York was Charles I’s “second capital “ and after being forced To leave London he made his way there, arriving on the 19th of March 1641/2. Until the middle of August his court was based at York whence directed operations against the Port of Hull.The establishment of a mint at York was being planned long before the outbreak form of hostilities. Nicholas Briot, the Kings engraver, was summoned to York by letter from the Secretary of State Edward Nicholas dated the 6th of May in connection with some proposals concerning currency standards. A letter of the 30th of May notes that Briot had fallen ill; but on the 21st of June,Secretary Nicholas ordered Briot to York forthwith. Shortly after, arrangements were made for William Parkhurst, warden of the mint, to advance Briot the money necessary for his journey. On the 15th of July, these plans received a severe setback when a ship carrying Briots equipment and personal baggage was held up off of Scarborough by one captain Stevens, who seized the equipment on the grounds that no authority has been given for its removal. Meanwhile on the 7th of July David Ramage, a member of Briots staff was paid £85 and 10 shillings for the provision of “several instruments for the two mints at York and Shrewsbury “.
The king meanwhile was touring the North Midlands seeking men and supplies. He dispatched a warrant establishing the mint at York, which arrived on the very day that equipment was taken. This we learn from a letter written from the following day from Beverly, which was printed in London four days later;
FRIDAY (15 July) “A warrant under his Majestie’s Broade seale came to Yorke for the erecting of a new Mynt there, some commissioners appointed for the same came to view the place, where the old Mynt stood, which is now in Sir William Savile‘s possession, near the Minster, where it appears money was coyned in Hen.”
The Building referee to is St. Leonards hospital which had housed a mint in 1546. However, August saw the removal of the Court as Charles set off to raise his standards at Nottingham and to recruit his army in the Welsh marches. York became a military backwater with a small garrison and the need for large sums of money moved elsewhere.
In October William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle and the wealthiest man in the north was commissioned general of all forces to be raised in all parts of the kingdom “Trent North “and in many Midlands counties which were at the time in Parliamentary hands. He was also empowered to confer tknighthoods and to coin money and print when he saw occasion for it. In December he bought his forces to York, where a contemporary diary bewailed the lack of organisation; Officers and gentry had to dig into their pockets to provide for the armies upkeep. The mint finally started production in January 1642/3, not in Saint Leonards hospital but in a building in Minster Yard, which surveys today as St. Williams College now belongs to the Diocese of York. Christopher’s Hildyards’s Antiquities of York city, First published in 1664, gives us the only reference to the mints in action, quoted above he also tells us that the Kings printers set up the press is there on the 24th of March 1641/2. All but one of these departed in the autumn of 1642, releasing suitable accommodation for the mint.
Four denominations were produced at York, half crowns, shillings, sixpences and three pences. It’s coins are unique among Civil War issues for the quality of their die-engraving and the perfection of the printed image - an apt term perhaps since they many were produced on a rotary press. Strips of silver were prepared and fit between pairs of steel rollers mounted in a machine like a mango operated, if Briot’s earlier experiments are a guide, by “too strong persons “. Each roller bore a series of engraved dies , five or six for half crowns and the coins ere punched out afterwards, a process which could leave a burred edge on the coin, which in extreme cases was filed flat. Almost all York coins are identified by the mint signature EBOR (the Latin name for the city, EBORACUM) and also use a lion, an element of the cities arms as a privy mark.
Of course Newcastle, will have delegated the day-to-day running of the York mint, but there is no evidence for the names of any of its officials. Experience staff may have possibly been recruited from Edinburgh, where Briot machines were in use. The active involvement of Nicholas Briot at York is testified by his correspondence of 1642, his widows petition to Charles II (‘he from time to time did go to York’), The use of rotary coining machinery and engraving of some of the dies. His pupil, David Ramage a competent if uninspired engraver, may have been responsible for the dies for the first group of halfcrowns.
The mints potential importance to the royalist line not only in converting plate, but also in the re-coinage of foreign species. Until Bristol was captured, the north eastern ports were a vital channel of suppliers from Europe. On the 7th of March1642/3, for instance, the Queen arrived at York from Netherlands bringing supplies room to include a large amount of coins. Yorks products were used locally, for the instance in purchasing food stuffs. They have been recorded in at least eight hordes from Yorkshire and neighbouring counties, notably those from Breckenbrough, near Thirsk, discovered in 1985 and Pocklington, east of York founded in 1849. The main probablt remained active until the early spring of 1644, when York was besieged by the joint armies of Lord Fairfax, the Scots and the eastern association. The seat was raised by Prince Rupert on the 1st of July, but the royalist disaster at Marston Moor is the following day lead swiftly to a renewed siege which a much reduced garrison was unable to withstand. Articles for the city surrender were agreed on the 15th of July 1644.