Kent Archaeological Review extract

Brass Counters from New Romsey.
by Peter Keller.

During December 1977 a road widening scheme was undertaken at George Lane, New Romney, which required the removal of some half a metre of mixed soil. At a point about 9m. north of the junction with Fairfield Road Mr C. W. Wylie of New Romney found two very interesting brass counters. These he promptly reported to the Kent Unit so that a record could be made of their discovery. He must be congratulated both for his quick eye and for his responsible action.

Of the two counters one has been identified as a brass RECKONING COUNTER of George I (1714-1727). The OBVERSE shows: Bust facing right, lauretted head. His English titles in Latin around the edge read: GEORG(IUS) A. D(EI) G(RATIA) M(AGNAE) B(RITANNIAE) FR(ANCIAE) REX. GEORGE I BY THE GRACE OF GOD OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, KING.

DRAWING: Counter of George I (actual size) (Drawn by Graham Welstead).

Counter of George I (actual size) (Drawn by Graham Welstead).

The REVERSE shows: The four crowned shields representing:

  1. The Fleur de Lis of France,
  2. The Harp of Ireland,
  3. The lion rampant of Scotland, and
  4. The three lions couchant of England.
The star of the Garter is shown in the centre. The spaces between the four shields are filled with four double entwined C's. The reverse here then is a copy of the earlier coinage of Charles II. The legend around the edge reads: IOHANN JACOB DIET(Z)EL RECH(EN) PFENNIGE COUNTERS. 'John Jacob Dietzel rechenpfennige counters'.

Before the general introduction of Arabic (really Hindu) numerals in the fifteenth century, arithmetical calculations were made in Europe by means of Roman numerals. Metal discs were used together with a counting-board or cloth divided into squares like a chequerboard for the reckoning of accounts, the procedure being similar to that used with the abacus. The discs were made of copper or brass and imitated coins in appearance and frequently in types. These reckoning counters (called in French JETONS; in German RECHENPFENNIGE) began to be made in the thirteenth century; at first in France, then increasingly and finally exclusively in Germany Nuremberg being for many years from the fourteenth century onwards a principal source of supply. See Reference [1] The Nuremberg counters frequently bear the maker's name. This counter bears the name of John Jacob Dietzel, who worked between 1710-1740. Foreign reckoning counters were imported into England in large numbers and are often found on medieval sites and in old ecclesiastical buildings to which they owe the name "Abbey Tokens" by which they are sometimes called.

DRAWING: Counter of Queen Anne (actual size) (Drawn by Graham Welstead).

Counter of Queen Anne (actual size) (Drawn by Graham Welstead).

The second is a brass counter of Anne (1702-1714), struck at Nuremberg by Johann Gottliels Lauffe. The OBVERSE shows: Draped bust of Anne facing left, hair bound with fillet. The legend reads ANNA. D(EI) G(RATIA) MAG(NAE) BR(ITANNIAE) FR(ANCIAE) ET HIB(ERNIAE) R(EGINA), ANNE By the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Queen. The REVERSE shows: A map depicting Vigo Bay and showing galleons entering the bay. The legend around the edge reads ANGLOR ET BATA(VA) VIRTUTE-, By the valour of the English and the Dutch. The inscription beneath the map reads INCENS(A) CLASSE OPES AMERIC(ANAS) INTER(CEPIMUS). "Their fleet having been burnt we seized en route their American treasures." Parallel counters have the date of 1702 beneath the inscription.

The Anglo-Dutch expedition of 1702 was spearheaded by Rooke and Lord Ormonde. They forced the booms and batteries of Vigo Bay in Spain and captured a considerable amount of bullion. The bullion had been brought over by the Spanish Fleet from America and although a large amount had already been landed a vast quantity was still on board. Only a small proportion was of gold but it is said that of the several hundred thousands in silver, only about 95,000 reached the treasury.

The bullion was turned into coinage and the task befell Sir Isaac Newton, who became Master of the Mint in 1699. The word "vigo" was introduced on to the coins, usually beneath Anne's bust, to commemorate the expedition. Counters were struck and the 1702 expedition to Vigo Bay was commemorated on the reverse as depicted here.

Both tokens were also examined by the Coins and Medals Department of the British Museum, who confirmed the details.


Footnote 1.

Medallic Illustrations of British History, Vol. 2, Edward Hawkins, 1885. Return to the paragraph.
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