Sunday, 8 August 2010

Hanes Môn: the Anglesey Druid's Head Pennies

Reporting on the daily scandals in Llangefni can become monotonous so from now on I propose to start an occasional weekend series on some little known gems of Ynys Môn history. And where better to start than with the Parys "Anglesey Druid" pennies and halfpennies which became widely circulated as currency back in the 18th century.

The Anglesey Druids were first struck in copper in 1787 by Parys Mine Company owner Thomas Williams in order to pay his miners. However, with over ten million pieces (the equivalent of at least 250 tons of pennies and 50 tons of halfpennies) issued by 1817, they quickly became common currency throughout the United Kingdom. Indeed, they even had "WE PROMISE TO PAY THE BEARER ONE PENNY IN LONDON LIVERPOOL OR ANGLESEY" engraved across their face and edges.

Although known as the Anglesey Druids, they were actually originally struck in the Parys Mine Mint in Great Charles Street, Birmingham. Production later moved to the Soho Mint in Handsworth where the 1790 Anglesey halfpennies have the distinction of being the world's first truly modern coins, being fully round and of regular size and weight, struck by steam, in a collar. Eventually Anglesey Pennies and Halfpennies were being made in mints up and down the country, apparently making the Druid's Head one of the most recognisable images of the time!

If you are interested in owning a Druid's Head coin, they're still widely available on eBay.

If you have any other suggestions on subjects to cover in this Anglesey history series, do let me know in comments.


Anonymous said...

DRUID, an interesting and refreshing diversion from the depressing norm !
You might consider an episode on Anglesey`s role in the laying of the Atlantic cable, over to Ireland.
Google cable Cottage ??

Anonymous said...

so many things. The bridge in Aberffraw for instance

Robert Williams said...

A new guidebook to Anglesey’s ‘Copper Kingdom’ has been published by the Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust. It is on sale at the Sail Loft in Amlwch, or through Amazon at
A Welsh language edition, ‘Y Deyrnas Gopr’, is also available.
(The book has been written by the authors of ‘Môn Mam Cymru: the Guide to Anglesey’ – a comprehensive guide to the history and culture of the island.

The Great Councillini said...

Copper Kingdom/Y Deyrnas Gopr is very well put together and worth getting.

Imagine that Bronze Age people, the Phoenicians and Romans have all been messing about at Parys (Mynydd Trysglwyn as it was known previously).

The Great Councillini said...

This is one view of many spectacular sights from the underground workings - an acidic (pH about 1 or sometimes less) pool with stalactites melding into the water. Remarkably, these harsh conditions are home to ancient lifeforms called archaea, which are similar to bacteria, but have enough differences to be classified as an entirely separate form of life.