This coin is unusual in a number of ways. It comes from the only period in English history when many of the nobility issued coins in their own names. This was during the reign of Stephen (AD 1135–54), which saw a civil war between Stephen and his cousin Matilda (1102–67). Both Stephen and Matilda granted the right to issue coins to a number of nobles in return for their support. One of these was Henry, Earl of Northumberland, son of David I, King of Scotland, who issued coins in Carlisle.
The history of the coin is also unusual. It has been pecked in the middle of the face to test the quality of the silver. This sort of testing is associated with Vikings, and with the peoples of the Baltic, and is never normally found on English coins of the twelfth century. Recent research in the British Museum archives shows that this coin was part of a hoard of coins and jewellery found near the town of Haapsalu in Estonia in the nineteenth century. The hoard was sold to a local silversmith, and much of it was probably melted down, but several coins, including the penny of Henry of Northumberland, made their way to the British Museum.