This fascinating event was covered in The Hockley Flyer for many years and when researching previous issues for the new Heritage Books, we realised it was no longer being reported.
We contacted an old friend of The Jewellery Quarter (Michael Taylor) who has for some years worked at Goldsmith’s Hall and he confirmed that the Trial does in fact still survive and we have now received the following Press Release:
First Female Queen’s Remembrancer opened Ancient Trial of the Pyx in the City of London, on Tuesday 3rd Feb 2015.
More than 70,000 coins produced by the Royal Mint in 2014 were counted and scrutinized by a jury at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London.
Dating back to the Twelfth Century, the Trial of the Pyx (Latin for chest or box) is one of the longest established judicial procedures in the world and is steeped in tradition, but 2015 marks a significant break from tradition in one respect.
For the first time in its 900 year history, the Trial was presided over by a female Queen’s Remembrancer, itself the oldest judicial post to remain in continual existence in this country. Senior Master Barbara Fontaine became the first woman to hold the position on 27th October 2014 and this was her first major public ceremonial engagement:
‘At today’s Opening of the Trial, the Queen’s Remembrancer, swears in a jury of 16 liverymen of The Goldsmiths’ Company, one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London. The event has taken place at Goldsmiths’ Hall, the guild’s historic headquarters, every year since 1870.
But the Goldsmiths’ were involved in the earliest Trials and in the 16th Century, Elizabeth I granted the Company responsibility for proceedings. Today, the Trial of the Pyx fulfils a requirement imposed by an Act of Parliament (Coinage Act 1971) to conduct an examination by jury to ascertain that the coins produced by the Royal Mint are of the correct weight, size and composition. As such, this ancient ceremony has direct relevance to every user of UK coinage today’.
In the next phase of the Trial, randomly selected samples of coins are sent for analysis by The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, the UK’s longest established assay office. Over the next few weeks, the coins will be assayed (tested for correct metallic composition, size and weight) and
measured using the standard Trial Plates, provided by the National Measurement Office of the Department of Trade and Industry. One of the most remarkable items to appear at this year’s trial will be a 1kg gold coin commemorating the outbreak of the First World War’.
During the Trial, the Queen’s Remembrancer wears full court dress complete with a tricorn hat.
Jurors include Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, equally resplendent in their robes of office, the Deputy Warden of The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office and a selection of
the Company’s liverymen. Also in attendance are the Deputy Master of the Mint and the CEO of the National Measurement Office.
The final phase of the Trial, the Delivery of the Verdicts, takes place on Friday 1 May 2015. The Court reconvenes at Goldsmiths’ Hall and the jury delivers its verdicts to the Queen’s Remembrancer in the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is on trial in his capacity
as Master of the Mint’.