DAVID ARNOLD - Mayfield men were coining it

In the 17th century coinage often became scarce, particularly during the reign of Charles I. In response, private tradesmen began minting their own money. Though forbidden by royal proclamation, between 1648 and 1672 thousands of monetary tokens were in circulation in towns and villages all over Sussex.

The practice thrived in our county partly because for more than half of the year many habitations were inaccessible due to the terrible condition of the roads that were more like mud-bound, rutted tracks than viable highways.

We know for certain of two Mayfield men known to made their own currency. One was William Weston whose coins bore his name and the words “Grocers’ Arms” on one side and “In Mayfield, 1667” on the reverse. The second man with his own minor mint was Clement Read. He produced halfpennies with his name on one side and “Of Mayfield, 1668 C.V.R” on the other. I do not know what the initials C.V.R stood for.

Plenty of tokens have survived and are on display in various local museums. On coins bearing the name of the county, spellings include “Susuex”, “Susex”, “Sosex” and “Susx” as well as the familiar “Sussex”. Clearly spelling was not a strong point with tradesmen, a fact attested to by the name of Arundel appearing in six different forms on tokens issued in that West Sussex town. The modern equivalent of tokens must be the likes of the Lewes Pound, a homemade “banknote” redeemable for goods and services at many places around the town. I suspect though that many Lewes Pounds are never actually spent as they do make rather special souvenirs and are snapped up by tourists rather than by townspeople.