Market Lavington Museum

A bowl for shillings

At Market Lavington Museum, our records suggest that this little wooden bowl might have been made locally. Whether that is the case or not, it has a story to tell, for it was used annually at the St Paul’s Day service in St Mary’s Church in the village.

Bishop Tanner, whose father had been vicar in Market Lavington, left a bequest in his will to benefit various people in the village. (For more information on the Bishop and his bequests see Bishop Thomas Tanner, The Bishop Tanner Christmas Coal Charity, The Bishop Tanner Charity and The Better Sort of Parishioner.) Amongst the many recipients of his charity were poor folk, who were given a shilling at the St Paul’s Day service and these coins were contained in our little wooden bowl.

Before the decimalisation of British currency in 1971, there were twenty shillings in a pound. Perchance, the bishop bequeathing the shillings was called Bishop Tanner and a tanner was the colloquial term for a sixpence coin, which was worth half of a shilling.

A sixpence (tanner) and a shilling (bob)

Twelve large old pennies made a shilling and 240 of them equalled one pound.

Back in 1735, when Bishop Tanner died, a shilling would have gone a lot further than its ‘equivalent’ 5p today.

We are told that the little bowl ended up as a rest for a smoker’s pipe, before being donated to the museum.