Friday, October 4, 2013

Communion Tokens from Cruden: A Closer Look.

The four CTs from the Cruden Church stockpile deserve a closer look.
     There are four CTs in all, dated 1737, 1800, 1842 and 1844 (cataloged by Burzinski as B1701, B1702, B1703 & B1704 respectively). The progression goes from square (it is actually elongated vertically by 1mm), straight rectangle, round and cut rectangle. Old shapes give way to new shapes -- noting however, that round pieces (an old shape) continued to be used infrequently through the end of the CT era. Burzinski mistakenly describes B1703 as being dated 1848!
     The name Cruden might have come from the phrase Croch Dain. This refers to the slaughter of the Danes that occurred in 1012 during a battle between the Scots under King Malcolm II and the invading Danes. The Kirk of Cruden was established thereafter on the very spot where the fighting took place and was dedicated to Saint Olaf, the patron Saint of Denmark and Norway.
     The oldest CT from the Cruden stockpile comes from the third church constructed in the vicinity; it was built about 1560. The CT dated 1737 was used in this now demolished stone church. The building was over 150 years old when the communion service was held. This CT is squarish with three lines of data that reads: CRU/DEN/1737 (N is retrograde). The tokens were handed out and passed back to the elders to allow access to the fenced tables -- as such, the pieces were used once and were stored for the next 275 years. I find it amazing that they were kept so long!
Worn hand-crafted CTs from Cruden.
     A new church was built in 1776, nearly all of it from one huge block of granite known as the "the gray stone of Ardendraught" that sat in a nearby field. Church services began in the new building in November of that year. It was here that the second CT dated 1800 was used. The token was decidedly rectangular as was the emerging style of CTs to come. This shape allowed the parish name to be spelled out on one line with the date boldly placed below. Very few parishioners probably recalled the first communion service, as the previous sacramental event was 63 years past; but this one was probably a grand event that also celebrated the new church.
     In 1834 an number of improvement were made to the church building. In particular, round towers were added to provide access to the galleries. This design certainly gave the church a regal look. Despite these alterations, the congregation itself splintered in the wake of the Great Disruption of 1843.
Machine struck CTs
from before and after
the Great Disruption.
Note the doubled letters
in the parish name for
the round CT.
     One of the key issues centered on whether or not the congregation had the power to choose their minister without interference from the General Assembly. Some thought so. Consequently, the Free Church of Scotland was formed -- that is, a church that was free to govern itself without interference from the government. The Rev. Alexander Philip, who was elected by the congregation at Cruden, chose to follow the Free Church movement. Hence, he and about 500 parishioners (out of 800 total) left the Church of Scotland and joined the Free Church of Scotland.
     The third CT of the set dated 1842 represents the last one used before this schism. It was a bold round piece produced under the authority of Rev. Philip only a year before he left with over half the congregation in tow. It is a struck piece made with number and letter punches. In particular, the piece shows distinct doubling (from over-struck letters on the die) in the parish name.
     A new stone church was constructed in the nearby town of Hatton in October of 1843. The latest token from Cruden comes from this church. The communion service was held only two years after the last one, suggesting a desire to solemnize the movement to a new church with a sacramental event. As before, Rev. Philip presided over the service. The CT design was a modern one: cut rectangle with a pictorial of a church on the reverse -- it is a stock token similar in design to others used at the time, likely struck by a mill that produced church and merchant tokens.
     Hence, the story of Cruden Parish is marked by the CTs themselves. It is a story of a growing congregation, new churches and philosophical differences. The tokens document the sacramental events -- they were few and far between, except at the end when the last two pieces represent different churches. This history was easy to discover, as the Cruden Church website full of interesting bits.
     As collectors, we can see that it is also a story of how CTs evolved over time, reflecting the general trend from squares and straight rectangles to cut rectangles (with a guest appearance of the round one). We can only ask: Hey, where are the ovals?

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