Having worked in PR and marketing for all of my working life, it is rare indeed to discover something that is genuinely new about a hotel, something which even the tourism authorities would not have known about.
So imagine my excitement about working on an opening project with the sales team of the newly rebadged Castle Hotel Windsor, part of the MGallery Collection by Sofitel. We were tipped off about a possible coin – The Pennington Penny – and we started out on a voyage of discovery which lead us eventually to the British Museum. Talking with the British Museum’s UK Coin Curator, this is what we discovered.
In 1644 – 1672, the small change of England and Wales was suppressed due to a collapse of confidence in it as a result of over-issue and massive counterfeiting. There was therefore no provision in the country for low-value money and if you add in the distractions of the English Civil War (1642 – 1651), you can see the problems this would have caused for a market economy and a small business such as The Castle Hotel, originally known as The Mermaid Inn. Ordinary people would have found it very difficult to find the means of maintaining their everyday existence.
So, to fill in this gap, many civic corporations and businesses issued their own coins or tokens. Spreading only as far as the knowledge of the business, they contained information which was very local in nature: from the names of the issuer, the business they were involved in, their address and the token’s value.
The Pennington Penny was issued by the entrepreneurial Innkeeper of the Mermaid Inn – one George Pennington – in Windsor in 1656. His customers would have paid him with larger denomination official coinage and he would have been given their change in part in tokens (The Pennington Penny). These tokens could then be used not only in the premises of George Pennington but would also have been accepted by other local traders who knew of Pennington’s business. So in a town the size of Windsor, they would have likely been accepted by a number of other businesses.
It wasn’t until 1672 and the proclamation of a new copper coinage by Charles II that a halt was made to the practice of issuing tokens.There is only one remaining copy of The Pennington Penny in existence (to our knowledge) and this is kept in the vaults of the British Museum.
So – the successful relaunch of Castle Hotel, Windsor as an MGallery also unearthed a little gem of history which had been forgotten by the good folk of Windsor. Loving history as I do, you can only imagine how fortunate we feel at Magellan to have been part of this rediscovery in the Queen’s own back yard. It’s been a very satisfying project all around – and of course, the hotel is beautiful.
Contributor: Sue Lowry
Images: Courtesy of Mo McLean and Castle Hotel Windsor