Tiny coin in steeped in history

More than 350 years ago, this tiny piece of metal would have been used to buy a pot of ale at Burnham Market's local inn.

Minted by a sugar seller, poorer villagers in need of small change would have relied on his good name to have it accepted in return for bread or milk.

This week, the rare 17th-century coin has headed home to the north Norfolk village where it once helped trade flow ahead of taking centre stage at a valuation day.

The farthing was discovered by specialist coin auctioneers James and Son and will be on display at the event at Burnham Market Methodist Chapel this Saturday.

Simon Hudson, coin and book consultant, said, while it was only like to fetch �30 to �50 at auction on November 20, it had plenty of historical significance.

'Imagine the stories it could tell,' he said. 'It was made in 1648 during the civil war.'

At that time, the state had not got round to producing an official currency to meet the demand for small change, which was needed by the poor for their day-to-day business. Instead, local traders took it upon themselves to create their own which could be used in the local area.

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Mr Hudson said: 'People would trust the coin because the maker was well known in the area. You could probably use it as far as Wells, but not somewhere like Norwich.'

It would have been used to buy produce from local farmers or ale from the local inn, now the Hoste Arms, in the market place.

This particular coin bears the name of its maker – a Mr John Tucke, who lived in Burnham Market and sold sugar. On one side of the tiny, thin copper currency is the name of the village, and the trader's initials, while the other has an image of a sugar loaf to indicate his business.

Just three traders in Burnham Market produced coins - compared with 92 in Norwich, 35 in King's Lynn and just one at Blakeney.

Most would have been melted down after 1672 when King Charles II brought in regal coinage and Mr Hudson said he would be surprised if there were more than a dozen of the Burnham Market coins still around today.

'I've never seen another one,' he added.

On Saturday, villagers will be able to see the coin, which would have been used by their ancestors, at the valuation day where people will be encouraged to bring along their own stamps, notes and coins.

It will be shown alongside �2,500 to �3,000 of 1950s and 1960s bank notes which were recently found stuffed in a Norfolk mattress.

A farmer discovered the money, which includes one 1947 white �5 note, about a month ago. It was thought to have been hidden by his father.

The valuation roadshow, organised by James and Sons, will charge each person �1 to have their items valued, with the money going to the Royal British Legion. It runs from 10am to 4pm.

The coins and bank notes will then be put up for auction at a sale on Saturday, November 20.

For more information, contact James and Sons on 01485 578117 or email info@clickcollect.co.uk.