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The Royal Mint

The Royal Mint is the body authorised to mint coins in the United Kingdom. The Mint was established over 1100 years ago, but since 2010 it has operated as Royal Mint Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of HM Treasury, although the latter delegates shareholder responsibilities to the Shareholder Executive.

Royal Mint Ltd has an exclusive contract with the UK Treasury for the supply of all coins for the UK In addition to minting coins for the UK it exports them to many other countries and also produces military medals, commemorative medals and similar items for governments, schools and businesses, as an exporting mint it is recognised as a world leader.

The Royal Mint in 1968 began to move its activities from Tower Hill in London to South Wales to Llantrisant which since 1980 is the only site where it operates, on an area of 38 acres, employing 813 people.

Llantrisant is home to an extensive collection of coins dating back to the 16th century, housed in eighty cabinets made by Hugh Swann, Elizabeth II's furniture maker.

Responsibility for the security of the site lies with the Ministry of Defence Police, which provides an armed contingent.

The annual Trial of the Pyx verifies the size, weight and chemical composition of the coins produced for the UK government.

History

The London Mint became an autonomous institution in 886 during the reign of Alfred the Great, but it was only one of many ticks in the kingdom. In 1279 it moved to the Tower of London where it remained for the next 500 years. It gained a monopoly on the kingdom's coin production in the 16th century. Sir Isaac Newton took over as Warden of the Mint in 1696, responsible for investigating counterfeit cases and later, from 1699 until his death in 1727, as Master of the Royal Mint; in 1717 he unofficially switched to the silver standard gold system.

At the time of Newton's arrival, the Mint had been expanded by occupying several wobbly wooden buildings around the Tower. In the 17th century, coin-beating processes were mechanised with the installation of rolling mills and presses. New machinery and the demand for space in the Tower of London that followed the outbreak of war with France led to the decision to move the Mint to an adjacent site at East Smithfield. The new building, designed by James Johnson and Robert Smirke, was completed in 1809 and had space for new machinery and for the Mint's officials and staff.

The building was rebuilt in the 1880s to house new machinery, which increased the Mint's production. As technology changed, electricity was introduced and demand grew, the reconstruction process continued so that little of the original mint was left in the 1960s, with the exception of parts of Smirke's 1809 building and the guardhouse at the front.

During World War II, the Royal Mint was hit on several occasions by German bombardments and once it was out of action for three weeks.