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The Royal Mint Refinery

The Royal Mint Refinery

At the beginning of the 19th century, the use of gold in trade increased, meaning greater business opportunities for both brokers and refiners. In the 1830s, Mocatta & Goldsmid were the most important brokers. Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) endeavoured to break the almost complete monopoly of this firm by dealing directly with the Bank of England.

The London house was also interested in gaining control of the refining process. The opportunity came when in 1848, the Report of the Royal Commission on the efficiency of the Royal Mint recommended the separation of refining and coin-striking processes. The refinery was then offered on a leasehold basis to private parties. In 1852,Sir Anthony de Rothschild (1810-1878) acquired the lease of the Royal Mint Refinery on behalf of the London house, at a significant time when gold had recently been discovered in California and Australia.

The Royal Mint Refinery was owned by N M Rothschild & Sons for over 100 years, occupying premises at 19 Royal Mint Street in London. For many years the activities were principally concerned with refining gold for the Royal Mint, which was located adjacent to the refinery. During both World Wars, the Royal Mint Refinery wasa diverted to the production of munitions. After the Second World War the business was diversified to manufacture copper and brass strip, refine silver and de-monetise coinage.

After struggling in the competitive post-war markets N M Rothschild & Sons finally sold the Royal Mint Refinery business to Engelhard Industries Limited in November 1967. Engelhard remained in 19 Royal Mint Street for a further year. The property was eventually sold to the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works in March 1970.

Tring Engineering Limited

During the Second World War, the Royal Mint Refinery established a separate factory in The Silk Mill in Brook Street, Tring, Hertfordshire which appears to have been run under the name of R.M.R Engineering. Tring Park had been the country estate of Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), and the Rothschild family had substantial land holdings in the area. The Silk Mill site became an engineering works with its own foundry. Parts for aircraft engines, airframes, tanks and many other items were manufactured for assembly elsewhere.

After the war, the Tring operations were retained. In 1960 R.M.R. Engineering became the trading name for Tring Engineering Limited which was incorporated on 23 June 1960. This company was limited by shares of which N M Rothschild & Sons owned 1 share and Rothschild Nominees Limited owned the remaining 74,999. The works at Tring continued to manufacture parts for the aviation industry into the late 1950s, and diversified into new products such as ticket machines and lipstick cases and containers for the cosmetic industry. Negotiations for the sale of the business to Associated Tooling Industries Limited took place in 1966,  and for the sale of the land to Elkvale for primarily residential development in 1974.

Archive sources

Most of the administrative records of The Royal Mint Refinery were held at the east London site after 1856 and were destroyed following its sale in 1967.

A brief summary of the history of the Royal Mint Refinery is given on these pages. The history of The Royal Mint Refinery was the subject of a Collaborative Doctoral Award hosted by the Rothschild Archive in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Centre for Contemporary British History between 2008 and 2011. The research project was undertaken by Dr Michele Blagg; a copy of her PhD thesis The Royal Mint Refinery, a business adapting to change, 1852-1968 is available for consultation in the Archive Reading Room.

Some papers relating to the refinery and its work will be found in other NMR file series. The Correspondence series, XI/109 contains papers relating to the acquisition of the lease of the Royal Mint Refinery in 1852. Accounts relating to The Royal Mint Refinery will be found in I/6/1-42: Foreign Account No. 4 (1872-1914) and I/11/1-25: Foreign Account Current No. 6 (1890-1914). Correspondence and papers concerning the Refinery will also be found in the Special Subject Correspondence series XI/111.

Records of the Bullion Department may also be of interest. See Bullion ledgers VII/6/1-102: Bullion Accounts (1824-1914); VII/15/0-2: Quicksilver Account No. 2 with Spanish Government (1900-1922); VII/17/0-17: Copy letters (1890-1918); VII/57/1: Quicksilver Invoice Book (1889); VII/90/1: Bullion Private Journal (1904-1923).

The Audit Department, 80 series contains post-war files containing summary costings, revenue and stock accounts for the Royal Mint Refinery; files concerning the sale of the Royal Mint Refinery business and the disposal of the site in the late 1960s, employee matters relating to the closure of the business and trademark rights; files concerning the sale of Tring Engineering Limited in 1974.Tring Engineering Limited: memorandum and articles of association will be found in the Loans Department series XIII/260/115. Note: most papers dated later than 1945 are currently closed to researchers.

Sources elsewhere

The National Archives at Kew holds documents relating to the Royal Mint Refinery, including Treasury correspondence and papers concerning the lease to Sir Anthony de Rothschild, 1852-1896, copy deeds 1871-1954 and sundry plans 1871-c.1966.