Let’s play Monopoly, early Victorian Style

From

“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

My current fascination with the Frederick Crace collection of antiquarian prints and maps of London has led me to consider an important and hitherto unanswered historical conundrum:

Could Victorians have played Monopoly?

This question has loomed large since I discovered the extent of Crace’s portfolio kept at the British Museum – and it has me wondering if it would be possible for 1850s Londoners to traverse a traditional Monopoly Board  – without scratching their heads at the areas, streets and locations as set down by Waddington’s when they first sold this game under licence in 1936.

Trafalgar Square (1852) – that’s an easy one

So I have set myself the challenge of seeing how far we can travel around the Monopoly Board – but ONLY using images found within the Crace Collection. This gives us scenes covering the period up to 1860 – Now, now I already hear you baulk at the chances of getting past stations and waterworks, or beyond impossibly modern enclaves. Do not despair – you may be surprised how far we can go, and where we end up!

I intend to divide our journey into 4 parts – each will represent one side of a Monopoly Board. But as we all know, you can’t begin any game without having the requisite pieces and cards – so this post deals with the essentials: namely the bank and 6 playing pieces. Luckily for me the racing car was not an original playing piece in Monopoly, however the remainder have been pretty tough considering I am using a topographical archive, containing very few objects – hence on this part of my mission I will have to resort to a touch of artistic licence

Hat

Hat – for this I have opted for a very dapper image of Charles I as painted by Anthony Van Dyke in 1649 – showing our soon-to-be beheaded monarch wearing a broad rimmed black, and St James’s Palace in the background.

We have to shop for the thimble

Thimble – this was a tough one but I’m sure you’ll agree that we can pay a visit to Fadie & Co, Leather Dressers and Haberdashery in which can be found in Queen Street, an extract of a watercolour from 1852 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. This shop stood right next door to the business premises of Frederick Crace and Co, Decorators to the Queen, so would have been more than familiar to the man who commissioned its painting.

Where better to get an Iron than an ironworks?

Iron – This may seem is a little tenuous – but an all irons start their lives at an iron works such as Fowler’s Ironworks which stood on the Thames in Lambeth just close to Waterloo Bridge. I have not been able to ascertain exactly when the iron works was closed, but assume it would have been before the turn of the nineteenth century when heavy industry such is this moved downstream as London became increasingly urbanised.

A suitable boot – high above the crowd

Boot – I had to trek back to 1770 to find a satirical print depicting an ideal boot for Monopoly purposes. The scene is a fair outside the gate of St. James’s Palace, in which King George III’s friends are satirized as showmen; the principal booth displays the sign of a boot, which is said to represent  the 3rd Lord Bute (1713-1792) – a Scottish nobleman and former Prime Minister thought to hold too much sway over the King’s opinions.

Battleship at anchor in Greenwich

Battleship – We travel downstream to Greenwich to find this particular playing piece – and from the banks of the Isle of Dogs (William Parrott, 1842) we have an excellent view of the hospital and the Observatory. But the real action is in the water, where we find a steamship at anchor and the huge hulk of an un-named Dreadnaught battleship being prepared for return to sea.

 

The Cadiz Memorial – still found in Horse Guards Parade

Cannon – This is an image of a statue built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s military victory over the French near Salamanca in 1812. Now known as the Cádiz Memorial, it was originally nicknamed ‘the Prince Regent’s Bomb’  because the word ‘bomb’ used to be pronounced ‘bum’ and the cannon’s considerable size was therefore likened to George’s own huge posterior. Now a grade II listed building worth a look if you are visiting Whitehall.

Now we have our pieces, all we need is…

A 1785 view of the Bank of England

Bank – For a serious game of Monopoly I can look no further than the Bank of England, founded in the 1690s and situated in Threadneedle Street since 1734. The above structure was built by Sir Robert Taylor around 1764, but Taylor’s real legacy was in expanding the site to enable legendary architect Sir John Soane room to rebuild upon classical lines in 1788. The Crace collection has a number of alternative views of the Bank, most of which include the Royal Exchange opposite – and these old images are strikingly similar to how that area looks today.

Looks like we’re all set to go then. So why not join me in subsequent posts on our trek round the Victorian Monopoly board?


If you are a fan of London and sporting history you may be interested in the tale of Royal Ascot, the rise and fall of the Epping Hunt, or to box a few rounds with The Navigator Tom Shelton

But for a some purely financial insight, and to commemorate 200 years since the Great Re-Coinage – you may enjoy learning how we got silver sixpences, shillings and crowns

Finally, if Regency London is not your scene – find your way home via a coaching inn

 

 

The Mint with a ‘Pole’ (1814-1823)

Introduction: How and why Wellesley-Pole became Master of the Mint

Intro | Waterloo Medal | Pole & Pistrucci | The Great Re-coinage | Exit & Legacy

maryborough

An outcast redeemed: William Wellesley-Pole (c.1814)

When Wellesley-Pole took up office on 29th September 1814, this was to be the first and only time that the Master of the Mint qualified as Cabinet rank. In this period the Government was dominated by peers with only exceptional outsiders breaking into their elite circle. By any standards Wellesley-Pole’s appointment was unusual. He was neither a peer (nor even a supporter) of Lord Liverpool’s administration – yet he was handed an unexpected seat in the heart of government doing a job previously considered second-rate. So why was Wellesley-Pole brought in from the cold, and what motivated Lord Liverpool to make the role of Master of the Mint a Cabinet position? To answer this we must go back 2 years:-

 

perceval death

Spencer Perceval’s murder: the opening shot in a ministerial crisis

The Battle of 1812

Lord Liverpool came to office in the summer of 1812 in the aftermath of the assassination of prime minister Spencer Perceval. But he did so at the expense of the Richard Wellesley who spectacularly fell from grace after his memo critical of Perceval’s war effort was leaked to the press at the worst possible time:

press leak

Richard Wellesley’s attack on Perceval coincided with announcement of his death

Initially Lord Liverpool proposed Wellesley-Pole to join the Cabinet as Minister for War, which would have put him in charge of Arthur [Lord Wellington]’s campaign in Spain. But the Prince Regent felt placed in an awkward position and refused to accept Wellesley-Pole because ‘he could not reward one brother, and abandon the other’. Heavy of heart Wellesley-Pole wrote to Liverpool on May 21st

I shall ever retain a just sense of your great kindness towards me [but] I could not serve without subjecting myself to difficulties and inconveniences which I am bound by every principle of affection to my brother to avoid.

Meanwhile in the Peninsula Wellington took the news badly, pronouncing himself ‘confoundedly vexed’ that Wellesley-Pole chose to follow his brother out of office, instead of staying and fighting for his place. Wellington’s antipathy towards Liverpool was such that he broke contact with London during its state of flux declaring ‘I will not tantalise you by entering on our plans for the remainder of the campaign.’ Ironically for all sides Wellington’s victory at Salamanca in July 1812 actually served to cement Liverpool’s shaky administration, putting an end to any realistic prospect of Richard Wellesley seizing power.

salamanca

Wellington’s victory at Salamanca just about saved Lord Liverpool’s administration

Cometh the hour, cometh Wellesley-Pole (1814)

The main reason Wellesley Pole was asked to re-join the Government was because of an urgent need to improve relations between Liverpool’s administration and the Wellesleys. After 1812, Liverpool’s government was insulated by the inability of opposition groups to unify against them. However, when Napoleon surrendered and was exiled in 1814, Arthur (by now Duke of Wellington) made it clear to the Prime Minister that he would not support an administration that excluded his brothers. The risk of being at odds with the hero-of-the-hour was too great; bridges must be built. So, after his triumphant return to England in June, Liverpool acceded to Wellington’s request to bring Wellesley-Pole into the Cabinet.

wellington2

With victories like this, you can ask for anything

On this occasion Wellesley-Pole clearly benefitted from patronage via the Duke of Wellington, but Liverpool’s decision to place him in charge of the Mint was really not a token gesture. In fact it was a pragmatic and eminently sensible move. Liverpool already had a personal association with the Mint, serving as Master between 1799 and 1801. His father Charles Jenkinson chaired a long-running Select Committee dedicated to enhancing Mint practices. Currency reform was vital, becoming more acutely necessary as the war reached a conclusion. Replacing the silver currency required the Mint, the Exchequer, Prime Minister, bankers, and the Prince Regent to work in harmony. The aim was to preserve the banking system whilst it underwent a vital blood transfusion. These unique circumstances may explain Liverpool’s decision to elevate Master of the Mint to Cabinet rank. He knew Wellesley-Pole met the criteria required, having worked closely with him before. Wellesley-Pole was a good administrator, loyal and discreet, had Exchequer experience, and (best of all) commanded the Prince Regent’s respect.

Appointing Wellesley-Pole therefore enabled Liverpool to appease the Duke of Wellington, but it also gave him the ideal person to tackle serious and urgent problems which threatened to destroy Britain’s post-war economy.

The State of the Mint to 1814

In 1787 the Mint began a slow process of modernisation. Jenkinson’s Select Committee examined the state of the coinage and existing working practices. He was assisted by Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), President of the Royal Society – a post he held for 42 years. The Royal Society traditionally exercised control over currency manufacture. The Mint comprised of disparate departments with strict, almost medieval, working practices. The Royal Society acted like a glue to keep these elements working together and to oversee innovation and improvement.

 banks

Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) was to become Wellesley-Pole’s greatest fan

When Jenkinson’s Committee was established, it was so long since silver coins had been mass-produced that Mint employees feared the know-how was lost. Eventually in 1804 a system was perfected for producing standard weights and alloy mixtures. Around the same time, Matthew Boulton invented a steam-driven coining press. He operated from a factory in Birmingham, supplying copper coinage throughout Britain and Ireland. To modernise the London operation a new Mint was constructed at Tower Hill incorporating steam technology, which was completed in 1810.

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The new Royal Mint at Tower Hill

Boulton’s steam press system and use of highly-skilled engravers overcame the problem of counterfeit copper coins. Also an Act of Parliament in 1803 introduced draconian fines for simple possession of fraudulent coins. But forgery of silver currency continued unabated. Up until this time the best engravers only worked on large value coins. No regard was given to the quality of lower denominations. ‘From the Mint’s point of view the manufacture of coin had to satisfy two, and only two, criteria: coin must be of proper fineness and of accurate weight.’ It is little wonder that forgers thrived.

back from elba

Napoleon’s brief trip home, 1815

Almost as soon as Wellesley-Pole began his duties, Napoleon escaped from Elba and hostilities with France resumed. During this period Wellesley-Pole asked the Commons to approve the construction of houses ‘to accommodate… persons who had been ‘imported’ from Birmingham, for the purpose of managing the machinery of the new Mint. At a meeting with Banks to discuss new currency designs, Wellesley-Pole was introduced to an Italian engraver named Benedetto Pistrucci, of whom we shall hear more.

The Battle of Waterloo was to present Wellesley-Pole with his first opportunity of proving his worth, and he did not waste it. Tune in for part two to find out how the Waterloo Medal was conceived, the extraordinary speed in which it was manufactured, and its unique innovation.

For more information about this exciting era in the history of the Royal Mint please visit their website or the Royal Mint Museum, whose director Dr Kevin Clancy is a widely renowned and respected numismatist.

If you are interested in Wellesley-Pole, you may be interested to read about his ‘creation’ of Royal Ascot

You might like to know how Lord Liverpool got the better of the Wellesleys (again), or why The Duke of Wellington considered Wellesley-Pole’s son (Wicked William) ‘lamentably ignorant and idle’

Finally, the growing legions of Wellesley-Pole fans undoubtedly wondering why he’s never been written about should be thrilled to bits to know that our hero is very much a ‘best supporting character’ in Geraldine Roberts’ forthcoming book Angel and the Cad : Love, Loss & Scandal in Regency England

Sources Used:

[1] Butler I., The Eldest Brother: The Marquess Wellesley 1760-1842 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1972)

[2] British Library Manuscrips Add.MSS 37296

[3] Longford E., Wellington: Years of the Sword (London: Panther, 1971).

[4] Craig J., The Royal Society and the Royal Mint in, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, (London: The Royal Society, V19, No 2– Dec 1964).

[5] Selgin G., Steam, Hot Air & Small Change: Matthew Boulton and the Reform of Britain’s Coinage,in Economic History Review (London: Blackwell, 2003)

[6] Challis C., A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge: CUP, 1992)

[7] Hansard, 25/Apr/1815