Monetary Crisis (1369), as Richard II orders his colonists to search for silver and gold mines in Ireland


Following the death in 1376 of his father, Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince), Richard became heir to his grandfather, King Edward III of England, whom he succeeded in 1377 at the age of ten.

Richard II, King of England, order his subjects in Ireland to search for new silver and gold mines (1379)

Richard II, King of England

  • His reign of twenty-two years saw a number of domestic crises, from the Peasants’ Revolt (1381) to later conflicts with a disaffected nobility, culminating in his usurpation by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (crowned Henry IV)
  • Richard II was the first English king to visit Ireland since King John in 1210 and the only reigning English monarch to have visited Ireland twice – despite nearly losing his life on the first expedition

Richard was short of money and his colony in Ireland even more so. Despite this, Richard ordered it to be asset-stripped for his own convenience. Unlike nowadays, where countries can print money in a process known as ‘quantitative easing’ Richard had to find more silver (or gold) before he could mint more coins.

  • In 1375, the semi-autonomous Earl of Ormonde was granted “permission to work a silver mine under favourable conditions, but had it revoked a year later”
  • 1379, a licence was issued by Richard’s parliament to all the subjects of Ireland to search for mines of gold and silver in their own lands for six years
    • reserving one-ninth part of the gold or silver so dug up to the king
    • the remainder to be converted into vessels or coined in the mint at Dublin
      • (Ware’s Antiquities, Harris, p. 210)
    • the owners of these mines were prohibited from exporting gold, silver or bullion into any other country, except England, under the penalty of confiscation
      • (Irish hist. lib. p. 162.
      • Davis’s reports, p. 22)

List Silver Mines already in production in Ireland

  • Dursey Island, Co Cork
    • In the Isle of Dorsay, a silver mine
  • Ardtully, Co Kerry
    • At Glannerogue, within the haven of Areghe, in MacCarthy More’s Country, a silver mine
  • Ailwee, Co Clare
    • In O’Lochlainn’s Country, by his castle in Borrein, a silver mine 16 miles from Galway
  • Clonmines, Co Wexford
  • Killculliheen parish, Co Waterford
  • Knockadrina, Co Kilkenny
  • Caherglassaun, Co Galway
    • At Knockkylleny Connogh, Tirrelaghe O’Brien’s land, one mine of silver
Mining in the 14th C - scenes from a medieval silver mine

Mining in the 14th C – scenes from a medieval silver mine

New mining activities resulting from Richard II’s Proclamation of 1279

New silver mine opened during the late 15th C include the following:

  • Knocktopher, Co Waterford (but this refer to nearby Knockadrina)
  • Blackrock, Co Waterford
  • The Nunnery, Co Waterford

New technologies and skills were also employed at Clonmines, although success was somewhat limited and led to serious disagreements between the mine supervisor (John Recorde) and Joachim Gundlefinger (one of the German specialists)

A new ore-hearth smelting process (imported from Combe Martin, in North Devon) and gave new impetus at Clonmine, Co Wexford.

 

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