Roger Price at the Black Boy in Wapping


A farthing token issued in the name of Roger Price at the sign of the Black Boy, Wapping.

A farthing token issued in the name of Roger Price at the sign of the Black Boy, Wapping.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.2 mm and weighs 1.09 grams. It was issued in name of John Price  of Wapping, a district in eastern London which runs along the north bank of the River Thames.

The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) BLACK.BOY.IN.WAPIN, around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of what is most probably a young negro boy holding a clay pipe in his right hand (away from his mouth) and a beer mug or serving jug in his left hand (For an alternative interpretation of the latter object see note 1 below).

Reverse: (mullet) BLACK.BOY.IN.WAPIN, around twisted wire inner circle, a triad comprising R | .P. | .I , within.

The Parish of St. John's Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

The Parish of St. John’s Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

A burial register entry for a Roger Price may be found within the registers of St. John’s Parish Church, Wapping for 3rd October, 1663. Roger is recorded as the husband of Jane Price. This would fit with the triad of husband and wife initials on the reverse of this token, i.e. Mr. R.P and Mrs I.(i.e. the Latinised form of J). P. Furthermore the will, witnesses on 25th September 1663, of a Roger Price of St. John’s Parish, Wapping  exists in the London Metropolitan Archives. In it Roger is described as a  merchantaitor (i.e. a mechant) and the husband of Jane Price, brother of John Price plus father and father-in-law to John and his wife Sarah Price respectively.

I have located two possible marriage records for Roger Price. These are;

1) Roger Price Spouse Jane Gay. Marriage 22 Aug 1636 in the church of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, Middlesex

2) Roger Price Spouse Jane Pugget. Marriage 26 Apr 1641 in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft, London

There exists several east London christening records after 1636 for children with parents by the name Roger and Jane Price.  These include;

Anthony Price – 1638, St. John’s Parish, Wapping

William Price – 1640, St. John’s Parish, Wapping

Jane Price – 1643, St. John’s Parish, Wapping

John Price – 1645, St. Andrew Undershaft, London

Further research is required in this area to determine if we are looking at two separate east London Price families or the possible re-marriage of a single Roger Price to a second wife (also names Jane, as per his first wife) in 1641.

As yet I have found no records for a Roger Price in east London Hearth Tax returns from the  1660s. The only Prices recorded in the 1666 return for Wapping are those for a Richard Price and a William Price. This observation is not surprising given the probable assumption that Roger Price, the token issuer, is one and the same as the Roger Price (husband of Jane Price) who we know died in Wapping in late September or early October 1663.

It is generally believed that Roger Price was the publican at a tavern by the name of the “Black Boy” in Wapping. There sign of the Black Boy was common in London during the 17th century and later. According to Bryant Lillywhite’s book “London Signs” the first example of such a sign in the metropolis is recorded as early as 1541. The sign was commonly adopted by tavern and coffee-house owner plus tobacconists and other sundry tradesmen. As a tobacconist sign the first example appears in 1614, only 45 years after the introduction of tobacco into Britain. Thereafter the sign continues in use by tobacconists well into the 19th century.

A tobacconist is recorded as having a shop upon Wapping Wall in 1667 and trading under the sign of the “Black Boy and Pelican”. As a tavern sign there are further examples of the “Black Boy” in Wapping. An example is recorded close to the Thames in the late 1760s. This example may or may not be a later reference to a further example close to Wapping Stairs. Lillywhite records this latter examples as early as the 1650s to 60s. A further example is known in Wapping High Street from at least 1802 up until at least 1906.

Notes:

1) In Volume 8 (Middlesex) of the Norweb Collection of “Tokens of the British Isles 1575-1750” the description given by Thompson and Dickenson of the item under the left arm (?) of the figure on the obverse of this token is stated as being a tobacco roll. The tobacco roll was a sign commonly used by tobacconists from earliest times in Britain as an instantly recognisable emblem of their trade.

A rare survival of a tobacconists sign in the form of a suspended tobacco roll (New Cross Road, South London)

A rare survival of a tobacconists sign in the form of a suspended tobacco roll (New Cross Road, South London)

The combined items of a tobacco roll and clay pipe in the hands of the figure on the reverse side of this token could very much be taken to suggest that Roger Price was a tobacconist. However, examination of further specimens of this token, including the one illustrated below from the Museum of London collection, clearly indicates that the object in the left hand of the figure is a large moulded hide beer mug (i.e. a jack) or jug (bombard) which were in common use in the 17th century and later.

A further example of a Roger Price farthing indicating a jack or bombar in the left hand of the Black Boy

A further example of a Roger Price farthing indicating a jack or bombard in the left hand of the Black Boy

The combination of a clay pipe and beer mug would favour this particular image as a “Black Boy” as being suggestive of Roger Price having been a publican.

Moulded hided bombard (left) and jack (right) similar to those used in the 17th century

Moulded hided bombard (left) and jack (right) similar to those used in the 17th century

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