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Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, was the first to mint 240 'pennies' to make up a pound of sterling silver. For hundreds of years they were the only unit of coinage, although they were often grouped into twelves for accounting purposes.

He also built 'Offa's Dyke', an ancient earthwork rampart which ran for some 273 km from Prestatyn on the north Wales coast to Chepstow in the south. It was built to mark the boundary between Wales and his kingdom and formed the first border between England and Wales. Some 130 km of ditch and embankment survive along part of the long-distance Offa's Dyke Path.

England was divided into seven kingdoms: Essex, Wessex and Sussex, which were ruled by the Saxons; East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria, which were ruled by Angles; and Kent which was ruled by the Jutes. These kingdoms often fought battles to decide which one of them had authority over all the others and claim the title Bretwalda (Lord of Britain) for their king. In the 8th century the Mercian kings Ethelbad and Offa claimed to be in control. In 1779 Offa became king of all England. His death in 796 ended Mercian supremacy.

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