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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Episcopal Coins Of Durham - Anthony Bek 1284-1311

I am often asked what the difference is between a Durham Penny and an Episcopal Durham Penny. In the article below I'll try and explain.


In years gone by Bishops were very powerful people, and some where allowed to mint money in their own right. So as well as official Durham coins minted by the king, other coins were also minted by the bishops. These are referred to as Episcopal coins. It has been suggested that the Bishops of Durham coined money as early as after the days of the conquest, but they lost their privilege when Henry II deprived the bishop of his dies c1183 only for it to be restored by Richard I in 1196. These earlier Episcopal coins will be looked at, at a later date.

The first easliy identifiable pennies minted by a Durham Bishop, were in the reign of Edward I, when in the eleventh year of his reign, Anthony Bek was appointed to the See of Durham - See, meaning the place in which a cathedral stands. Identified as the seat of authority of a Bishop.

We are told that he was the most opulent prelate that ever filled the chair. In fact it is him that remarked

'There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham, wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham'.

The Bishop was usually attended by one hundred and forty knights, and having obtained the Patriachate of Jerusalem from the Pope, he procured the government of the Isle of Man from the king. Conscious of these honours and his palatanate rights he appears on his episcopal seal with a large cross moline embroidered on his upper robe, in the style of the temporal barons of those days.

It is for this reason that those pennies bearing the cross moline are attributed to the bishop. The marks are usually presented at the beginning of the legend on each side of the coin; others have the same cross in the second quarter of the reverse; and yet another type has it at the beginning of the legend, of the obverse only.

The coins, with the cross on the obverse or obverse/reverse, or in the second quarter of the reverse AND the kings name EDW, have the reverse legend as CIVITAS DVREME. These coins date from 1284 and are always 4b-e, 5b, 6b, 7b. CIVITAS DVRENE is also used for class 9a.and also 9b.

Edward I, Class 9b2, Episcopal Durham Penny

There are also coins with the name EDWAR and CIVITAS DVNELM or CIVITAS DVREME with the cross moline on the obverse only and these are 10ab, 10cf or 11a. It is believed that most, of the 10cf, and all of 11a were minted in the early reign of Edward II.  Anthony Beck died 3rd March 1311.

Edward I class 10cf3 Durham penny with the cross moline initial mark,
 but has an error in the obverse legend, reading EDWAN ANGL DNS HYB 

Edward I, Probably a Class 10cf, Episcopal Durham Penny

Image Courtesy of Sleddall Hall Antiques

In my next article, I will continue with Bishop Kellow. If in the meantime you have any images of ecipscopal pennies of Durham, you would like to share, please leave a comment and I'll get in touch. 

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