The above brass half penny token measures 20.7 mm and weighs 2.34 grams. It was issued by Thomas Blagrave (or Blagrove), the one time keeper of “The Crown” tavern off Threadneedle Street in the Broad Street Ward of the City of London.
The design of the token may be formally described as follows;
Obverse: (six pointed mullet) THO. BLAGRAVE. AT. YE. TAVERN, around a twisted wire circle, within the depiction of a crown.
Reverse: (six pointed mullet) IN. THREEDNEEDLE. STREET, around a twisted wire circle, within a legend in three lines; HIS / HALFE / PENY
The token is undated but is likely to have been issued during the mid to late 1660s.
The Crown tavern stood in a little alley leading off the north side of Threadneedle Street, facing the north end of Castle Alley. The latter alley ran along the west side of the Royal Exchange building. During this period there were reputedly at least 20 different taverns close by the Royal Exchange and several more coffee houses. These were very well frequented by the local business community and were a popular haunt of the Fellows of the Royal Society. These included Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle who regularly called at the Crown after attending lectures at nearby Gresham College. According to Robert Hooke the Society also held their annual Anniversary dinners at the Crown tavern between 1673 and 1679. The 1668 Hearth Tax returns suggest that the Crown had 19 hearths which indicates it was a tavern of considerable size (3).
The Crown tavern was burnt down during the Great Fire of 1666 but was soon rebuilt. The new tavern was on the eastern side of the first Bank of England close to the re-built parish church of St. Christopher le Stocks.
Thomas Blagrave was born in Lambourn, Berkshire in c.1627 the son of William and Dorothy Blagrave (1). It is not known when Thomas moved to London but by March of 1641/2 he is recorded as an apprentice to William Trestene in the registers of the London Vintners’ Company (2). Between c.1653 to c.1659 Thomas, and his wife Jane (maiden name Taylor), ran the King’s Head tavern in New Fish Street, London. During their tenancy at this tavern they issued a set of farthing trade tokens bearing a triad of their combined initials on their reverse sides. Thereafter the couple moved to the Antwerp tavern in Bartholomew Lane, opposite the Royal Exchange, off Threadneedle Street. This was a tavern of some considerable size as confirmed from the Hearth Tax returns of 1662 which records it having 18 hearths. Thomas Blagrave kept this establishment until c.1663 (2) when his family moved literally round the corner to take over the running of the Crown tavern on Threadneedle Street.
During their marriage Thomas and Jane had at least four children (4). Two of them, Benjamin (b.1659) and Charles (b.1661), were born while they kept the Antwerp Tavern. A further two, Hannah (b.1667) and Thomas (b.1670/71), were born while they were resident at the Crown tavern.
In the accounts of St. Christopher le Stocks parish church “Captain” Thomas Blagrave is variously listed from 1664 as being one of the leading parishioners (3). From 1681 Thomas’ rating assessment within the parish was second only to that of John Houblon who is frequently mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his diaries. Houblon was the first Governor of the Bank of England.
While Pepys diaries make no reference to Thomas Blagrave by name it does contain eight separate mentions of the diarist visiting the Crown tavern during the period 1665 to 1666. These diary entries are listed below. References to the “club” and “’Change” in these refer to the Royal Society and Royal Exchange respectively.
Tuesday 31st January 1664/65
So to the ‘Change, back by coach with Sir W. Batten, and thence to the Crowne, a taverne hard by, with Sir W. Rider and Cutler, where we alone, a very good dinner. Thence home to the office, and there all the afternoon late.
Wednesday 15th February 1664/65
Thence with Creed to Gresham College, where I had been by Mr. Povy the last week proposed to be admitted a member;1 and was this day admitted, by signing a book and being taken by the hand by the President, my Lord Brunkard, and some words of admittance said to me. But it is a most acceptable thing to hear their discourse, and see their experiments; which were this day upon the nature of fire, and how it goes out in a place where the ayre is not free, and sooner out where the ayre is exhausted, which they showed by an engine on purpose. After this being done, they to the Crowne Taverne, behind the ‘Change, and there my Lord and most of the company to a club supper; Sir P. Neale, Sir R. Murrey, Dr. Clerke, Dr. Whistler, Dr. Goddard, and others of most eminent worth. Above all, Mr. Boyle to-day was at the meeting, and above him Mr. Hooke, who is the most, and promises the least, of any man in the world that ever I saw. Here excellent discourse till ten at night, and then home…
Monday 22nd January 1665/66
Thence by water in the darke down to Deptford, and there find my Lord Bruncker come and gone, having staid long for me. I back presently to the Crowne taverne behind the Exchange by appointment, and there met the first meeting of Gresham College since the plague. Dr. Goddard did fill us with talke, in defence of his and his fellow physicians going out of towne in the plague-time; saying that their particular patients were most gone out of towne, and they left at liberty; and a great deal more, &c. But what, among other fine discourse pleased me most, was Sir G. Ent about Respiration; that it is not to this day known, or concluded on among physicians, nor to be done either, how the action is managed by nature, or for what use it is. Here late till poor Dr. Merriot was drunk, and so all home, and I to bed.
Wednesday 14th February 1665/66
So home, they set me down at the ‘Change, and I to the Crowne, where my Lord Bruncker was come and several of the Virtuosi, and after a small supper and but little good discourse I with Sir W. Batten (who was brought thither with my Lord Bruncker) home.
Saturday 3rd March 1665/66
After a small dinner and a little discourse I away to the Crowne behind the Exchange to Sir W. Pen, Captain Cocke and Fen, about getting a bill of Cocke’s paid to Pen, in part for the East India goods he sold us. Here Sir W. Pen did give me the reason in my eare of his importunity for money, for that he is now to marry his daughter.
Friday 16th March 1665/66
Up and all the morning about the Victualler’s business, passing his account. At noon to the ‘Change, and did several businesses, and thence to the Crowne behind the ‘Change and dined with my Lord Bruncker and Captain Cocke and Fenn, and Madam Williams, who without question must be my Lord’s wife, and else she could not follow him wherever he goes and kisse and use him publiquely as she do.
Monday 2nd April 1666
Thence to the Crowne tavern behind the Exchange to meet with Cocke and Fenn and did so, and dined with them, and after dinner had the intent of our meeting, which was some private discourse with Fenn, telling him what I hear and think of his business, which he takes very kindly and says he will look about him.
Monday 4th June 1666
Thence back with Mr. Hooke to my house and there lent some of my tables of naval matters, the names of rigging and the timbers about a ship, in order to Dr. Wilkins’ book coming out about the Universal Language. Thence, he being gone, to the Crown, behind the ‘Change, and there supped at the club with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Ent, and others of Gresham College.
Thomas Blagrave’s wife Jane died in May of 1683 and was buried at the neighbouring church of St. Christopher le Stocks where two of the couple’s children, Benjamin and Thomas, had previously been interred in May and June of 1676 respectively. In 1687 it appears that Thomas got re-married to a 36 year old widower by the name of Hannah Taylor. While he was still running the Crown tavern his place of residence was given on the marriage license as Isleworth in Middlesex. Thomas died on 17th September 1693 aged 66.
By the start of the 18th century the Crown tavern had become a coffee-house and by the 1760s it was no-longer trading and had become absorbed within the buildings of its neighbour the Bank of England. Its location on maps of the period is marked by the site of Crown Court. Today the tavern is long gone. Its location would have been slightly to the east of the main entrance of the present Bank of England at the western end of Threadneedle Street.
1) Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London – A data base comprising 238 volumes and 27 volumes of Index which lists some 60,000 inhabitants of London from 15th to the 19th centuries.
2) Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 43. Vintners’ Company 1609-1800. (2006). – According to the summarised entry of Thomas’ apprenticeship indentures his place origin is listed as Wing in Buckinghamshire. This was his mother’s home village and he may have moved from Lambourn in Berkshire (his birth place) to live with family on his mother’s side prior to moving to London.
3) Berry, G. – Tavern Tokens of Pepy’s London. (London, 1978).
4) According to Boyd’s “Inhabitants of London” Thomas and Jane Blagrave had a further child, Jane who was married a Thomas Lechmere in 1677 in Westminster Abbey. The present writer has not been able to find conclusive evidence to support this or that Jane was not the daughter of a different Thomas Blagrave, i.e. Thomas Blagrave the Royal Court musician (d. 1688) who lived in Westminster and who was possibly very distantly related to the same Berkshire family as Thomas Blagrave the token issuer).