pence Irish p. Pot as p. Rect. 8. 8"
The latter probably accounts for the remains of melting pots recently discovered, and seems to leave no doubt about their use, while the former suggests that the process was carried a stage further, the rough discs being trimmed and filed to exact shape.
The remains found' and the entries in the Book of Disbursements (except that for freight on blank pence), seem then to prove that at all events the 1733 coinage was cast and cleaned up ready for stamping at Castle Rushen, and two further entries strongly suggest that the stamping was also done locally:-
"June 13. 1733 Pad Edward Caine for Timber that was wanting for the press 0. 4.2 as p. Bill"
" June 27 for Rum for cleaning the Dyes and Screws duering the whole time of coyning
is 12s British in Manx 0. 14. 0"
We have therefore four theories to consider:-
1. That the coinage was sent from England ready for use as suggested by the Act of Tynwald.
2. That it was cast in England and stamped in the island as suggested by the entry for freight in the Book of Disbursements.
3. That it was completely made in the island as suggested by the remains found and several entries in the Book of Disbursments.
4. That it was made of brass cannon.
Is there any possibility of formulating a theory that will agree with all this apparently conflicting evidence? Perhaps the brass cannon give a clue; for the coinage of 1733 consists of a mixture of brass and copper. At the period in question tokens of tin, copper, and other materials were in common use in England, though great efforts were made to suppress them. Perhaps Lord Derby himself issued such tokens on his English estates, or possibly he bought up a manufacturer's stock and shipped them over to be stamped in the island, deciding later to improve them with an alloy of brass. If such a theory is permissible, it reconciles all the conflicting evidence, and allows the island the honour of producing its own coinage.
There would seem to be no reason why the copper of which it was partly composed should not have been a local product, as copper mining was for some time a considerable industry in the neighbourhood of Castletown. In 1422 the Lord issued the following quaint order: "Alsoe that my Mine be sett forward by my Lieutenant Receiver and Comptroller, for my most Profltt, and see that the Miner does his duty and not to fate therein, for noe Manner of Cause, or els to make Writing, for I will not that he have Entertainment without Pains takeing."+
He does not, however, say what kind of metal he expects in return for entertaining the miner, and as copper seems without doubt to have been imported, we may suppose that that metal was not being discovered in large quantities.
There seems to be no possibility of settling the age of the mint in Castle Rushen. A mint was opened at Trim Castle in Ireland in 1460, but it is not likely that Castle Rushen had a mint so soon, as the earliest recorded Manx money is dated 1679, and probably the mint is not older than that date. Before that time English, Irish, and continental money seems to have been used indifferently and continued in use along with the Manx coinage until the revestment.
* Lex Scripta.
+ Paper in Crown Receiver's office.