Thomas Armitage in St. Martins Lane, Westminster


A farthing token issued in the name of the Lion in St. Martins Lane, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Lion in St. Martins Lane, Westminster

The above brass farthing token measures 16.6 mm and weighs 0.72 grams. It was issued by Thomas Armitage who operated his business from premises at or by the sign of the lion in St. Martins Lane, Westminster.

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

Obverse: (star) THO: ARMITAGE.IN., around the depiction of a lion rampant facing left.

Reverse: (star) ST: MARTINS.LANE, around twisted wire inner circle within a triad of initials comprising T | .A. | .I

It is not obvious from the token if the trade sign used by Thomas Armitage was either a non-coloured or coloured lion (i.e. the red, black, white or gold lion etc.). Any of these options would be possible and, as today, would be typical of a tavern sign.

There are at least three separate districts within London and Westminster which have a “St. Martins Lane”. It is almost certain that the one refered to by this token is that in the Parish of St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster.

The location of St. Martins Lane, Westminster (c.1720)

The location of St. Martins Lane, Westminster (c.1720)

The 1666 Hearth Tax returns for St. Martins Lane, Westminster record a Thomas Armitage on the east side of the lane paying tax on 8 hearths. Such a relatively large number could easily be representative of a tavern. This may be a clue as to Thomas’ occupation at the time he issued his tokens.

From the triad of initials on the reverse of this token it is clear that at the time of its issue Thomas Armitage was married and that his wife had a Christian name beginning with the initial I or J (as both are inter changeable in the Latin script used on 17th century tokens). Based on an on-line survey of transcribed London and Westminster Parish Marriage Registers I have found one possible candidate for Thomas and his wife. On the 14th July 1663 a Thomas Armitage married an Isabell Best in the church of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. If this identification is correct (which is by no means a certainty) it makes this farthing a relatively late issue in the overall series of 17th century tradesmen’s tokens.

The Parish Church of St. Gregory's by St. Paul's which was located located at the south-west end of old St. Paul's Cathedral in the City of London before both were destroyed in the Great Fire of September 1666

The Parish Church of St. Gregory’s by St. Paul’s which was located at the south-west end of old St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London before both were destroyed in the Great Fire of September 1666

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