I used to detect on a piece of land that had served the local village as
a venue for fairs, church events and car boot sales. Although the finds were not overtly spectacular, they were often interesting and worthy of comment. Amongst the pipe tampers, barrel tap keys and such-like, I found many different kinds of English money. Such a coin find evoked memories of my early days living in a Durham pit village – and it was dated for the year in which I was born! Here’s the coin:
At the time it was introduced – in 1937 – it was a radically new design having twelve sides, struck in nickel-brass, and planned for the new coinage of Edward VII, who abdicated, having been uncrowned king for most of 1936.
This was a time when we still spent pounds and pence (not pee) in the shops. Mobiles were things attached to ceilings, twittering was something done by birds and Neil Armstrong had yet to step on the lunar surface. In the middle of all this was the beautiful coin and one of my all-time favourites – the ‘thruppenny bit’.
The design on the reverse of this coin is a hardy tufted Thrift plant, a flower able to survive on coastal cliffs, mountains and salt marshes as it is wind, drought and salt-tolerant, thus able to survive on rather poor soil.
That’s why I’m reminded of another kind of thrift – perhaps the design on the reverse of the coin was introduced to encourage economy in difficult times. Nothing was wasted in our home. Mother never threw away food. Father repaired shoes, made toys. We existed on very little, made do and mend, but I remember my (frugal?) childhood with affection.
With the accession on Queen Elizabeth, the reverse design was changed to a portcullis. The coin was eventually withdrawn in 1971, six months after the introduction of decimal coinage – which did not have a denomination of three pence. I find it ironic that the portcullis, the symbol for the Palace of Westminster, is now firmly associated with excess, greed and waste. Time for a different design on our decimal pennies for which it was adopted, methinks! I might even suggest the hardy sea pink (thrift). What do you reckon?
The portcullis still appears on the UK penny.