Did you know 23rd May is Lucky Penny Day? We thought we would use this opportunity to let you know about a mysterious coin from the Caves' past.
In 1913 a mysterious Spanish coin known as an Abbey piece, was discovered in the Caves by the Canon Pryor. The coin, dating from the 16th century, became the centre of a new mythology for the Caves. The story went that the caves were being used as a Catholic church, and a Spanish pilgrim visiting the church dropped the coin. Charles Feret theorised that the coin may have been left by a Spaniard travelling to England for the marriage of Queen Mary and King Philip of Spain. An extract from 'Bygone Thanet, Extracts from the Isle of Thanet Gazette,' dated 25th August 1917 states;
"If, as seems extremely probable, the great Cave in which it was found was used for religious worship, it is quite feasible that it was dropped here by some Spanish Pilgrim...
Many Spaniards came to England in the King's entourage, and it seems to me by no means unlikely that the Abbey piece, which was struck when the great Emperor entered on conventual life, found it's way to our Margate Caves about the time of unhappy nuptials between the Catholic Philip and his Catholic bride, Queen Mary of bloody memory. At any rate my theory is worthy of consideration, "
This story, no matter how likely, then got used as proof that the Caves had been used as a refuge for Catholics fleeing persecution during the reformation. It is unlikely the Caves existed during the reformation, or even during the reign of Mary I, as experts are sure the Caves were created in the 1700s as a chalk mine to help build the burgeoning settlements of Margate and Cliftonville. This still leaves the mystery of how a 16th century Spanish coin ended up in the Caves. We do know that Abbey pieces became a popular pirate token, we also know that piracy and smuggling was rife in Thanet, particularly the neighboring town of Ramsgate, until quite recently, it may not have been hard for Canon Pryor to get his hand on a seemingly rare 16th century coin, to spin a new convincing tale for the Caves.
The picture below shows a similar coin, we do not have the Caves coin, who's disappearance is as mysterious as it's origin.