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.'
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.
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