George III halfpenny
This halfpenny has a design typical of the coins made by the Soho Mint later in the reign of George III (1760–1820). The king is shown in robes, facing right, in the ‘laureate bust’ style – with a laurel wreath crown. This coin was made in 1806.
The legend translates as ‘George III King by the grace of God’. This is written as: “GEORGIUS III-D:G-REX”.
A seated Britannia is shown on the reverse, facing left. She holds a trident and an olive branch, with a shield resting beside her. A small ship is in the background.
Halfpennies were seldom minted during George III’s reign. Each period of issue features a distinct design on either side. The earliest such coin, from 1775, shows a design typical of the earlier coins from the Tower Mint. The king is shown in armour, while Britannia holds a spear and olive branch on the reverse.
From 1799 to 1807, the minting of halfpennies was outsourced to the Soho Mint in Birmingham. The design of the coins changed to show George III in robes instead of armour, while Britannia’s spear was swapped for a trident. In this way, the Britannia figure evolved to symbolise Britain’s growing power at sea.
Trinity House and its remarkable historic collections give amazing insights into Leith’s celebrated maritime past. The present building was the Port of Leith headquarters of the Incorporation of Mariners and Shipmasters for nearly 200 years.
This charity was set up to support the needs of injured and retired seamen and their families. Its origins can be traced back to 1380, when it was granted the right to levy a tax known as prime gilt on goods imported into Leith.
Thomas Brown designed the elegant Georgian building that now stands on the Kirkgate. It was built in 1816 on the site of a former Trinity House and hospital dating from before 1550.
Read more on the history of Trinity House [PDF, 8MB]
Maritime treasure house
The layout and historic furnishings of Trinity House still have many unique features that emphasise its former maritime function.
The War Memorial Window designed by W.J.R. Cook in 1933 honours local merchant sailors who died in the First World War. It was rededicated in 1945 for those killed in the Second World War.
The ground floor has a grand entrance and inner hall, with a unique collection of chairs commissioned by the Incorporation from the Edinburgh cabinetmaker William Trotter. Off the hall is the Master’s Room, a cosy space with a fine collection of paintings showing Leith as a busy commercial port in the 1700s and 1800s.
The highlight of Trinity House is the Convening Room on the upper floor, where the Incorporation held meetings around the long mahogany table. Maritime subjects feature in the ceiling’s ornate plaster friezes, and the table now displays a fascinating variety of objects to do with shipping, navigation and the whaling industry.
On display in the room are:
- navigational instruments
- wartime charts
- whaling harpoons
- rare objects such as narwhal tusks
- ship models – ranging from early whaling ships to modern merchant ships
Hung on the walls are portraits of famous mariners and former Masters of the Incorporation – some by the great Edinburgh artist Sir Henry Raeburn. Vasco da Gama Encountering the Spirit of the Storm, a huge oil painting by the Scottish artist David Scott, is also on display.
The vaults below the building, which date from the 1500s, once housed a school for young mariners.
- Date Made
- dia 28.6mm (dia 1 1/8")
- Metal/BM Processed
- Time Period
- Property Information
- Trinity House
- Object Number
- Access Status