Category Archives: Tokens from North of the City Walls

Here are listed some some of my brief reseach notes on a random selection of 17th century tokens that were issued by tradesmen living to the north of the old walls of the City of London

Ralph Butcher in Bishopsgate Without

A farthing tradesman's token issued by Ralph Butcher of Bishopsgate Without, London (Image courtesy of Simmons Gallery)

A farthing tradesman’s token issued by Ralph Butcher of Bishopsgate Without, London (Image courtesy of Simmons Gallery)

The above brass farthing token measures 16.9 mm and weighs 0.90 grams. It was issued in the name of Ralph Butcher a tradesman who operated his business in the Bishopsgate Without district of London.

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

Obverse: A legend in italics in three lines reads; Ralph / Butcher / 1666 .

Reverse: (circle with eight radiating rays) WITHOVT . BISHOPS . GATE , around a twisted wire inner circle within the depiction of a rod from which is suspended six candles, three either side of a lion rampant facing left.

The design on the token’s reverse is almost certainly a depiction of the trade sign which hung over Ralph Butcher’s premises or that of premises adjacent to his. If it was his personal trade sign, and not just an historic one which had long been associated with the building he worked from, its design may well offer clues as to the token issuer’s trade. The rod with suspended candles would have been instantly recognizable in the 17th century as an emblem associated with a wax or tallow chandler (Note 1).

The district in which Ralph Butcher’s trade property was located, i.e. Bishopsgate Without, lay immediately to the north east of London’s city walls outside the Bishopsgate entrance to the city and along the Old North Road. It was one of the parts of London which was spared by the Great Fire of September 1666 which, by coincidence, was the year in which Ralph Butcher issued his token.

In Williamson’s standard catalogue of 17th British tradesmen’s tokens (1) a foot note against the entry for the above token indicates that in 1664 the same Ralph Butcher was trading in Tower Street, within the heart of the City of London. His evidence for this being the existence of a farthing token bearing the sign of the Three Sugar Loaves with the obverse and reverse legends; RALPH BVTCHER. 1664. IN. TOWER. STREETE. The token’s reverse bears a triad of issuer’s initials; R.B.A.

A farthing trade token of Tower Street issued by R & A B in the name of the Three Sugar Loaves in 1664

A farthing trade token of Tower Street issued by R & A B in the name of the Three Sugar Loaves in 1664

In addition to indicating the presence of a tradesman by the name of Ralph Butcher operating in Tower Street in 1664 we may deduce from the token that the Christian name of the issuer’s wife began with the letter “A” (e.g. Ann or Agnes for example). In addition, the trade sign indicated (take this word out***), if personal to the issuer and not just a historical one associated with his premises etc., may be indicative of Ralph Butcher being a grocer. The trade sign of one or more sugar loaves was commonly adopted by grocers in 17th century London to mark and advertise their shops (2).

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London in c.1720

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London in c.1720

In Search of the History of Ralph Butcher & His Family

The following brief account of the life of the above token issuer and his immediate family has been pieced together from a variety of sources including parish registers, livery company records, hearth tax and probate records and finally burial registers related to the Society of Friends of London.

Initial searches of transcribed London parish registers and related genealogical data bases (3)(4)(5)(6) has indicated two families with the surname Butcher living in 1660s London having heads of the family by the name Ralph. The first of these families (Ralf and Mary Butcher) lived in the parish of St. Sepulchre, Holborn while the second (Ralph and Ann Butcher) lived, or at least had strong associations, to the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without. Given that the Ralph Butcher we are interested in was issuing trade tokens in Bishopsgate Without in 1666 (if not also in Tower Street in 1664) the primary focus obviously falls on the second of the above two identified families.

In an attempt to confirm Ralph Butcher’s profession the trade signs on both the earlier described trade tokens associated with his name have been used as a guide. As previously noted the depiction of a rod of suspended candles or sugar loaves and on trade signs of the period is strongly associated with candle makers and grocers respectively. A review of the master and apprentice records for the Worshipful Companies of Tallow Chandlers, Wax Chandlers and Grocers (7)(8)(9) has failed to identify a Ralph Butcher associated with any of them. As such it is reasonable, but by no means certain, to conclude that our token issuer’s practiced an alternative trade.

The first reference to Ralph and Ann Butcher in the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without, occurs in the parish baptisms records where we find the following entry for his son;

5th May 1660 – Simon the son of Ralph and Ann Butcher

Ralph Butcher is further recorded as living in the ‘first precinct on the West” of the parish in the returns from the 1662/3 Hearth Tax. He is listed as paying 10 shillings on a property with 5 hearths (10). Unfortunately the Hearth Tax assessments for Bishopsgate Without from 1666 have not survived. However, those for Tower Street have but contain no listing for a Ralph Butcher.

We can’t be sure if Ralph Butcher, the token issuer of 1666 from Bishopsgate Without, is the same individual who issued the earlier farthing token from a business in Tower Street in 1664. Having now ascertained that both the former and latter tokens were issued by a Ralph Butcher who had a wife whose Christian name began with “A” further supports Williamson’s assumption that both tokens were issued by the same individual.

By 25th January 1668/9 Ralph Butcher’s health was obviously a cause for concern for him as it was on this date that he draw up his Last Will and Testimony (11)  This document is very enlightening as its opening sentences not only confirms the status of his health, i.e. being “weak in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory”, but goes on to verify him as being of the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without, and his standing as a “citizen and poulterer of London” (Note 2). As a poulterer Ralph would have sold both poultry and game to the general public typically from a street facing open fronted shop located either in front of or below the private rooms of his home.

A 17th Century Poulterer's Shop - By Frans Snyders (1579–1657)

A 17th Century Poulterer’s Shop – By Frans Snyders (1579–1657)

Ralph Butler’s Will confirms him as still being married to his “loving wife” Ann who he made executrix and principal beneficiary of his estate and worldly goods. His Will makes no mention of any surviving children but does mention the existence of three other “kinsfolk”, namely Richard Butcher, Elizabeth Watkins and a nephew, John Block. To each of these individuals he left only the token sum of one shilling each. Additional sums of 40 shillings each were bequeathed to his good friends William Harwood and Ezekiel Woolley who he also requested to act as overseers of his Will.

Ralph’s Will clearly indicates he owned or had interests in multiple properties. These included his own home and a neighbouring one in the Bethlem district of the parish, the latter of which was then occupied by a William Pemberton. Ralph’s other holdings comprised two copyhold properties in the village of Plaistow in Essex (some 6 miles from Bishopsgate). At that time these were in the hands of tenants, namely George Sherebofe and Ralph’s friend Ezekiel Woolley.

Ralph Butcher went on to live a further 20 months after making his Will. His burial record is enlightening in that it more accurately confirms whereabouts in the parish he was living at the time of his death, the cause of his death (as best known at the time), where he was buried and his precise religious denomination.

Ralph’s death was not recorded in the burial register of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without, despite the fact he was still living in the parish at the time. Instead it is to be found in the London and Middlesex burial records of the Society of Friends. It appears that Ralph Butcher was a Quaker. His burial register entry (for 25th November 1670) reads as follows;

Ralph Butcher neer halfe Moon Ally without Bishopsgate Departed this Life the 25th day of the 9th Month 1670 and was buryed in the Burying in Checker Ally his Distemper was given in a Dropsie.

Assuming Ralph didn’t move residences within the parish during the last 20 months of his life we know that the location of his home was between Half Moon Alley and Bethlem (or Bedlam as it was more commonly known). This puts it approximately within the bounds of the red circle in the map below, where Half Moon Alley is marked in yellow.

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720) indicating the general area where Ralph Butcher is believed to have lived. Half Moon Alley is indicated in yellow.

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720) indicating the general area where Ralph Butcher is believed to have lived. Half Moon Alley is indicated in yellow.

Ralph’s cause of death is given in his burial record as dropsy. This was the term commonly given in the 17th century to edema, a condition whereby liquid is retained in parts of the body and under the skin causing severe swelling.

Ralph Butler’s body was interred in Chequer Alley Quaker Burial Ground (Note 3) which was located north of the city walls on Bunhill Fields between Upper Moor Fields and Old Street. His Will was proven on 2nd December 1670 (12).

No further conclusive record has been found relating to either Ann or Simon Butcher after Ralph’s death. However, the burial registers of the Society of Friends of London do record the interment, in Chequer Alley Burial Ground, of a still born child on 15th September 1672 to a Richard and Ann Butcher. This poses the question – did Ann Butcher marry Ralph’s “kinsman” Richard after her husband’s death?

Footnotes:

1)  An almost identical token in terms of style, design, trade sign and issuing location to that described above for Ralph Butcher was issued in the name of Henry Slater in 1667. It is unclear if Henry operated from neighbouring business premises to Ralph Butcher, thereby qualifying him to use the same trade sign, or if he took over those formerly occupied by Ralph in 1666.

2) George Berry has previously identified only two 17th century poulterers’ token from London. These were issued by John Puller of the Strand and Edmund Warner of Newgate Market (13). The identification of Ralph Butcher’s trade now brings the count of known London poulterers’ token issues to three.

A half penny trade token of 1666 issued by Edmund Warner, a poulterer, of Newgate Market.

A half penny trade token of 1666 issued by Edmund Warner, a poulterer, of Newgate Market.

3) The site of Chequer or Checker Alley Quaker Burial Ground lies in an area historically known as Bunhill Fields. This name is possibly derived from a corruption of “Bone Hill”, alluding to the area having been used for occasional burials since the early medieval period. There was certainly a mass secondary interment of human remains on the site in 1549 when over 1,000 cartloads of bones were brought from the charnel house of St Paul’s Cathedral after its demolition (14). The initial burial ground site, which comprised 30 square yards, was purchased for the sum of £270 in 1661 by the London Quakers (15). This was the first freehold property owned by Quakers in the city. The plot lay between of Checker Alley, on its southern side and Coleman Street, on its northern edge. This cemetery opened four years earlier than that of the nearby “Dissenters'” burial ground, on the eastern side of Bunhill Row and north of the “New Artillery Ground”. The latter still forms part of Bunhill Fields Cemetery and Memorial Gardens today.

A map of Bunhill Fields in 1676 showing the location (in yellow) of Checker Alley Quaker Burial Ground at its maximum extent in size

A map of Bunhill Fields in 1676 showing the location (in yellow) of Checker Alley Quaker Burial Ground at its maximum extent in size

As well as burials arising from routine deaths Checker Alley Burial Ground also contains the graves of 1,177 Quakers who died in the Great Plague of 1665/6. The initial plot of 30 square yards quickly became full and additional plots of land were purchased to extend it, until by c.1845 about £3,600 had been invested in the site (16).

Graves were not individually marked with monuments or gravestones. The sole exception was a small tablet on the wall, simply inscribed “G. F.”, in commemoration of George Fox (1624–1691), one of the founders of the Quaker movement. However, so many Quakers came to visit this that it was denounced as being idolatrous by Robert Howard, a prominent member of the Society, and it was destroyed. George Fox is now commemorated by a more modern marker which has also been set against the wall (17).

The location of Quaker Gardens south of Old Street, London

The location of Quaker Gardens south of Old Street, London

The burial ground closed in 1855 by which time it contained approximately 12,000 burials. Shortly after this date work began on the site’s redevelopment. In 1880, as part of the initial land reclamation works some 5,000 bodies were exhumed and re-buried with carbolic acid in a corner of the remaining site (18). The cleared land was subsequently built on until less than half an acre of the original open site remained. What remains of the site today has now been neatly laid out and constitutes Quaker Gardens, a small public garden in the extreme south of the London Borough of Islington. Apart from a couple of memorial plaques, one of which commemorates George Fox, nothing remains to remind the passer-by of its former use or history.

The following video clip presents further information of the Checker Alley Quaker burial ground along with other lost cemeteries of London.

References:

  1. G.C. – Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century in England, Wales and Ireland by Corporations, Merchants, Tradesmen, Etc. – A New and Revised Edition of William Boyne’s Work. – Volume 2. (London, 1967).
  2. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  3. Searched via the data bases available at Ancestry – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/).
  4. Searched via the data bases available at Findmypast – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (www.findmypast.co.uk).
  5. Searched via the data bases available at FamilySearch – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (https://familysearch.org/).
  6. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  7. Webb, C – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records – Tallow Chandlers’ Company. 1633-1800. Society of Genealogists (London, 2003).
  8. Webb, C – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records – Wax Chandlers’ Company. 1666-1800. Society of Genealogists (London, 2000).
  9. Webb, C – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records – Grocers’ Company. 1629-1800. Society of Genealogists (London, 2008).
  10. Davies, M.; Ferguson, C.; Harding, V.; Parkinson, E. & Wareham, A. – London and Middlesex Hearth Tax. The British Record Society. Hearth Tax Series Volume IX, Part II. (London, 2014).
  11. Reference Number: MS 9172/61. Will Number: 154. London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London
  12. Ibid 11.
  13. Berry, G. – Seventeenth Century England: Traders and their Tokens. (London, 1988).
  14. Holmes, B. – The London Burial Grounds: Notes on their history from earliest times to the present day. (New York. 1894).
  15. Butler, D.M. – The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain Volume 1. (Friends Historical Society. London. 1999).
  16. Ibid 15.
  17. Bowes-Isaacson, L. & P. – Notes for Visitors to Bunhill. (Bunhill Fields Meeting House. 2001).
  18. The British Architect and Norther Engineer. Volume 7. January to June 1877. Bunhill Fields. Page 321. (Manchester. 1877).

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Thomas Bonny at the sign of the Clothworkers’ Arms in Bedlam

A half penny tradesman's token issued by Thomas Bonny of Bedlam

A half penny tradesman’s token issued by Thomas Bonny of Bedlam

The above brass half penny token measures 20.8 mm and weighs 2.28 grams. It was issued in the name of Thomas Bonny a tradesman who operated his business in the district of Bedlam in Bishopsgate Without district of the City of London.

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

Obverse: (sexfoil) THOMAS (rosette) BONNY (rosette) AT (rosette) THE , around a twisted wire inner circle within which is a depiction of Clothworkers’ Arms.

Reverse: (sexfoil) IN (rosette) BEDLAM (rosette) 1667 (rosette) , around a twisted wire inner circle within the legend in three lines reads HIS / HALFE / PENNY . Below a triad of initials reads, .T|B.| M.

The reverse of the token bears a triad of issuers’ initials, i.e. those of Thomas Bonny and his wife. Given that Thomas’s wife’s first name began with the letter “M” and given the time period in which the token was issued there is a high probability that her name was either Mary or Margaret as both names were very popular in 17th century England. The issue date of the token, i.e. 1667, is clearly stated on its reverse.

The location of the Bedlam or Bethlem district of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720)

The location of the Bedlam or Bethlem district of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720)

The token issuer’s place of abode, i.e. Bedlam, was the colloquial name given to Bethlem, a 13th century priory church founded by the Italian bishop-elect of Bethlehem to raise alms and funds to support the crusades to the Holy Land. It was located just north of St. Botolph’s Parish Church off Bishopsgate Street outside the city walls. By 1330 Bedlam was more often referred to as a hospital which in medieval terms may have simply denoted a hostel for travelling alms-seekers. By the 1370s the hospital had been seized by the crown and was becoming a far more secularized institution. It was from this period that it became first associated with the care of the mentally ill. So was to begin a centuries long tradition for which the institute, and its later nearby successor, was to became famous throughout Europe.

Detail from a map of Elizabethan London (1572) taken from "Civitates orbis terrarum" showing the location of Bethlem Hospital in the Bishopsgate Without Ward of the city

Detail from a map of Elizabethan London (1572) taken from “Civitates orbis terrarum” showing the location of Bethlem Hospital in the Bishopsgate Without Ward of the city

Although Bethlem had been enlarged by 1667 to accommodate fifty nine patients, the Court of Governors of the hospital observed at the start of 1674 that;

“The Hospital House of Bethlem is very old, weak & ruinous and to small and streight for keeping the greater number of lunatics therein at present.”

Given the increasing demand for admission and the inadequate and dilapidated state of the building it was decided to rebuild the hospital on a site at nearby Moorfields. This was just north of the city walls and one of the largest open spaces in London. The architect chosen for the new hospital, which was built rapidly and at great expense between 1675 and 1676, was the famous natural philosopher and City Surveyor Robert Hooke.

Engraving by Robert White of the new Bethlem Hospital designed by Robert Hooke and built at Moorfields, outside of the City of London in 1676

Engraving by Robert White of the new Bethlem Hospital designed by Robert Hooke and built at Moorfields, outside of the City of London in 1676

By the late 1670s the original site and any remaining buildings which had once comprised part of the original Bethlem Hospital had been absorbed by the wide spread urban development to the west of Bishopsgate Street Without. Today nothing remains of the medieval hospital. Its former site is now occupied by the Great Eastern Hotel next to Liverpool Street Railway Station.

The device illustrated in the obverse field of the token is the coats of arms of the Worshipful Company of London Clothworkers (Note 1). It is likely that in this case the device represents the trade sign that hung over, or adjacent to, the token issuer’s business premises in Bedlam and/or is a direct indication of his profession.

In Search of the History of Thomas Bonny & His Family

The following brief history of our token issuer and his immediate family has been pieced together from a wide variety of sources including parish registers (Note 2) and records, livery company records, school admission registers, tax records, contemporary newspaper entries and finally probate records.

Due to the relatively large number of 17th century Londoners having the name “Thomas Bonny” (or phonetically similar surnames, e.g. Bonney, Bonnie, Bonne, Bunny, Bunnee, Bonnes and Boune etc.) reconstructing the history of this token issuer has been challenging given the increased potential for ascribing the life events and records relating to one individual with those of contemporaries having the same or a similar name. With increased potential for such confusion being apparent added caution and conservatism has been applied in reconstructing the following brief family history. Despite such efforts the following must be considered as only a possible and not definitive history.

Thomas Bonny was born c.1616. Nothing is known of his early life or where he was born. By the time he was 31 (in 1647) we know that he was married and he and his wife had just had their second son, Thomas(1). From later evidence(2) we know that Thomas Bonny had at least two other children, Eleanor and a younger daughter by the name of Judith. It is also possible that Thomas’s first son was named Francis (Note 3).

A reference to Thomas in 1659 indicates that by that date he was a goldsmith (Note 4) and citizen of London. As a goldsmith in the mid-17th century it is also possible that Thomas’s business activities could have includes aspects of the banking trade.

In 1659 Thomas enrolled his second son Thomas, then aged 12, as a student in the Merchant Taylors’ School. Founded in 1551, by the Merchant Taylors’ Company, this early school was located in the Manor of the Rose, in Suffolk Lane in the Candlewick Ward of the city of London.

By 1657 Thomas Bonny, the goldsmith and later token issuer, was living in Cheapside in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch(3) . He was 41 years old. It has to be assumed that by this date his wife had died as in this same year he re-married. His new bride, Mary Metcalf, was the widower of John Metcalf who had lived in a property on the northern side of the church of St. Mary Colechurch on the south-west side of Old Jewry. Prior to his death, in 1656, John Metcalf had been a prominent member of the parish and keeper of the Royal Exchange(4) .

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) showing part of Cheapside Ward and including location details of the home of Thomas Bonny in Old Jewery (in yellow); the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch (in red); the Mercers' Hall (in blue) and the Great Conduit (in green) being one of the city's principle supply points of "clean" water.

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) showing part of Cheapside Ward and including location details of the home of Thomas Bonny in Old Jewry (in yellow); the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch (in red); the Mercers’ Hall (in blue) and the Great Conduit (in green) being one of the city’s principle supply points of “clean” water.

From 1657 until the time of the Great Fire of 1666 there is an abundance of documentary evidence for Thomas Bonny in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch(5). Much of this comes from parish records such as the churchwardens accounts and vestry minute books. A sample of this evidence is presented below.

Firstly, from annual rate assessments of the inhabitants of the parish(6);

1) For the Lord Mayor’s relief payments which were levied to support the poor house holders of the city, and which were collected door to door or at the church door on stimulated dates, we find the following entry for the years 1657, 1659, 1660, 1661 and 1666;

Mr. Thom. Bonny (also spelt Bonney) – 1 penny per week or annually 4 shillings and 4 pence

A separate payment of 1 penny a week for the above is also recorded in the name of Mrs. Bonny in 1657. 

2) For the annual assessment for the payment of the parish’s poor rates of 1663 and 1664;

 Mr. Bonny – 3 shillings and 6 pence

3) For the annual assessment of payments to pay for the wages of the parish “raker” (i.e. street cleaner) for 1666;

Mr. Bonny – 3 shillings and 6 pence

Secondly, from the three years of existing records for the congregation’s seating arrangements in the 13 sets of pews of the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch between 1657 and 1661 (i.e. 1657, 1678 and 1661) we have the following listings for the Bonny family (variously spelt in the entries as either Bonny, Bonney or Boney)(7) ;

 Mr. Bonny – Pew 12 in 1657 and 1658 and Pew 10 in 1661.

Mrs. Bonny – Pew 8 in 1657 and 1658 and Pew 9 in 1661.

Between 1662 and 1666 Thomas Bonny is known to have had associations with two adjacent properties on the west side of Old Jewry immediately north of the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch. The most southerly of these was surveyed in 1648 as comprising a cellar, 13 ft. 4 in. by 11 ft.; a shop and staircase, 16 ft. by 12 ft.; a yard 11 ft. by 4 ft. 8 in.; the hall and kitchen over the shop, 18 ft. by 12 ft.; a staircase and house of office, 5 ft. by 5 ft.; the room over the hall and kitchen, 20 ft. by 12 ft.; and 2 garrets over that room, 20 ft. by 12 ft. This house contained 3 storeys and garrets above ground and the first and second storeys would each appear to have jettied 2 ft. over the street beyond the storey below. At some time in the 1650s this property was divided into two and according to the Hearth Tax return of 1662 we know that Thomas Bonny was occupying one part of it which had 3 hearths and shared a common oven with the other part of the property(8). By the time of the Hearth Tax assessment of 1666 Thomas no longer appears to be in this property and instead can be found in the adjoining house to the north. This house had been in the possession of John Metcalf from at least 1638 until his death in 1656 and obviously passed into Thomas Bunny’s hands when he married John’s widow Mary in 1657. According to a contemporary survey this property comprised a cellar, 14 ft. by 11 ½ft.; a shop and entry, 17 ft. by 12 ft.; a yard, 11 ft. by 5 ft.; a chamber, 18 ½ ft. by 11 ½ft.; a kitchen and staircase, 11 ½ ft. by 10 ft.; a chamber, 12 ft. by 10 ft.; and a garret, 20 ft. by 11 ft.(9).

Thomas Bonny took on a 21-year lease on the latter of the 2 properties from its owners, the Worshipful Company of Mercers. Like the neighbouring tenement to the south this property was divided into 2 parts just prior to 1662 when it was probably represented by 2 houses, each with 3 hearths. In 1662 these were occupied by a Mr. Joseph Moore and Mrs. Frances Howell, a widow. By the time of Hearth Tax of 1666 the 2 houses, each of which still contained 3 hearths, were occupied by Thomas Bonny himself and a Mr. James Townsend(10,11).

In 1666 Thomas Bonny became a churchwarden for the parish of St. Mary Colechurch(12). He and his wife had survived the ravages of the plague of 1665, which had killed approximately 100,000 of the city’s population. However, they weren’t to escape the effects of the Great Fire of early September 1666 which consumed four fifths of the city including all of Cheapside Ward. Thomas Bonny is officially listed as one of those who lost his property in the parish, most likely during the course of the first full day of the fire (i.e. Monday 3rd of September).

A plan of mid-17th Century London showing the extent of destruction of the city by the Great Fire of September 1666 plus the location of Thomas Bonny's home in Cheapside Ward (yellow dot) and the main street running through the district of Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Without Ward (green line)

A plan of mid-17th Century London showing the extent of destruction of the city by the Great Fire of September 1666 plus the location of Thomas Bonny’s home in Cheapside Ward (yellow dot) and the main street running through the district of Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Without Ward (green line)

It is unclear what happened to the Bonny family immediately after the Great Fire but by 1667 we know from the numismatic and  hand writing evidence (Note 5) that Thomas and Mary were living and working in Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Without district of the city. This area of London was not directly affected by the inferno of 1666 and like other districts spared by the fire saw an immediate escalation in its property and rent prices as those who could afford to invested in new properties in the city did so.

It is possible that Thomas Bonny planned to rebuild his home in Old Jewry, Cheapside as a “Mr. Bonner” paid the sum of 6 shillings and 8 pence on 21st May 1668 to the city authorities for the staking out of his old home’s foundations(13) . Quite how far his plans got to either rebuild on or sell his cleared building plot are unclear.

It is not known in which part of Bedlam the Bonny family lived and worked but we know from the numismatic evidence that Thomas’s business address was “at” or “by” the trade sign of the Clothworkers’ Arms. The depiction of such an image on his token might be interpreted as a direct advertisement of his occupation. While it is not impossible that Thomas Bonny could have switched trades (i.e. from a goldsmith to a clothworker) after being forced out of Cheapside by the Great Fire it appears highly unlikely that he did. A search of the transcribed on-line master and apprentice records relating to the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers(14) has failed to find any one associated with this Livery Company during this period with the name Bonny (or a phonetically similar sounding surname). Furthermore, documentary evidence exists confirming that Thomas Bonny was still describing himself as a “citizen and goldsmith of London” in mid-1668(15). It appears most likely that the coat of arms depicted on his token simply represented the historic trade sign hung above the property in or adjacent to which he lived and worked. This was a time before the official numbering of properties in London’s streets, lanes and allies.

It wasn’t uncommon (Note 6) for tradesmen to apply a previous occupant’s or neighbour’s trade sign to their address, especially where such a sign was an established local land mark that was well known to the local populace.

By late June 1668 it appears that Thomas Bonny’s health was starting to fail as on the 24th of that month he made his Last Will and Testament in which he describes himself as being “sick in body but of perfect memory”(15). Despite his obvious concerns Thomas’ health didn’t finally fail him until early November 1671 as confirmed by the following burial register entry in his local parish church, St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without.

7th November 1671 – Burial of Thomas Bonnes (aged 55)

Thomas’s Will was subsequently proven on 16th November 1671(16). He named Mary, his wife, as executrix and requested the following provisions to be made after the settlement of any debts or expenses outstanding on his estate;

a) To his eldest daughter Eleanor Churcher, 1 shilling to be paid 3 months after his death.

b) To Judith Bonny, his second daughter, 20 shillings to be paid 3 months after his death.

c) To Thomas Bonny, his son, 20 shillings to be paid 3 months after his death.

d) To George Bonny, his brother, his coloured suit and coat plus 10 shillings to be paid and delivered to him a month after his death

e) To his loving wife, Mary Bonny, the remains of his estate together with all ready money, goods and chattels

Thomas’s Will makes no reference to his eldest son. Whether Thomas outlived him or there had been a rift between the two is unknown.

Coincidentally on the same day as Thomas Bonny’s Will was proven the following entry was made in the register of the Bonny family’s parish church, St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without;

16thJanuary 1671 – Marriage of Thomas Boone and Sarah Finch

This is possibly the marriage of Thomas Bonny (the token issuer’s) second son who was born in 1647 and would have been 24 at the time of his father’s death.

No further clear references to the Bonny family appear after the above date other than for some possible references to one of his sons and grandsons in the late 1680s and early 1690s (Note 3).

 

Footnotes:

1)  The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1528, formed by the amalgamation of its two predecessor Companies, the Fullers (incorporated 1480) and the Shearmen (incorporated 1508). It succeeded to the position of the Shearmens’ Company and thus ranks twelfth in the order of precedence of Livery Companies of the City of London.

The original craft of the Clothworkers was the finishing of woven woollen cloth: fulling it to mat the fibres and remove the grease, drying it on tenter frames, raising the nap with teasels and shearing it to a uniform finish. The Ordinances of the Clothworkers’ Company, first issued in 1532 and signed by Sir Thomas More, sought to regulate clothworking, to maintain standards and to protect approved practices.

From the later Middle Ages, cloth production gradually moved away from London, a situation exacerbated by the Great Fire of London and the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Famous members of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers included King James I and the famous diarist and naval administrator, Samuel Pepys.

2) A search of transcribed London parish baptism, marriage and burial records(17,18,19,20) has identified various individuals in the London area in the mid-17th century by the name of Thomas Bonny (or with a phonetically similar surname). These are listed below as well as possible entries for the token issuer’s wife, i.e. Mary or Margaret Bonney etc. together with their possible children;

6th September 1636 – Baptism of Rachell the daughter of Thomas and Mary Bone. St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

20th April 1641 – Burial of Thomas Bonny. St. Dunstan in the East. London

12th November 1642 – Marriage of Thomas Bonnce and Jean Fletcher. Holy Trinity Church, Minories.

16th April 1653 – Marriage of Thomas Bonner and Mary Fowler. St. Augustine’s Church, Watling Street.

13th April 1657 – Baptism of Thomas Bonus to Thomas and Joane Bonus. St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

14th June 1668 – Marriage of Thomas Boane to Marry Bibble. St. James’ Church, Clerkenwell.

8th January 1670 – Burial of Mary Bones (aged 35). St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

16th January 1671 – Marriage of Thomas Boone and Sarah Finch. St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

7th November 1671 – Burial of Thomas Bonnes (aged 55). St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

25th July 1673 – Burial of Thomas Boone, the son of Nicholas Boone. St. Andrews’ Church. Holborn.

28th August 1673 – Burial of Mary Bone. St. Sepulchre’s Church. Holborn.

Unfortunately, when analysed on their own there is no way of knowing which, if any, of the above entries are references to the same Thomas Bonny (or his wife) who issued a half penny trade token in 1667 from his premises in Bedlam. However, the burial record for Thomas “Bonnes” in the parish church of St. Botolph’s, Bishopgate is arguably of particular relevance in relation to our token issuer. Living in the district of Bedlam it is highly likely that Thomas Bonny’s local parish church was St. Botolph’s and as such that would be the obvious location for his burial, assuming he didn’t move out of the parish after 1667. This entry has been used as the principal starting point in the research presented in the above brief family history

3) It is possible that Thomas Bonny’s first son was named Francis Bonny. An individual by this name, who was also a London goldsmith, was living in the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn in the early 1680s. From Francis’ Last Will and Testament(21), which was made on 10th March 1683, we know his then wife was named Hester Bonny and that he had a nephew (i.e. possibly the son of one of Thomas Bonny the token issuer’s other three children) named Thomas Bonny who then lived in Covent Garden.

At some point c.1688, and possibly in relation to the internal political and religious turmoil created in the Kingdom by the Glorious Revolution, Francis Bonny and a Mr. John Whiting put up £1000 each in sureties for the bail of a Mr. Jasper Grant. Mr. Grant was indicted for “spiriting away a person beyond sea” and after being subsequently convicted of this crime “fled in rebellion to Ireland”. Francis Bonny subsequently gave John Whiting a bond to indemnify him and afterwards committed suicide(22). The following notice was published in the London Gazette on 27th February 1689(23);

“Whereas Francis Bonny late of London, goldsmith, died £1,100 indent to the Crown. These are to give notice thereof to Debtors of the said Bonny, that they may not make any payment to their own prejudice.”

In a further issue of the London Gazette that month(24) Hester Bonny, inserts a notice that Thomas Bonny (i.e. Francis’ nephew) has some time since;

“fraudulently and deceitfully got into his hands, several trunks, wherein was writings of great value and, Jewels, Plate, Linen, etc., of Francis Bonny decd and other persons. And all, persons are cautioned against buying the said goods.”

After Francis’s death a legal battle subsequently started between the Treasury (representing the Crown) and Francis’s widow Hester. The Treasury’s solicitor argued that in committing suicide Francis’s entire estate were to be forfeited to the Crown (as per the legal custom at that time). Hester’s counter argument to the Crown was that at the time of his suicide Francis was “non compos mentis” (i.e. insane).  In early 1691 Hester Bonny eventually won her legal battle and the bulk of her husband’s estate passed to her(25) as per the provisions of Francis’ Will of 1683.

4) While Thomas Bonny is clearly listed as a goldsmith and citizen of London in documents dated 1659(26) and 1668(27) a search of the transcribed master and apprentice records for the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths has failed to identify him(28).

5)  Handwriting evidence further supports that Thomas Bonny, the 1667 token issuer of Bedlam, was the same Thomas Bonny who was lining in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch up until the Great Fire of September 1666.

Signatures of Thomas Bonny - c.1666 (top) and 1671 (bottom)

Signatures of Thomas Bonny – c.1666 (top) and 1671 (bottom)

An analysis of the two signatures above supports this. The first dates to c.1666, when Thomas was churchwarden of St. Mary Colechurch. It is taken from an entry in the latter’s parish registers. The second if from Thomas Bonny’s Last Will and Testament which is dated 24th June 1668. This Will was proven 8 days after the burial entry for “Thomas Bonnes” which was made on 7th November 1671 in the registers of parish church of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without (i.e. the local parish church for the district of Bedlam).

6) There are many examples of mid-17th British tradesmen who issued tokens displaying trade signs that are seemingly inappropriate to their occupations. The following examples are all taken from tokens issued by goldsmiths(29);

a) Henry Pinckney of Fleet, London, at the sign of the Three Squirrels.

b) Samuel Calle of Exeter at the signs of the Smoking Man and Covered Cup.

c) Joseph Partington in Skinner Row, Dublin, at the sign of the King’s Head.

  

References:

  1. Robinson, C.J. Rev – Register of the Scholars Admitted into The Merchant Taylor’s School from A.D. 1562 to 1874. Compiled from Authentic Sources with Biographical Notes. Volume I. (London, 1882).
  2. London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: MS 9172/61; Will Number: 311.
  3. Keene, D.J. & Harding, V. – Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. (Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 1987).
  4. Ibid 3.
  5. People in Place Project – St Mary Colechurch: Vestry Minutes 1613-72 (London, 2011).
  6. Merry, M & Baker, P. – Source specific data sets, Cheapside and Tower Hill, 1558-1769. On-line data sets accessible at http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/752. (Institute of Historical Research, Centre for Metropolitan History, London 2007).
  7. Ibid 6.
  8. Ibid 3.
  9. Ibid 3.
  10. Ibid 3.
  11. Davies, M.; Ferguson, C.; Harding, V.; Parkinson, E. & Wareham, A. – London and Middlesex Hearth Tax. The British Record Society. Hearth Tax Series Volume IX, Part II. (London, 2014).
  12. Ibid 6.
  13. Mills, P. & Oliver, J. – The Survey of Building Sites in the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Volume I. (London Topographical Society Publication. No.103. 1967).
  14. The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online – Apprentices and Freemen 1400-1900 (ROLLCO at http://www.londonroll.org/).
  15. Ibid 2.
  16. Ibid 2.
  17. Searched via the data bases available at Ancestry – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/).
  18. Searched via the data bases available at Findmypast – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (findmypast.co.uk).
  19. Searched via the data bases available at FamilySearch – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (https://familysearch.org/).
  20. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  21. PROB 11/394 – Will of Francis Bonny (10th March 1683), National Archives, London.
  22. Shaw, W.A. – Appendix: 1691, 2 January – 4 May in Calendar of Treasury Books. Volume 17, 1702 (London, 1939).
  23. The London Gazette – Issue 2536, Page 2. (London, 1689).
  24. Hilton-Price, F.G. – A Handbook of London Bankers with Some Account of Their Predecessors the Early Goldsmiths. (London, 1891).
  25. Shaw, W.A. – Appendix III, 1689-1692 in Calendar of Treasury Books. Volume 9 (London, 1931).
  26. Ibid 1.
  27. Ibid 2.
  28. Ibid 14.

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Filed under Tokens from North of the City Walls

Abraham le Keux in Norton Folgate

A farthing token issued by Abraham le Keux a mid-17th century tradesman of the Liberty of Norton Folgate, London

A farthing token issued by Abraham le Keux a mid-17th century tradesman of the Liberty of Norton Folgate, London

The above copper farthing token measures 15.9 mm and weighs 0.92 grams. It was issued in the name of Abraham le Keux of Norton Folgate, London.

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

Obverse: (mullet) ABRAHAM . LE . KEVX , around cable inner circle, depiction of three barrels (or tuns) lying on their sides in a triangular formation within.

Reverse: Legend within in three lines reads; . IN . / NORTON / FALGATE (rosette) below.

There is no date on the token to indicate when it was issued, however, on stylistic grounds it seems to date from the mid-1650s to early 1660s.

The token is one of 12 different designs of farthing and half penny tradesmen’s tokens know to have been issued in the Liberty of Norton Folgate between 1648/9 and 1672 (1).

A plan of the Liberty of Norton Folgate (1682)

A plan of the Liberty of Norton Folgate (1682)

In the 17th century Norton Folgate was an independent Liberty located between the Bishopsgate Ward of the City of London to the south, the parish of St. Leonard, Shoreditch to the north and the parish of Spitalfields to the east. The Liberty originally comprised monastic land outside the city gates and by the mid-17th century comprised Folgate Street (formerly White Lyon Yard or White Lion Street), Spital Square, Elder Street, Fleur de Lis Street and Blossom Street.

After the Reformation in the 1530s Norton Folgate became a self-governing area of approximately 9 acres. Like East Smithfield it was a part of London where “outsiders” were allowed to live and practice their respective trades free from the control of the city’s Guilds and Livery companies. In the early 18th century the area (including Spitalfields) became particularly popular with immigrant Huguenot weavers from France – some of whose houses and business premises survive in the area to this day.

severs1

18 Folgate Street, Norton Folgate is a fine example of a Huguenot Weaver’s House of the first half of the 18th century

This concentration of French speaking immigrants in the Spitalfields area ensured the survival of a distinctive culture and identity for several generations. Both their language, diet and fashions set them apart from the native Londoners and they soon acquired a certain respectability. Even in 1738, William Hogarth could contrast the clothing and behaviour of a French Protestant congregation leaving church with the poverty, squalor and sexual immorality of other Londoners. Many prospective English gentlemen about to set off on the Grand Tour made an initial visit to the Spitalfields area to polish their language skills.

The four times of Day – Noon by William Hogarth (1738) – Contrasts a French Huguenot congregation leaving their church against the native English Londoners of the period.

The four times of Day – Noon by William Hogarth (1738) – Contrasts a French Huguenot congregation leaving their church against the native English Londoners of the period

Based on the information given on the above token the premises of its issuer, Abraham le Keux, was at or by the sign of the three tuns in Norton Folgate. In mid-17th century London this trade sign was traditionally used to mark the location of brew houses and taverns. It also formed the central device of the arms of the Worshipful Company of Vintners (2). However, for reasons to become obvious later it is unlikely that our token issuer was engaged in any one of the above or similar trades (Note 1).

A review of Hearth Tax returns for London and Middlesex for 1666 has failed to identify anyone in the area of Norton Holgate (and the immediate environs) with the surname “Le Keux”(3). This implies that by that time the issuer and his family had either moved out of the area or had possibly perished during the Great Plague of 1665. Being outside that area of the city that was directly affected by the devastation of the Great Fire of September 1666 we can discount this as a possible reason for them leaving the area.

The token issuer’s surname offers a significant clue as to his ancestry as “Le Keux” is derived from Old French (i.e. queu, keu, kieu or cu) denoting a cook or someone who operated an eating house (4). A search of mid-17th century parish registers from this particular area of London has failed to identify an Abraham le Keux. However, a similar review of non-conformist church registers revealed the following marriage entry (the original written in French) from the registers of the Walloon and French Protestant Chapel of the Hospital, Spitalfields (Note 2).

23rd November 1642 – Abraham son of Pierre le Keux native of Canterbury & Barbe daughter of Sebastian Brigode.

Further genealogical research has identified Abraham le Keux as a third generation Huguenot immigrant. The name of his wife and father-in-law indicate that they were almost certainly of similar Calvinist descent.

Born in Canterbury on 3rd November 1617, Abraham was one the oldest of 10 children born to Pierre le Keux and his wife Anne Du Chasteau between 1617 and 1636. Abraham’s father, Pierre, was one the oldest of 4 children born between 1580 and 1590 in Canterbury to Anthoine le Keux and Jaquemyne de le Haie. It has not been possible to trace the family’s history in England any earlier than 1580 which suggests that it was only shortly before that date that they fled from persecution in France.

Huguenots were French Protestants inspired by the writings of the reformation theologian John Calvin (1509 to 1564). Their numbers peaked near to an estimated two million by 1562 and were mainly concentrated in the southern and central parts of France. While their numbers were drawn from across French society the new religion had a particular following amongst many of the educated tradesmen. At this time the Huguenots represented approximately an eighth of the number of French Christians. As the Huguenots gained influence and more openly displayed their faith, Catholic hostility grew, in spite of increasingly liberal political concessions and edicts of toleration from the French crown. A series of religious conflicts followed, known as the Wars of Religion, that were fought intermittently between 1562 and 1598. The wars began with the Massacre of Vassy on 1st March 1562, when dozens (some sources say hundreds) of Huguenots were killed, and approximately 200 were wounded. It was in this year that some Huguenots destroyed the tomb and remains of Saint Irenaeus, an early Church father and bishop. Thereafter the Huguenots became organized as a definitive political movement. Protestant preachers rallied a considerable army and a formidable cavalry, which came under the leadership of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. Henry of Navarre and the House of Bourbon allied with the Huguenots, adding wealth and holdings to the Protestant strength. At the height of their power the Protestants controlled sixty fortified cities and posed a serious threat to the Catholic crown and Paris.

In what became known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 24th August 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. In the weeks that followed similar massacres took place in other French towns including Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyons, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes. Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone. By mid-September almost 25,000 Parisian protestants had been killed while in the provinces a further 3,000 to 7,000 perished. Beyond Paris, the killings continued until 3rd October. An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the Catholic perpetrators. The persecution of the Huguenots in France finally ended with the granting of the Edict of Nantes (1598) which allowed the Huguenots substantial religious, political and military autonomy (Note 3).

Not surprisingly from the 1560s onwards increasing numbers of Huguenots started to flee France for the safety of adjacent Protestant countries who would offer them refuge. As part of this exodus many Huguenots crossed the English Channel to start new lives in south-east England. They settled initially in the coastal towns at which they landed. These included Dover, Rye, Folkestone and Sandwich.

In 1575 the town authorities in Sandwich, Kent, decided that they were reaching the limit in terms of the number of Huguenot refugees they could accommodate. It was at this point that the nearby city of Canterbury decided to accepted 100 refugee families to eleviate the situation. It is very possible that Abraham le Keux grandparents were amongst this initial influx of Huguenots into the city.

In the years that followed Canterbury became a favourite destination for those Huguenots who reached the safety of south-east England to the extent that their community came to represent the largest foreign population outside London.

These early Huguenot refugees, most of whom were known by the native English as “Walloons” or simply “strangers”, were silk weavers and wool dyers. Their textile production techniques were superior to those of the English at that time and their cloths were generally of a far superior quality. The welcome extended to the Huguenot refugees from their adoptive English communities partly reflected the perceived economic benefits they could offer, particularly with regards to developing the local textile industry. On the back of the new textile processing and weaving techniques introduced from the continent, new weaving and draperies were established in textile towns such as Canterbury. The Huguenot’s skills allowed the production of lighter fabrics, made from a mix of fibres, suitable for export to Europe, rather than the traditional heavier local woollen fabrics. Such were the economic benefits to Canterbury from the Huguenots that laws were introduced by the Privy Council to protected them when they became threatened from attack from established local textile workers and prejudicial locals.

The early 16th century Weaver’s House in Canterbury was once occupied by Huguenot weavers and remains as a permanent reminder of the City’s history with French Protestant refugee community

The early 16th century Weaver’s House in Canterbury was once occupied by Huguenot weavers and remains as a permanent reminder of the City’s history with French Protestant refugee community

Canterbury’s city authorities allowed the French refugees to conduct their own services of Christian worship (in French) in the church of St. Alphege which was made available for their use. Later, when their numbers became too great for one church, the western end of Canterbury Cathedral crypt was also made available for their worship.

It is extremely likely that Anthoine le Keux, the grandfather of our token issuer, was a silk weaver and that both his son Pierre and grandson Abraham were brought up and possibly locally apprenticed in Canterbury to learn the silk and/or cloth trades.

Industry & Idleness by William Hogarth (1742) illustrates a master weaver in London overseeing his apprentices weaving at their looms – Such workshops would have been common in Norton Folgate and Spitalfields during the 17th & 18th centuries

Industry & Idleness by William Hogarth (1742) illustrates a master weaver in London overseeing his apprentices weaving at their looms – Such workshops would have been common in Norton Folgate and Spitalfields during the 17th & 18th centuries

It is not known when Abraham le Keux left Canterbury to set up home and a new place of work in London but it must have been prior to his marriage to Barbe Brigode on 23rd November 1642. In 1642 he will have been 25 years of age. We can assume that he was apprenticed in Canterbury to a master weaver within his own community at the age of around 12. Thereafter he would have spent 7 years serving his new master and learning his trade before being finally freed to practice his trade and become a master weaver in his own right.

It is interesting to note that despite having been in England for three generations members of the le Keux family were still looking to within their own community for marriage partners. This, coupled with the fact that French was still the language of their worship and community records suggests a relatively low level of integration with the native English communities amongst whom they lived. For those Huguenot families that were privy to certain silk weaving secrets this insularism no-doubt helped protect their family’s commercial interests.

Abraham likely chose the Spitalfields area to live in as it already played host to a small Huguenot community and church (Note 4). It’s Liberty status also meant that tradesmen who settled there were free from the trading restrictions applied in most other parts of the city by the various London livery companies.

Within a year of being married Abraham and Barbe had the first of six children (listed below) all but one of whom are recorded in the baptism records of the Walloon and French Protestant Chapel of the Hospital, Spitalfields.

  1. Pierre (born 1643)
  2. Hester (born 1646)
  3. Susanne (born 1647)
  4. Isaac (born 1649)
  5. Jacob (born 1656)
  6. Marie (married 1662, date of birth unknown)

It is not known how many of the above children survived into adulthood or if any of them went on to join the family business. Unfortunately, no further record of Abraham le Keux’s business or life history are known. However, the 1662 marriage entry for Marie le Kuex (to Samuel de Lespau of Canterbury) suggests that both Abraham and Barbe were still alive and living in London at that time.

A review of Huguenot tradesmen operating in the Spitalfields area during the later 17th and 18th centuries indicates several individuals bearing the surname “le Keux”. These include the engravers Peter and Henry le Keux plus the master silk weaver Peter le Keux, a wealthy silk weaver who supervised two hundred and fifty looms in the Spitalfields area. Tracing back through the ancestry of the above “le Keux” families none of them appear to be directly related to Abraham le Keux the token issuer of Norton Folgate, despite several of their families having pre-Spitalfield origins in the Huguenot community in Canterbury (5).

Of the twelve mid-17th century token issues so far recorded for the Liberty of Norton Folgate (6) that of Abraham le Keux is the only one with a surname suggesting a Huguenot ancestry. This is not totally surprising as it wasn’t until after 1685 that the much larger extended second wave of Huguenots started to arrive in the Spitalfields area. Although not proven the case for Abraham le Keux being a silk weaver or textile worker is a strong one. A review of the mid-17th century paranumismatic record confirms that such tradesmen, along with related workers (i.e. wool combers and dyers), were known to have issued their own trade tokens. In the country as a whole mid-17th century tokens issued by weavers are common although few weavers refer to themselves as such within their tokens’ legends (7) (as likely in the example issued by Abraham le Keux). In the City of London and Middlesex a total of 11 weavers’ trade tokens have so far been conclusively identified through historical research (8)(9). These date from the period 1648/9 to 1672 and emanate from the following locations and issuers;

City of London:

Angel Alley (Dowgate Ward) – Obadiah Surridge at the sign of the Angel in Angel Alley. Half Penny. 1668.

Barbican – William Shatchwell at the sign of the Weavers’ Arms. Undated Farthing.

Green’s Rents (Fleet Bridge) – William Warde at the sign of the Weavers’ Arms, Fleet Bridge. Half Penny. 1666. As well as being recorded as a Weaver William Ward also traded as a sea coal seller from the same address.

Snow Hill (Farringdon Ward Without) – Gabriel Bonner at the sign of the Grocers’ Arms. Undated Farthing.

Finch Lane (Cornhill & Broad Street Wards) – Thomas Stubs at the sign of the Bull and Horseshoe. Half Penny. 1669.

Middlesex:

Ratcliff Highway – Robert Davers at the sign of the Weavers’ Arms. Undated Farthing.

Hackney – John Davis in Hackney. Farthing 1667.

Hog Lane (Shoreditch) – John Bavet at the sign of the Horse & Dog. Undated Farthing.

Mile End – George Smith (at the Weavers’ Arms) in Mile End, Weaver. Farthing 1658.

Wapping – Thomas Pierce at the sign of the Shears. Undated Farthing.

Spitalfields – John Ormes at the sign of the Red Lion in Spitalfield. Undated Farthing.

On first appearances, and without the benefit of further historical research results, only one of the above tokens can be conclusively identified as being issued by a weaver (i.e. that of George Smith of Mile End whose trade is included within the token’s legend). Approximately half of the tokens listed infer their issuers’ trade as being a weaver due to the selection of their respective trade sign, i.e. the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Weavers or a pair of cloth shears/scissors.

A review of the above token issuers’ surnames suggests none of them had their origins in the Huguenot community. A review of similar tradesmen’s tokens issued in locations in Kent that are known to have had established mid-17th century Huguenot communities has similarly failed to identify any weaver’s tokens with Huguenot surnames (10). This observation potentially makes the Abraham Le Keux tokens from Norton Folgate a significant and important discovery.

Notes:

  1. Like their English puritan cousins, the Huguenots did not drink alcohol and thus despite the appearance of the three tuns trade sign on Abraham le Keux trade token. And the derivation of his surname’s meaning, he is considered extremely unlikely to have found his way into the mid-17th century hospitality or vintners’ trades.
  2. The Chapel of the Hospital was located in Spitalfields and looked after the initial needs of the emerging Huguenot community in this area of London. It was effectively established as a daughter church to London’s central French and Flemish Protestant church in Threadneedle Street. This mother church was founded in 1550 by King Edward VI who granted Protestant refugees freedom of worship by royal charter. This central church had previously been St. Anthony’s Hospital Chapel and thereafter simply became known as “the French Church”. The medieval building, which dated back to the thirteenth century, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but by 1669 the hardworking Huguenots had erected a new church, one of the first to be rebuilt after the fire. It was demolished in 1841 to make way for the Royal Exchange.
  3. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685 there was a large second wave of immigration by French Protestants to England and by 1700 in the region of 5 per cent of London’s population were Huguenots. The majority of this second wave of immigrants were attracted to the earlier established Huguenots communities such as those in Canterbury and Spitalfelds. With them they brought a further wealth of trade secrets and in some cases financial capital also. The Huguenots contributed overwhelmingly to the development of London’s textile, gun-making, silver, watch and clock-making industries, to the creation of the banking and insurance business as well as to the sciences and the arts. By the 18th century, the Huguenot families had begun to integrate with the local English population. The girls married local men and their names changed. Many of the others anglicised their names and most became English citizens.
  4. Many successful Spitalfields weavers established the viability of their businesses in Canterbury before making the move to London. As the Spitalfields weaving business flourished in the 18th century, the Canterbury industry went into decline, ceasing entirely in 1837 as a result of the introduction of mechanisation to the industry.

References:

  1. Dickinson, M.J. – Seventeenth Century Tokens of the British Isles and their Values. (London, 2004).
  2. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  3. Hanks, P. & Hodges, F. – A Dictionary of Surnames. (Oxford, 1988).
  4. Davies, M.; Ferguson, C.; Harding, V.; Parkinson, E. & Wareham, A. – London and Middlesex Hearth Tax. The British Record Society. Hearth Tax Series Volume IX, Part II. (London, 2014).
  5. Agnew, D.C.A. Rev. – Protestant Exiles from France in the Reign of Louis XIV – The Huguenot Refugees in Great Britain and Ireland. Index Volume. (London, 1874).
  6. Dickinson, M.J. – Seventeenth Century Tokens of the British Isles and their Values. (London, 2004).
  7. Berry, G. – Seventeenth Century England: Traders and their Tokens. (London, 1988).
  8. Thompson, R.H. & Dickinson, M.J. – Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles – Volume 59 (The Norweb Collection) – Tokens of the British Isles 1575 – 1750. Part VII – City of London. (London, 2007).
  9. Thompson, R.H. & Dickinson, M.J. – Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles – Volume 62 (The Norweb Collection) – Tokens of the British Isles 1575 – 1750. Part VIII – Middlesex and Uncertain Pieces. (London, 2011).
  10. Ibid 6.

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Richard Harper of West Smithfield

A Farthing token of Richard Harper at the sign of the Harp in West Smithfield

A Farthing token of Richard Harper at the sign of the Harp in West Smithfield

The above copper farthing token measures 15.5 mm in diameter and weighs 0.96 grams. On purely stylistic grounds it would appear to date from the 1650s. It was issued by Richard Harper, a tradesman operating from premises in West Smithfield, London. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) RIC. HARPER. AT. THE. HARP around a depiction of a harp.

Reverse: (mullet) IN. WESTSMITHFIELD around a triad of initials comprising R | .H. | .A with a small dot below the “C”.

The triads of initials on the reverse of the token are those of its issuer, Richard Harper and his wife, Mrs. A. Harper.

The depiction of the harp on the token’s obverse almost certainly represents the trade sign which hung over Richard’s business premises in West Smithfield. Such signs often featured objects that were readily associated with a current or former premises holder’s occupation or trade. In this case the sign’s subject matter may have been purposely selected as being synonymous with the traders own surname (i.e. harp and Harper). This was not uncommon as illustrated by the following half-penny token of 1667. Its issuer was Bartholomew Fish, a fletcher, who operated from premises in Queenhithe and traded under the sign of three fish. Another obvious play on words based on the trader’s surname.

A half penny token of Bartholomew Fish of Queenhithe, London

A half penny token of Bartholomew Fish of Queenhithe, London

While the token mentions no particular street name for the location of Richard Harper’s premises its reverse legend does make it clear that it was in West Smithfield. This area, in the Ward of Farringdon Without, lay just north of the old city walls between New Gate and Alders Gate entrances to the city. Then as now it was the location of one of the city’s principal meat markets and the home to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital which, being founded in 1123, holds the title of Europe’s oldest hospital. West Smithfield lies just outside the north-western limits of that area of London which was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666.

West Smithfield, London. (c.1720) showing the Parish church of St Bartholemew the Less (above Well Yard - No.144) and St Bartholemew's Hospital(No.144)

West Smithfield, London. (c.1720) showing the Parish church of St Bartholomew the Less (above Well Yard – No.144) and St Bartholomew’s Hospital (No.144)

The Search for Richard Harper of West Smithfield

From a review of contemporary parish registers, rent books, Hearth Tax returns and livery company records it has been possible to put together an outline history of the token issuer, Richard Harper, and his immediate family and business interests.

It is likely that Richard Harper was born c.1589 in Shropshire, England. In 1601 he most probably lived with his family in the small hamlet of Woolstaston, located in the northern foothills of the Long Mynd in Shropshire. He had at least two slightly younger brothers, William and Thomas. At that time his father was described as a yeoman (1) of Woolstaston. However, by 1604 his occupation was described variously as clerk (10th July) and later (25th July) as minister (2) so by then he may have been serving his local parish church, St. Michael and All Angels, Woolstaston.

The parish church of St. Michael & All Angels, Woolstaston, Shropshire

The parish church of St. Michael & All Angels, Woolstaston, Shropshire

On 31st January 1601/2 Richard was bound by his father as an apprentice for seven years to Raffe Newbery, a citizen of London and master of the Worshipful Company of Stationers (3).

The Stationers’ Company was formed in 1403 and received a Royal Charter in 1557. It held a monopoly over the publishing trade and was officially responsible for setting and enforcing regulations within the industry. It retained this power until 1710.

It is not known if the Harper family already had associations with the publishing and book selling trade prior to young Richard being bound as an apprentice stationer in 1601/2. However, the links to this trade were to grow stronger as in 1604 Richard’s father also bound both of his younger sons to London Stationers. Richard’s brother William was apprenticed to John Bill on 25th July 1604 for a period of eight years while his brother Thomas was bound to Melchisedeck Bradwood for a period of seven years on 29th September 1604 (4).

Before focusing on Richard Harper’s later life it is worthwhile mentioning a few details regarding the careers of his brothers William and Thomas.

Thomas Harper completed his apprenticeship and received his freedom in 1611. His brother William completed his apprenticeship in 1612 (5). By 1614 the two brothers are recorded as being in partnership and operating as book sellers and stationers from a shop in old St. Paul’s Cathedral Churchyard (6). The brothers registered their first publication title, a translation of “A Discourse on Parent’s Honour and Authority” with the Stationer’s Company (as a form of early copyrighting) on 1st July 1614 (7).

The area around St. Paul’s churchyard was arguably the principal focus of London’s book and pamphlet trade throughout the first half of the 17th century. Other areas of the city were also prominent including Little Britain, with its tributary Duck Lane, Paternoster Row and London Bridge. In 1663 the French traveller, Samuel de Sorbière, commented on London’s book trade as follows (8);

“I am not to forget the vast number of booksellers’ shops I have observed in London, for besides those who are set up here and there in the city, they have their particular quarters such as St. Paul’s Churchyard and Little Britain where there are twice as many as in the Rue St. Jacques in Paris, and who have each of them have two or three warehouses.”

By 1634 Thomas Harper appears to have parted company with his brother William and was trading as a printer from his house in Little Britain (9). What became of William after he left his partnership with Thomas is unclear.

In 1639 Thomas Harper was working as a printer with a new partner, Richard Hodgkinson (10). During the early years of the English Civil War it is reported that he got into trouble on more than one occasion for printing pamphlets against the Parliament (Polder), leading several writers to label him as having Royalist sympathies. Thomas Harper appears to have continued his trade as a printer until his death in March 1655/6 (11).

We now return to the subject of Richard Harper, the slightly older brother of Thomas and William. Richard was bound into a seven-year apprenticeship with a master London stationer in 1601/2 and as such it would be expected that he would have received his freedom in 1608/9. However, the transcribed records of the Worshipful Company of Stationers (12) only record two individuals by this name and they didn’t receive their freedoms until 6th May 1633 and 4th November 1634 respectively. It is possible that one of these same named entries could be a transcribing error but equally they may both be correct. Either way thereafter the transcribed records of the Stationers’ Company appear to ascribe all future references to Richard Harper as relating to that individual who gained his freedom in 1633.

The above observations raise the question as to whether the Richard Harper who received his freedom from the Stationers’ Company in 1633 was the same Richard Harper who was bound an apprentice stationer in 1601/2. A search for the records of an additional apprentice(s) by this name, who may have been bound as a stationer in the mid 1620s, has so far failed to identify anything. The inference of this is that the young Richard Harper who was bound as an apprentice stationer in 1601/2 was very likely the same man who finally received his freedom from the Stationers’ Company in 1633. If this is the case then Richard may have failed to complete his original seven-year apprenticeship and hence becoming a freeman of the city in 1608/9 which thereafter would have allowed him to officially practice as a London stationer. Failure for individuals to complete their apprenticeship during this period was not uncommon and could have resulted from one of numerous reasons including;

  1. The death of the apprentice’s master or the failure of his business.
  2. The mutual agreement between master and apprentice for them to part ways amicably.
  3. The ill-treatment of the apprentice by the master causing the latter to run away or seek formal termination of the apprenticeship via the Livery Company or Lord Major’s Court.
  4. A change in family circumstances causing the apprentice to return home, with or without attaining any new skills in his new trade, to assist/take-over the family business or take-up an inheritance. This may or may not have included him taking up practice in his new trade if living outside of the City of London.

Having failed to complete his apprenticeship in 1608/9 didn’t necessarily preclude Richard Harper from ever officially practicing as a stationer within the City of London. There were alternative ways of becoming a registered livery company member and taking up the position of a freeman of the city. These included;

  1. By being the son of a freeman.
  2. By marrying the widow or daughter of a freeman.
  3. By redemption, that is by paying a “fine” to buy the privilege.

For Richard Harper to have become a freeman of the city and a member of the Stationers’ Company in 1633 then one of the above conditions must have applied. As he was initially bound as an apprenticeship stationer in the city in 1601/2 by his father, a yeoman/minister of Shropshire, it can safely be assumed that Richard must have either married into or bought his freedom and hence membership of the Stationers’ Company.

The transcribed records of the Stationers Company list Richard Harper as an active publisher and printer between 1633 and 1640 (13) although publications dated as late as 1652 are known to have been published in his name. He registered his first book title “Friendly Council or the Ways to Know Faithful Friend from Flattering Foe” with the Stationers’ Company on 22nd May 1633. He appears to have been a prolific publisher of popular ballads and pamphlets most of which bear his name or initials, business address and state that he was the work’s publisher. In addition the name of the publication’s printer is also given. On several of his earlier and later publications Richard contracted his brother Thomas Harper (in nearby Little Britain) to act as his printer. Between the dates 1634 to 1657 Richard Harper’s business address is variously imprinted on his publications as;

1) Richard Harper, near to the Hospital Gate in Smithfield.

2) Richard Harper at the Bible and Harp in Smithfield.

Richard Harper's address details as found in several of his publications

Richard Harper’s address details as found in several of his publications

…and less frequently as;

3) Richard Harper, in Smithfield

4) Richard Harper, at his shop in Smithfield

5) Richard Harper, in Smithfield, at the Sign of the Bible

6) Richard Harper, at the sign of the Harp in Smithfield

A review of publication dates (14) indicates that there is no chronological pattern to which of the above address formats was applied and so in spite of the variations it is likely that all of the above descriptions refer to a common shop location close to the gate to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in West Smithfield at or by the sign of the Bible and Harp. The last of the above address variations is that used on the obverse of Richard’s token.

It is likely that Richard Harper personally selected his trade sign (i.e. the Bible and Harp) rather than inheriting it from a previous shop occupant. As has been previously pointed out the image of the “Harp” is synonymous and an instant reminder of Richard’s surname “Harper”. The representation of one or more bible (often in the form of three bibles arranged in a triangular pattern) as a trade sign was commonly used by booksellers and stationers and would have been instantly recognisable to passers-by.

The obverse of a penny token of 1666 issued by Hugh Davies, Stationer at the sign of the Three Bibles in Holyhead, North Wales

The obverse of a penny token of 1666 issued by Hugh Davies, Stationer at the sign of the Three Bibles in Holyhead, North Wales

The sign is first recorded in London in 1558 (15) and was later incorporated into the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Stationers. Putting the two component elements of Richard’s trade sign together we have Harp(er) the bookseller.

It has not been possible to precisely locate the original site occupied by Richard Harper’s shop in West Smithfield. However, its approximate location can be narrowed down from the description used in various of Harper’s publications, i.e. “near to the Hospital Gate in Smithfield”. The hospital in question is St. Bartholomew’s which in the mid-17th century still followed much of its medieval layout despite various expansions and alterations which commenced from the time of the re-foundation by King Henry VII. The original medieval hospital complex had four separate gates. These were the South or Tanhouse Gate, the Hartshorn or Giltspur Street Gate, the Little Britain Gate and lastly the Smithfield Gate (16). The latter appears to have been on the site of today’s King Henry VIII Gate which, in its present form, dates from 1703.

The main entrance to St. Bartholemew's Hospital - King Henry VIII Gate built in 1702 on the site of the original West Smithfield Gate

The main entrance to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital – King Henry VIII Gate built in 1702 on the site of the original West Smithfield Gate

It was near to this gate where Richard Harper’s shop was located. Presumably one of the buildings located on the east and west sides of the gate which fronted onto Smithfield. It appears that Richard Harper was not the only book seller in this part of West Smithfield at this time. There were several others (17)(18) ;

  1. Richard Burton (book seller) at the Hospital Gate, West Smithfield (c.1641-74)
  2. Henry Eversden (book seller) under the Crown Tavern in West Smithfield (c.1657-67)
  3. Thomas Lambert at the sign of the horseshoe near the Hospital Gate, Smithfield (c.1633-43)
  4. Andrew Sowle (printer) at Pie Corner, Smithfield
  5. John Oakes (printer) in Little St. Bartholomew, Smithfield (c.1636-44)
  6. James Crumpe (book seller and book binder) in Little St. Bartholomew’s Well Yard (c.1630-61)
  7. John Clarke (book seller) at the sign of the Fleur de Lys near the Hospital Gate in Smithfield (c.1654)
  8. Philip Brooksby (book seller) variously described as being next to the sign of the Ball or at the Golden Ball near the Hospital Gate, West Smithfield or at the sign of the Ball and Harp near the Bore Tavern, Pye Corner (c.1672-96)

Rounding the corner and going into Duck Lane and then Little Britain the concentration of book sellers and printers increased.

The rear of St. Bartholomew Hospital's King Henry VIII Gate showing the west end entrance to the parish church of St. Bartholemew the Less

The rear of St. Bartholomew Hospital’s King Henry VIII Gate showing the west end entrance to the parish church of St. Bartholomew the Less

A list of annual rents paid on properties in the Parish of St. Bartholomew the Less in 1638 (19) indicates one for £1/10 on a property referred to as “Harpers”. Presumably this was Richard Harper’s book shop. Compared to other rents in this parish listing that paid on “Harpers” is of a comparatively very low sum. This possibly indicates it being a small and basic establishment.

St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1617 showing the West Smithfield Gate towards the bottom of the image

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1617 showing the West Smithfield Gate towards the bottom of the plan

From the triad of issuers’ initials on the reverse side of Richard Harper’s token we know that the Christian name of his wife began with “A”. A review of London parish registers and marriage records between 1620 and 1665 has indicated three possible matches the last of which happens to be in the same parish as Richard Harper’s bookshop;

1631: Marriage of Richard Harper and Ann Rickman at St. Anne Blackfriars

1634/5, 2nd February: Marriage of Richard Harper and Anne Hutton at St. Giles Cripplegate

1646; 19th May: Marriage of Richard Harper and Anne Walke at St. Bartholomew the Less

The last record of dated publications in the name of Richard Harper, from is shop at in West Smithfield, appears to be 1657. A review of Hearth Tax returns from 1666 for the parish of St. Bartholomew the Less indicates no tax payers by the name Harper. This may indicate that Richard had moved out of the area or had died. The latter appears likely as the burial register for the parish of St. Bartholomew the Less lists an entry for a “Richard Harper” on 14th March 1659.

While Richard Harper may have died whist still trading from his premises in West Smithfield the legacy of his shop, its trade sign of the Bible and Harp, and printed address of being near the Hospital Gate in West Smithfield continued under two successive publishers and book sellers, firstly John Clarke (c.1688-78) (20) (Note 1) and then James Bissel (1687-96) (21).

Notes:

  1. This is almost certainly the same John Clarke whose publications record his address as being at the sign of the Fleur de Lys near the Hospital Gate in Smithfield in 1654. It is also probably the same named person who paid Hearth Tax on a relatively small property (i.e. one having only two hearths) in the Well Yard of St. Bartholomew the Less in 1666 (22).

 

References:

  1. Arber, E. – A Transcription of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London. 1554-1640 A.D. Volume III. (London, 1876).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. On-line data base entry in the British Book Trade Index (www.bbti.bham.ac.uk).
  7. Ibid [1].
  8. Berry, G. – Seventeenth Century England: Traders and their Tokens. (London. 1988).
  9. Plomer, H.R. – A Dictionary of Booksellers and Printers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1641-1667. The Bibliographical Society. (London. 1907).
  10. Ibid [9].
  11. Smyth R. – Obituary of Richard Smyth, Secondary of the Poultry Compter, London: Being a Catalogue of All Such Persons as he Knew in Their Life: Extending from 1627 to A.D. 1674. Edited by Sir Henry Ellis, K.H. The Camden Society. (London, 1849).
  12. Ibid [1].
  13. Ibid [1].
  14. On-line basic search using British Library English Short Title Catalogue. (http://estc.bl.uk/).
  15. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  16. Power, Sir D’A. – A Short History of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (Founded 1123) – Past and Present. (London, 1935).
  17. Ibid [9].
  18. Plomer, H.R. – A Dictionary of Booksellers and Printers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668-1725. The Bibliographical Society. (London. 1922).
  19. Dale, T. C. – The inhabitants of London in 1638. Edited from MS. 272 in the Lambeth Palace Library. Society of Genealogists. (London, 1931).
  20. Ibid [14].
  21. Ibid [14].
  22. Davies, M.; Ferguson, C.; Harding, V.; Parkinson, E. & Wareham, A. – London and Middlesex Hearth Tax. The British Record Society. Hearth Tax Series Volume IX, Part II. (London, 2014).

Acknowledgements:

The author gratefully acknowledges Patricia Fumerton (Director of UCSB’s English Broadside Ballad Archive) and Kate Jarman (Deputy Archivist, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives & Museum) for information supplied during the research of this article.

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James Stephens in Giltspur Street

A farthing token issued by James Stephens operating from the sign of the Three Nuns in Giltspur Street, London.

A farthing token issued by James Stephens operating from the sign of the Three Nuns in Giltspur Street, London.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.2 mm and weighs 1.19 grams. It was issued by James Stephens, possibly a tavern keeper or tradesman, operating from premises at or by the sign of “The Three Nuns” in Giltspur Street in the Farringdon Ward Without district of London.

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

Obverse: (star) IAMES. STEPHENS. AT. YE, around a solid line circle, within the depiction of three nuns standing in a line facing.

Reverse: (star) IN.GVLTSPVR. .STREET, around solid line circle, within a legend in four lines; WITH / OVT / NEW / GAT.

The token is undated but is likely to have been issued prior to the early to mid-1660s by which time the issue of farthings was in decline in favour of half penny tokens. This tradesman’s token is one of six different issues known from this very small street. All were produced during the period 1648/9 to 1672 (1).

The location of Giltspur Street  opposite the Newgate entrance to the City of London (c.1720)

The location of Giltspur Street opposite the Newgate entrance to the City of London (c.1720)

In mid-17th century Giltspur Street was located immediately to the north-west of the Newgate entrance to London. Newgate was one of the city’s ancient fortified gates. It was located on the north-west perimeter of the old city walls in the Farringdon Ward of the city.

The Newgate entrance to the City of London from an engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar (c.1650)

The Newgate entrance to the City of London from an engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar (c.1650)

The current alignment of Giltspur Street is slightly to the west of the course it took in the mid-17th century. It now runs directly alongside the eastern perimeter of the churchyard of the parish church of St. Sepulchre, Holborn. Tradition has it that it was at the end of Giltspur Street, at the junction with Cock Lane in West Smithfield, that the Great Fire of London of 1666 reached its farthest limit in this part of the city before being finally extinguished on the last day of the Great Fire. Today the spot is still marked by the statue of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner (2).

The statue of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner at the corner of Cock Lane and Giltspur Street - Detail inset top right

The statue of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner at the corner of Cock Lane and Giltspur Street – Detail inset top right

Little to nothing is known of this token’s issuer, James Stephens. An initial search of the London Hearth Tax returns from the 1660s has failed to return any mention of him. A search of London parish registers and other genealogical sources has only yielded one probable reference to him. The parish registers for St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, located only a stone’s throw to the west of Giltspur Street, records the burial of a James Stephens on 29th March 1664.

The sign of the Three Nuns is first recorded in London in 1367 as a brew house. It was a fairly common sign in the capital and is often thought to have denoted a site with former religious associations. While the sign was used by several inns or taverns it was not exclusive to that trade. In the 18th century the sign was chiefly associated with linen drapers, mercers and milliners. It may well have had similar but less frequent associations in the mid-17th century.

Foot Notes:

1)      There are six separate tradesmen in Giltspur Street who are known to have issued tokens in the mid-17th century. Five of the token types are of farthing denomination while the sixth is a half-penny. Of these tokens two of the farthings were issued by separate tradesmen using the sign of “The Three Nuns”. Other than James Stephens the other issuers were Samuel and Hannah Botley. Samuel Botley (born 1639) married Hannah White on 2nd May 1662 in Acton, Middlesex. Samuel is recorded as a cordwainer (i.e. shoe maker) of the parish of St. Sepulchre. It is impossible to say if Samuel Botley and James Stephens were neighbours or if Samuel Botley took over the premises of James Stephens after the latter’s probable death in March 1664. Either way married life for Mr. and Mrs. Botley in Giltspur Street would have been fairly short lived. Presuming that the couple made it through the Great Plague of 1665 Giltspur Street and the adjacent parish church of St. Sepulchre were both consumed during the latter stages of the Great Fire of London in September 1666 (see location map below).

A map of mid-17th century London showing the extent of the Great Fire of 1666 plus the relevant location of Guiltspur Street

A map of mid-17th century London showing the extent of the Great Fire of 1666 plus the relevant location of Guiltspur Street

2)      Below the statue of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner is a tablet bearing the following inscription;

 This Boy is in Memory Put up for the late FIRE of LONDON Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony.

The statue, made of wood and covered in gold is a listed monument and according to its listing entry was formerly winged. Originally the statue may also have been painted naturalistically.  A larger more modern sign below the monument explains more of its history;

The boy at Pye-Corner was erected to commemorate the staying of the Great Fire, which beginning at Pudding Lane was ascribed to the sin of gluttony when not attributed to the Papist as on the Monument and the boy was made prodigiously fat to enforce the moral.

The statue was originally built into the front of a Public-House called “The Fortune of War“, which used to occupy this site before it was demolished in 1910.

The Fortune of War Public House at the corner of Cock Lane and Guiltspur Street prior to it demolition in 1910 - Note the position of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner statue in its upper wall

The Fortune of War Public House at the corner of Cock Lane and Guiltspur Street prior to it demolition in 1910 – Note the position of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner statue in its upper wall

In 1761, the tenant of this public house, Thomas Andrews, was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death. However, he was pardoned by King George III in one of the first cases of public debate about homosexuality in England. A further claim to fame of this establishment was that until the 19th century, it was the chief house north of the River Thames for “resurrectionists”. It was officially appointed by the Royal Humane Society as a place “for the reception of drowned persons”. Prior to it demolition the landlord used to show the room in the pub where benches were placed around the walls and where bodies laid out to await their inspection and collection by the surgeons from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.

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Thomas White in Fore Street, Cripplegate Without

A farthing token issued by Thomas White operating from the sign of the Tree or Bush in Fore Street, London.

A farthing token issued by Thomas White operating from the sign of the Tree or Bush in Fore Street, London.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.9 mm (maximum) and weighs 0.82 grams. It was issued in 1661 by a tradesman operating from premises at or by the sign of the Bush or Tree in Fore Street in the Parish of St. Giles Without Cripplegate.

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

Obverse: (rosette) THOMAS. WHITE, around a twisted wire inner circle, within a depiction of a Tree or Bush with the date numerals 16 & 61 either side.

Reverse: (rosette) IN.FORE.STREET, around twisted wire inner circle, within the initials T W plus two rosettes above and below.

This particular token is oddly shaped. It should be round but is far from it. Instead it appears to have been struck on a roughly square or diamond shaped blank with rounded ends. It is possible that this is the result of the blanks, on which the token was struck, being cut from an undersized strip of sheet copper.

Fore Street in the Parish of St. Giles Without Gripplegate from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

Fore Street in the Parish of St. Giles Without Gripplegate from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

There is no mention of a White family in Fore Street in the 1666 Hearth Tax returns. By this date it is possible that Thomas may have left the area or he and his family could have fallen victim to the Great Plague of 1665.

 A search of parish registers for the area has failed to identify any entries in the name of Thomas “White” around this period. However, references do exist to a Thomas “Quait” which is an accepted alternative spelling of this surname at this period. Thomas Quait of St. Giles Cripplegate married Joan Whitlock in the neighbouring parish church of Saint Michael’s Bassishaw, London on 13th February 1657/8. Thomas is elsewhere recorded as a Cordwainer (i.e. a shoe maker). It is by no means certain that Thomas Quait of St. Giles Without Cripplegate is synonymous with Thomas White of Fore Street in 1661. If they are the same person it is interesting why only his initials appears on the reverse of his token instead of the triad of both his and his wife’s initials. One obvious answer to this could be that by 1661 his wife was no-longer living.

The parish church of St. Giles Without Cripplegate, London - In 1620 a then obsure country gentleman from Huntingdon by the name of Oliver Cromwell was married within this church to Elizabeth Bourchier.

The parish church of St. Giles Without Cripplegate, London – In 1620 a then obsure country gentleman from Huntingdon by the name of Oliver Cromwell was married within this church to Elizabeth Bourchier.

Previous authors have officially recorded the image on the obverse of this token as a tree. However, in Bryant Lillywhite’s extensive survey “London Signs” (published in 1972) there is no reference of the emblem of the “tree” being used in London as a tradesman’s sign. However, the sign of the “bush” was very popular in London during this and earlier periods as a tavern sign or as a sign denoting a place where liquor was obtainable.

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James Reddall at the Plough in Bedlam

A farthing token issued in the name of James Reddall of the Plough in Bedlam, Bishopsgate Without, London

A farthing token issued in the name of James Reddall of the Plough in Bedlam, Bishopsgate Without, London

The above copper farthing token measures15.7 mm and weighs 1.17 grams. It was issued in the name of James Reddall, a tradesman operating from the sign of the plough in Bedlam, Bishopsgate Without, London.

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

Obverse: (star) IAMES. REDDALL. AT , around the depiction of a swing plough facing left.

Reverse: (star) THE. PLOW. IN. BEDLAM, around a twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising I | .R. | .S with a dot below the “R”

Based on the style of this token it probably dates to the period 1650 to 1660.

The issuing location of this token was the district of Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Ward of the city.

The location of the Bedlam or Bethlem district of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720)

The location of the Bedlam or Bethlem district of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720)

Bedlam was a colloquial name given to Bethlem, a 13th century priory church founded by the Italian bishop-elect of Bethlehem to raise alms and funds to support the crusades to the Holy Land. It was located just north of St. Botolphs Parish Church off Bishopsgate Street outside the city walls. By 1330 Bedlam was more often referred to as a hospital which in medieval terms may have simply denoted a hostel for travelling alms-seekers. By the 1370s the hospital had been seized by the crown and was becoming a far more secularized institution. It was from this period that it became first associated with the care of the mentally ill. So was to begin a centuries long tradition for which the institute and its later nearby successor was to became famous throughout Europe.

Detail from a map of Elizabethan London (1572) taken from "Civitates orbis terrarum" showing the location of Bethlem Hospital in the Bishopsgate Without Ward of the city

Detail from a map of Elizabethan London (1572) taken from “Civitates orbis terrarum” showing the location of Bethlem Hospital in the Bishopsgate Without Ward of the city

Although Bethlem had been enlarged by 1667 to accommodate fifty nine patients, the Court of Governors of the hospital observed at the start of 1674 that;

“The Hospital House of Bethlem is very old, weak & ruinous and to small and streight for keeping the greater number of lunatics therein at present.”

Given the increasing demand for admission and the inadequate and dilapidated state of the building it was decided to rebuild the hospital on a site at nearby Moorfields, which was just north of the city walls and one of the largest open spaces in London. The architect chosen for the new hospital, which was built rapidly and at great expense between 1675 and 1676, was the famous natural philosopher and City Surveyor Robert Hooke.

Engraving by Robert White of the new Bethlem Hospital designed by Robert Hooke and built at Moorfields, outside of the City of London in 1676

Engraving by Robert White of the new Bethlem Hospital designed by Robert Hooke and built at Moorfields, outside of the City of London in 1676

By the late 1670s the original site and any remaining buildings which had once comprised part of the original Bethlem Hospital had been absorbed by the wide spread urban development to the west of Bishopsgate Street Without. Today nothing remains of the medieval hospital. Its former site is now occupied by the Great Eastern Hotel next to Liverpool Street Railway Station.

The reverse of the token bears a triad of issuers’ initials, i.e. those of James Reddall and his wife. The appearance of “I” for “J” for “James” can be explained by the use of Latin script in which Js are represented by Is. At the time the token was issued we can assume that James wife’s Christian name was Sarah, Susan or similar.

I have been unable to find any conclusive evidence of where and when the primary issuer of this token was born, married or buried. However, he could well be one or all of the following individuals both of whom lived in the Parish of St. Botolphs in Bishopsgate Without, this being the token issuer’s local church;

1) James Reddall – married Judith Finch on 26th September 1661 (extracted from the parish registers of Holy Trinity Church, Minories, London).

2) James Reddall – buried on 22nd February 1684/5 at St. Botolphs, Bishopsgate Without.

A further examination of the parish registers of St. Botolphs in Bishopsgate Without indicate the following children being born to a James and Judith Reddall;

1)      Thomas – christened on 8th September 1661

2)      Elizabeth – christened on 24th January 1663/4

3)      Finch – christened on 26th March 1664/5 (Finch apparently being taken from the mother’s maiden name)

A further reference to a James Reddall can be found in the Hearth Tax returns of 1662 for the first western precinct of the Bishopsgate Ward. He is recorded as occupying a property with 6 hearths.

Based on the information on his token James Reddall’s occupation can’t be certain but it is clear that he traded from or near to the sign of the plough in Bedlam. In London the sign of the plough was adopted from the 16th century onwards by several taverns but was by no means exclusive to that trade.

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