John Parrett at the Sword & Buckler, Shire Lane, Temple Bar


A half penny token issued by John Parrett of Shire Lane, Temple Bar, London

A half penny token issued by John Parrett of Shire Lane, Temple Bar, London

The above copper half penny measures 20.8 mm and weighs 2.05 grams. It was issued in the name of John Parrett at the Sword and Buckler in Shire Lane in the district of Temple Bar Within, London in 1667.

Obverse: (rosette) IOHN.PARRETT.AT THE.SWORD , around twisted wire inner circle, within the depiction of a sword and buckler (i.e. small round shield).

Reverse: (rosette) AND.BUCKLER.SHEERE.LANE , around twisted wire inner circle. Legend within, HIS / HALFE / PENNY / 1667 in four lines.

Shire (or Sheere) Lane ran north off Fleet Street from its junction with the Strand at Temple Bar.

Shire Lane from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

Shire Lane from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

From the information displayed on his token’s we can’t tell what John Parrett’s occupation was. There is also no record of him in Shire Lane in the 1666 London Hearth Tax returns. It is possible the tat the sign of the Sword and Buckler could have been used by a tavern but this is by no means certain. The sign itself may have been an indication that buckler play or so-called sword and buckler play may have been exhibited there or near by at some point in time. Sword and buckler play was once common in England, especially in the time of Elizabeth I.

Elizabeathan gentlemen engaging in sword and buckler play

Elizabeathan gentlemen engaging in sword and buckler play

By a proclamation of 1609 buckler play, bear-baiting and the singing of ballads was banded in the City of London and adjoining counties was to be prohibited and those transgressors of the new law were to be severely punished. However, on the restoration of King Charles II licences for the pastime of buckler-play and other mischievous sports were, for the payment of a fee, made available from the Master of Revels.

It is likely that it was a sword and buckler fight which Samuel Pepys described in his diary entry for 37th May 1667;

“So to my chamber, and there did some little business, and then abroad, and stopped at the Bear-garden-stairs, there to see a prize fought. But the house so full there was no getting in there, so forced to go through an alehouse into the pit, where the bears are baited; and upon a stool did see them fight, which they did very furiously, a butcher and a waterman. The former had the better all along, till by and by the latter dropped his sword out of his hand, and the butcher, whether not seeing his sword dropped I know not, but did give him a cut over the wrist, so as he was disabled to fight any longer. But, Lord! to see how in a minute the whole stage was full of watermen to revenge the foul play, and the butchers to defend their fellow, though most blamed him; and there they all fell to it to knocking down and cutting many on each side. It was pleasant to see, but that I stood in the pit, and feared that in the tumult I might get some hurt. At last the rabble broke up, and so I away to White Hall…”

In the time of John Stow, the famous Elizabethan historian of the City of London, it is recorded that every haberdasher sold bucklers. Hence it is said that the device was often associated with haberdasher.

In addition to John Parrett in Shire Lane the sign of the sword and buckler is also recorded during the period 1660 to 1720 by businesses operating at the following London addresses;

  •  Swan Alley, East Smithfield.
  • Ludgate Hill.
  • Old Fish Street, Queenhithe.

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