A Century of Giving
Group of Five Coins from the Cambridge Mint
Anglo-Saxon - Norman
c. 1.8 - 2.1 cm
The Fitzwilliam Museum
The Cambridge mint had its origins in Late Anglo Saxon times. It continued, without interruption, until it was closed down in the mid 12th century by Henry II, probably due to increasing government centralisation.
The Cambridge mint was one of perhaps 50 or 60 mints all over England. There was probably no single location in the town, as several moneyers here had a license to make coins in their own workshops. They can be identified by inscriptions on the coins themselves.
These tiny silver pennies - featuring designs such as royal heads with crowns or helmets, and ornate crosses - have the purchasing power of £10 or £20 today.
Sterling was an international currency, and English coins have been found as far away as the eastern Mediterranean. Cambridge mint coins often turn up in vast silver hordes in Scandinavia, Estonia and Russia - having been taken from England by the Vikings as 'danegeld' (an extorted payment to buy peace) and also used in trade.
The Coins and Medals Department had its origins in the University's own historic collection, transferred to the Fitzwilliam Museum after its foundation in the 19th century. Since Cockerell's time, the Friends have made a significant and sustained contribution to this department, enabling the Museum to respond to recent discoveries in building a fully representative collection.
A key figure was Phillip Grierson, (1910-2006) Honorary Keeper of Coins from 1949 until his death. The longest serving Honorary Keeper in the Museum, Grierson bequeathed to it the world's finest collection of continental medieval coinage, of which Cambridge is rightly proud.