The Norfolk Token Project (NTP) is a collaborative venture to foster interest and research into the county’s 17th century token series. These were produced by private traders and town and city corporations to alleviate a chronic shortage of small change in the 1650s and 1660s. Over three hundred different issues are known for Norfolk. Headed by Dr. Adrian Marsden and involving several volunteers, the NTP is a work-in-progress with several aims:
1) The production of a catalogue illustrating the best available specimen of every known Norfolk token.
The standard reference work for British seventeenth-century tokens, organised on a county-by-county basis, was produced by George Williamson over a century ago in 1891 but little work has done on the Norfolk issues since then. An initial (unpublished) catalogue of the Norfolk tokens in the Norwich Castle Museum collection was produced in 2013 and a more recent version incorporating an introduction to the series as a whole will be published early in 2016. Large numbers of tokens are found every year by metal detectorists operating in the county and some have kindly been donated to the museum such as a farthing token of John Tucke of Burnham Market showing a sugar loaf dated 1666 (below).
Some tokens in the collection have evidently never been below ground. A farthing of Isaac Pearcivale of Norwich has hardly seen circulation (see below). A number of Pearcivale’s tokens exist in other collections in a similar state and it seems likely that a small hoard of them was discovered in a building at some stage in the past, probably in the 19th century.
2) Continuing research on the men and women who issued the Norfolk tokens.
For example, Augustine Briggs had tokens produced in the mid-1650s showing a cockerel, perhaps a punning allusion to his daughter-in-law whose maiden name was Cock.
Briggs went on to become Mayor of Norwich in 1670 and a Member of Parliament some years later (below left). He died in 1684 and was buried in St. Peter Mancroft where his memorial still stands today (below right).
3) Plotting finds of tokens made by metal detectorists in order to analyse how widely different types of token circulated.
This work is ongoing but has already produced some interesting results. It seems that the Corporation issues circulated furthest, not surprising given their larger size, and that the private issues did not generally travel very far. The tokens of small hamlets hardly travelled at all and yet are often found in large numbers in the areas immediately adjacent to their place of issue. A more detailed study of how the tokens circulated together with a discussion of a number of tokens whose Norfolk origins have been doubted is included in the 2015 edition of Norfolk Archaeology.
An exhibition on the Norwich tokens – ‘Token Traders – How Norwich Men and Women Made Their Own Money’ – is to be held at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell from 22nd March – 3rd July 2016, and will be accompanied by a series of talks. More information can be found on our events page.
A catalogue of 17th Century Tokens in Norwich Castle Museum is available from the Norwich Castle Museum shop and from the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, price ten pounds. To order the catalogue directly please download the order form and send it to: Norfolk Museums Service, Shirehall, Market Avenue, Norwich NR1 3JQ (Tel 01603 493625). Post and packaging is £4 and cheques should be made out to Norfolk County Council.
The Norfolk Token Project can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org