Heritage100

King Alfred silver penny

King Alfred silver penny obverse

And if a moneyer is found guilty the hand shall be cut off with which he committed the crime…

Silver penny of Alfred the Great inscribed +AELFREDREXSA+ ('Alfred, King of the Saxons') and LVLLA MONETA ('Lulla, moneyer).

On his accession, Alfred, King of Wessex, found himself beset on all sides by Viking invaders and the greater part of his reign was occupied in resisting their attacks and saving England from becoming entirely Danish.

Alfred minted coins at a number of places including London and Canterbury and, for the first time, a mint was established in Winchester.

The number of moneyers working in Winchester at any one time varied. Their individual forges and workshops, or monete which made up the mint, seem to have been concentrated in the area of the royal palace, though outside it, on the south side of the High Street.

The earliest reference to moneyers and mints is in the decree issued by Aethelstan, Alfred’s grandson, around 928 at Grateley, Hampshire. This laid down the laws governing the operation of mints and the penalties to be imposed on moneyers who broke them.

'And if a moneyer found guilty [of issuing base or light coins] the hand shall be cut off with which he committed the crime, and then fastened up on the mint. But if he is accused and he wishes to clear himself, then he shall go to the hot iron [ordeal] and redeem the hand which he is accused of having committed the crime.'

Quick Facts

  • Made of silver
  • Weight 1.45g
  • Diameter 20mm
  • Issued by King Alfred the Great
  • Struck by Lulla the Moneyer
  • Made in AD875-885
  • Accession number WINCM:C4159
  • Where found Excavations at Cathedral Green, Winchester 
  • Excavator Martin Biddle

Facts

  • King Alfred the Great was born at Wantage in about AD848/849. He was King of Wessex from AD871-899. He died on 26th October 899 and was buried in Winchester.  
  • How much was a Saxon silver penny worth in modern terms? People have tried various ways of estimating the relative value of Saxon coins using supposedly relative standards like soldiers' rates of pay, and the price of ale. The resulting estimates vary considerably - you can get the figure for a Saxon penny being worth anything from £10 - £200, although most methods give a figure in the range of £20 - £50. A low conversion rate might be: 1 Saxon silver penny = £20 today.
  • Coins were struck using engraved dies. Die-cutting was carefully controlled to avoid unauthorised striking of coinage and it appears that Winchester was a regional centre for their production.
  • Die-cutters tested their dies on lead before issuing them to moneyers. Two lead trial pieces are known from Winchester, for the moneyers Aestan and Aelfwine who both struck coins for Edward the Confessor.

Did you know?

The largest collection of Winchester mint coins can now be found in Russia, in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. This reflects the vast number of coins that were paid as Danegeld - the annual tax to 'buy off' the Viking invaders - and which subsequently found their way to Russia because of the close contacts between Scandinavia and Russia at this time.

Gallery

King Alfred silver penny reverse
King Alfred silver penny both sides
King Alfred silver penny

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