The Royal Mint originated over 1,100 years ago, producing coins for England and eventually Great Britain.
As well as minting coins for the UK, The Royal Mint also mints and exports coins to many other countries and produces military medals, commemorative medals, and other such items for governments, schools and businesses, being known as the world's leading exporting mint. Responsibility for the security of the site falls to the Ministry of Defence Police, who provide an armed contingent.
In 1968 The Royal Mint began to move its operations from Tower Hill in the City of London to Llantrisant, and has operated on a single site in Llantrisant since 1980.
At Llantrisant it holds an extensive collection of coins dating from the 16th century onwards, housed in eighty cabinets made by Elizabeth II's cabinet maker, Hugh Swann. The site occupies 38 acres and employs over 900 people.
The London Mint first became a single institution in 886, during the reign of Alfred the Great, but was only one of many mints throughout the kingdom. By 1279 it had moved to the Tower of London, and remained there the next 500 years, achieving a monopoly on the production of coins of the realm in the 16th century. Sir Isaac Newton took up the post of Warden of the Mint, responsible for investigating cases of counterfeiting, in 1696, and subsequently held the office of Master of The Royal Mint from 1699 until his death in 1727. He unofficially moved the Pound Sterling to the gold standard from silver in 1717.
By the time Newton arrived, the Mint had expanded to fill several rickety wooden buildings ranged around the outside of the Tower. In the eighteenth century the processes for minting coins were mechanised and rolling mills and coining presses were installed. The new machinery and the demand on space in the Tower of London following the outbreak of war with France led to a decision to move the Mint to an adjacent site in East Smithfield. The new building, designed by James Johnson and Robert Smirke, was completed in 1809, and included space for the new machinery, and accommodation for the officers and staff of the Mint.
The building was rebuilt in the 1880s to accommodate new machinery which increased the capacity of the Mint. As technology changed with the introduction of electricity and demand grew, the process of rebuilding continued so that by the 1960s little of the original mint remained, apart from Smirke's 1809 building and the gatehouse in the front.
During WWII, The Royal Mint was bombed by the Germans. The Royal Mint was hit on several occasions and was put out of commission for three weeks at one point.
The Tower Hill site finally reached capacity ahead of decimalisation in 1971, with the need to strike hundreds of millions of new decimal coins, while at the same time not neglecting overseas customers. In 1967 it was announced that the mint would move away from London to new buildings in Llantrisant.
The first phase was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 December 1968, and production gradually shifted to the new site over the next seven years until the last coin, a gold sovereign, was struck in London in November 1975. Smirke's 1809 Building is now used as commercial offices by Barclays Global Investors.
On 1 April 1975 The Royal Mint became a trading fund to help improve its efficiency by requiring it to become self-financing. In March 2009, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling began planning to sell off of The Royal Mint. On 31 December 2009 it ceased to be an executive agency and its assets were vested in a limited company, Royal Mint Ltd. The owner of the new company became The Royal Mint trading fund, which itself continued to be owned by HM Treasury.