Errol 2017 : “I promised that I would try, from time to time, to recover some of the material that was not recovered immediately when we transferred our website to a different website host. This is an item that was entirely due to the correspondence with Geoff Reynolds, one of the older residents of Wye. Once more thanks to Geoff.”
Our readers’ interests often surprise us but the following post came as a result of our piece on the Royal Flying Corp airfield that is in danger of being forgotten. While tracing the various leads, both local and international, about the Great War and Wye we noticed that a number of households hosted young flyers. For example, 2nd Lieutenant James B Glynn was in digs with Mrs Dixon of “Cragmore” (Church Street) during his training and preparations to fight in France. Sad to tell he died on his first day of active duty, we shall add that story to our memories. For now, we were excited to hear from an ex-Wye resident, Mr. Geoff Reynolds. There were at least two Reynolds families in Wye, Les Reynolds, who lives in Churchfield Way, came to Wye from Chilham when he was only about four months old. Geoff Reynolds’s father, Edward Reynolds lived with his brother, Chris, and sister, Violet, in the home of their grandmother Margaret. Margaret was the mother of his father, Edward Thomas Henwood Reynolds and his mother was called Elizabeth. According to the 1901 census they were living at 97 Bridge Street and in 1907 his grandfather died, Geoff’s father was then six years old.
Upon the outbreak of war and, in particular, the establishment of RFC Wye Geoff’s grandmother, Margaret, took under her roof a Canadian serviceman. Records show that, as I mentioned above, there were a considerable number of Canadian flyers at Wye. The aircraft were in constant need of repair and maintenance and there are records of the great confidence the flyers placed on their mechanics. According to Geoff the gratitude of the Canadians was extended to their host and they left Mrs Reynolds a pair of spoons fabricated from coins of the realm.
The fabrication of spoons from coins has a very long history, some authors subscribe to the theory that a hoard of silver coins would sometimes be melted and shaped into spoons. There are also very old spoons that incorporate coins. In true tradition, therefore, Mrs Reynolds’s paying guests, must have used their engineering skills to shape copper halfpennies into the bowl of the spoon, they twisted a silver coin into a shank, about three and a half inches long, and topped the construction with the head of the king cut out from another coin. One bowl shows the head of King George V the other Britannia and the date 1916. Mrs Reynolds was concerned about the defacing of the national coinage and so kept the spoons safely hidden. As Geoff wrote “She had to keep them hidden as it was a crime to deface coins of the realm and when she died and my Father got them and he had to also but now we are metric and they are no longer legal tender I can show them.” now they make an appearance as another Wye memory.
Figure 1 The Reynolds coin spoons
Coins, silver and spoons have a long intertwined history. For several hundred years silver objects were simply another form of wealth. A person who had amassed more silver coins than they needed, took the coins to a silversmith who melted them down and made a usable object out of them. If economic hardship ensued, the reverse procedure was used and the silver objects were returned to coinage form.
It was felt that a silver object offered more protection against theft since it was more easily recognisable than a coin. Also, it served a useful purpose whereas a coin could only be hidden until it was needed. Furthermore, it was possible to display one’s “wealth” without simply putting a pile of coins in the cupboard. The value of the workmanship was considered secondary to the value of the metal. (Times have changed considerably and the value of labour is now much higher than the value of the silver metal).
The word “sterling” is believed to come from the German word “esterling” which was used to denote a level of purity of silver coins used by the Austrian Hapsburg kings (and you thought it came from England).
In the late 1790’s a trend was started in England to embed a silver coin into a silver object so that one would know the purity of the metal. A hundred years later a massive souvenir spoon frenzy swept around the world. During this time period, a number of spoons were created with old (or modern) coins.
This display is not exhaustive. There are many variations of souvenir coin spoons which I have not researched or reproduced.As mentioned in a previous message on this site,
As mentioned in a previous message on this site, I have two little spoons
made in the first world war for my Gran who lived on Bridge Street by the
Canadian who were stationed in Wye at the time. She had some staying with her and they gave them to her as a thank you when they left. I would like to post a photo of them on here but I cant see how to do it. Perhaps if you reply to this mail I could put it on my reply and you could add it here for me.
That is a tremendous offer and we would love to post them with your story. I believe I have some notes on a couple of Canadian flyers.
PS please send to email@example.com
These spoons were made for my Grandmother Agnes Reynolds by a Canadian Soldier when they were stationed in Wye in the 1st World War. Some of them stayed with my Gran in Bridge Street, my Dad Edward, his brother Chris and his sister Violet, my Grandad Edward Thomas Henwood Reynolds died in 1907 when my Dad was six so I suppose she took them in to supplement her income. When they left they gave these spoons that they had made, to her as a little thank you. She had to keep them hidden as it was a crime to deface coins of the realm and when she died and my Father got them and he had to also but now we are metric and they are no longer legal tender I can show them.
The spoons are three and a half inches long and made from Ha’pennies and in the dish of one I can make out George 1V. I’m not sure what number my Gran lived but I do remember it was near the bottom of Bridge Street in those houses with the raised pavement and nearly up against the road, the 60s or 70s I remember.
I spoke with Les Reynolds, whose son I played cricket with and whose family came originally from Chilham, he told me that your family is not the same as his. His father was a worker on the college estate and he has a super picture of him with a horse and seedbox. I mentioned the silver because if you zoom on on the twisted handles you can see the milled edges of the coins, I do not think the halfpennies were milled. Yes, the year 1916 is bang in the middle of RFC presence in Wye – it closed in 1919 at the same time that the RFC was merged into the RAF. The other family details are very interesting, we have a number of readers who are old Wye families and, with your permission, I will add the family details that you have told me into the post. Incidentally, in the 1901 census, there was an Edward T Reynolds, married to a Margaret Reynolds, at 97 Bridge Street – he was an agricultural worker and the young couple (he was 29 at the time) were living with his mother, Elizabeth. They had a daughter Kate Vane Reynolds. Perhaps they are your family too?
Thanks for that info Errol, I will have to give those coins a little polish to see if there is any silver. You have my permission to add anything you want and thankyou for the info regarding the other Reynolds family. I have phoned my sister and she tells me that my Fathers Mother, my Gran was Margaret and not Agnes as I thought. But the Kate Vane bit has got us both puzzled though the name Vane does ring a bell for her.