The Horse Shoe in Tothill Street, Westminster


A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Horse Shoe  in Toothill Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Horse Shoe in Toothill Street, Westminster

The above copper farthing token measures16.1 mm and weighs 1.18 grams. It was issued by a tradesman operating from premises at or by the sign of the Horse Shoe in Tothill Street in Westminster.

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

Obverse: (star) AT. THE. HORES. SHOW. IN , around the depiction of a horse shoe with its terminals pointing upwards.

Reverse: (star) TVTILL. STRET. WESTMIN , around a twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising W | .A. | .E

Tuthill or Tothill Street is located in the Parish of St. Margarets, Westminster. The street lies due east of Westminster Abbey.

The location of Tothill Street , Westminster (1720)

The location of Tothill Street , Westminster (1720)

The use of the horse shoe as a trade sign is first recorded in London in the mid-14th century. In Britain horse shoes are traditionally credited as having talismanic properties. Their use as a sign was thought to invoke good luck, success and was even to ward off evil and witches. Hence the tradition of nailing horse shoes, with the terminals upper most, above doors at the threshold to houses. In the 17th century the sign of the horse shoe was popular amongst tavern and inn keepers as well as with some tallow-chandlers.

Based on the style of this farthing token it is likely that it dates from the 1650s. With only the triad of the token issuers’ initials to work on the reverse side of the token (i.e. Mr. W.A. and Mrs. W.E.) it is very difficult to attribute its issue to named individuals.

A review of the Hearth Tax returns for Tothill Street for 1664 reveals seven individuals with surnames beginning with the letter “A”. Any one of these could represent an individual with a family tie to the original token issuers. Three of the individuals listed have initials which exactly match those of the primary issuer (i.e. Mr. W.A.). These are;

1)      William Austin paid tax on premises having 3 hearths on the north side of Tuthill Street and/or the west side of Longditch.

2)      William Allin paid tax on premises having 1 hearth on the north side of Tuthill Street and/or the west side of Longditch.

3)      William Ashfeild paid tax on premises having 3 hearths on the south side of Tuthill Street.

Further investigation of a range of London parish registers has failed to identify reference to any of the three individuals in the parish of St. Margarets, Westminster. However, possible entries for individuals with similar names and who had wives with a Christian name beginning with “E” (i.e. as per the secondary token issuer Mrs. E.W.) have been identified in other areas of London. These include;

a)      William Allin and Elizabeth Allin parents of an Elizabeth Allin who was christened at the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, London on 9th November 1650.

b)      William Allin and Elizabeth Allin parents of a William Allin who was baptised at the church of St. Mary, Whitechapel on 16th November 1659.

c)      William Allin married Elizabeth Colins on 5th May 1632 at the church of St. Saviour, Denmark Park, Southwark.

While any one of the above could be references to the issuers of the above token during a period before or after they lived in Tothill Street in Westminster there is no way of confirming this at present.

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Filed under Tokens from West of the City Walls

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