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A New City of London Medal (My 7th): Opening of Tower Bridge, 1894


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The Corporation of the City of London issued a series of 30 large bronze medals between 1831 and 1902, celebrating occasions such as the opening of buildings and the reception of British and foreign royalty in the City. Except for the very early ones, they're mostly between 70 and 80 mm. in diameter. The mintages of all of them were quite low, around 400-500. They're all quite popular when available, because of their size, their scarcity, and the high skill with which they were made. Some have always been very expensive, such as those issued for the visits of the Czar of Russia and the Shah of Persia (both of which I once owned but sold). In addition, the ones with architectural reverses depicting building interiors in a way that appears three-dimensional have been selling for well over $1,000 recently, for whatever reason. (Unfortunately, I sold my couple of examples of those too, for a lot less than $1,000!) 

A rather elaborate book was published covering the first 26 of the 30, through 1893: Welch, Charles, Numismata Londinensia, Medals Struck by the Corporation of London to Commemorate Important Municipal Events, 1831 to 1893 (London 1894) ("Welch"). I have an original copy; here's the title page:


This website has photos and descriptions of all 30 of the City of London medals: http://www.historicalartmedals.com/...NAILS/CITY OF LONDON/brand new thumbnails.htm.

I once owned 10 of these 30 medals, but sold eight of them about a decade ago. In the last few years, I have bought five more (not all of them the same types I sold), giving me a total of seven. Here is my most recent purchase, which is one of the types I once sold, and has a reverse that gives the illusion of being three-dimensional, especially when viewed through a magnifying glass. It's No. 27 of 30, and the first one to be issued after Welch was published:

Great Britain, 1894, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 27), Prince of Wales Opens Tower Bridge, by Frank Bowcher. Obv. Conjoined busts left of Queen Victoria, crowned and draped and wearing necklace, between Albert Edward, Prince of Wales in military regalia to right, and Alexandra, Princess of Wales, draped and wearing elaborate necklace to left. / Rev. View of Tower Bridge over River Thames from downstream South Bank, with the Bridge’s bascules raised, the Royal steam-yacht (HMY Victoria and Albert) passing underneath headed south, and buildings on North Bank visible in background; above, Bridge-House Estates Badge within branches; around from 10:00-3:00, legend TOWER BRIDGE OPENED 30TH JUNE 1894; in exergue, shield with arms of City of London dividing four-line inscription ON BEHALF OF - HER MAJESTY | QUEEN - VICTORIA | BY - HRH | THE PRINCE OF WALES; above exergue line, F. BOWCHER FECIT. 77 mm., 241 g.  (450 specimens struck.) Eimer 1790 (p. 235), ill. Pl. 198 [Eimer, Christopher, British Commemorative Medals and their Values (Spink, 2nd ed. 2010)]; BHM II 3476 (p. 422) [Brown, Laurence, British Historical Medals Vol. II, 1837-1901 (Seaby 1987)]; Whittlestone & Ewing 1795.1 (p. 153) [Whittlestone, Andrew & Michael Ewing, Royal Commemorative Medals 1837-1977, Vol. 1, Queen Victoria 1837-1901 (2008)]; Fearon 345.1 (p. 79), ill. p. 175 [Fearon, Daniel, Spink’s Catalogue of British Commemorative Medals, 1558 to the Present Day (1984). Purchased from Noonans Mayfair, Ltd., London, UK, Auction 291, 5 Mar. 2024, Lot 1193.*


*See BHM II p. 422 fn.: “The decision to build a bascule bridge over the river Thames at Tower Hill was taken in 1884. Sir Horace Jones was appointed architect and John Wolfe-Barry the engineer. The upper, fixed bridge, 112 feet above the water was intended for pedestrians when the lower level bridge was opened and was served by lifts. Hydraulic machinery operated the lower bridges . . . The bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales on 30 June under a cloudless sky and watched by one of the largest crowds to gather on such an occasion. The Times correspondent at the scene described the opening of the bascules as ‘imposing in the same sense as a great convulsion of the natural world; it was an exhibition of resistless force which held the spectators spellbound and speechless.’ This medal won the first prize of 35 guineas in the competition to mark the occasion [citing a press advertisement announcing the competition appearing in the press on 2 October 1894, implying that the medal itself was not struck until 1895.] A full report of the [opening] event is to be found in The Times, 2 July 1894.’”

Here are my other six, in chronological order. All but the last are included in Welch.

Great Britain, 1837, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 5), Queen Victoria’s Visit to the City of London, by William Wyon. Obv. Diademed head of Queen Victoria left, VICTORIA REGINA, Wyon's name engraved at truncation / Façade of the Guildhall with Royal Standard flying above; in exergue, IN HONOUR OF HER MAJESTY’S VISIT/TO THE CORPORATION OF LOND/9TH NOV: 1837. 54 mm. Eimer 1304 & Pl. 141, BHM Vol. II 1775 (ill. p. 7), Welch 5 & Pl. II (see pp. 43-46) [Welch, Charles, Numismata Londinensia, Medals Struck by the Corporation of London to Commemorate Important Municipal Events, 1831 to 1893 (London 1894), Whittlestone & Ewing I 72A (ill. p. 16)].* Purchased from Sothebys, London, UK, 21 Dec. 1999.**



Great Britain, 1863, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 9), Entry of Princess Alexandra of Denmark into the City of London on 7 March 1863 (in advance of her marriage on 10 March to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII). By J.S. and A.B. Wyon. Obv. Bust of Princess Alexandra left, ALEXANDRA; J.S. WYON SC. beneath truncation / Rev. Londinia in center, draped and wearing mural crown, stands left with right arm outstretched to welcome the Princess standing right, led by the Prince of Wales, wearing Order of Garter, standing facing between them, holding her left hand. On the far left is Hymen, and on the far right, Peace (winged) and Plenty, the latter waiting on bended knee, with cornucopiae overflowing in front of her, to present diamond necklace and earrings which she bears on a velvet cushion. Behind them, the triumphal arch erected at London Bridge to welcome the Princess, surmounted by split quadriga with Britannia at center. WELCOME – ALEXANDRA above; in exergue, a shield with the City arms between the words MAR. 1863; J.S. & A.B. WYON SC. above to right. 77 mm., 249.1 g. Eimer 1561 & Pl. 170; BHM Vol. II 2783; Welch 9; Whittlestone & Ewing 901. Mintage: 350.  Purchased April 2022.


Great Britain, 1882, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 17), The Dedication of Epping Forest, by Charles Wiener. Obv. Bust of Queen Victoria l., wearing the small diamond crown, sash and Orders/ Rev. Londinia standing facing the seated Queen within a forest setting, holding gate open to winding pathway, IT GIVES ME THE GREATEST SATISFACTION TO DEDICATE THIS BEAUTIFUL FOREST FOR THE USE AND ENJOYMENT OF MY PEOPLE FOR ALL TIME. EPPING FOREST, 6 MAY 1882. 75 mm., 268 g. Eimer 1689 & Pl. 184, BHM Vol. II 3128, Welch 17. Purchased from Hedley Betts, San Jose, CA.


Great Britain, 1891, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 24), Visit of Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, to the City of London, by Elkington & Co. Obv. Busts three-quarters right, conjoined, of  Wilhelm II, uniformed and wearing helmet surmounted by eagle, and the Empress, Augusta Victoria, draped (Wilhelm to left over Augusta Victoria to right), with heads turned to right, GULIELMUS II IMPERATOR ET REX / Rev. Londinia to right, wearing a helmet surmounted by a dragon, leans against a stone balustrade of the Embankment, and rests her right hand upon a low throne, on which is seated Germania to left; Londinia points with her left hand to the shipping on the Thames, beyond; St. Paul’s Cathedral is seen to left on opposite bank; Germania, helmeted, holds a sword in her left hand across her lap, her right hand resting on a shield bearing the arms of Germany. In the foreground on left is the British lion peacefully reclining right; below, at the foot of the throne, are two doves; to right, stone facia inscribed with the date JULY 10TH 1891 (incuse). 80 mm., 332 g., 12 h. Eimer 1768 & Pl. 195, BHM Vol. II 3412, Welch 24, Whittlestone & Ewing 1668. Purchased from CNG (Classical Numismatic Group, LLC), E-Sale 511, March 9, 2022, Lot 558.


Great Britain, 1893, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 25), Marriage of George Duke of York [future George V] to Princess Mary of Teck, by G.G. Adams. Obv. Busts left, conjoined, she draped, George Duke of York and Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (George to right over Mary to left), T.R.H. THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF YORK around, MDCCCXCIII beneath busts / Rev. The bride and bridegroom, with George to left wearing crown, raising right arm, and gazing upon Mary, advance left in a triumphal chariot driven by Cupid and drawn by two horses, and approach an archway with banners, bearing the monogram G M and inscribed FELICITAS G M, through which is seen St. Paul’s Cathedral; the couple are welcomed by Londinia standing right in front of horses, holding a cornucopiae up  with her right hand towards Mary’s extended right hand. In exergue, JULY 6TH, 1893. 71 mm., 248.5 g., 12 h. Eimer 1780 & Pl. 197, BHM Vol. II 3452, Welch 25, Whittlestone & Ewing 1763. Purchased from CNG (Classical Numismatic Group, LLC), E-Sale 511, March 9, 2022, Lot 760.


Great Britain, 1902, AE Commemorative Medal for the Corporation of the City of London (No. 30). Visit of Edward VII and Alexandra to City of London, by Searle & Co. Obv. Busts left, conjoined and draped, she crowned (Edward to right over Alexandra to left); around from 7:00, IN HONOUR OF THE VISIT OF THEIR MAJESTIES KING EDWARD VII & QUEEN ALEXANDRA TO THE CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF LONDON; beneath busts, date • 25 OCT. 1902 • / Rev. Londinia, standing on right, crowned, facing left, presents a welcoming address to the King and Queen above her, seated three-quarters right upon dais on left. To left and beneath King and Queen, a ribbon inscribed CIVIVM AMOR ET FIDES; to right, fanfare blown by Fame on trumpet; beyond, façade of Guildhall. In exergue, sceptre and mace, crossed. 76 mm., 245.5 g., 12 h. Eimer 1874 & Pl. 208, BHM Vol. II 3868, Whittlestone & Ewing 4850. Purchased from CNG (Classical Numismatic Group, LLC), E-Sale 511, March 9, 2022, Lot 768.  


Please post any City of London medals you may have, or any other British commemorative or historical medals from the Victorian or Edwardian eras.

Edited by DonnaML
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Love those medals, particularly the Tower Bridge one. When I was a child, my mum bought me a jigsaw puzzle of Tower Bridge, because she knew it was my favourite Bridge in the world, and London one of my favourite cities. Still have it and might get it out this weekebd and get my girls to help me put it together again! 

Thanks for sharing and reviving memories of my childhood.

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I have no medals at all, but they must be quite something in hand. I've been inside Guildhall a few times, for the Freedom of London (Guildhall is both where you complete the paperwork and where you receive it) and for the Lord Mayor's Banquet - it's quite a place to have your dinner. It was the site of a Roman amphitheatre, so is one of those places, like the Tower of London, that seems to evolve and yet stay the same through history.

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