This article appeared in the August 1968 (Issue #13) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Pottery Money Boxes.
.... in form from many of those manufactured by the thousands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, variations on what was the traditional shape for several hundred years do exist and as few money boxes are found completely whole and undamaged, mistakes in identifying excavated fragments can occur. For instance one money box I have seen was mis-labelled "Roman child's feeding bottle," due to the similarity in shape and size and by the fact that the exhibit was broken off at the neck.
Money boxes of the early medieval period are also fairly rare; as the coinage of this time was in such a debased and poor condition one must assume that few people had enough money or the inclination to save it. Mediaeval money boxes are sometimes "bun-shaped" and a good example of this type dating from the late thirteenth century was found amongst the wares produced in the mediaeval kilns at Rye, Sussex, when they were excavated in the 1930s. Several money boxes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have been found with their contents intact, but nearly all of these were discovered in Scotland.
Money boxes of the early and late Tudor period are much more common and well represented in most of our larger museums. Both the British and London Museums have collections of good fifteenth and sixteenth century examples though the familiar globular shape and speckled green glaze make the inspection of these rather monotonous. No doubt these were the type which were put out for tips at Christmas time by the Tudor apprentices. Maidstone Museum has one little broken money box of the fifteenth century on show which is typical of its period, with a long narrow slot in its side to accommodate the thin coinage of the day. Most of the globular money boxes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries have the money slot running in a vertical direction, but this is by no means the rule. On the few examples I have seen where the slit runs horizontally across the pot there nearly always appears to be a slight sag downwards and inwards on the lower edge of the cut and this may have caused some difficulty when introducing the coin. Many money boxes are found virtually whole except for a neat break along one side of the money slot, a result of the owner trying to extract the contents without destroying the pot. Anyone who has experienced the pleasurable anticipation of inserting a knife blade into a money box slot will know that too much heavy-handed leverage can end in disaster. After about AD 1600 the slot, more often than not, was placed horizontally across the box though once again there are exceptions to the rule. This was the period when superior techniques of pottery making were being introduced from the Continent and potters became more skilful with their raw materials and more ambitious with their shapes.
One of the most comprehensive ranges of pottery money boxes in Southern England is held by the Brighton Museum where they have at least nine or ten on view in the various showcases. Hastings Museum also has several unusual styles though they are mostly of the late eighteenth century and products of the local potteries at Rye and Brede. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the variety of pottery money box shapes was enormous, though many were still based on the traditional globular shape, for example representing fir cones or bee hives. It would seem too, that the nineteenth century was a period when symbolism played a large part in the choice of one's money box. Egg shapes, sometimes two or three tiers high and often decorated with little pottery chickens were popular (was this the origin of the expression "nest egg"?). Model houses, ("safe as"?) and the rotund well fed pig, still a firm favourite today, appeared at this time. Money boxes of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century occasionally have a large, wide slot, fashioned by the potter to accommodate the thick and heavy copper twopenny and penny pieces which were struck by Boultons of Birmingham in 1797. One interesting box of about this date I have seen had two egg-shaped compartments, each with a different sized slot, the lower one large and wide to take the copper coins and the upper small and narrow for the silver. However these elaborate containers are a far cry from the days of Henry II who carried his money around in barrels rind still further away from the two careful men of Iron Age Kent who concealed their wealth in round hollow flints.Higham hoard, Rochester Museum.
Westerham hoard, British Museum.