The Essex Numismatic Society and the Chelmsford Museum
The Essex Numismatic Society was formed, as the Chelmsford & District Numismatic Society, in 1966 shortly before decimalisation and at a time when interest in coins and numismatics in general was increasing and new clubs and societies were proliferating. As smaller local societies disappeared it was decided to change the name and widen the catchment area to the whole of the County and since then we have remained as one of the premier numismatic societies in the provinces. We are one of approximately sixty clubs which are affiliated to BANS (The British Association of Numismatic Societies) and we regularly support their annual congresses in the spring and their lecture courses in the autumn. We have run two congresses ourselves -at Clacton in 1979 and at Chelmsford in 1987.
Having occupied several meeting places within Chelmsford over the years, it was after the 1987 congress that we moved to our current accommodation in the Chelmsford Museum which incorporates the Essex Regiment Museum. Indeed, that congress programme included a talk on the history of the regiment and a visit to the museum when we met the then curator who has since retired but who has remained a member ever since.
The society has a membership role of approximately thirty five of whom some twenty are active and recent attendances have peaked at twenty five but average around seventeen. We meet on the fourth Friday monthly, except December, at 7.30 for 8.00pm and normally have a speaker where we are extremely proud of the quality of our programme which is as diverse as the interests of our membership. August is probably our quietest month when, traditionally, we have short talks from within our own membership. Our AGM in April is usually supplemented by our annual exhibition when we compete for the H.V.H. Everitt Trophy.
The Chelmsford Museum which is situated at Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, CM2 9AQ has a much longer history than the Essex Numismatic Society. It was founded in 1835 by the Chelmsford Philosophical Society which was itself founded in 1828. It started its life in the parlour of the County Gaol where T.C. Neale, the Governor, was also secretary of the Philosophical Society and occupied two further sites in Chelmsford until it moved to purpose built premises in 1906 when the Council took over responsibility for running the museum. The museum made its final move to its present premises in 1930 and is now fully funded by Chelmsford Borough Council.
Oaklands itself has a fascinating history. The land on which it stands was, shortly after 1066, in the hands of the Abbot and Convent of St Peter, Westminster. The whole estate, the Manor of Moulsham, extending to some 1300 acres, was bought by Thomas Mildmay from the Crown in 1540 for £622.5s.8d and it remained in the possession of the Mildmay family until 1839 when it was sold to Thomas Greenwood, a banker. In 1865 he sold just over 29 acres to Frederick Wells who was born in 1827 and who had become a successful brewer and coal, timber and lime merchant. He was an Alderman of the Borough and a prominent Nonconformist and philanthropist. It was Wells who had the present house built and it is described as being of Rural Italian Style, a style made popular by Victoria and Albert at Osborne in the Isle of Wight. The house which is largely unaltered has a typically irregular plan, form and elevation with hipped and gabled slate roofs with deep overhanging eves supported by carved brackets. There are seven tall chimneys and an imposing bell tower or campanile and Wells’ initials feature on three stone plaques. The property changed hands several times after Wells’ death in 1908 and from 1915 to 1919 it was used firstly as a military hospital, and secondly as an Army Recruiting Office. After the war it was returned to family use but was bought by the Council in 1929 and the museum and park were officially opened on Empire Day, 24th May 1930.
The purpose-built extension housing the Regimental Museum was added in 1972/3, and was formally opened by Princess Margaret on the 24th April 1973 when the Regimental collections were placed in trust with the Council. One of its more famous and obvious exhibits is the cannon captured during the fighting for Sebastopol in the Crimean War; this stands on the front lawn of the house.
Admission to the museum is free and it is open from 10 am to 5 pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 2 pm to 5 pm on Sundays in the Summer, and 1 pm to 5 pm in the Winter; although the park is open from early morning until dusk. As well as the Regimental Museum and a variety of temporary exhibitions there are permanent displays comprising the history of Chelmsford from the last Ice Age to the present day. The museum also houses an important collection of wine glasses and Castle Hedingham Ware pottery and there is a room fitted out as a typical Victorian sitting room. There are also two rooms which display natural history specimens. A brown bear shot in Russia in 1900 and an active bee hive, the interior of which is visible from inside the building, are two of the most popular exhibits with children. There is an active “Friends” organisation and full information can be obtained by phoning 01245 605700 or by visiting the web site on www.chelmsford.gov.uk
From the numismatic point of view the museum has on permanent display the Regiment’s collection of campaign and gallantry medals, including the Victoria Cross won by Lieut. Newton Parsons in South Africa, one of the finest collections of Essex Tokens in the country and a selection of coins filling more display cases. Two cases contain a good selection of Roman Coins, many of which were found in the locality of Chelmsford whose Roman name was Caesaromagus. A third case contains almost a full type set of English silver and copper coins from 1760 to 1967 and a fourth contains a fairly comprehensive selection from 1485 to 1760. A further case containing coins from 600 to 1485 is currently in course of preparation.
The archaeological archives of the museum are housed at a separate site not far from the main building. In addition to pottery, bone, tile and brick etc are coin finds from various borough sites. The best of these are included in the displays already mentioned but the remainder form part of the site groups and are described in various publications available from the museum shop.
Whilst the museum has always had a good selection of coins on display, rationalisation of the Roman cases and the collection from AD600 to 1967 has involved the co-operation of the Essex Numismatic Society who, in return for a very reasonable rental agreement, provide unpaid voluntary assistance with the coin collections. The outcome of this has been that, over the last few years, the Council has provided additional funding for the Museum who has commissioned the Society to make modest purchases from time to time to fill gaps. Additionally the Society has instigated inter-museum loans of coins for the same purpose.
The Museum is undergoing a considerable re-vamp and modernisation. Much of the Numismatic material on display has been dismantled and will go into storage. There are plans to include some Numismatic items after all the rebuilding is completed. Further information will follow. For anyone interested in the collection please contact the Museum or get in touch with the Society.
Local Coin Hoards
The museum has been able to acquire a couple of small treasure hoards of locally found Ancient British and Roman Gold Coins with grant aid from local and national organisations such as the Essex Heritage Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collection Fund and the V & A Purchase Fund, as well as through donation by one finder.
These include a hoard of forty Gallo Belgic A and E staters from Great Leighs, ten Ingoldsthorpe and Westerham staters from Great Waltham and, from Good Easter, fifteen late Roman solidi including one of Constantine III. These coins are all on public display.
The museum is also just about to acquire a locally found hoard of five gold staters of Dubnovellaunos and eighteen of the biga type of Cunobelinos. [Now acquired.]
The museum also holds the residue of the Hornchurch Hoard of 1938 and the whole of the Brentwood Hoard of 1968 as well as representative samples from the Messing and Theydon Mount Hoards which were found in 1975 and 1977 respectively.
The Hornchurch Hoard which was probably deposited in around 1265 contained a total of 448 coins, of which 411 were of the voided long cross series of Henry III, with the balance being made up of Scottish, Irish, short cross and forged coins and Chelmsford now holds 254 long cross coins plus one of the Irish pieces and a single short cross coin.
The Brentwood Hoard contained 308 coins and was probably deposited around 1429. The earliest coins are pennies of Edward I and the latest are from the middle of the reign of Henry V (1413-22). The hoard is unusually strong in lower denomination coins in that, in addition to 132 groats and 41 half-groats, it contains no fewer than 134 pennies and a single halfpenny to give it a total value of three pounds two shillings and a halfpenny, a substantial sum in those days. Most of the coins from this hoard, including the most recent, are quite heavily worn. All of these coins are now at Chelmsford.
The Messing Hoard is a typical Civil War Hoard comprising 2222 coins ranging from an Edward VI fine issue sixpence to issues of Charles I from around 1640. Just over half the hoard comprised shillings of Charles I and the total value was around £132. This again represented a significant sum as an agricultural worker of the day was unlikely to earn more than ten shillings a week. Chelmsford holds a small number of coins from Messing most of which are included in the 1485-1760 display.
The Theydon Mount Hoard appeared at first sight to be another Civil War Hoard. It contained 365 silver coins, the earliest of which was a shilling from the reign of Philip and Mary and the majority were halfcrowns and shillings of Charles I. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, it also contained three halfcrowns and a couple of shillings from the Commonwealth period, the latest of which was dated 1656. Chelmsford holds 61 coins from Theydon Mount and a representative selection is included in the display.
Bob Thomas Reprinted from Caesaromagus #82 Summer 2001 – the Society Journal.
Caesaromagus back copies
- A full set of Caesaromagus is held by the Chelmsford Museum library and this should be available for study upon application at the museum.
- A second full set is held at the Warburg Institute in the joint Royal/British Numismatic Societies library and this is available for study by members during normal opening hours.
- A third full set is held in the Essex Record Office archives and will not normally be available to members of the public who have the alternative run at the museum.
ENS will be supplying future editions as and when they are produced.
Whilst it is normally possible to take photocopies of articles or even full editions, should members of the public want to acquire any back copies they should E Mail the secretary quoting the edition number. NB. There are only limited numbers of spares available and, in some cases, there are no longer spares. Copies of back numbers which are available can be supplied at a price of £1.00 per copy post free but recent copies (from 2010) will be £1.50
All in all the museum is well worth a visit so why not plan a trip to Chelmsford on the fourth Friday of one of the coming months so you can have a meal in the town and come along to one of our meetings afterwards? You will be made very welcome and we make no charge to visitors. Our programme for the next few months is included on this site.