The Mysterious Shilling at Bridgnorth
Today’s story is about seemingly miraculous money, given as long as the bounty was used for charity. It is intriguing how the Rev. Sing somehow divined the “rules” of the mysterious shillings.
MYSTERIOUS SHILLING AT BRIDGNORTH. —The following account was sent in a letter by the Rev. John Sing, of Bridgnorth, to the late Rev. Mr Samuel Wilson, of London, and published in the Gospel Magazine for March, 1772:—” Bridgnorth, March 19, 1738-9. There is a large common adjoining to the east side of this town, upon which there is a large hill, over the top whereof lieth the great road for Wolverhampton, Stafford, &c, in the midst of which road, on the top of the hill, I found a shilling. It is natural at such a time to look for more, which I did in a superficial manner. The next day, my occasion leading me that way, I found another shilling. I then concluded there must be money lost in that place, which I carefully examined, but found no more. The next day, being the last Sunday in the month, there was a sort of vestry or parish meeting at the Castle Church, which I was obliged (though with a very uneasy mind) to attend: amongst other cases there was a poor man who applied for relief, to whom the bailiff ordered fourpence per week, with a penny loaf to be given every day at Church. It was answered by some present, he does not come to church. Where goes he then? replied the bailiff. To the church at the Bridge-End, said the overseers; (meaning the Baptist Church there.) Nay then, replied the bailiff, let the church at the bridge-end maintain their own poor, for we will have nothing to say to them; and accordingly the old man was dismissed without having any allowance. My heart ached for the complainant, and did then verily believe God had handed me that money for the relief of that poor man. Upon the visit I found the money came very seasonable, and for which the good old man thought he could never sufficiently thank me. I told him he ought to thank God and not me, for I had it without any care or industry of my own. His answer was, he thanked God and me also. About the latter end of the week being the next time I went that way, in the very same place I found another shilling, and resolving to make the strictest search I could, took my knife and drew it to and again In the sand and gravel, for the space of three or four yards, within the compass of a shilling, and do verily believe, had there been another in that place at that time, I had turned it up: (though what shilling I found there from first to last always lay on the surface of the sand, in the same place, and in the middle of the track), but as before, so at that time I could find no more, only began to think there was somewhat uncommon in it. The next week going that way and finding another shilling, I was exceedingly surprised, and so carried out in transports of wonder and joy, that I thought it happy afterwards that none but the Father was with me; for if ever I experienced what the si inianimus [sic] (pardon me, dear sir) meant, it was then. However from that time I was fully persuaded in my own breast that the money was handed to me in some extraordinary manner, that whensoever I came there I should find a shilling, and no other piece, and no more at that time, and that it would remain invisible to others passing that way, and lastly that all the money ought to be laid out in the self-same pieces, in charitable uses, and the whole to be kept as a secret. Accordingly, I never went that way but I found a shilling, and looked for no more at that time. I have observed people, passing and re-passing, to pass over it. I disclosed no part of the affair, and always applied the money to the best uses. But bring it to an issue: after eleven weeks’ continuance, wherein to the best of my remembrance (for I was not always careful to register, little expecting a demand of this nature), I found thirteen pieces of money; and being obliged one Thursday to attend Kidderminster market, I had a servant with me to assist in taking the mare which pastured in some lands on the other side of the hill, I saw the shilling at some little distance, halted, and put the servant before me, picked up the shilling, and very inadvertently placed it with the rest of my money, and with the rest of my money, very foolishly paid it away for goods bought of Mr Walker, of Kidderminster. For what reason he seemed to scruple [at] that very piece, I cannot tell; I told him it was good, that I had it where I had several more, that though I came easily, I came honestly by it; and, like a very silly person, gave him too much light into the story. He had no sooner put up the money but my heart smote me; I saw my error in parting with the piece, but had no power to ask for it again; I stood, as we say, like one panic-struck, came all the way home with a heavy heart, firmly believing that I should find no more, which fell out accordingly. -Yours, John Sing. W.RH.
Bye-gones, Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, 1874-5
An odd little story reminiscent of the “pennies from heaven” theme so often seen in the Ann Landers advice column—where the bereaved either find inexplicable pennies or find inexplicable pennies with dates significant to some loved one.
I once heard from a gentleman who had a plethora of pennies. He said that they showed up everywhere in his house ““I found a penny right in the center of the table, another one right in the center of a chair, another new penny heads up, right in the center of the davenport. They were always in the center of things. I always look in a cup before I pour anything in it. I looked, went to pour my coffee, and there was a penny in that cup, looking up at me.” [Full story in Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State. There is also a story in Haunted Ohio IV: Restless Spirits from a family who said that enough mysterious pennies dropped in their Greenville, Ohio home to send them on vacation in Michigan.]
The story of the mysterious coin has some similarities to the many tales in saints’ lives where the precise amount needed is mysteriously found in the poor box or at the foot of the statue of St. Joseph in a plain envelope. Spiritualists were also fond of uplifting anecdotes like this one:
On one occasion, a gentleman of Rochester was indebted to a woman who was in great need of the money. The spirits directed her little sister to go at such a place in the street at a certain hour in the day, and she would meet the man who would pay her three dollars for her sister. The little girl did not know the man who owed the money but went as directed. At the appointed time she met a man who said to her, “Are you the girl that lives with Mrs.__?” She replied in the affirmative. “Here are three dollars I wish you would take to her,” said the man, handing her a bill, and passed on. Singular Revelations: Explanations and History of the Mysterious Communion with Spirits, Eliab Wilkinson Capron, Henry Danforth Barron, 1850
Of course the Bridgnorth story is also associated with the theme of money left by the Gentry–the recipients mustn’t tell where they got it or the donations will stop.
And where does it fit into the religion/mythology/folklore of engines of unlimited wealth: the Sampo, the Grótti of Gróttasöngr, the Cornucopia, the Prayer of Jabez?
One wonders if these sorts of mysterious abundances will ever catch up to modern technology—would a seeker at Bridgnorth find a series of Tesco Express giftcards or would money suddenly be transferred to his iPhone via Paypal?
Any experiences with materializing money? Send with check and routing number to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com.
This post had been scheduled for some time. Yesterday this similar story popped up in my news feed. http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/01/14/Motorcyclist-tells-of-hearing-mysterious-voice/
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.