Leonard Charles Wyon

Last updated

Leonard Charles Wyon (self-portrait in plaster) Leonard-Charles-Wyon.jpg
Leonard Charles Wyon (self-portrait in plaster)

Leonard Charles Wyon (23 November 1826 – 20 August 1891) was a British engraver of the Victorian era most notable for his work on the gold and silver coinage struck for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 and the bronze coinage of 1860 with the second ("bun") head portrait, in use from 1860 to 1894.



The eldest son of chief engraver William Wyon and his wife, Catherine Sophia, née Keele (d. 1851), Leonard Charles Wyon was born in one of the houses in the Royal Mint in 1826, and was educated at Merchant Taylors' School. L.C. Wyon's father taught him art and also from his father he inherited great skill in die engraving. By the age of 16 he had already made several medals and some of his early work is displayed in the British Museum's Numismatic collection. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1843. From 1844 he studied at the Royal Academy Schools and in the same year, at the age of just 18, he became Second Engraver under his father at the Royal Mint. One of his earliest medals to be widely praised was his 1846 medal of the Irish Temperance preacher Theobald Mathew. In 1850 he was commissioned by Queen Victoria to make medallic portraits of the royal children, and in 1851 he executed the reverse of the prize-medal for The Great Exhibition. [1] Also in 1851, at the age of 24, he succeeded his father, who had died, with the title of Modeller and Engraver. In 1854 he engraved the 'William Wyon Laudatory Medal', in memory of his father, for the Art Union of London. [2] [3] Like his father before him, he also produced dies for postage and other stamps. [1]

Wyon's 'Bun Head' penny of 1860 showing his initials L.C.W. beneath Britannia's foot Wyon-bun-head-1860.jpg
Wyon's 'Bun Head' penny of 1860 showing his initials L.C.W. beneath Britannia's foot

In 1860 L. C. Wyon was invited to prepare designs for the new British bronze coin denominations. It was pointed out to Wyon that on no account was Britannia to be omitted from the reverse of the new coinage. The Queen herself took a personal interest in the design for the new minor coinage and gave several sittings to him for her portrait. Wyon submitted a number of designs to the Queen for her approval, one of which she adopted. This design included a bronze Penny, commonly known as the 'Bun' Penny on account of Victoria's hair style. [2]

Intending to give a bold relief to the designs on the new bronze coins, Wyon engraved the original dies so deeply that they were liable to fracture after relatively few pieces had been struck from them. He therefore had to start again and, after he had produced dies of less bold relief, mass-production of the bronze coinage began. [2]

L. C. Wyon also engraved the dies for the gold and silver Jubilee coinage struck for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. This coinage, the designs for which were prepared from life by Sir Joseph Boehm, RA, produced a storm of disapproval, directed particularly against Boehm's portrait of the Queen. [2]

Wyon, like his father William before him, prepared many dies for coinage use in various parts of the British Empire, including those for Australia, British East Africa, British Guiana, the West Indies, British Honduras, British India; the British India Native States of Alwar, Bikanir, Dwas and Dgar; Canada, Ceylon, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Jersey, Malta, Mauritius, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Straits Settlements. [2] His official medals included the South Africa Medal (1853), the Arctic and Baltic Medals, the Indian Mutiny Medal, and the South Africa Medal (1879). Among his portrait medals are those of William Wordsworth (1848), Robert Stephenson (1850), Joseph Paxton (1854), Richard Sainthill (1855), Henry Hallam (1859), and William Ewart Gladstone (1879). [1]

On 22 June 1852 Wyon married Mary Birks (1831–1902) and the couple lived in London, first in Maida Vale and from 1856 in St John's Wood. None of their numerous offspring took up their father's profession.

At the age of 64, Leonard Charles Wyon died of Bright's disease and apoplexy at his home, 54 Hamilton Terrace, St John's Wood, London, on 20 August 1891 and was buried at Paddington Old Cemetery. [1]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Third farthing</span> Former piece of British coinage

The third farthing was a British coin worth 12880 of a pound, 1144 of a shilling, or 112 of a penny. It was minted in copper in 1827, 1835, and 1844, and in bronze in various years between 1866 and 1913. While exclusively authorised for use in the Crown Colony of Malta, third farthings are catalogued as British coinage because they are fractions of British currency, and Malta otherwise used standard coins of the pound sterling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quarter farthing</span> Former piece of British coinage

The quarter farthing was a British coin worth 13840 of a pound, 1192 of a shilling, or +116 of a penny. The Royal Mint issued the coins in copper for exclusive use in British Ceylon in 1839, 1851, 1852, and 1853. The mint also produced bronze proofs in 1868.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the British penny (1714–1901)</span>

The penny of Great Britain and the United Kingdom from 1714 to 1901, the period in which the House of Hanover reigned, saw the transformation of the penny from a little-used small silver coin to the bronze piece recognisable to modern-day Britons. All bear the portrait of the monarch on the obverse; copper and bronze pennies have a depiction of Britannia, the female personification of Britain, on the reverse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Double florin</span> British coin, struck 1887–1890

The double florin, or four-shilling piece, was a British coin produced by the Royal Mint between 1887 and 1890. One of the shortest-lived of all British coin denominations, it was struck in only four years. Its obverse, designed by Joseph Boehm and engraved by Leonard Charles Wyon, depicts Queen Victoria, whilst the reverse, featuring national symbols of the United Kingdom, was designed by Wyon based on the coinage of Charles II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Florin (British coin)</span> Former coin of the United Kingdom and other territories

The British florin, or two-shilling piece, was a coin worth 110 of one pound, or 24 pence. It was issued from 1849 until 1967, with a final issue for collectors dated 1970. It was the last coin circulating immediately prior to decimalisation to be demonetised, in 1993, having for a quarter of a century circulated alongside the ten-pence piece, identical in specifications and value.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Five pounds (gold coin)</span> Gold five pound coin

The five pound British gold coin, also known as a quintuple sovereign, has a nominal value of five pounds sterling. It has been struck intermittently since 1820, though as a circulation coin only in 1887, 1893 and 1902. Through most of its history, it has depicted, on its reverse, Benedetto Pistrucci's portrayal of St George and the Dragon, which has traditionally been used on the sovereign, or one-pound gold coin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Wyon</span> British engraver (1795–1851)

William Wyon, was official chief engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sovereign (British coin)</span> British gold coin

The sovereign is a British gold coin with a nominal value of one pound sterling (£1) and contains 0.2354 troy oz of pure gold. Struck since 1817, it was originally a circulating coin that was accepted in Britain and elsewhere in the world; it is now a bullion coin and is sometimes mounted in jewellery. In addition, circulation strikes and proof examples are often collected for their numismatic value. In most recent years, it has borne the design of Saint George and the Dragon on the reverse; the initials of the designer, Benedetto Pistrucci, are visible to the right of the date.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benedetto Pistrucci</span> Italian engraver (1783–1855)

Benedetto Pistrucci was an Italian gem-engraver, medallist and coin engraver, probably best known for his Saint George and the Dragon design for the British sovereign coin. Pistrucci was commissioned by the British government to create the large Waterloo Medal, a project which took him thirty years to complete.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Half sovereign</span> British gold coin

The half sovereign is a British gold coin denominated at one-half of a pound sterling. First issued in its present form in 1817, it has been struck by the Royal Mint in most years since 1980 as a collector's and bullion piece.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Edgar Boehm</span> British sculptor (1834–1890)

Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1st Baronet, was an Austrian-born British medallist and sculptor, best known for the "Jubilee head" of Queen Victoria on coinage, and the statue of the Duke of Wellington at Hyde Park Corner. During his career Boehm maintained a large studio in London and produced a significant volume of public works and private commissions. A speciality of Boehm's was the portrait bust; there are many examples of these in the National Portrait Gallery. He was often commissioned by the Royal Family and members of the aristocracy to make sculptures for their parks and gardens. His works were many, and he exhibited 123 of them at the Royal Academy from 1862 to his death in 1890.

Thomas Wyon the Younger was an English medallist and chief engraver at the Royal Mint.

The British farthing was a British coin worth a quarter of an old penny. It ceased to be struck after 1956 and was demonetised from 1 January 1961.

George William de Saulles was a British medallist. He designed the obverse of coins of the United Kingdom and its colonies under Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.

Nicholas Briot was an English coin engraver, medallist and mechanical engineer. Born in France, he emigrated to England and became chief engraver to the Royal Mint in 1633 and is credited with the invention of the coining-press.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Waterloo Medal (Pistrucci)</span> 1849 British medal

The Waterloo Medal was designed by Italian-born sculptor Benedetto Pistrucci. He worked on it from 1819 to 1849, when the completed matrices were presented to Britain's Royal Mint. The medal was commissioned by the British Government in 1819 on the instructions of the Prince Regent ; copies were to be presented to the generals who had been victorious in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, and to the leaders of Britain's allies. As most of the intended recipients had died by 1849, and relations with France had improved, the medals were never struck, though modern-day editions have been made for sale to collectors.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Baptiste Merlen</span> French engraver and medallist (1769–1850)

Jean Baptiste Merlen (1769–1850) was a French engraver and medallist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Double sovereign</span> British gold coin

The double sovereign is a gold coin of the United Kingdom with a nominal value of two pounds sterling (£2). Rarely issued in the first century and a half after its debut in 1820, it never had a significant presence in circulation. It is now a collector and bullion coin, and has been struck most years since 1980. It features the reigning monarch on its obverse and, most often, Benedetto Pistrucci's depiction of Saint George and the Dragon on the reverse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jubilee coinage</span> British coins depicting Queen Victoria

The Jubilee coinage or Jubilee head coinage are British coins with an obverse featuring a depiction of Queen Victoria by Joseph Edgar Boehm. The design was placed on the silver and gold circulating coinage beginning in 1887, and on the Maundy coinage beginning in 1888. The depiction of Victoria wearing a crown that was seen as too small was widely mocked, and was replaced in 1893. The series saw the entire issuance of the double florin (1887–1890) and, in 1888, the last issue for circulation of the groat, or fourpence piece, although it was intended for use in British Guiana. No bronze coins were struck with the Jubilee design.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Old Head coinage</span> 1893–1901 British coins

The Old Head coinage or Veiled Head coinage were British coins struck and dated between 1893 and 1901, which featured on the obverse a portrait by Thomas Brock of an aged Queen Victoria wearing a diadem partially hidden by a widow's veil. It replaced the Jubilee coinage, struck since 1887, which had been widely criticised both for the portrait of the Queen, and because the reverses of most of the coins did not state their monetary values. Some denominations continued with their old reverse designs, with Benedetto Pistrucci's design for the sovereign extended to the half sovereign. New designs for some of the silver coinage were inaugurated, created either by Brock or by Edward Poynter, and all denominations less than the crown, or five-shilling piece, stated their values.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Philip Attwood, "Wyon, Leonard Charles (1826–1891)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 2 Jan 2010
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Wyon on the Jersey Coins website
  3. William Wyon Laudatory Medal (1854) on the Christopher Eimer Medallic Art website Archived 29 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
Preceded by Coins of the pound sterling
Obverse sculptor

Succeeded by