Dear Athel, This is to wish you a Merry Xmas and all the rest of it. I am afraid it will be very late, but I have had an exam on which has taken all my time. I went over the Mint in the summer, they have three melting houses of which this card shows one. Please give my love to Aunt Amy.
Alan. [ Card posted Dec. 18, 1909 to Perth, Western Australia.]
The Royal Mint on Little Tower Hill [London] is a massive building from designs by Johnson and Smirke, erected in 1811 on the site of an old Cistercian Abbey. Here gold, silver and bronze are melted, standardised and manufactured into the current coin of the realm, the process being a most interesting one.
The annual output is enormous; in 1906 the issue of imperial pieces was over 100,500,000, and at the same time 12¼ millions of foreign coins were struck.
The pure metal is melted down and mixed with the necessary alloys on the premises, the room in which this operation is performed being most jealously placarded to prevent inspecting visitors either touching the hot metal or purloining any of the precious contents.
The metal is first cast into long bars, these are then passed through powerful rotary presses, emerging after each operation a trifle thinner and a little wider, and so on until the standard thickness for “blanks” – as an unstamped coin is called – is attained.
These are fed through a machine which stamps out the disc of the desired size, the “waste” being then sent back to the melting room.
The “blanks” from the cutting machines are fed into a trough, and from thence are automatically passed into a position where they are pressed on both sides simultaneously by steel dies, and then thrown out – a complete coin.
An ingenious piece of mechanism is the counting machine which effects, at a marvellous speed by an automatic process, the accurate counting of the manufactured coins, thus saving much valuable time.
The coloured images make up a set of postcards issued by Raphael Tuck & Sons circa 1907.
The Royal Mint moved out of London to South Wales in the early 1970s, ending 1100 years of its history in the Tower Hill area. You can still visit the “new” premises and enjoy “the Royal Mint Experience” – just like any other factory tour – but don’t expect free samples of the product as you leave.
Johnson and Smirke’s 1811 Grade II listed building and 5 acres of land within its surrounding wall was sold last month to the People’s Republic of China. It will be transformed over the next two years to become the new Chinese Embassy.