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Bilston Love Token 1811

15 February 2018

In 1845, just like today, jewellery was an expensive way to show your affection for somebody. Perhaps particularly so in the mid-19th century, where even costume jewellery would have been out of the reach for the working classes of the Black Country.

Not letting this get in the way, one romantic Black Country man (or woman) took to creating a modest token of love out of a then-redundant trade token, inscribing it with the couple’s initials: M&J 1841.

This particular token was issued by Rushbury and Woolley of Bilston, who were manufacturers of military ornaments.  The firm stamped their own tokens as a form of payment to their workers who, in turn, would have used them to buy goods from a limited selection of shops and other businesses (this would be completely illegal today – but back in the 19th century this was fairly common). 

Rushbury and Woolley went bankrupt in 1815, making this token all but useless – except to its later recipient, who probably kept and treasured it over a century-and-a-half ago.

- Grant Bird,  Curator  (Domestic & Cultural Life)

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