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The Guide: Bullion Department

From 1809, when Nathan Mayer began to deal in bullion, the trade in this commodity has been central to the operation of the firm. The records relating to the bullion business are mainly found in this section, created to receive records from the Bullion Department of the General Office. Early correspondence relating to the acquisition of the lease of the Royal Mint Refinery (RMR) may be found in the Correspondence series XI/109, and some series within VII relate entirely to the operation of RMR. However, most of the Refinery's administrative records were held at the east London site after 1856 and were destroyed following its sale to Engelhard Industries in 1967.

The series XII/158, NMR Receipts, within the Estates Department records, contains many receipts for bullion.




Early bullion records


Bullion correspondence



Outgoing letters

Accounts, sales, invoices





Cash books


Stock records




Early bullion records

Bullion Account Sales, 1815; 1829, 1834 VII/10a/2; /24, 2 volumes

Two indexed ledgers, the first of which shows NMR in account with banks and firms in England and Europe, including M. A. Rothschild and the Bank of England. The entries relate to transactions involving bullion, and also other commodities such as hides, indigo, almonds and coffee. Most of the accounts in volume 24 differ from those in volume 2. They include de Rothschild Frères, C. M. Rothschild in Naples and Edward Costil Refiners. Entries show sales and purchases of government coupons and bonds. Also in this volume dated 1829 are 'Extraits des observations sur les matières d'or et d'argent', 'Notes on silver' and a copy of a letter in French relating to piasters and the weight of gold.

Specie and Treasury Bills Account, 1815-1816 VII/1/1, 1 volume

A ledger divided between accounts of specie procured at Hamburg with details of currency (doubloons, ducats, etc) and the party through whom it was obtained; accounts of treasury bills negotiated by M. A. Rothschild in Frankfurt. A further section gives accounts of sundry transactions with Carl Rothschild in Amsterdam.

Bullion Listed Cash Book, 1809-1812 VII/16a/1, 1 volume

A cash book of the accounts of NMR with various companies including M. A. Rothschild showing the firm dealing in bars and bags of gold.Advances to Mines, 1823 VII/23/1, 1 volume

This volume is a simple record of a handful of transactions with various mines.


Bullion Ledgers, 1819-1914 VII/14/0-30, 31 volumes

This series forms a record of all bullion delivered and received and the value thereof. There is a significant gap in the record, nothing having survived for the years between 1869 and 1889. In the early volumes, up to 1857, the form of the bullion, bar or coin, is recorded. Many of the transactions are with the Bank of England, Sharpe, Hill, and in later, indexed, volumes, from 1890, the names of Mocatta & Goldsmid and Matthey appear.

Bullion accounts, sales and invoices

Bullion Accounts, 1816-1829 VII/2/0-6, 7 volumes

Volumes of accounts showing incoming gold and silver, indicating from whom it was received (e.g. Ezechiels & Sons), and to whom it was sent. For a continuation of the information contained in this series, see the description of VII/4 below.

Bullion Accounts, 1820-1854 VII/4/0-3, 4 volumes

This series is a replica of the series described immediately above. There is no indication on any of the volumes why the same information was recorded separately, or whether one series originated with a different department.

Bullion - gold and silver account, 1824-1847 VII/5/0-1, 2 volumes

Two differently formatted indexed volumes document the bullion received by NMR and its destination. The first volume is of significance to Rothschild history as it records two events which have entered Rothschild mythology: the supply of bullion to the Bank of England to prevent a run on the Bank, and the purchase of £500,000 of bullion from the East India Company, a piece of business that Nathan himself recalled at his dinner with Thomas Fowell Buxton.

It is recorded here that Nathan Rothschild was contracted by the Royal Mint to deliver £500,000 in bar silver from July to November 1825 "for coinage pursuant to direction of Treasury letter 1 July 1825". The volume also includes extracts from letters including an anonymous description of Nathan's brother, James.

One of the sources of the bullion is the East India Company. £599,437.13.6 of silver bought from this source is recorded as being paid into the Treasury on 29 October 1824.

The remainder of the series records other sources of purchases and the type of bullion concerned.

Bullion Accounts, 1824-1914 VII/6/1-102, 102 volumes

Accounts of bullion received in the form of bars, gold dust and coin. Information on the vessels used for shipments is given in the volumes up to 1829. Accounts are with Mocatta & Goldsmid, Samuel Montagu, Sharpe & Wilkins, Heine etc. From volume 88 (1896) the series is entitled 'Bullion P'.

Bullion Invoice and Account Sales, 1816-1858 VII/8/0-24, 25 volumes

Invoice and account sales are recorded together in this one series. The basic details include the name of the entity for which the bullion was acquired, the cost, bar numbers and method of transportation.

Account Sales, 1858-1920 VII/9/0-46, 47 volumes

From 1858, invoice and account sales are recorded separately. Within this series, there are variations in the format of the volumes from 1896 and, from volume 38 (1912), only sales of silver are recorded. See VII/72 below for gold sales.

Bullion Invoices, 1858-1920 VII/10/0-23, 24 volumes

This series is the continuation of the record of invoice sales from series VII/8 above.

Bullion Account Sales: Gold, 1912-1914 VII/72/0-3, 4 volumes, 1912-1914

Account sales of gold prior to 1912 can be found in the series of account sales VII/9 described above.

Cash Books

Bullion Cash Books, 1857-1914 1857-1905 VII/15/0-30, 31 volumes
1906-1914 VII/16/0-17, 18 volumes

The entries in these indexed volumes, consisting of the number of bars received or delivered, the cash value and the amounts of the cheques paid and received in a single entry system, provide a complete record of transactions with bullion brokers and with clients for bullion. The series is split between two classifications.

Stock Records

Parcels and Boxes in Bullion Room, 1878-1918* VII/14A/0-1, 2 volumes

This series is a register of the bullion held in the Bank's vault, noting ownership and dates of movement.

Refinery Records

NMR acquired the lease of the Royal Mint Refinery in 1852 at a significant time when gold had recently been discovered in California and Australia. The first manager, a Frenchman, Michel Poisat, was recommended to Sir Anthony de Rothschild by his brother Nathaniel who was based in Paris. Poisat had been associated with the French Rothschilds in a refinery business in Paris and he supervised the recruitment, in France, of workers for the London business. To accommodate the influx of workers, Sir Anthony arranged for the construction of labourers' cottages on the refinery premises, near to the Royal Mint in London's East End. Over the following century the Royal Mint Refinery diversified to deal with a range of metals from bars of silver to copper foil. The enterprise was sold to Engelhard Industries Limited in 1967.


Private Journal, 1904-1923 VII/90/1, 1 volume

A volume listing refinery expenses, repairs, payments for delivery of bullion, assaying, refining and melting costs.

Royal Mint Refinery Book, 1852-1854 VII/18/1, 1 volume

This volume records details of bars delivered to the refinery for melting, and includes the Melting Account, Gold, Grain and Assay Account and a Silver Account.

Refinery and NMR Accounts, 1852-1855 VII/19/1, 1 volume

This volume contains the same accounts as those appearing in the volume above.

RMR Current Account, 1855-1856 VII/20/1, 1 volume

The major account in this volume is a Refinery Account B, which later appears in Foreign Accounts Current 6 in the records of the Accounts Current Department. This volume also records deliveries and consignments of fine silver, Portuguese crowns and refining charges.

RMR Sulphate of Copper Cash Account, 1905-1910 VII/23/2-3, 2 volumes


Refinery Melting Book, 1854-1856 VII/24/1, 1 volume

This volume records the deliveries of gold dust, copper sulphate and bullion bars to the refinery, showing for whose account the deliveries were made, details of transportation, the loss on melting and melting charges and assays.

Refinery Stock Books, 1846-1914 VII/207/1-29, 30 volumes

Incorporated into this series are volumes relating to Michel Poisat's joint business with the French Rothschilds in a Paris refinery, specifically volume 1, Grand Livre d'Affinage D (1846-1848); volume 2, Grand Livre d'Affinage (1845-1847); and volume 3, Livre No. 2 (September 1846 to April 1847). Volume 1 contains accounts of construction and equipment together with the personal expenses of Poisat. A Compte d'Affinage series begins in 1852, running through to the end of 1859. A Livre d'Affinage begins in December 1860 and runs through to 1914, changing its title in 1905 to Refinery Stock Book, from which date the entries are in English. Monthly balances are produced.

Gold, 1905-1912 VII/71/0-1, 2 volumes

The two volumes in this series provide a monthly analysis of the gold shipped from South African, Indian and Australian goldfields which was divided between the refineries of NMR, Johnson Matthey and Raphaels.

Property documents

RMR title deeds, 1772-1930* 000/399, 6 boxes

A comprehensive series of title deeds relating to the site of the Royal Mint Refinery were retained by the bank, department unknown, and were transferred to the Archive.



By a contract with the Spanish Government dating from 1835 giving them rights to the sale of the produce of the Almadén mines in southern Spain, Rothschilds secured a European quicksilver monopoly. Quicksilver was a vital component in the process of refining gold and silver, and the profits from the quicksilver business were substantial, far exceeding profits from other business areas.

Quicksilver Invoice Book, 1889 VII/57/1, 1 volume

A brief record of sales to A. S. Pickering, Geiselbrecht & Co., H. Rogers Sons & Co., and RMR among others.

Quicksilver Account No. 2 Books, 1900-1922 VII/15a/0-2, 3 volumes

Three diverse volumes make up this series. Volume 0 contains the accounts required under the terms of the quicksilver contract with the Spanish Government: quicksilver sales, Spanish Government quicksilver sales, bottle account and an account with Bauer in Madrid. The Spanish Government account records the number of bottles received from Almadén and tallies the number sold, whereas the quicksilver sales account records the details of each transaction. Volume 2 is the account required by the contract that came into effect on 1 January 1912, and has the same information as volume 0. Volume 1 is the continuation of the quicksilver sales section of volume 0.

Quicksilver contract, 1912-1922 000/474

This is one of the many contracts drawn up between the Spanish General Director of Properties and Imports and the partners of NMR, by which NMR was contracted to take charge of the production of quicksilver at the Almadén mines. Related documents are to be found with this contract.


Bullion Correspondence

Bullion letters, 1897-1914 VII/36/0-78, 35 boxes

Several series of letters have been listed under the same departmental reference, e.g. letter from W. M. Guggenheim of New York concerning silver; Fremantle Smelting Works; the Mexican Government concerning silver; general bullion letters and a series relating to the Wood Street Smelting Works which was run briefly by Rothschilds.

Outgoing Letters

Copy Letters, 1890-1924 VII/17/0-23, 24 volumes

The letters in this series give a useful account of the work of the Refinery and cover the period of the acquisition by New Court of an interest in Rand Mines Ltd. Much of the correspondence signed on behalf of the firm acknowledges the receipt of bullion from foreign banks. Occasional letters from Charles Rothschild, the member of the family with special interest in the Refinery at the time, relate to mining interests in South Africa and Australia. Some of the letters discuss various refining methods. During the war period, the letter books begin to run concurrently. Volume 15 contains the same general range of letters as the preceding volumes in the series; volume 16 is confined to brief acknowledgements of sums received, including many from the Ministry of Munitions, and all emanating from the Refinery. Volume 17 is entirely concerned with war service and exemptions of Refinery staff. Volumes 22 and 23 contain copies of accounts of sales and are headed "Advices to Bank of England of Gold Sales".