These tokens are part of a collection I formed in the early 2000s and sold after the publication of my book on the subject in 2006.  If you would like to learn more about this fascinating aspect of our industrial heritage, I still have a few copies left - see

PLEASE NOTE: These tokens are not to scale


Scales Hall and Morresby Colliery

Addison's token later overstruck and used by Porter

of Penrith and Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Windy Hill Colliery, Greysouthen


later John Christian Curwen

     In West Cumberland, the use of metal tokens for accounting for the movement of coal from the pits to the ships, which represented work done and avoided the need for the exchange of money during the process, dates from at least as early as 1670, when they are mentioned in a letter from Sir John Lowther to his Steward, Thomas Tickell, at Whitehaven. Similar tokens were in use well into the 19th Century.

     Coal was generally carried or led to the ships either by packhorse, eight packhorse loads amounting to a ton, or by cart, a cartload being half a ton requiring 4 tokens. In all the accounts, a load, sometimes called a 'burthen', was one eighth of a ton. A cartload would therefore represent, somewhat confusingly, four loads. Each leader would receive from the Clerk of the Tokens a quantity of Bank tokens, say forty tons worth (320) per horse employed, which would be accounted for weekly. As the leader took coal from the Pit Bank, he would pay for it using these Bank tokens, on the basis of one token per packhorse load taken, or

four for each cartload. At the end of the week his deficit of Bank tokens would establish how much coal he had received, which should agree with the Bankman's account.

The ship's Master would receive a quantity of Ship tokens from the Receiver in accordance with the estimated amount of coal needed to fill his hold, for the value of which he would be in debt to the Receiver, less the value of any tokens later returned unused. As the leaders delivered coals to the ships they would receive a Ship token for each packhorse load, or four for each cart. At the end of the week the leaders would have to produce a total of forty tons worth of tokens in total, and would be paid for their leading by the number of Ship tokens included, which should tally with the Bankman's account of Bank tokens they had paid him for coals received. The Ship tokens would then be replaced by an equal number of Bank tokens, to restore the position for the next week's leading.