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Conquering the coins of William!

24 September 2015 by Paula

PhD student Anja Rohde measuring coins

PhD student Anja Rohde measuring coins

On the 27th of August Anja Rohde, a PhD student from the University of Nottingham researching the coins of the Norman Conquest (11th century AD), visited our stores to examine the coins of William the Conqueror and his son William Rufus. Anja is an experienced museum professional having previously worked in Derby museums as a collections officer and shared the Finds Liaison Officer for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. She is currently visiting various museums across Britain to examine the coins which they hold in their collections, this research is funded by AHRC Midlands-3-Cities partnership. Find out why Anja is interested in the coins of that era:

“The coins of the Norman Conquest period are all silver pennies, and they are fascinating! On one face they have a portrait of the king, with his name and titles around the edge, and on the other face they have a cross, to represent Christianity, and they state the town where they were made and the name of the official who was responsible for their manufacture.

The coins can therefore reveal things about how the king wanted to be depicted to his subjects, how the process of producing money for the kingdom was organised, who the men responsible for minting coins were and how the economy of the country was running at the time of the Norman Conquest.

I am looking for differences in the way the minting system was organised in different regions of the country, and whether this changed over the first 35 years after the Norman Conquest. I also want to see if I can find out more about the individual mint officials. I therefore weighed, measured and photographed each of the coins in the Liverpool collection, and examined them closely, so I can compare them to the coins in other museum collections.

The Liverpool collection contains about 50 pennies of the two kings William. There are pennies made in various towns, such as Colchester, Ipswich, London, Winchester and Wallingford, but over two thirds of them were made in York. York was an important place in the 11th century, and is one of the towns I am particularly focusing on in my project. I will therefore be interested to see what the coins from the Liverpool collection will tell me about money and society in York in the years just after the Normans invaded.”

As part of our numismatics collections we have around 150 early British, including Anglo-Saxon and Viking, items.

Norman coins

Left hand coin: “LIV William I sword” (53.114.1778)
This coin shows William the Conqueror wearing a crown and holding a sword to show that he is a strong leader.
Central coin: “LIV William I bonnet” (53.114.1754)
This portrait shows William the Conqueror wearing a particularly fancy crown. It has been given the nickname of the ‘bonnet coinage’!
Right hand coin: “LIV William I reverse” (53.114.1765)
This is the back of one of William the Conqueror’s coins. The inscription reads VLFCETEL ON EO, which means “Ulfcetel at Eoferwic”. Eoferwic was the medieval name for York, so this coin was made in York, by a man named Ulfcetel.

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