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Stannary Parliment

drawing of a stannary palace

When Henry II came to the throne in 1154, he saw how much money could be made from tin.

He wanted a share and a system grew up where tin production was controlled by the crown.

The tinners of Devon and Cornwall were given rights and privileges allowing them to work for tin on most areas of land. They were allowed to regulate themselves through the ‘Stannary Parliament’.  A tax was collected on all tin that was sold. The tax records give us an idea how much tin was produced.

Stannary Rule

In 1201 a unique system of self-governance for the tinners in Cornwall and Devon was formalised in a document called the Stannary Charter.

Stannary law gave a great deal of independence to the tinners establishing their own parliament and law courts, exemption from nearly all taxes, freedom from military service and most importantly, allowing them to freely enter land to search for and extract tin.

Tin sales were confined to ‘coinage towns’. The ‘coinage’ was the tax collected on each ingot of tin. The Stannary system brought great wealth to the crown: in 1337 the Duchy of Cornwall was created and the ‘coinage’ went to the Duchy. Attempts to extract more taxation during the reign of Henry VIII [1485 – 1509] contributed to the Rebellion of 1497, when a Cornish army marched on London.

The Stannary system continued until the middle of the 19th century. It was extended to cover copper sales and was increasingly resented by Cornish tin traders.  The coinage system was finally abolished for tin in 1838.  The Stannary Parliament was abolished by legislation in 1887.


Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Geevor Archive

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Comment left by Tony Clifford on 2014-04-02 09:10:57

An extremely useful summary of a complex subject. Thank you.

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