Northwic was probably founded in about 910 during the reign of Guthrum II, the last Danish king of East Anglia. Northwic’s defensive ditch and bank were constructed by the Danes to deter the Anglo-Saxons and to create a protected area for a mint. The first coin minted in Norwich dates from this time and is part of the St Edmund coinage. Instead of naming the Danish king, it contained an invocation to the martyred East Anglian king Edmund and referred to Norwich as Nordvico. In 917 the Danish army of East Anglia submitted to the Anglo-Saxon king and East Anglia began to become part of England. Some silver pennies minted during the reign of Athelstan (924-939) refer to Northwic as the place where they were minted. The mint must have been in a so-far-unidentified building within Northwic.
The Athelstan silver pennies also refer to the name of the moneyer – the man responsible for the mint. He belonged to the upper merchant class of the town and probably lived close to the mint. If the coins the mint produced were of insufficient weight or purity the moneyer was liable. The legal code said: “if a moneyer is found guilty (of issuing base or light coins) the hand shall be cut off with which he committed the crime, and fastened up on the mint. But if he is accused and he wishes to clear himself, then shall he go to the hot iron (ordeal) and redeem the hand with which he is accused of having committed the crime.”
The hot-iron ordeal consisted of the heating of a piece of iron and then causing the accused to carry it a given distance. If it was a case of simple ordeal, the piece of iron weighed one pound and the distance to be carried was three feet, but if he was committed to the threefold ordeal the piece of iron weighed three pounds and the distance to be carried was nine feet. In both cases, after the weight had been carried the requisite distance, the accused’s hand was bound up and unwrapped after three days. If it proved to be septic the defendant was pronounced to be guilty.
Silver pennies struck in Northwic during the reign of Athelstan refer to the names of at least eight different moneyers. These are the earliest named inhabitants of Northwic. The names are Bardel (or Burdel), Eadbald, Eadgar, Elfric, Giongbald, Hrodgar, Manne and Manticen. Of these Bardel and Manticen may have been economic migrants from the German-speaking regions of Europe.
Coins continued to be minted in Norwich in the Late Anglo-Saxon and Norman period.
Sketch of a Northwic penny of Ethelred the Unready (978-1016), moneyer Maninc.
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