Developers set to make a mint with London’s old Royal Mint on Tower Hill

Royal Mint forecourt showing original 1810 building by Johnson and Smirke

Royal Mint forecourt showing original 1810 building by Johnson and Smirke - Credit: Delancey developers

Plans to refurbish the historic Royal Mint site opposite the Tower of London have been given the green light. Developers received planning approval last night from Tower Hamlets Council for an office, shopping and leisure complex that preserves the surviving 1809 buildings at Tower Hill...

Royal Mint Courtyard

Royal Mint Courtyard - Credit: Delancey developers

Five buildings are included in the plans for 6,000 employees in 550,000sq ft of offices and 50,000sq ft for shops, cafés and restaurants, with two acres of landscaped public open space.

The development conserves the historic buildings, as well as refurbishing two that were put up in the 1980s with the westerly wing being demolished to improve the setting of the 1809 centrepiece designed by James Johnson and Robert Smirke.

Delancey developers’ managing director Paul Goswell said: “The scale of Royal Mint Court, with its history and large area of space, makes it a ‘one of a kind’ in London.”

The Royal Mint Court Masterplan preserves the historic 1809 main building and opens up the site with two pedestrian routes north-to-south and east-to-west with views of the Tower of London. It gives step-free access from Tower Hill Underground station the neighbourhood around Prescot Street. A third route is created to connect St Katharine’s Docks with Aldgate.

Royal Mint open public space on the south side

Royal Mint open public space on the south side - Credit: Delancey developers

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The Royal Mint is pitted with English history. It has been at Tower Hill since 1810—but the story goes much further back.

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Earliest records stretch back 1,130 years, to the Saxon reign of Alfred the Great in 886.

First historic landmark four centuries later has it being moved by Edward I into The Tower in 1279 where it remains for the next 500 years, achieving a monopoly on making coins of the Realm by the 16th century.

The 5-acre Royal Mint site at Tower Hill

The 5-acre Royal Mint site at Tower Hill - Credit: Delancey developers

First gold coins are minted in 1348. An instalment of French king John II’s ransom arrives in 1360 to be melted down and made into English coins.

Royal Mint Master William Hastings is killed in 1483 by Richard III in a row about the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Henry VIII orders debasement of his coins in 1544, reducing the purity to fund foreign wars and his extravagant lifestyle—but his daughter Elizabeth I orders a re-coinage in 1560 and new ‘fine’ coins are made again.

Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces take control of The Tower and the Royal Mint at the start of the Civil War in 1642, but Charles I’s portrait continues being used on coins. The Crown Jewels are melted down at the Mint during the Puritan republic in 1649 and made into coins.

All coins by 1663 are now made by machinery with screw-presses, making them more regular than the old hammered coins and harder to tamper with.

Spanish treasure captured at the Battle of Vigo Bay is brought to the Mint in 1703 and turned into English coins.

The union of England and Scotland in 1707 means closing the Edinburgh Mint and the Royal Mint in London now making coins for all Britain.

The country narrowly averts financial disaster 1797 when the Bank of England’s gold stocks are perilously low and the Mint begins stamping George III’s portrait on foreign coins to make them legal tender.

A decision is made in 1804 that The Tower is too small for a modern Mint with increased military activity as the kingdom is at war with France. A new purpose-built Mint is to be built at Tower Hill.

Production begins moving to Tower Hill in 1810, completed by 1812, with the new building designed by Johnson and Smirke. The Mint is rebuilt in the 1880s to accommodate new machinery which increases production.

The Royal Mint is damaged in several German air raids during the Second World War and is out of commission for three weeks at one point.

Rebuilding continues in the post-war years. By the 1960s, little of the original Royal Mint remains, apart from the 1809 centrepiece and the gatehouse.

The Tower Hill site finally reaches capacity ahead of Britain’s decimalisation in 1971, with the need to strike hundreds of millions of new decimal coins as well as not neglecting overseas customers.

The Royal Mint moves production to South Wales between 1968 and 1975, when the last coin is struck at Tower Hill—a gold sovereign.

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