- Object Type
- Museum number
Reading: coin | British Museum
Inscription in two lines with cross between two annulets above and Thor’s hammer (mallet type) between two annulets below, a sword pointing to right with a cross at the point between the two lines of inscription.
Inscription with annulets between letters Cross pattée with a pellet in each angle.
- Production date
- Production place
- Curator’s comments
- Graham-Campbell 1980
Ex J. Pierpont Morgan and Sir John Evans collections ex Co. Dublin hoard found in 1883.
Die axis ↓
Date of production given as c. 910.
This coin belongs to an extensive series of coins without ruler’s name whose most literate obverses state that they are ‘St Peter’s money’ and whose reverses bear the name of the city of York. The relative chronology of the different sub-groups set out by Stewart (1967) is now widely accepted: first the swordless type, followed by the sword/cross type (this example), then the sword/ Thor’s mallet type (registration no. 1935,1117.369) and the sword/Thor’s hammer type (Graham-Campbell 1980 cat. no. 367). None appears in the Cuerdale hoard so all must be dated later than c.903. Thereafter, the absolute chronology presents considerable problems. From the absence of the latest sub-groups from hoards buried in the mid and later 920s, Stewart concluded that the sword/mallet group ought not to be dated much – if at all – before 925, and that the issue of the St Peter coins might have continued after Athelstan took York in 927. There is a serious difficulty with this late chronology for, as Stewart demonstrated, it also requires the St Martin coins of Lincoln (Graham-Campbell 1980 cat. no. 368) to be dated not earlier than the mid 920s although there is no evidence that Lincoln was ever out of English hands between 918 and 939. Stewart therefore had to postulate either a revival of Viking control in Lincoln not historically recorded or, once again, that this coinage was condoned for a time by Athelstan. To explain coinages which thus outlasted several drastic changes in political control, it was necessary to identify their issue either, as had been traditional, with the ecclesiastical authorities, or to postulate ‘municipal’ coinages which could maintain a sequence of issues despite these upheavals. It is difficult however to accept that, in York, any Archbishop would have produced a coinage bearing a Thor’s hammer and that, in Lincoln, any ecclesiastical coinage would not have named the patron of the principal church, St Mary. On the other hand, the proposition of a ‘municipal’ coinage has revolutionary implications for the commercial and corporate organisation of York and Lincoln at this early date. The suggestion of an issue prolonged into the period of Athelstan’s control also seems unlikely in the light of the suppression by Edward the Elder of all coinages not bearing the king’s name – in particular of that naming the Archbishop of Canterbury – a policy which was maintained by Athelstan and crystallised in the monetary clauses of his Grateley decrees which, although undated, are not late in the reign and incorporate at this point material from an earlier lost code (Blunt, C. E. (1974): The coinage of Athestan, 924-939: a survey, ‘British Numismatic Journal’, xlii, 40-1).
In view of these difficulties, it is necessary to assess how strong the hoard evidence adduced really is, against the documentary record. The core of this hoard evidence consists of four finds, three of which, Glasnevin and Dunmore Cave from Ireland and Bangor from Wales, were all very small; the other from Morley St Peter in Norfolk, while large, was likewise found outside the Viking kingdom of York and in an area which had been under the control of the English king for almost a decade. The York element in this find could well have reached East Anglia some time previously and the latest coins within it need not have been contemporary with the latest English coins. When it is recalled that the earlier sub-groups of the St Peter coins are much commoner than the later ones, the absence of the latter from Glasnevin and Bangor and their presence in Dunmore Cave, all of which hoards contained only a handful of coins, is less significant. (The important Bossall, Yorkshire, hoard must also be borne in mind.) It therefore seems preferable to recognise the vagaries of coin-representation in hoards and to accept the historical record at face value. To do so, also has its own problems but they appear less formidable than those raised by a late chronology.
It is suggested therefore that the St Peter and St Martin coins were neither ecclesiastical nor ‘municipal’ issues but were instead the coins of the Christianised Danish hosts of York and of Lincoln. The addition of a Thor’s hammer to the sword of St Peter is understandable if the issuing authority were the recently-converted leaders, not all of whom may have been fully convinced of the unaided power of the new Faith. On this interpretation, all the St Peter coins would have been issued before the conquest of York by the Hiberno-Norse Regnald in 919. This dating would allow the St Peter coins of the middle period (this example) from which the St Martin pennies were copied, to have been struck from c.910, giving the Danes of Lincoln time to have produced their coins before they submitted to Edward the Elder in 918.
Unlike the Danish host whom they replaced, the Hiberno-Norse conquerors had one acknowledged leader, and so, it was the name of the pagan Regnald which replaced that of St Peter on the next issues at York (Graham-Campbell 1980 cat. nos. 369-371). When Regnald submitted in turn to Edward in 920, an issue in the latter’s name may possibly have been made (registration no. 1959,1210.2). After Regnald’s death, his successor Sihtric did include a sword type among his coin-designs, but it was copied not from coins contemporaneously in issue but from earlier coins still present in circulation; this must certainly have happened in 952 when the same type was again revived by Eric Bloodaxe (Graham-Campbell 1980 cat. no. 377).
Literature: Cp. Dolley, M. (1958): The post-Brunanburh Viking coinage of York, ‘Nordisk Numismatisk Årsskrift’ 1957-8, 40-3; Stewart, I. (1967): The St Martin coins of Lincoln, ‘British Numismatic Journal’, xxxvi, 46-54; Dolley, M. (1978a): The Anglo-Danish and Anglo-Norse coinages of York, in Hall, R. S. (ed.) (1978): ‘Viking Age York and the North’ (Council for British Archaeology Research Report, 27), London, 26-28.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2019, 16 Feb-8 Sep, Norwich Castle Museum, Viking: Rediscover the Legend
2018, 31 Mar-8 Jul, Southport, The Atkinson, Viking: Rediscover the Legend
2017-2018 24 Nov-4 Mar, Nottingham, University of Nottingham Museum, Viking: Rediscover the Legend
2017 19 May–5 Nov, York, Yorkshire Museum, Viking: Rediscover the Legend
2015-2017, 15 Mar-20 Mar, Falmouth, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Viking Voyagers, LT Loan
2014-2015 Jul-Jan, Berlin, Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Vikings
2014 6 Mar-22 Jun, London, British Museum, Vikings
2013, 22 Jun – 17 Nov, Denmark, Copenhagen, Nationalmuseet Danmark, Vikings
- Acquisition date
- Coins and Medals
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(Money Gallery Exhibited)
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