“You will never be poor as long as you have a ha’penny”: The Story of Grandfather Tincknell and his Coin Purse

AE Tincknell coin wallet


The family heirloom pictured piqued my interest in the history of pouches and purses. It seemed quite logical when I learnt that they have their origins as pockets. Underneath their petticoats, women of the 17th to 19th century usually had at least one pair of pockets attached by strings. Sometimes in paintings, if you look carefully, you can see them peeking out from the subject’s garments.The petticoats had splits in their side seams to allow access to the pockets which often, but not always, matched the petticoat. Men had theirs sewn into the lining of their waistcoats, coats and breeches. Ladies pockets were much larger than the ones we are used to and were used rather like the handbag of today. Pockets, I learnt, were where people would safely keep everyday and often large items like keys, pocket watches, knives, diaries, thimbles and even pin cushions!

As ladies fashion changed to a more closer fit and petticoats went out of fashion, pockets could no longer be hidden and, as one can imagine, the line of a dress would be ruined by their bulkiness. This resulted in the development of the reticule, a small decorative bag worn over the arm, but only large enough for a hankie and maybe a coin or two. Over time, the reticule gradually changed into the evening bag and handbag. However, as we know, the pocket did not entirely go out of fashion and we, or at least I, still like pockets!

Men have always carried coin purses of one form or another. It was during the 18th and 19th centuries that trousers replaced breeches and pockets were then incorporated into the bulkier trousers. That development allowed men were able to carry their coins and, later, notes in small leather wallets, along with their pipes, matches etc in their pockets.

So, to  the story of Grandfather Tincknell and his coin purse. Grandfather Tincknell was my mother’s maternal Grandfather. He was always referred to as Grandfather Tincknell except in his presence, when he was simply Grandfather. He was baptised Albert Edward Tincknell in St Mary’s church Wedmore, Somerset England on 18th July,1869 and was the eldest of the seven children of Thomas Tincknell and Emma Counsel. Albert married Annie Burr in St Mary’s church on 27th March 1890 and together their eight children, emigrated to Australia in 1911. Albert came from a farming background, he worked as an agricultural labourer in the Wedmore area and came to Texas Queensland to work on the tobacco farms of WD & HO Wills. They had recruited for workers throughout Somerset and other parts of England to come to Australia.

The tobacco farms failed a short time later, apparently due to drought and a blue mould that set in. Typhoid fever came to town and one child died, so Albert and his family packed up and left. It appears they followed the stock routes and moved down into New South Wales, through Tenterfield and Glen Innes, where, at Stonehenge, he saw a farm with the best crop of barley he had ever seen. The farm was for sale and he bought it. However, according to my Great Uncle, Sandy Smith, it never had such a great crop again. Still, it provided a home and an income for the family and continued to do so for some years after Albert’s death in 1932.

Grandfather Tincknell’s leather coin purse came to me through my mother, via her mother. When it passed to me, my mother told me that Grandfather Tincknell had always said ” you will never be poor as long as you have a ha’penny” for in the purse was indeed a halfpenny. I don’t know how long he had the halfpenny but it is an English coin dated 1895, so it must have travelled to Australia with him and probably in that same purse.

1895 half penny

 Photo: Halfpenny 1895 | by Steve Mai https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevemai/8138080938

Pictured above is a “cleaner” halfpenny than the one I have. For an idea of the value at the time, in 1895, butter was 1 shilling per pound (about 450gms) weight. There are 24 halfpennies in a shilling.

Another of my interests is coins and coin collecting and so, many years ago, curiosity led me to a coin dealer wondering what its value might be. I was told it was worthless, and was the type they put in coin bags for children starting out in coin collecting. Although I was slightly disappointed at the time that it wasn’t going to make us rich, it didn’t matter as the sentimental value was actually worth much more. The two belonged together and it would never be right to separate them. In the condition that it is now, and by looking at coin sites, I think, at the present time, it is actually worth about $20 – a bit much to put in a kids starter kit!

1895… I wondered about that date too. Was there something significant about that date to Albert? I don’t really know but it is the year that the obverse, which is Queen Victoria, changed to the “widow” head even though she had been a widow many years. Britannia is on the reverse, seated and holding a trident and a shield. Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Celebration was in 1897 and even though Albert was very involved with Wedmore’s Celebration, that doesn’t tie in either. I tend to think it was just probably co-incidence that he kept that particular coin.

Grandfather Tincknell may not have been monetarily very rich but he wasn’t poor either – he had a ha’penny. He was very much loved by his family and also “held in high esteem in the community in which he lived. Though of a retiring disposition, he possessed sterling qualities which impressed those with whom he came in contact and he enjoyed the goodwill of the whole countryside”. What more could one ask for?


© 2015 Lynette Nunn

3 thoughts on ““You will never be poor as long as you have a ha’penny”: The Story of Grandfather Tincknell and his Coin Purse

  1. boundforoz says:

    It’s amazing how one little object can lead to such an interesting story. That is true Family History

    Liked by 1 person

  2. genielynau says:

    Thanks Chris, I think I had to wait until the stories were overwhelming my memory banks and I needed to get them out to stay sane. I often wanted to do a web page but could never get motivated – a blog is pretty close, without as much of the effort. There are definitely touches of my Great Grandfather in me – I have his feet! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. crissouli says:

    Why did you take so long to get into blogging? You are a great writer, you share so much knowledge each post, wrapped in facts, emotions and with humour. How I would loved to have known Grandfather Tincknell, though I suspect there are touches of him in his great granddaughter.
    I like his values and indeed, you will never be poor.

    Liked by 1 person

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