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Birmingham workhouse token from1813

Sally’s Blog: A missing little bit of history – Workhouse Tokens

A missing little bit of history: Workhouse Tokens

I walked into the Victorian cellars in the old Whiteley factory to find a bag of metal bits and pieces, two of which were workhouse tokens.

As I have grown up with all this Whiteley history, it never struck me or even my father and grandfather as in any way remarkable; I took them home and they knocked about in my room for some years.

(See my first blog here featuring the missing electricity meter man)

When I set up my own home in Suffolk, I had a friend who was very keen on industrial history, so I lent/gave them to him and forgot all about them. Then one Christmas I received a card from him saying “This’ll be a surprise over your cornflakes!” and it was! Anyway, to be brief,  we have swapped cards at Christmas ever since, but this year, I also had a small package with one of the workhouse tokens in it! He is trying to find the other one.

Birmingham workhouse token from1813

Workhouse tokens

Workhouse tokens were a way of paying the poor souls who ended up in the workhouse when they were destitute, as there was a shortage of coins in the country. They were specially minted coins given to the poor to spend in local shops, the shop took the tokens to the workhouse, who gave the shopkeeper real money. I know some employees, all those years ago, used to sleep and live on the premises, I am very sad to think that some of them were so poor.

The token was dated 1813; then there were 240 pence to the pound.

drawing of Birmingham workhouse
Photo sourced from www.workhouses.org.uk

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