The 1763 “Northumberland” Shilling – Is it Irish or British?


Introduction:

The Northumberland Shilling is so called because the Earl of Northumberland as the new Lord Lieutenant of Dublin in 1763 distributed £100 worth of these new coins whilst parading on the streets of Dublin in Ireland.

  • At 20 shillings to the pound, this implies a total issue of 2,000 coins

Although appointed in April 1763, the Earl and his family did not arrive until five months later in October 1763. It is said that he (and his entourage) threw English silver shillings into the welcoming crowd. He sailed into Poolbeg Harbour from Holyhead – the main passenger route into Dublin in those days. The ship were moored in one of four deep pools (Poolbeg, the Iron Pool, the Salmon Pool and Clontarf Pool) and the passengers were ferried to land via small rowing boats. It wasn’t until the 1790s, when the North Wall and South Wall were finished, that passengers could disembark directly on to land.

  • The building in the ‘bottom right’ engraving is the Poolbeg Hotel and wasn’t built until the 1790s – long after the Earl of Northumberland landed.
  • Problems with low water, tidal currents and flooding in Dublin resulted in plans for a new harbour to be built at Howth. Work started in 1807 but, before the works were complete, a new passenger ferry harbour had be built at Dunleary on Dublin’s (by then) more fashionable southside of the City of Dublin.
    • Howth continued as the official mailboat port until 1834.
  • Dunleary was re-named Kingstown in 1821 in honour of King George IV’s visit in that year and, in 1834, when the Dublin & Kingstown railway line was opened, Howth re-purposed itself as a fishing port and the mail packet and passenger services focused on Kingstown (re-named Dún Laoghaire in 1920).
Maps and views of Poolbeg Harbour (Dublin Port), by John Rocque, c. 1760-1770

Maps and views of Poolbeg Harbour (Dublin Port), by John Rocque, c. 1760-1770

The Earl and his wife & family would have then travelled by coach to the City of Dublin (which was, at that time, some distance further inland).

The Freeman’s Journal reported:

  • On Wednesday, the Dorset-Yatch, Capt. Williamson, sailed for Holyhead, to wait for his Excellency the Earl of Northumberland, who is expected about the 20th Inst.

It was further reported that:

  • His Excellency the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Lieutenant for this Kingdom, arrived here early this morning: His Excellency was received at Landing by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs of Dublin; the Foot Forces in Garrison, lined the Streets…

Irish history records the reign of George III as a turbulent one in Ireland and the Earl f Northumberland is reported to have thanked Lord Charlemont (on behalf of his grateful King) for his actions at repulsing a French landing party (led by Thurot) at Carrickfergus in 1760 and for suppressing the insurrection in Armagh and Tyrone earlier in 1673.

Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland

He was born Hugh Smithson, the son of Langdale Smithson of Langdale, Yorkshire, and grandson of Sir Hugh Smithson, 3rd Baronet, from whom he inherited the Smithson Baronetcy in 1733.

  • He changed his surname to Percy when he married Lady Elizabeth Seymour, daughter of the 7th Duke of Somerset, on 16 July 1740, through a private Act of Parliament
    • She was Baroness Percy in her own right, and indirect heiress of the Percy family, which was one of the leading landowning families of England and had previously held the Earldom of Northumberland for several centuries.
  • He held the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1763 to 1765, and that of Master of the Horse from 1778 to 1780.
    • His grandson, Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland KG, PC, styled Earl Percy until 1817, was a British aristocrat and Tory politician who served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under the Duke of Wellington from 1829 to 1830.

The ‘Northumberland Shilling’ of 1763

Although stated in H.A. Seaby’s “English Silver Coinage from 1649” that a special issue of 2,000 shillings was produced for the Earl of Northumberland for distribution in Dublin, the reality is somewhat different, as the Royal mint produced £5,000 worth of shillings (100,000 pieces) in 1763 which was, compared to other dates, still a relatively scarce coin.

1763 'Northumberland' shilling (2,000 distributed in Ireland + c. 98,000 circulated in Britain)

1763 ‘Northumberland’ shilling (2,000 distributed in Ireland + c. 98,000 circulated in Britain)

George III (1760-1820), silver Shilling, 1763, so-called ‘Northumberland’ type.

  • Weight 6.04g
  • ESC 1214; Bull 2124; S.3742
  • Toned, with underlying brilliance, good extremely fine (gEF)

Obverse:

  • Young laureate and draped bust right
  • Latin legend and toothed border surrounding
    • GEORGIVS. III DEI. GRATIA.
    • Translation: George III, by the Grace of God

Reverse:

  • Crowned cruciform shields, garter star at centre
  • Date either side of top crown
  • Latin legend and toothed border surrounding
    • M.B.F. ET. H. REX. F.D. B.ET. L. D. S. R. I. A. T ET. E.
    • Full Latin Text:
      • “Magnae Britanniae Franciae ET Hiberniae Rex Fidei Defensor Brun ET Lunebergen-sis Dux, Sacri Romani Imperii Archi-Thesaurius ET Elector.”
    • Translation:
      • “King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Luneberg, High Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.”

Notes:

Most ‘Northumberland’ shillings are offered for sale in the higher grades, which suggests they were kept as ‘scarce’ keepsakes, and not circulated freely.

In reality, good silver was in short supply and much of what was in circulation was counterfeit coinage, so it is also likely that these ‘good’ silver shillings were hoarded (not circulated) and/or exported (and melted).

Either way, not many survive and they are a much sought after coin, therefore they sell for high prices, e.g. €2,000-3,000 price range.

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