Category Archives: Tokens from Pepys’ London

Throughout Pepys’ diary he makes verious references to people and places (usually inn keepers and their establishments) he knew and frequented. Several of these issued tokens. Some of these are discussed hereafter.

John Kent at the Three Tuns Taverns

The mid-17th century copper farthing tokens illustrated below are of similar weight (0.98 grams and 0.95 gams respectively) and size (15.4 mm and 15.7 mm respectively) and were both issued by the same person, namely John Kent, a vintner and citizen of London. The designs of the two tokens are described further below.

A farthing token issued in the name of the Three Tuns tavern in Gracechurch Street, London

A farthing token issued in the name of the Three Tuns tavern in Gracechurch Street, London

Obverse: (mullet) THE. 3. TVNN. TAVERNE. IN , around a twisted wire circle, within the depiction of three barrels in a triangular stacked arrangement.

Reverse: (mullet) GRACE.CHVRCH.STREETE, around a twisted wire circle, within a triad of initials comprising I | .K. | .E

A farthing token issued in the name of the Three Tuns tavern in Crutched Friars, London.

A farthing token issued in the name of the Three Tuns tavern in Crutched Friars, London.

Obverse: (cinquefoil) AT . THE . 3 . TVN . TAVERN , around the depiction of three barrels in a triangular stacked arrangement.

Reverse: (cinquefoil) IN . CRVTCHED . FRIERS , around a twisted wire circle, within a triad of initials comprising I | .K. | .E

The two separate business addresses given on the reverse side of each of these tokens (.i.e. Gracechurch Street in the Candlewick Ward of the city and Crutched Friars in the Tower Ward of the city) clearly indicates that they were issued from two different taverns but with a shared common name (i.e. the Three Tuns). The Three Tuns was a fairly common tavern sign in 17th century London. It is derived from the ancient coat of arms of the Vintners Company of London which, like the token, depicts three wine barrels lying on their sides and arranged in a triangular pattern.

The common triad of initials on the reverse of the above tokens are those of their respective issuers which in this case were John (i.e. where “I” represents “J” in the Latin alphabet) and his wife Elizabeth Kent.

Visually the two above tokens look very similar. The difference in their surface colouring is indicative of the chemical conditions that each has been exposed to since being lost in the mid-17th century. The dark green patina of the first is telling of it being buried for a considerable period in chemically rich soil. The dark brown toning of the second is typical of it being recovered from waterlogged and low oxygen content conditions and is typical of most such tokens recovered from the River Thames foreshore.

Examples of Legend dividers on 17th Century British Tradesman's tokens - A mullet (left) and a cinquefoil (right)

Examples of Legend dividers on 17th Century British Tradesman’s tokens – A mullet (left) and a cinquefoil (right)

Stylistically the first of the two tokens appears to be the older of the two. The use of the “mullet” ornament as a divider in both the obverse and reverse legends is typical of tokens dating from 1648/9 to c.1662. The alternative use of a “cinquefoil” ornament as a legend divider in the second token is indicative of a later issuing date, typically c.1662 to 1668. By the time of this second issuing period farthing tokens were being struck in far fewer numbers in comparison to half penny denomination trade tokens.

In Search of the History of John Kent & his Family

John Kent, the token issuer, was the son of John Kent a yeoman of Standon in rural Hertfordshire. In December 1631 John was sent by his father to London to be apprenticed to George Gopsell a citizen and vintner of the city (1). Like other boys entering trade apprenticeships during this period he would typically have been around fourteen years of age (i.e. suggesting his year of birth as 1617). He would have been expected to work and learn his trade under his new master for approximately seven years before receiving his freedom and becoming a member of the Worshipful Company of Vintners. There after (i.e. c.1638) he would have been free to practice his trade independently.

It is not known where in London John Kent first set up his own business but within three years after completing his apprenticeship he appears to have already established himself and felt sufficiently confident to take on an apprentice of his own on 1st June 1641 (1). This was to be the first of many apprentices he took on over his long career (Note 1). By 1643 John was obviously financially secure and settled enough to get married.  His bride was Elizabeth Winch, the daughter of a grocer and church warden originally from the parish of St. Mildred, Poultry in the Cheap Ward of the city (2). The couple married in the parish church of St. John, Hackney on 23rd December 1643. Two years later there is parish register evidence that they were living in the parish of All Hallows, Lombard Street in the Candlewick Ward of the city. John was to retain strong ties to All Hallows parish church for the rest of his life.

Within a couple of years of the marriage of John and Elizabeth the parish registers of All Hallows, Lombard Street record the christenings of their first two children, Mercy and Elizabeth Kent.

12th October 1645 – Merse the daughter of John and Elizabeth Kent was baptised.

4th November 1649 – Elizabeth the daughter of John Kente was baptised.

In 1654 the church warden’s accounts of St. Benet, Gracechurch record his tenancy in Gracechurch Street from that year until the Great Fire in 1666 (3). It has been suggested that his first business in the street was based at the Cock Tavern (4). However, by the start of 1656 he and his family were most definitely in the Three Tuns Tavern as the following family burial entries from the parish registers of All Hallows, Lombard Street confirm;

Samuell Kent – Samuell the son of John Kent, vintner, & of Elizabeth his wife was buried in the South chapel on the south side under the pew marked 9 upon the 13th day of January Anno. 1655

Francis Kent – The daughter of John Kent vintner at the 3 tuns in Gracechurch Street and Elisabeth his wife was buried in the South Chapel on ye south side underneath the pews marked 9 and 10 upon the 10th day of February in the year aforesaid (i.e. 1655/6).

A review of the Hearth Tax returns for London on Lady Day 1666 indicates an entry for a John Kent in Lombard Street at a property containing 16 hearths (5). Such a number of hearths is in keeping with a well sized tavern of the period. The layout and geographical location sub-heading in of the Hearth Tax return document would indicate John Kent’s property was located at the east end of Lombard Street on the south side close to All Hallows parish church. Given that the contemporary accepted address for the three Tuns taverns as being in Gracechurch Street this coupled with the Hearth Tax return evidence would logically put the tavern’s location as being at the south-east corner of Lombard Street at the north-south junction with Gracechurch street. Presumably the tavern’s main entrance was via Gracechurch Street, hence it being known as the Three Tuns in Gracechurch Street. According to one source (6) citing John Roque’s 1746 map of London the Three Tuns tavern was located on the western side of Gracechurch Street, due east of the church of St. Clement’s Eastcheap but within the bounds of the parish of St. Benet’s. It is likely that this refers to the later tavern of the same name built in Gracechurch street after the Great Fire of 1666 (Note 2).

Gracechurch & Lombard Streets c.1720 indicating the locations of the pre Great Fire Three Tuns Tavern (YELLOW), post Great Fire Three Tuns Tavern (GREEN( plus All Hall0ws Church (RED) and St. Clement's Eastcheap (BLUE)

Gracechurch & Lombard Streets c.1720 indicating the locations of the pre Great Fire Three Tuns Tavern (YELLOW), post Great Fire Three Tuns Tavern (GREEN) plus All Hall0ws Church (RED) and St. Clement’s Eastcheap (BLUE)

Unfortunately there was to be more sorrow in the Kent household over the next three years as the following parish register entries from All Hallows, Lombard Street attest to;

Elizabeth Kent – Elizabeth Kent the wife of John Kent vintner in Gracechurch Street was buried in the South Chapel of our church on the south side underneath the first two pews upon the 28th day of December 1657

With two known surviving children still to look after and a family business to run the loss of Elizabeth must have hit John hard despite having some potential support from his apprentice(s) (Note 1). With this in mind it is not so surprising that within a year of Elizabeth’s death John was preparing to re-marry as recorded by the following banns entry in the parish register of All Hallows, Lombard Street made on the 29th October 1658;

A marriage intended between John Kent, widower of the Parish of All Hallows Lombard Street, and Elizabeth Barret, spinster, the daughter of Peter Barret, gentleman, of the Parish Margaret Pattens London, was published in the market place of Cheapside upon three market days, in three several weeks one after another, between the hours of eleven and five of the clock according to the late Act of Parliament that is to say upon Saturday the first, Monday the third and Wednesday ye 12th days of January 1658. & no exception was made against the same.

And on the 18th of January 1658 the said parties above named were married in Margaret Pattens Church by Mr. Thomas Lye minister of this parish.

Confirmation of John’s second marriage is also documented in the parish register of St. Margaret Pattens Church.

Exactly nine months after John and Elizabeth’s marriage the Kent family was to have yet more misfortune as recorded in the registers for All Hallows Church, Lombard Street.

Sarah Kent – Sarah the daughter of Mr. John Kent of the Three Tunns in Gracechurch Street was buried in the South Chapel of our church on the south side of the pews marked as 10, 11 upon the 18th day of September 1659

No baptism record has so far been found for Sarah Kent so it is not known if she was the product of John’s first or second marriage. Either is possible but the present writer is of the opinion that she was probably the infant daughter of John and Elizabeth Barret.

One further child was born to the couple while living in Gracechurch Street.

Dixy Kent – Dixy the son of John & Elizabeth Kent vintner at the Three Tuns in Gracechurch Street was baptised in the parish church the 26th day of January by Mr. Thomas Lye the minister

The Kent family appears to have survived the Great Plague of 1665. It is not known if they evacuated the city during the plague, as so many who could afford to do so did, but it must remain a distinct possibility.  From details contained in John Kent’s Will of December 1689 (7) it is clear that at some point he acquired a considerable estate including a manor house (the Manor House of the Mark) straddling the parish boundaries of Walthamstow and Lower Leyton. This area was then a very rural part of Essex and a popular location with many of London’s leading citizens for the location of their second homes. If he had this estate in 1665 it may well have been to here or his family’s home village of Standon in Hertfordshire that he and his family escaped in order to survive the plague.

While the Kent family may have survived 1665 unscathed like most other Londoners there was to be a major upheaval in their lives in the following year.

The Great Fire of London broke out in Pudding Lane in the early hours of Sunday 2nd September 1666 and by the following evening it had consumed all of Gracechurch and Lombard Streets. The Three Tuns tavern was raised to the ground while the family’s parish church of All Hallows was severely damaged.

A view of the south end of Gracechurch Street with the Monument (marking the starting point of the Great Fire of London) clearly in full view.

A view of the south end of Gracechurch Street with the Monument (marking the starting point of the Great Fire of London) clearly in full view.

At some time prior to the Great Fire of 1666 but after 1648/9 (i.e. the year in which the first London tradesman’s tokens were issued) John Kent issued the earlier illustrated farthing trade token from the Three Tuns tavern in Gracechurch Street. Unfortunately the fact that both his wives were called Elizabeth does not allow us to use the triad of initials on the reverse of the token to date it more precisely using contemporary parish marriage records. However, as previously mentioned, stylistically the token’s appearance suggests an issue date prior to c.1662.

Despite losing their tavern and presumably home in Gracechurch Street in early September 1666, just over a month later John and Elizabeth Kent had re-established their business, under its former name of the Three Tuns, in a vacant property at the intersection of Hart Street and Crutched Friars in the parish of St. Olave’s, Hart Street (Note 3).

Seething Lane Area in 1678 - Showing the locations of Samuel Pepys' Lodgings (BLUE); the parish church of St. Olave, Hart Street (RED) and that most likely for the Three Tuns Tavern (YELLOW)

Seething Lane Area in 1678 – Showing the locations of Samuel Pepys’ Lodgings (BLUE); the parish church of St. Olave, Hart Street (RED) and that most likely for the Three Tuns Tavern (YELLOW)

This district, in the north-eastern part of the city, was one of the few areas which escaped the Great Fire. Properties in such areas would have been highly sought after and expensive after September 1666 as the Great Fire had laid waste to most of the city.

A map of London immediately after the Great Fire of September 1666 showing the extent of the devastation and the locations of the Three Tuns Taverns in Gracechurch Street and Crutched Friars

A map of London immediately after the Great Fire of September 1666 showing the extent of the devastation and the locations of the Three Tuns Taverns in Gracechurch Street and Crutched Friars

Crutched Friars is the eastern extension of Hart Street. Starting adjacent to the parish church of St. Olave this street ran alongside the north end of Seething Lane and the Navy Office where the famous diarist and naval administrator Samuel Pepys lived and worked respectively.

Shortly after moving into their new establishment John and Elizabeth Kent issued the undated farthing token illustrated and described earlier. In addition they also issued half penny trade tokens. As can be seen from the above images the design of this farthing token was very similar to the earlier one they issued when at the Three Tuns tavern in Gracechurch Street.

Samuel Pepys would have been a regular visitor to the Three Tuns tavern in Crutched Friars. Geographically speaking it was his “local pub”. Between November 1666 and May 1669 Pepys records in his diary visiting “the tavern in our street” on a total of seven different occasions. He frequented the tavern with friends and colleagues from the adjacent Navy Offices plus with his neighbours on the occasion of parish dinners which appear to have been regularly held there. On 17th November 1666 Pepys refers to the Three Tuns as “the new tavern come by us”. In May of the next year he further refers to the tavern as “Kent’s”. Two related and more interesting of his diary references to the tavern are reproduced below.

Thursday 9th May 1667 – ….and so home, and in our street, at the Three Tuns’ Tavern door, I find a great hubbub; and what was it but two brothers have fallen out, and one killed the other. And who should they be but the two Fieldings; one whereof, Bazill, was page to my Lady Sandwich; and he hath killed the other, himself being very drunk, and so is sent to Newgate. I to the office and did as much business as my eyes would let me, and so home to supper and to bed.

Friday 10th May 1667 – Up and to the office, where a meeting about the Victuallers’ accounts all the morning, and at noon all of us to Kent’s, at the Three Tuns’ Tavern, and there dined well at Mr. Gawden’s charge; and, there the constable of the parish did show us the picklocks and dice that were found in the dead man’s pocket, and but 18d. in money; and a table-book, wherein were entered the names of several places where he was to go; and among others Kent’s house, where he was to dine, and did dine yesterday: and after dinner went into the church, and there saw his corpse with the wound in his left breast; a sad spectacle, and a broad wound, which makes my hand now shake to write of it. His brother intending, it seems, to kill the coachman, who did not please him, this fellow stepped in, and took away his sword; who thereupon took out his knife, which was of the fashion, with a falchion blade, and a little cross at the hilt like a dagger; and with that stabbed him.

Documentary evidence suggests that John Kent lived the rest of his life as a practicing vintner in the parish of St. Olave, Hart Street and eventually even became a parish elder. However, it is unclear if he remained the resident landlord at the Three Tuns tavern in Crutched Friars after the late 1660s.

There is an additional series of interesting farthing and half penny trade tokens which were issued for the Three Tuns tavern in Crutched Friars in the names of Theophilus Pace and his wife. These are undated but in London the issue of half-penny trade tokens typically dates to the period 1664 to 1669 while farthings were issued over a longer period commencing in 1648/9. No trade tokens of any denomination were issued after their use was officially declared illegal in 1672. This highlights a question mark with regards to the exact dates of John Kent’s tenure at the Three Tuns tavern.

One possible explanation of the Theophilus Pace tokens is that the latter was let the Three Tuns tavern by John Kent sometime after 1667 and that he retained that position until his death. The parish registers for St. Olave’s, Hart Street records the burial of a “Theophilus Pais” in February 1667/68. Thereafter it is possible that John Kent took over the running of the tavern again possibly with the ultimate intention of passing it onto his son Dixy on his retirement.

Parish register entries from the later 1660s to early 1670s offer documentary evidence of a further five children (Mary, Elizabeth, Peter, John and a still-born child) belonging to John and Elizabeth Kent in addition to the seven (i.e. Mercy, Elizabeth, Sam, Francis, Sarah, John and Dixy) known to have been born while he lived in Gracechurch Street. At least three of these additional children were born while John and Elizabeth were based in Crutched Friars as is evident from the documentary evidence below. Firstly from the parish registers of Al Hallows, Lombard Street:

Mary Kent – Mary the daughter of John Kent and of Elizabeth his wife was buried in our church the last day of March 1667 towards the upper end of the south side close to the wall.

Peter Kent – Peter the son of John Kent and of his wife was buried in the south chapel 21 foot from the upper end from the head of the corpse at 2 foot from ye Side wall on the 5th of November 1667

Unbaptized – A small child of John Kent and of Elizabeth his wife. Still born was buried in our South Chapel on the 5th day of September 1670.

John Kent – John the son of John & Elizabeth Kent was buried in our South Chapel on the 13th day of August 1671 sixteen foot from ye end wall to the head of the corpse and about a foot from the side wall.

Secondly from the parish register of St. Olave, Hart Street:

John Kent – Baptism 6th September 1668 – John son of John and Elizabeth Kente.

John Kent – Burial 13th August 1671 – John son of John and Elizabeth Kente buried at All Hallows in ye church.

Elizabeth – Baptism 26th January 1672/3 – Elizabeth daughter of Mr. John Kente and Elizabeth Kente his wife born and baptised.

While the family became established in their new parish it is interesting to note that they continued to use their former parish church for family burials despite the fact that it had been badly damaged during the Great Fire of 1666. After the fire the local parishioners of All Hallows, Lombard Street attempted to “patch up” their church by rendering the walls with straw and lime in an attempt to stop any further decay (8). A bell was hung in the steeple, despite its perilous condition, as late as 1679 (9). Ultimately, however, restoration proved impractical and the old building was replaced with a new one designed by the office of Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1694.

After the birth of Elizabeth in 1673 there are no further records of John and Elizabeth Kent having any further children. Of John Kent’s twelve children only five were to survive into adulthood (11).

In 1668 John Kent’s eldest daughter, Mercy, married John Sergent, an apothecary from the adjacent London parish of St. Katherine Cree (12) (Notes 4). Oddly their marriage didn’t take place in either the bride’s or the groom’s home parish. Instead the ceremony took place in St. Mary’s Church in Leyton, Essex. As previously noted, at some point in his history John Kent acquired a considerable holding of land in this area of Essex including the Manor House of the Mark on the parish boundary of Walthamstow and Lower Leyton. By the time of the marriage of John’s daughter in 1668 the association between his family and this area of Essex already appears to have been established. By 1680 John Sergent had died making Mercy a widow. It is possible that it was through her father’s connections and/or introduction she met her second husband, Philip Stubbs, who according to their marriage license was also a widower and vintner from a neighbouring London parish to St. Olave, Hart Street (13).

28th October 1680. “Phillipp Stubbs of St Andrew Undershaft Lond. Vintner aged about 44 years and a Widdower” and “Mrs Mercy Sarjeant of St Catherine Creechurch Lond. aged about 34 years and a Widdowe ” to be married in ye parish Church of Battersey in Surrey.

On 4th December 1677 John Kent apprenticed his youngest surviving son, Dixy, to Richard Acton, a London vintner. He probably hoped that Dixy would follow in his father’s footsteps (Note 5). It is unclear what trade Dixy’s older brother, John, entered as no record has so far been found for him in the transcribed apprenticeship records of the principal London Livery Companies.

Even when John Kent was in his mid-60s he was still very active in his chosen profession being appointed one of the Masters of the Worshipful Company of Vintners in 1681. It is likely that he took on his final apprentice in 1685 (Note 6).

By the end of 1689 John Kent’s health must have been failing. He prepared his last will and testament on 14th December 1689. He died and was buried eight days later. An entry in the parish register for St. Olave, Hart Street for the 22nd December 1689 records the following;

John Kent, vintner, was buried in All Hallows, Lombard Street, Lond.

While short and to the point this entry records some interesting facts about John in that;

  1. He remained a resident of the parish of St. Olave, Hart Street until his death.
  2. At the time of his death he remained an active vintner.
  3. The historic ties to his former parish of All Hallows, Lombard Street remained strong until the time of his death and he was buried in his family’s former parish church along with his first wife and his seven deceased children.

John Kent’s Will was proven the day after his burial (i.e. 23rd December 1689). It states that he was an Elder of the parish of St. Olave, Hart Street as well as confirming him being a citizen and vintner of the city of London and that he was to be buried in the parish church of All Hallows, Lombard Street;

“at the upper end of the first isle in the right hand under the window where the seat stood.”

John’s Will further confirms that he was survived by his second wife, Elizabeth, and five of his children, namely John, Elizabeth and Dixy Kent plus his married daughters Mercy (Stubbs) and Elizabeth (Upsher).

To his eldest son, John, plus his daughters Mercy Stubbs and Elizabeth Upsher John Kent left £5 each. Similar amounts were each left to his “worthy good friends” Doctor Josiah Clarke and Mr. John Newton. To his youngest daughter Elizabeth Kent he left £500 to be paid to her on her 21st birthday or day of marriage, which ever came first. After the payment of any debts the remaining of John Kent’s estate excluding eight acres of meadow land in Leyton Marsh near the Ferry House (which was in the tenure of Edward Dawson) was to be split equally between his wife, Elizabeth, and his youngest son, Dixy. This included the various meadow and pastures lands and tenements pertaining to the Manor House of the Mark, all of which straddled the parish boundaries of Walthamstow and Lower Leyton in the county of Essex.

The signature of John Kent as it appears on the Apprenticeship Indenture of Throgmorton Underwood dated 4th February 1672/3.

The signature of John Kent as it appears on the Apprenticeship Indenture of Throgmorton Underwood dated 4th February 1672/3.

 

Foot Notes:

 

1) During the 51 year period that John Kent was an active vintner (i.e. from the completion of his apprenticeship in 1638 until his death in December 1689) the records of the Worshipful Company of Vintners record 34 separate apprentices who were bound to a master vintner by the name of John Kent.  These are listed in the summary table below.

Apprentices

While it is possible that all of the above apprentices were bound to our token issuer, particularly considering his apparent long and successful career and the fact that not all apprentices completed their binding period, it is equally possible that those listed after 1655 and 1669 respectively could relate to the apprentices of one or other of two other John Kents who were bound apprentice vintners in London in 1648 and 1662 respectively. The apprenticeship records for these two additional John Kents are summarised below.

  1. John Kent, son of William a merchant tailor of London, apprenticed to Leonard Girle on the 1st August 1648. (1655)
  2. John Kent, son of John a blacksmith of London, apprenticed to Nicholas Clarke on the 6th May 1662. (1669)

While we can be certain that both of the above boys embarked on apprenticeships to become vintners we have no evidence that either of them either completed their standard seven or eight year apprenticeships or went on to become vintners in their own right. It was not unheard of that boys who successfully completed an apprenticeship in a one particular trade went on to become a master in a totally different but often related trade.

 

2) An interesting later reference to the second Three Tuns Tavern build in the lower portion of Gracechurch Street, after the Great Fire of 1666, can be found in the Daily Journal of 16th September 1732.

“Yesterday, about 5 o’clock in the evening, notwithstanding the wind was so high, a sailor flew from the top of the Monument to the Upper Three Tuns tavern in Gracechurch Street, which he did in less than half a minute; there was a numerous crowd of spectators to see him. He came down within 20 feet of the place where the rope was fixed, and then flung himself off; and offered, if the gentlemen would make him a handsome collection, he would go up and fly down again.”

 

3) George Berry (14) suggests that the location of the Three Tuns tavern in Crutch Friars was half way along Crutch Friars on the southern side of the lane opposite the Navy Office where Samuel Pepys worked. However, the current writer believes that the tavern’s location was on the west side of the entrance to Crown Court Alley (15) at the north-west end of Crutched Friars where the lane joined Hart Street.

Part of John Rocque's Map of London (1746) indicating the location of the Three Tuns Tavern in Crutched Friards according to George Berry (BLUE) and the current writer (RED) plus the additional locations of Three Tuns Yard (YELLOW) and Samuel Pepys' lodgings (GREEN).

Part of John Rocque’s Map of London (1746) indicating the location of the Three Tuns Tavern in Crutched Friards according to George Berry (BLUE) and the current writer (RED) plus the additional locations of Three Tuns Yard (YELLOW) and Samuel Pepys’ lodgings (GREEN).

This location better fits Samuel Pepys’ own words when he records in his diary the location of the Three Tuns tavern as being “in our street”. Further support of this theory comes from later place-name evidence contained in John Roque’s famous 1746 map of London. In this map Crown Court in Crutched Friars has been re-named as Three Tuns Yard. This presumably is in recognition of the location of a tavern by the same name. An advertisement in the London Evening Post of 3rd April 1742 reads;

“To be let – the house and shop lately occupied by John Calcott blacksmith in Crutch Friars. Enquiry at the Three Tun Tavern against the Church.”

The use of the term “against the church” further suggests the tavern was located opposite St. Olave’s Church on Crutched Friars as opposed to being located down the alley that lead to Three Tuns Court.

The junction of Seething Lane, Hart Street and Crutched Friars showing the entrance to New London Street (formerly the site of the Three Tuns Alley and Tavern).

The junction of Seething Lane, Hart Street and Crutched Friars showing the entrance to New London Street (formerly the site of the Three Tuns Alley and Tavern).

Three Tuns Yard Alley was later to become New London Street, the original street entrance to which is still preserved (all be it as a dead-end turning) in the modern street plan of the north side of Hart Street.

4) It is possible that it was a close relation (i.e. a possible younger brother) of John Sergent’s the apothecary who married Mercy Kent in 1668 who was to be bound as an apprentice vintner to John Kent (the token issuer) in 1676 (see table in Note 1).

5) A Dixy Kent married Jane Brown on 11th January 1690 at All Hallows Church, London Wall. His trade is listed by Boyd as a linen draper and silversmith. If this entry is for Dixy Kent, son of John Kent, it indicates that he did not go on to follow in his father’s footsteps as a vintner despite being apprenticed as such. Dixy Kent died on 10th July 1696 and was buried in his father-in-law’s (Daniel Brown, died 1698) own vault in the parish church of St. Stephen, Wallbrook (16).

6) Further to Note 1 above it is interesting to note the areas of the United Kingdom from which the various apprentices came from. While many were from London or the Home Counties others were sent to London from as far afield as Mid-Wales and Yorkshire. It is highly likely that those apprentices listed as being from villages close to Standon in Hertfordshire plus Leyton and Walthamstow in Essex were bound to John Kent the token issuer given the close associations we know his family had to these two areas.

References:

  1. Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 43. Vintners’ Company 1609-1800. (2006).
  2. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  3. Berry, G. – Tavern Tokens of Pepy’s London. (London, 1978).
  4. Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Volume 10 – Companion. (London, 1995).
  5. 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).
  6. Harben, H.A. – A Dictionary of London: Historical notes of streets and buildings in the City of London, including references to other relevant sources. (1918).
  7. PROB 11/397/409 – Will of John Kent (22nd December 1689), National Archives, London.
  8. Daniell, A.E. – London City Churches. (London, 1896).
  9. Godwin, G.; Britton, J. – All Hallows, Lombard Street. The Churches of London: A History and Description of the Ecclesiastical Edifices of the Metropolis. (London, 1839).
  10. Milbourn, T. – The Vintners’ Company: Their Nuniments, Plate and Eminent Members with
  11. Ibid 7.
  12. Ibid 2.
  13. Stubbs, H. – Pedigree of the Kentish Family of Stubbs. Archaeologia Cantiana. Volume 18. (1889).
  14. Ibid 3.
  15. Hyde, R. – The A to Z of Restoration London (The City of London, 1676). (London Topographical Society Publication. No.145. 1992).
  16. Ibid 2.

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Filed under Tokens from Pepys' London, Tokens from within the City Walls

The Bell Tavern in King Street, Westminster

A farthing token of the Bell Tavern, King Street, Westminster

A farthing token of the Bell Tavern, King Street, Westminster

The above brass farthing token measures 15.9 mm and weighs 0.89 grams. It was issued in the name of The Bell Tavern which was once located in King Street in St. Margaret’s Parish, Westminster. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) THE. BELL. TAVERN. IN, around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of a bell within.

Reverse: (mullet) KINGS. STREET. WESTMINS, around twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising C | .D. | .M

While this particular token is undated on stylistic grounds its issue date can be attributed to the 1650s.

The triad of initials on the reverse of the token are those of its issuers, a Mr. “C.D.” and his wife Mrs. “M.D.”. As yet these individuals have not been identified but it is likely that Mr. C.D. kept the tavern at some period between 1641 and 1655. The later part of this period fits with the stylistic dating of the token. It is reported (1) that a William Austen kept the Bell in 1641 while between 1655 and 1664 the tavern was kept by the London vintner Samuel Walker and afterwards by his widow (2). A review of the 1664 Hearth Tax returns for King Street in Westminster confirms that Samuel Walker was paying tax on a property with 20 hearths in the southern end of the street.

King Street was a narrow but very busy thoroughfare which once linked the southern side of Whitehall Palace with Westminster Abbey. Today its original course is largely marked by that of Parliament Street.

King Street, Westminster (c.1720) - From right to left - Downing Street (Red); Axe Yard (Blue); Bell Yard (Purple) & Bell Alley (Green).

King Street, Westminster (c.1720) – From right to left – Downing Street (Red); Axe Yard (Blue); Bell Yard (Purple) & Bell Alley (Green).

At the north end of King Street, the corner of what is now Downing Street and what was then the southern side of Whitehall Palace, stood a gate called the King’s or Cock-pit Gate. It had four domed towers; on the south side were pilasters and an entablature enriched with the double rose, the portcullis, and the royal arms.

King's Gate at the north end of King Street and southern entrance to Whitehall Palace. Demolished in 1723.

King’s Gate at the north end of King Street and southern entrance to Whitehall Palace. Demolished in 1723.

At the south end of King Street at the entrance to Palace Yard stood a second gate known as High Gate the construction of which commenced under King Richard II in 1384. These gates were demolished in 1723 and 1706 respectively (3).

There were innumerable courts, alleys and lanes leading off King Street. On the west, south of Downing Street, were Axe Yard, Charles Street, Gardiners Lane, Sea Alley, Bell Yard, George Yard, Blue Boar Court, Antelope Alley and Bell Alley. The street was the home for many of the principal taverns of Westminster which included the Blue Boar’s Head, the Swan, the George, the Angel, the Antelope, the Black Dog, the Old Rhenish Wine House, the Sun, the Trumpet and the Bell. Amongst the notable inhabitants of the area in the 17th century were;

  • Oliver Cromwell and his mother who allegedly lived in a house close to the Blue Boar tavern.
  • Erasmus Dryden, Member of Parliament for Banbury and grandfather of the famous poet John Dryden, lived in a house just north of the Sun tavern.
  • Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist and Naval Administrator, who lived in Axe Yard off the north-west side of the street before moving to Seething Lane.
  • Wenceslaus Hollar, the notable Bohemian artist and engraver, who died in poverty in a rented house off King Street in Gardiners Lane.

Although narrow, King Street was wide enough to accommodate all the pageantry of state coronations, funerals and other such pageants that passed through it. The street was reportedly picturesque (4);

“The houses rose up three and four stories high; gabled all, with projecting fronts, story above story, the timbers of the fronts painted and gilt, some of them with escutcheons hung in front, the richly blazoned arms brightening the narrow way.”

However it was reportedly also dirty (4);

“The roadway was rough and full of holes; a filthy stream ran down the middle, all kinds of refuse were lying about.”

King Charles I travelled down King Street on the way from Whitehall Palace to his trial at Westminster. He went back by the same route as a condemned man. In 1658 Oliver Cromwell’s funeral procession followed the same route. Cromwell himself narrowly escaped assassination in the street, where he had a house north of Boar’s Head Yard. While travelling along the narrow and crowded street in his state carriage he became separated from his guard. As the carriage passed a cobbler stall in the street Cromwell’s companion in the coach, Lord Broghill, saw a door in the premises open and shut, while something glittered behind it. Broghill immediately dismounted from the carriage and hammered at the cobbler’s door with his scabbard, when a tall man, armed with a sword, rushed out and made his escape into the crowd.

The Blue Boar's Head in King Street - A mid 19th century view of the inn post its re-building in the mid 18th century.

The Blue Boar’s Head in King Street – A mid 19th century view of the inn post its re-building in the mid 18th century.

Even in the mid-17th century the Bell tavern was regarded as an ancient establishment. The first known mention of the tavern occurs in 1465. Approximately 50 years later it is referred to as follows (5);

“A tenement called the Bell with a medowe and all the tenementes perteynyng to the same sett in the Kynges strete of Westminster.”

Not surprisingly the Bell Tavern was one of half a dozen taverns in King Street that was regularly visited and mentioned by Samuel Pepys’ in his diary. This particular tavern gets five mentions in the diary between March 1660 and February 1666/7 and was the location of one of his many extra marital liaisons on at least one occasion.

Shrove Tuesday 6th March 1660 – “So I went to the Bell, where were Mr. Eglin, Veezy, Vincent a butcher, one more, and Mr. Tanner, with whom I played upon a viall, and he a viallin, after dinner, and were very merry, with a special good dinner, a leg of veal and bacon, two capons and sausages and fritters, with abundance of wine. After that I went home…”

Monday 2nd July 1660 – “Met with purser Washington, with whom and a lady, a friend of his, I dined at the Bell Tavern in King Street, but the rogue had no more manners than to invite me and to let me pay my club.”

Saturday 9 January 1663/64 –After dinner by coach I carried my wife and Jane to Westminster, leaving her at Mr. Hunt’s, and I to Westminster Hall, and there visited Mrs. Lane, and by appointment went out and met her at the Trumpet, Mrs. Hare’s, but the room being damp we went to the Bell tavern, and there I had her company, but could not do as I used to do (yet nothing but what was honest) …”

Friday 14 December 1666 – “So I to Westminster Hall, and there met my good friend Mr. Evelyn, and walked with him a good while, lamenting our condition for want of good council, and the King’s minding of his business and servants. I out to the Bell Taverne, and thither comes Doll to me…”

Friday 1 February 1666/67 – “Thence by water to Billingsgate; thence to the Old Swan, and there took boat, it being now night, to Westminster Hall, there to the Hall, and find Doll Lane, and ‘con elle’ I went to the Bell Taverne, and ‘ibi je’ did do what I would ‘con elle’ as well as I could, she ‘sedendo sobre’ thus far and making some little resistance. But all with much content, and ‘je tenai’ much pleasure ‘cum ista’. There parted, and I by coach home.”

Based on the place-name evidence apparent on the earlier illustrated plan of King Street (c.1720) at first glance there appear to be two possible locations for the Bell tavern. These being;

1)      At the eastern entrance to Bell Yard at the northern end of King Street.

2)      At the eastern entrance to Bell Alley at the southern end of King Street.

Thanks to the survival of a late 17th century hand bill advertising the sale of several paintings at in Westminster during mid-October 1691 the precise location of the Bell tavern becomes very apparent;

“At the Bell-Tavern over against the Gate-House in Kings-Street Westminster. Will be exposed to sale a curious collection of paintings; being most originals, by the best masters of Europe, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the 13th 14th 15th and 16th of this instant October, 1691 Beginning exactly at four of the clock in the afternoon, and so will continue till all be sold.”

The hand bill clearly places the tavern at the head of Bell Alley at the southern end of King Street adjacent to “the Gate-House”. It is most probable that the gate house being referred to is that linking King Street with the western corner of New Palace Yard.

The southern end of King Street (c.1720) showing possible locations of the Bell tavern at the head of Bell Alley (marked in green).

The southern end of King Street (c.1720) showing possible locations of the Bell tavern at the head of Bell Alley (marked in green).

This gate house can be clearly seen behind the ornamental fountain in the upper right hand side of a contemporary view of New Palace Yard as viewed from Westminster Stairs.

New Palace Yard 1647 by Wenceslaus Hollar - The Gate House in the north-west corner is that which is described as being adjacent to the Bell tavern in 1691.

New Palace Yard 1647 by Wenceslaus Hollar – The Gate House in the north-west corner is that which is described as being adjacent to the Bell tavern in 1691.

During the reign of Queen Anne (1702 to 1714) the Bell tavern was the headquarters of the October Club, a boisterous fellowship of Tory parliamentarians who took their name from the strong winter ale they reportedly drank at their meetings.

In “A Journal to Stella”, Jonathan Swift makes an indirect reference to one of the October Club’s meetings at the Bell tavern (6);

10th February, 1710/11 –We are plagued here with an October Club that is a set of above a hundred Parliament men of the country, who drink October beer at home and meet every evening at a tavern near Parliament, to consult affairs, and drive things on to extremes against the Whigs, to call the old ministry to account, and get off five or six heads.”

A few months later when Swift happened to be eating at the Bell tavern some prominent Octoberists invited him to join them at their dinner. But, he reported;

“I sent my excuses, adorned with about thirty compliments, and got off as fast as I could. It would have been a most improper thing for me to dine there, considering my friendship with the Ministry. The Club is about a hundred and fifty, and near eighty of them were then going to dinner at two long tables in a great ground-room.”

During the first quarter of the 18th century the Bell tavern was also the meeting place of a Freemason’s Lodge. By 1751 it appears that the tavern had been re-named as the Crown tavern (7).

References:

1)      Berry, G. – Tavern Tokens of Pepy’s London. (London, 1978).

2)      Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Volume 10 – Companion. (London, 1995).

3)      Brayley, E.W. & Britton, J. – The History of the Ancient Palace and late Houses of Parliament at Westminster. (London. 1836).

4)      Besant, Sir W. & Mitton, G.E. – The Fascination of London: Westminster. (London 1902).

5)      Cox, M.H. – Survey of London: Volume 10: St. Margaret, Westminster, part I: Queen Anne’s Gate Area. (London, 1926).

6)      Rogers, P. – October Club (act. 1711–1714). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (Oxford University Press, 2013).

7)      Whatley, S. – England’s Gazetteer: Or, An Accurate Description of All the Cities, Towns, and Villages of the Kingdom. Volume 2. (London 1751).

 

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Thomas Springall of the Castle Tavern in St. Clement’s Churchyard.

A half penny token of Thomas Springall of the Castle Tavern, behind St. Clement Danes Church, Westminster

A half penny token of Thomas Springall of the Castle Tavern, behind St. Clement Danes Church, Westminster

The above copper half penny token measures 19.2 mm and weighs 1.27 grams. It was issued by Thomas Springall a vintner who operated from premises behind St. Clement Danes church in the Savoy Ward of the Westminster.

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

Obverse: (mullet) THOS. SPRINGALL . AT. THE , around a beaded circle, within the depiction of a castle comprising gateway with portcullis supported by two towers with conical caps and a similar central tower behind.

Reverse: (mullet) BEHIND . ST. CLEMENTS, around a beaded circle, within the legend in three lines HIS / HALFE / PENNY with a mullet above and below.

The token is undated but on stylistic grounds probably dates from the mid to second half of the 1660s.

Based on the obverse design of Thomas Springall’s token it is almost certain that he was the proprietor of the Castle Tavern. A tavern of this name is known to have been located in the vicinity of St. Clement Danes based on earlier numismatic evidence. A total of three separate farthings plus a half penny token, all evidently commissioned by the same landlord, were issued in the name of the Castle Tavern between c.1655 to c.1663 (Note 1). These earlier tokens variously state the location of the Castle Tavern as either “Behind” or in the “Churchyard” of St. Clement Danes. A review of the Hearth Tax returns for 1666 indicates that a Thomas Springall, of the Savoy Ward of Westminster, was paying tax on a property with 17 hearths. This would be typical of a good-sized London tavern of the period. Thomas was paying tax on the second highest number of hearths listed for any single person in the Ward except for a handful of well to do inhabitants who were obviously living in very palatial residences. 

Based on the partial addresses given for the Castle Tavern on the various tokens mentioned above, coupled with its obvious substantial size (as indicated by its large number of hearths) it is possible to hazard a guess as to its precise location. A review of John Ogilby and William Morgan’s 1676 map of London indicates one particularly large building located on the “Backside of St. Clements” adjacent to the north-west part of the parish churchyard. It is tempting to associate this building with that of the Castle Tavern.

A map of the Strand and St. Clement Danes showing the possible location of the Castle Tavern

A map of the Strand and St. Clement Danes showing the possible location of the Castle Tavern

Other than for the five separate token issues struck in the name of the Castle very little is known about this particular London tavern. In his diary entry for 21st November 1667 Samuel Pepys, the famous Diarist and Naval Administrator, records the following which may well be a direct reference to the Castle Tavern although he does not mention it by name;

“I out and took coach to Arundell House, where the meeting of Gresham College was broke up; but there meeting Creed, I with him to the taverne in St. Clement’s Churchyard, where was Deane Wilkins, Dr. Whistler, Dr. Floyd, a divine admitted, I perceive, this day, and other brave men.”

Interestingly on four earlier occasions in 1667(Note 2) Pepys visited a tavern in the Savoy Ward of Westminster which he referred to by name as the “Castle”. He also refers to this establishment as being “hard by Exeter House”; “by Exeter House” or “by the Savoy”.

26th Jan 1666/7 – I in my Lord Bruncker’s coach, he carried me to the Savoy, and there we parted. I to the Castle Tavern, where was and did come all our company, Sir W. Batten, [Sir] W. Pen, [Sir] R. Ford, and our Counsel Sir Ellis Layton, Walt Walker, Dr. Budd, Mr. Holder, and several others, and here we had a bad dinner of our preparing, and did discourse something of our business of our prizes, which was the work of the day.”

26th March 1667 – “…to Exeter House, where the judge was sitting, and after several little causes comes on ours, and while the several depositions and papers were at large reading (which they call the preparatory), and being cold by being forced to sit with my hat off close to a window in the Hall, Sir W. Pen and I to the Castle Tavern hard by and got a lobster, and he and I staid and eat it, and drank good wine;

27th March 1667 – “By water to the Castle Taverne, by Exeter House, and there met Sir W. Batten, [Sir] W. Pen, and several others, among the rest Sir Ellis Layton, who do apply himself to discourse with me…”

23th August 1667 –So being all dusty, we put into the Castle tavern, by the Savoy, and there brushed ourselves, and then to White Hall with our fellows to attend the Council, by order upon some proposition of my Lord Anglesey, we were called in.”

It appears odd that the last four diaries entries quoted refers to the Castle Tavern by name and close by the Savoy and Exeter House while the entry later in the year (i.e. 21st November) just refers to a tavern, without name, in St. Clements Churchyard. Are all five entries a reference to the same establishment or were there two Castle taverns in close proximity in the Savoy Ward of Westminster? On first examination such a prospect might seem unlikely. However, by reviewing the evidence preserved in the numismatic record there would appear significant grounds to suggest the existence of two taverns by the name of the Castle in the area.

 A farthing token exists (Note 2) in the name of a John Peek, a cook trading at or by the sign of the Castle “Against Ye Savoy” (Note 3). Thus we have clear evidence of a “Castle” adjacent to the Savoy and Exeter House plus a further one “Behind” or in the “Churchyard” of St. Clement Danes. So it does appear that there was two “Castles Taverns” in relatively close proximity to each other.

Returning now to the subject of the above half penny token’s issuer. Thomas Springall was born on 6th March 1638. He was the youngest of five children (John b.1626, George b.1630, Edmund b.1633, Katherine 1635) born to Edmund and Katherine Springall of Petworth, Sussex. His father is variously described as a yeoman and later a tailor. Thomas was apprenticed by his father to Richard Frewen, vintner of London, on 7th October 1651(1). By becoming an apprentice vintner Thomas was following in his brother Edmund’s footsteps. Edmund, was apprenticed to William Beswick (a London vintner) in 1647. There is no evidence to suggest that Thomas Springall ever took on any apprentices of his own.

It is assumed that Thomas Springall served a standard seven years apprenticeship under Richard Frewen before receiving his freedom (c.1658). Thereafter he presumably started out on his own career as a vintner. It may have been shortly after this time that Thomas took over the running of the Castle Tavern behind St. Clement Danes church.

A search of London parish registers has failed to identify any evidence of Thomas Springall’s marriage or the baptism records of any possible children he may have had. His single status is further backed up by obvious omissions to a spouse or children in his Will (date 5th September 1668)(2) and the fact that his half penny token gives no indication that he was married. It was often the case, particularly on the earlier farthing token struck in the mid-17th century, that if a token issuer was married he would often display both his and his wife’s initials in the form of a triad on the reverse of his token. This practice continued on some of the normally later issued half penny tokens of the 1660s.

Thomas made his sister Katherine’s husband, Francis Snell, the executor of his Will in which he made the following bequests and provisions;

To his widowed mother, Katherine Springall the sum of £6 to be paid in quarterly instalments.

To his brother George the sum of £5.

To Mary Challoner, his maid servant, the sum of 40 shillings.

The provision of 20 shillings to each of the following for the purchase mourning rings (Note 4) ; William Collins, Henry Maurice, Daniel Bell plus his sister Katherine and her husband Francis Snell.

The rest of Thomas’ goods and estate (after the deduction of funeral costs) were to be left to his brother-in-law Francis Snell’s eldest son, who was also named Francis.

It is possible that at the time of preparing his Will that Thomas Springall knew he was dying as a month later on 9th October 1668 his burial is recorded in the parish register of St. Clement Danes. 

Notes:

1)      One of three farthings and a half penny token issued in the names of Mr. J.P. alone or in association with one of his two wives (i.e. Mrs. J.P. and Mrs. A.P.) from the Castle tavern which is variously stated on the tokens to be either “Behind St. Clements”, “In St. Clement Danes” or in “St. Clement Churchyard”.

castle token 2

 2)      The farthing token of John Peek, a cook, who presumably traded from premises at or by the sign of the Castle against the Savoy Hospital, Westminster.

 John Peek

 3)      The reference to the “Savoy” in this instance is to the Savoy Hospital which was a principal waterfront landmark which gave its name to this particular Ward of Westminster. The Savoy Hospital was built by Henry VII on the site of the old Savoy Palace which had been largely destroyed by Watt Tyler’s followers during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1377. The hospital, for the poor and needy, opened in 1512.The grand structure was the most impressive hospital of its time in the country and the first to benefit from permanent medical staff. It closed in 1702 and in the 19th century the old hospital buildings were demolished.

The Savoy Hospital c.1650

The Savoy Hospital c.1650 by Wenceslaus Hollar

The only part of the hospital complex to survive the demolition works of the 19th century was the Savoy Chapel. Originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist the chapel served as home to the congregation of St. Mary-le-Strand. The memory of the Savoy is today retained in the names of the famous Savoy Hotel and the Savoy Theatre along with several other local buildings which now stand on or close to its original site.

4)      The presentation of mourning or funerary memorial rings was common practice in the 17th and 18th centuries particularly amongst the middle and upper classes. Many wealthy people included instructions in their will on how much money was to be set aside for the purchase and inscribing of funerary rings together with instructions as to their design plus a list of those people who were to receive them.

A mid 17th Century Deaths Head Type Funerary Ring from London

A mid 17th Century Deaths Head Type Funerary Ring from London

 In Samuel Pepys’s Will he bequeathed the grand total of 129 mourning rings be given away at his funeral. The grander and number of rings bequeathed by an individual was often an indication of their wealth. The internal shanks of such rings were often inscribed with the name of the deceased as a memorial. The designs of such rings were often “ghoulish” by modern standards and typically included skulls and cross-bones or simply a skull (i.e. the so-called deaths head design).

References:

  1. Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 43. Vintners’ Company 1609-1800. (2006).
  2. PROB/11/328. National Archives (London).

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A Ticket to Attend The Royal Touching Ceremonies of Charles II

Royal Touching Ceremony Entrance Ticket or Pass dating to the reign of Charles II

Royal Touching Ceremony Entrance Ticket or Pass dating to the reign of Charles II

The object above is an entrance ticket or pass dating from the reign of King Charles II. It measures 29.7 mm and weighs 11.15 grams and is bi-metallic comprising an inner brass core and an outer copper collar.

Unlike the tradesmen’s tokens which are the primary focus of this website the above ticket or pass had no monetary value at the time of its use between the 1660s to 1680s. It was issued by official agents of the Crown to sufferers of scrofula as a form of official entrance ticket or pass to one of Charles II’s royal healing or “touching” ceremonies. These were held in the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall throughout his reign.

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

Obverse: CAR . II . D . G. M . B . FR . ET . HI . REX (six pointed star) around the depiction of a three masted ship sailing left (Note 1).

Reverse: SOLI DEO GLORIA (six pointed star) around the depiction of the angel Michael spearing a recumbent dragon at his feet.

Before considering the method of issue and use of the above types of ticket or pass it is worth explaining further the context of their use and the formal ceremony to which they gave their bearer access.

 The Curative Royal Touch for King’s Evil and the presentation of Touch-Pieces

Historically in Britain scrofula or the “King’s Evil” was a name applied to a variety of skin diseases but in particular a form of tuberculosis, affecting the lymph nodes of the neck and which resulted in bulbous swellings and sores. It has been estimated that in 17th century London 1% of the population were suffers of the disease which effected people of all social classes.

From the reigns of King Edward the Confessor in England (1003 to 1066) and Philip I (1052 to 1108) in France it was believed that a touch from the king could cure diseases given that the monarch had been granted divine powers. Subsequent English and French kings were believed to have inherited this “royal touch”, which was taken as an indication of their god given right to rule. In grand ceremonies, kings touched hundreds of suffers afflicted by scrofula. In later years those attending such healing ceremonies also received a gold coin, typically an Angel, from the monarch which was also believed to be blessed with an extension of the monarch’s healing powers. These presentational coins became known as “touch-pieces” and over time became treated as amulets and were pierced for wearing around the recipient’s neck by a ribbon.

A gold Angel of Henry VIII - First Coinage Issue, 1509-1526

A gold Angel of Henry VIII – First Coinage Issue, 1509-1526

The last Angels to be minted for general circulation were issued in 1642(1) from the Royal Mint which was located in the Tower of London. After this date the mint was seized by Parliament at the start of the Civil War and in whose control it remained until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.

During the reign of James I the location of the royal touching ceremony was transferred from the Chapel Royal to the Banqueting House within the Palace of Whitehall(2) , Westminster. This continued to be the London venue for the ceremony throughout the reign of Charles I. During the Commonwealth period the practice ceased on British soil although it was continued by Charles II while in exile on the continent. On his restoration in 1660 he was quick to restore the ceremony, presumably as a means of re-affirming his rightful position as monarch through the practice of a divinely given gift (i.e. that of healing by touch).

In September 1660 Thomas Simon, the mint’s then chief engraver, was ordered to prepare sketches and dies for a new series of Angels(1).

Thomas Simon's Sketch for the proposed new Angel coinage of Charles II

Thomas Simon’s Sketch for the proposed new Angel coinage of Charles II

While there was an obvious early intent by Charles II to restore the Angel into common circulation within the Kingdom, and for use as touch-pieces, it never happened. However, in February 1664/5 Charles commissioned a new supply of purpose made gold “touch-pieces” from the mint at the Tower of London(2). The first issue of these new presentational medalets was struck from dies which were almost certainly cut by John Roettiers who was one of the mint’s chief engravers. Over Charles II’s reign six separate sets of dies were commissioned for the on-going striking of touch-pieces. Although the same emblems as used on the old Angels (i.e. St. Michael spearing a fallen dragon plus a ship in full sail) were maintained on the new touch-pieces their designs were different to those of the earlier Angels in that the monarch’s titles were switched to appear on the side depicting the ship, thus making it the obverse whereas on the Angel it had been on the reverse side.

A golden Touch-Piece of Charles II

A golden Touch-Piece of Charles II

During Charles II’s reign the royal touching ceremony became immensely popular. It is estimated that between 1660 and 1684 the king administered the royal touch to no fewer than 105,000 people, all of whom would have received one of the touch-pieces which contained the equivalent of 10 shillings worth of 22 carat gold(2).

During the reign of Charles II the touching ceremonies were held on Fridays between 1st November and 18th December, then during the months of January and for a month over Easter. It was suspended over the warmer months of the year to lessen the risk of spreading infection of any diseases amongst the gathered masses.

The first of Charles II’s touching ceremonies was attended by 600 suffers. However, thereafter the number was reduced to a more manageable 200 per session. While most of those who attended the Whitehall touching ceremony would have been from London and the Home Counties there is evidence that some of those who attended were from much further afield. Records exist of a petition addressed to the local assembly of Portsmouth, New Hampshire (USA) which was presented by a colonial sufferer of scrofula who wanted financial assistance to travel to London to be receive the royal touch(2).

The first touching ceremony performed by Charles II after his restoration was held on Saturday 23rd June 1660. It was recorded by both the diarists Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Pepys’ diary entry relating to this event is only very brief(3).

“So to my Lord’s lodgings, where Tom Guy came to me, and there staid to see the King touch people for the King’s evil. But he did not come at all, it rayned so; and the poor people were forced to stand all the morning in the rain in the garden. Afterward he touched them in the Banquetting-house.”

John Evelyn’s account of the event however, is far more detailed despite the fact that it entered erroneously in his diary under the date 6th July(4).

“His Majesty began first to Touch for the Evil according to custome: Thus, his Majestie sitting under his State in the Banqueting house: The Chirurgeons cause the sick to be brought or led up to the throne, who kneeling, the King strokes their faces or cheekes with both his hands at once: at which instant a Chaplaine in his formalitie, says, He put his hand upon them, and he healed them, this is sayd, to everyone in particular: when they have been all touch’d they come up againe in the same order and the Chaperlaine kneeling and Angel gold, strung on white ribbon on his arme, delivers them one by one to his majestie: and Who puts them about the neck of the Touched as the passe: whilest the first Chaperlaine repeates: That is the true light who came into the World: Then followes an Epistle (as at first a Gospell) with the Liturgy prayers for the sick with some alteration: Lastly the blessing; And then the Lo: Chamberlaine and Comptroller of the household bring basin, Ewer and towell for his Majestie to wash:”

(Left) Front piece from John Browne's Adenochoiradelogia (London, 1684) depicting Charless II presiding at a Royal Touching Ceremony at the Banqueting House, Westminster. (Right) The Banqueting House as it appears today.

(Left) Front piece from John Browne’s Adenochoiradelogia (London, 1684) depicting Charles II presiding at a Royal Touching Ceremony at the Banqueting House, Westminster. (Right) The Banqueting House as it appears today.

After Charles II’s death touching ceremonies continued under his brother King James II although it is understood that he was a less keen advocate of the practice as his older brother had been. After the succession of King William III and Queen Mary the ceremony was temporarily stopped until being resumed for a final period (in Britain at least) under the patronage of Queen Anne. She performed the ceremony for the last time on the 30th March 1712 in St. James’s Palace, Westminster.

Amongst the last 300 people that day who receive the royal touch and receive one of the last issued golden touch-pieces was a young boy of nearly three years of age who suffered from poor eyesight believed to be a result of scrofula. The little boy was the son of a book seller from Lichfield in Staffordshire. His family had been recommended to seek the royal touch for their son by Sir John Floyer, a former physician to Charles II. After making the three day journey to London with his parents and attaining an entrance ticket to the ceremony, after first being medically certified as eligible by an appointed doctor, he was admitted to the royal touching ceremony. The ceremony obviously made a marked impression on the young boy’s memory. As a grown man, many years later, he recalled his vague memories of the event and how he had met a lady wearing diamonds and a long black hood(2).While he may not have recalled receiving a golden touch-piece from her he undoubtedly did as he wore it on a ribbon around his neck for the rest of his life. After his death this touch-piece was kept safe and later found its way into the collection of the British Museum where it remains today. While this is not a particularly remarkable story it is made far more interesting once the identity boy is revealed. The boy grew up to become the famed Dr. Samuel Johnson the renowned poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.

Dr. Samuel Jouhnson Touch-Piece - Presented to him by Queen Anne 30th March 1712 at the last ever Royal Touching Ceremony held in Britain

Dr. Samuel Johnson Touch-Piece – Presented to him by Queen Anne 30th March 1712 at the last ever Royal Touching Ceremony held in Britain

Royal Touching Ceremony Entrance Tickets

The number of sufferers wishing to attend the royal touching ceremonies throughout the 17th century was considerable. While there was a genuine belief on the part of most attending such ceremonies that they could be healed there was also the allure of 10 shillings worth of gold in the form of the presentational touch-piece they would be given. While sufferers were only meant to attend one touch ceremony in their lifetime the temptation of receiving 10 shillings worth of gold meant that many fraudulently tried and did attend on multiple occasions(5). From the reign of Charles I onwards, in order to control the numbers of people attending each ceremony and to ensure that they didn’t attend on multiple occasions, certain control measures were put in place. The list of control measures were further extended after the restoration of Charles II and by then included the following;

1)      Those wishing to attend the ceremony had to obtain a special certificate or declaration letter from their parish minister and church wardens confirming that they were suffering from the “King’s Evil” and that they had not previously attended a royal touching ceremony.

2)      The day prior to the ceremony those wishing to take part were to attend the Sergeant-Surgeon whose duty it was to confirm them as suffering from the “King’s Evil”.

3)      On the basis that those wishing to receive the royal touch had met the above two requirements they were given an admission ticket to the ceremony in the form of a metal token or ticket. On presenting this ticket to officials at the Banqueting House on the day of the ceremony the bearer was granted admission.

Both Charles I and II employed the use of entrance tickets to their touching ceremonies. None of the entrance tickets used during the reign of Charles I have survived whist those used during the time of his son have. The entrance tickets used under Charles II were almost identical in design to the gold touch-pieces medalets commissioned in 1664/5. However, at 29 mm as opposed to 22 mm, their diameter was slightly larger than the new touch-pieces. Also the tickets incorporated six pointed stars which separated the beginning from the end of their obverse and reverse legends. Like the new touch-pieces, the dies used to strike the admission tickets were probably engraved by John Roettiers of the Royal Mint in the Tower of London. There is no evidence to confirm when in Charles II’s reign the admission tickets were introduced. The similarity of their design to that of his new touch-pieces has led some to the conclusion that the tickets were a copy of touch-pieces and so were introduced shortly after the striking of the first batch of the new medalets. However, given that Charles was conducting touching ceremonies as early as July 1660, presumably using a supply of earlier dynastic Angels, there is no reason that the admission tickets weren’t struck early in his reign and that the design of the new touch-pieces of 1664/5 was based on those of the tickets. As early as July 1660 there is official mention in the Parliamentary Journal of “tickets” being issued to gain access to the touching ceremony(6).

“His Majesty hath for the future, appointed every Friday for the core; at which time, two hundred and no more are to be represented to him, who are first to repair to Mr. Knight, the king’s surgeon, living at the Cross Guns in Russel Street, Covent Garden over against the Rose Tavern, for their tickets. That none might lose their labour, he thought fit to make it known, that he will be at his home every Wednesday and Thursday, from two till six of the clock, to attend that service; and if any persons of quality shall send to him, he will wait upon them at their lodgings, upon notice given to him.”

It is possible that the tickets referred to in the contemporary account above could have been hand written or, less likely, metallic tickets-tokens previously used in the time of Charles I.

After their collection on the day of each touching ceremony the admission tickets were re-issued for use on future occasions.  However, to further reduce the possibility of people gaining fraudulent entry to the ceremonies (possibly via the use of counterfeit tickets) the organising officials randomly alternated between the use of four different varieties of the tickets which, while obviously different in appearance, varied only in as much as the metal flans on which they were struck, i.e. copper, copper with a brass centre (as per the one illustrated at the beginning of this article) brass and brass with a copper centre. The bi-metallic copper & brass tickets are much rarer than the other two types.  It is noted that some surviving examples of these entrance tickets have either one or two notches filed in their upper edges. The notches have been made purposely and in a non-haphazard fashion. It has been suggested that such identifying marks were made as a further method of establishing their validity and to counter-act fraudulent entry to the ceremonies(2).

The continual collection and re-issue of the tickets would help account for their comparative scarcity. Some will have inevitably been lost in the continual process of reuse. Some examples have been clearly pierced for suspension which has given rise to the idea that these examples, at least, were actually used as touch-pieces in place of the usual gold medalets. Alternatively these pierced base metal tickets may just have escaped collection and then been pierced for wearing in the belief that they posed the same healing powers as the gold touch-pieces.

Notes:

1)      The ship on both the touching ceremony entrance tickets and Charles II’s gold touch-pieces can be identified as “The Sovereign of the Seas” which was launched at Woolwich in 1637. At 1,637 tons with 102 guns the ship was the largest afloat at that time. She cost £65,000 to build which was ten times more than any other man-of-war of the time. It is ironic that Charles II should have selected an image of this ship to adorn his touch-pieces as it had contributed so much to his father’s downfall through the unpopular Ship Tax

His Majesty's royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas - a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

His Majesty’s royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas – a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

The ship was re-named “The Sovereign” in 1651 and then “The Royal Sovereign” in 1685. During her operational life she took part in the battles of Kentish Knock, Beachy Head and La Hogue. The vessel was accidentally destroyed by fire on 27th January 1696 at Chatham. A few days later the diarist John Evelyn wrote in his diary(4), “The R. Sovereign burnt at Chatham, that ship built in 1637 was perhaps the original Cause of all the after trouble to this day” – a judgement written seven years after the “Glorious Revolution”.

References:

  1. Farquhar, H. – Royal Charities. Part II – Touchpieces for the King’s Evil. – British Numismatic Journal. Volume 15. (London, 1919).
  2. Woolf, N. – The Sovereign Remedy: Touch-Pieces and the King’s Evil – British Numismatic Journal. Volume 49. (London, 2011).
  3. Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Volume I – 1660 (Harper Collins, 2010).
  4. De Beer, E.S. – The Diary of John Evelyn. (Everyman Edition. London 2006).
  5. Lysons, Rev. D. – The Environs of London: Being an Historical Account of the Towns, Villages and Hamlets within 12 miles of the Capital. Volume I. County of Surrey. (London. 1792). Page 82, Footnote 40 siting Mercurious Politicus, 21st February 1661.
  6. Lysons, Rev. D. – The Environs of London: Being an Historical Account of the Towns, Villages and Hamlets within 12 miles of the Capital. Volume I. County of Surrey. (London. 1792). Page 82-83, Footnote 41 siting Parliamentary Journal, 2 to 9th July 1661.

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Thomas Blagrave at the Crown tavern in Threadneedle Street

A half penny token issued in the name of Thomas Blagrave of Threadneedle Street, London

A half penny token issued in the name of Thomas Blagrave of Threadneedle Street, London

The above brass half penny token measures 20.7 mm and weighs 2.34 grams. It was issued by Thomas Blagrave (or Blagrove), the one time keeper of “The Crown” tavern off Threadneedle Street in the Broad Street Ward of the City of London.

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

Obverse: (six pointed mullet) THO. BLAGRAVE. AT. YE. TAVERN, around a twisted wire circle, within the depiction of a crown.

Reverse: (six pointed mullet) IN. THREEDNEEDLE. STREET, around a twisted wire circle, within a legend in three lines; HIS / HALFE / PENY

The token is undated but is likely to have been issued during the mid to late 1660s.  

The location of the Crown tavern in Threadneedle Street (London)  opposite the Royal Exchange (c.1720)

The location of the Crown tavern in Threadneedle Street (London) opposite the Royal Exchange (c.1720)

 The Crown tavern stood in a little alley leading off the north side of Threadneedle Street, facing the north end of Castle Alley. The latter alley ran along the west side of the Royal Exchange building. During this period there were reputedly at least 20 different taverns close by the Royal Exchange and several more coffee houses. These were very well frequented by the local business community and were a popular haunt of the Fellows of the Royal Society. These included Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle who regularly called at the Crown after attending lectures at nearby Gresham College. According to Robert Hooke the Society also held their annual Anniversary dinners at the Crown tavern between 1673 and 1679. The 1668 Hearth Tax returns suggest  that the Crown had 19 hearths which indicates it was a tavern of considerable size (3).

Contemporaies of Samuel Pepys who were regulars in the Crown Tavern - From left to right are Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke

Contemporaies of Samuel Pepys who were regulars in the Crown Tavern – From left to right are Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke

The Crown tavern was burnt down during the Great Fire of 1666 but was soon rebuilt. The new tavern was on the eastern side of the first Bank of England close to the re-built parish church of St. Christopher le Stocks.

Thomas Blagrave was born in Lambourn, Berkshire in c.1627 the son of William and Dorothy Blagrave (1). It is not known when Thomas moved to London but by March of 1641/2 he is recorded as an apprentice to William Trestene in the registers of the London Vintners’ Company (2). Between c.1653 to c.1659 Thomas, and his wife Jane (maiden name Taylor), ran the King’s Head tavern in New Fish Street, London. During their tenancy at this tavern they issued a set of farthing trade tokens bearing a triad of their combined initials on their reverse sides. Thereafter the couple moved to the Antwerp tavern in Bartholomew Lane, opposite the Royal Exchange, off Threadneedle Street. This was a tavern of some considerable size as confirmed from the Hearth Tax returns of 1662 which records it having 18 hearths. Thomas Blagrave kept this establishment until c.1663 (2) when his family moved literally round the corner to take over the running of the Crown tavern on Threadneedle Street.

The Royal Exchange Building off Threadneedle Street London (c.1569)

The Royal Exchange Building off Threadneedle Street London (c.1569)

During their marriage Thomas and Jane had at least four children (4). Two of them, Benjamin (b.1659) and Charles (b.1661), were born while they kept the Antwerp Tavern. A further two, Hannah (b.1667) and Thomas (b.1670/71), were born while they were resident at the Crown tavern.

 In the accounts of St. Christopher le Stocks parish church “Captain” Thomas Blagrave is variously listed from 1664 as being one of the leading parishioners (3). From 1681 Thomas’ rating assessment within the parish was second only to that of John Houblon who is frequently mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his diaries. Houblon was the first Governor of the Bank of England. 

John Houblon - a contemporary of Thomas Blagrave ad also a fellow leading parishener in the parish of St. Christopher le Stocks

John Houblon – a contemporary of Thomas Blagrave ad also a fellow leading parishener in the parish of St. Christopher le Stocks

While Pepys diaries make no reference to Thomas Blagrave by name it does contain eight separate mentions of the diarist visiting the Crown tavern during the period 1665 to 1666. These diary entries are listed below.  References to the “club” and “’Change” in these refer to the Royal Society and Royal Exchange respectively.

Tuesday 31st January 1664/65

So to the ‘Change, back by coach with Sir W. Batten, and thence to the Crowne, a taverne hard by, with Sir W. Rider and Cutler, where we alone, a very good dinner. Thence home to the office, and there all the afternoon late.

Wednesday 15th February 1664/65

Thence with Creed to Gresham College, where I had been by Mr. Povy the last week proposed to be admitted a member;1 and was this day admitted, by signing a book and being taken by the hand by the President, my Lord Brunkard, and some words of admittance said to me. But it is a most acceptable thing to hear their discourse, and see their experiments; which were this day upon the nature of fire, and how it goes out in a place where the ayre is not free, and sooner out where the ayre is exhausted, which they showed by an engine on purpose. After this being done, they to the Crowne Taverne, behind the ‘Change, and there my Lord and most of the company to a club supper; Sir P. Neale, Sir R. Murrey, Dr. Clerke, Dr. Whistler, Dr. Goddard, and others of most eminent worth. Above all, Mr. Boyle to-day was at the meeting, and above him Mr. Hooke, who is the most, and promises the least, of any man in the world that ever I saw. Here excellent discourse till ten at night, and then home…

Monday 22nd January 1665/66

Thence by water in the darke down to Deptford, and there find my Lord Bruncker come and gone, having staid long for me. I back presently to the Crowne taverne behind the Exchange by appointment, and there met the first meeting of Gresham College since the plague. Dr. Goddard did fill us with talke, in defence of his and his fellow physicians going out of towne in the plague-time; saying that their particular patients were most gone out of towne, and they left at liberty; and a great deal more, &c. But what, among other fine discourse pleased me most, was Sir G. Ent about Respiration; that it is not to this day known, or concluded on among physicians, nor to be done either, how the action is managed by nature, or for what use it is. Here late till poor Dr. Merriot was drunk, and so all home, and I to bed.

Wednesday 14th February 1665/66

So home, they set me down at the ‘Change, and I to the Crowne, where my Lord Bruncker was come and several of the Virtuosi, and after a small supper and but little good discourse I with Sir W. Batten (who was brought thither with my Lord Bruncker) home.

Saturday 3rd March 1665/66

After a small dinner and a little discourse I away to the Crowne behind the Exchange to Sir W. Pen, Captain Cocke and Fen, about getting a bill of Cocke’s paid to Pen, in part for the East India goods he sold us. Here Sir W. Pen did give me the reason in my eare of his importunity for money, for that he is now to marry his daughter.

Friday 16th March 1665/66

Up and all the morning about the Victualler’s business, passing his account. At noon to the ‘Change, and did several businesses, and thence to the Crowne behind the ‘Change and dined with my Lord Bruncker and Captain Cocke and Fenn, and Madam Williams, who without question must be my Lord’s wife, and else she could not follow him wherever he goes and kisse and use him publiquely as she do.

Monday 2nd April 1666

Thence to the Crowne tavern behind the Exchange to meet with Cocke and Fenn and did so, and dined with them, and after dinner had the intent of our meeting, which was some private discourse with Fenn, telling him what I hear and think of his business, which he takes very kindly and says he will look about him.

Monday 4th June 1666

Thence back with Mr. Hooke to my house and there lent some of my tables of naval matters, the names of rigging and the timbers about a ship, in order to Dr. Wilkins’ book coming out about the Universal Language. Thence, he being gone, to the Crown, behind the ‘Change, and there supped at the club with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Ent, and others of Gresham College.

 Thomas Blagrave’s wife Jane died in May of 1683 and was buried at the neighbouring church of St. Christopher le Stocks where two of the couple’s children, Benjamin and Thomas, had previously been interred in May and June of 1676 respectively. In 1687 it appears that Thomas got re-married to a 36 year old widower by the name of Hannah Taylor. While he was still running the Crown tavern his place of residence was given on the marriage license as Isleworth in Middlesex. Thomas died on 17th September 1693 aged 66.

 

An aerial view of the west end of Threadneedle Street showing the new Royal Echange building plus the south facing view of the Bank of England. The Crown tavern was located to the right hand side of the Bank of England's main entrance which is marked in red

An aerial view of the west end of Threadneedle Street showing the new Royal Echange building plus the south facing view of the Bank of England. The Crown tavern was located to the right hand side of the Bank of England’s main entrance which is marked in red

By the start of the 18th century the Crown tavern had become a coffee-house and by the 1760s it was no-longer trading and had become absorbed within the buildings of its neighbour the Bank of England. Its location on maps of the period is marked by the site of Crown Court. Today the tavern is long gone. Its location would have been slightly to the east of the main entrance of the present Bank of England at the western end of Threadneedle Street.

Foot Notes:

1)      Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London – A data base comprising 238 volumes and 27 volumes of Index which lists some 60,000 inhabitants of London from 15th to the 19th centuries.

2)      Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 43. Vintners’ Company 1609-1800. (2006). – According to the summarised entry of Thomas’ apprenticeship indentures his place origin is listed as Wing in Buckinghamshire. This was his mother’s home village and he may have moved from Lambourn in Berkshire (his birth place) to live with family on his mother’s side prior to moving to London.

3)      Berry, G. – Tavern Tokens of Pepy’s London. (London, 1978).

4)      According to Boyd’s “Inhabitants of London” Thomas and Jane Blagrave had a further child, Jane who was married a Thomas Lechmere in 1677 in Westminster Abbey. The present writer has not been able to find conclusive evidence to support this or that Jane was not the daughter of a different Thomas Blagrave, i.e. Thomas Blagrave the Royal Court musician (d. 1688) who lived in Westminster and who was possibly very distantly related to the same Berkshire family as Thomas Blagrave the token issuer).

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The King’s Head at Chancery Lane End

A farthing token issued in the name of the King's Head Tavern on the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, London

A farthing token issued in the name of the King’s Head Tavern on the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, London

The above copper farthing token measures 16.1 mm and weighs 1.63 grams. It was issued in the name of The King’s Head Tavern which was located on the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street in the City of London.

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

Obverse: .THE.KINGS.HEAD.TAVERNE , around the central depiction of a the facing head and shoulders of King Henry VIII.
Reverse: .AT.CHANCERY.LANE.END. , around a triad of initials comprising T | .K. | .A

The King’s Head is first recorded in 1472. It was one of the forty permitted taverns (as opposed to inns or the later introduced “ordinaries”) fully licensed to operate within London under an Act passed in 1553. From his diary entries (1663-69) we know that Samuel Pepys was familiar with at least 10 of these earlier listed taverns including the King’s Head. Despite the fact that his travels to and from the Navy Office and Whitehall would have taken him past the King’s Head on a regular basis Pepys only records two visits to the tavern during the six years he was writing his diary.  These are reproduced (in part) below.  The reference may be to a separate establishment of the same name in a different part of the city as Pepys refers to the establishment as an “ordinary” as opposed to a tavern. There were discreet differences between taverns, inns and ordinaries and it is doubtful that Pepys would have confused the two definitions. The King’s Head at the southern end of Chancery Lane was a well-known city tavern and land mark.

21th June 1665

“Up and to White Hall with Sir J. Minnes, and to the Committee of Tangier, where my Lord Treasurer was, the first and only time he ever was there, and did promise us £15,000. for Tangier and no more, which will be short. But if I can pay Mr. Andrews all his money I care for no more, and the bills of Exchange. Thence with Mr. Povy and Creed below to a new chamber of Mr. Povy’s, very pretty, and there discourse about his business, not to his content, but with the most advantage I could to him, and Creed also did the like. Thence with Creed to the King’s Head, and there dined with him at the ordinary, and good sport with one Mr. Nicholls, a prating coxcombe, that would be thought a poet, but would not be got to repeat any of his verses. Thence I home, and there find my wife’s brother and his wife, a pretty little modest woman, where they dined with my wife.”

2nd April 1668

“Thence with Lord Brouncker to the Royall Society, where they were just done; but there I was forced to subscribe to the building of a College, and did give £40.; and several others did subscribe, some greater and some less sums; but several I saw hang off: and I doubt it will spoil the Society, for it breeds faction and ill-will, and becomes burdensome to some that cannot, or would not, do it. Here, to my great content, I did try the use of the Otacousticon, —[Ear trumpet.]— which was only a great glass bottle broke at the bottom, putting the neck to my eare, and there I did plainly hear the dashing of the oares of the boats in the Thames to Arundell gallery window, which, without it, I could not in the least do, and may, I believe, be improved to a great height, which I am mighty glad of. Thence with Lord Brouncker and several of them to the King’s Head Taverne by Chancery Lane, and there did drink and eat and talk, and, above the rest, I did hear of Mr. Hooke and my Lord an account of the reason of concords and discords in musique, which they say is from the equality of vibrations; but I am not satisfied in it, but will at my leisure think of it more, and see how far that do go to explain it. So late at night home with Mr. Colwell, and parted, and I to the office, and then to Sir W. Pen to confer with him, and Sir R. Ford and Young, about our St. John Baptist prize, and so home, without more supper to bed, my family being now little by the departure of my wife and two maids.”

The location of the King's Head Tavern on the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, London (c.1720)

The location of the King’s Head Tavern on the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, London (c.1720)

Three separate sets of tokens (two farthings and a half penny) were issued in the name of the King’s Head tavern by three successive landlords. Each of these sets of tokens carries the initials of their respective issuers. While none of the tokens  are dated it is possible to arrange them in a chronological issuing sequence as their respective issuers have been identified and their tenancies approximately date as follows;

T.K. & A.K. – Thomas Kent and his wife (Anne?) who ran the tavern from 1630 to 1660

L.W. & H.M. – The partnership of Lewis Wilson and Henry Morris who ran the tavern between 1660 to c.1662. After which Henry Morris appears to have left the partnership.

W.M. & K.M. – William Mart and his wife (Katherine?) who ran the tavern between 1666 to 1682. Prior to this the couple had run the Queen’s Head in Fleet Street where they also issued trade tokens.

The farthing token illustrated above is one of those issued during the tenancy of Thomas Kent and his wife. This is indicated by the triad of issuers’ initials displayed on its reverse side. Thomas Kent’s name first appears in the St. Dunstan’s list of vintners in 1630 and remains on it until 1660. In the Lambeth Tithes list of 1638 his rent is accessed as £70. A poll list of 1660 includes a reference “Mr. Thomas Kent, vintner, has been warden“. In a further parish list of the same year Kent’s name is replaced by those of Henry Morris and Lewis Wilson (1).

According to one reference only the first and second floors of the ancient four-story building on the corner of Fleet Street and Chancery Lane were devoted to housing the King’s Head tavern. Amongst other rooms the tavern possessed a dedicated dining room plus a music room (2). The Hearth Tax return for Fleet Street in 1666 indicates that during the tenancy of William Mart the King’s Head possessed 20 hearths.. The building’s ground floor housed shops. One was a grocery which was run by the father of the famous 17th century poet Abraham Cowley another a book shop run by Thomas Maxey from where he printed and sold the first edition of Izaak Walton’s “Complete Angler”. Luckily for all the tradesmen that operated from this ancient building the Great Fire of London (1666) stopped just short of its location on Fleet Street.

During Samuel Pepys’ time the King’s Head tavern was known as a “Protestant House”. Between c.1675 and 1683 it was the meeting place of the Green Ribbon Club (3) . This notorious group comprised lawyers, city politicians, and MPs alarmed by what they perceived to be a drift towards “popery” and arbitrary government under King Charles II together with the prospect of Charles’ brother, the Duke of York (later King James II), inheriting the throne.  The club took its name from the green ribbons which its members wore in their hats and which subsequently proved to be a useful means of recognition in street brawls. The choice of this emblematic badge was derived from the similar ribbons attached to the clothes worn by the Levellers. The Levellers were a pre-eminent political group that rose to prominence during the English Civil Wars and which had a significant following with Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army as well as within the general populace of the city of London. Many of the club’s members had extreme protestant views and were supporters of Titus Oates and his anti-Catholic rantings. They were also associated with the Rye House Plot and the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion. According to the playwright John Dryden, drinking was the chief attraction of the club and the members talked and organized sedition over their cups.

Prior to 1679 the club’s had been known as the King’s Head Club, after the tavern where they met. The tavern’s trade sign depicted of the head of King Henry VIII (as per that used on its tokens). As Henry was Britain’s first protestant ruler it made this already well-known Fleet Street tavern the ideal meeting place and emblematic home of the club.

Included amongst the club’s most notable members were the Duke of Monmouth, the Earl of Halifax, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury. The latter famously harangued Samuel Pepys, during his early parliamentary career, accusing him of being a Roman-catholic in an attempt to undermine him.

In 1680 and 1681 the club organised pope-burning processions on the anniversary dates of Queen Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne. These ended by the lighting of huge bonfires in front of the King’s Head tavern and proved an effective means of inflaming the religious passions of the populace.

William Hogarth's depiction of a street celebration in April 1653 outside the King's Head tavern in Fleet Street applauding the dissolution of the Rump Parliment by Oliver Cromwell.

William Hogarth’s depiction of a street celebration in April 1653 outside the King’s Head tavern in Fleet Street applauding the dissolution of the Rump Parliament by Oliver Cromwell.

A near contemporary image of Fleet Street looking west towards Temple Bar Gate can be found in an engraving by William Hogarth. The vantage point for this view is at, or very close to, the street frontage of the King’s Head tavern. This image was commissioned as part of a set of prints to illustrate an issue of Samuel Butlers poem “Hudibras”. The content of the print is that of a street protest against the “Rump Parliament” which was dissolved by Oliver Cromwell on 20th April 1653. Its depicts members of the public roasting rump steaks on an open bonfire together with full size effigies of members of parliament being hung from shop front signs. This possibly fictitious scene will know doubt have resembled the actual events which took place outside the King’s Head tavern in 1680 and 1681 when the Green Ribbon Club’s pope-burning processions reached their climactic finale.

In the late 17th century Robert Hooke and other fellows of the Royal Society are noted by one source (4) to have regularly met at the King’s Head Tavern. As President of the society from 1684 to 1686 Samuel Pepys was probably amongst those notable members who attended such meetings. No doubt the meetings of the Royal Society members were less rowdy and quieter affairs than the earlier meetings of the Green Ribbon Club.

A late 18th century painting of the building which once housed the King's Head Tavern

A late 18th century painting of the building which once housed the King’s Head Tavern (by William Alexander 1767-1816).

 A late 18th century image of the building is preserved in a picture by the artist William Alexander. The tavern’s distinctive trade sign, which depicted the head of King Henry VIII, is no-longer visible in this picture which confirms its was painted after the tavern had ceased to operate. The tavern was demolished in 1799 af the widening of Chancery Lane (2). Today the site of its original location is occupied by George Attenborough & Son (jewellers at 193 Fleet Street).

References:

1) Berry, G. – Tavern Tokens of Pepy’s London. (London, 1978).

2) Wheatley, H.B – London: Past and Present: Its History, Associations and Traditions. (London, 1891).

3) Shelley, H.C. – Inns and Taverns of Old London. (London, 1909).

4) Jungnickel, C. & MacCormmach, R. – Cavendish. (Philadelphia, 1996).

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The Fleece in Covent Garden

A farthing token issued in the name of the Fleece Tavern in Covent Garden, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Fleece Tavern in Covent Garden, Westminster

The above copper farthing token measures 15.6 mm and weighs 0.94 grams. It was issued in the name of The Fleece Tavern in Bridges Street. This now lost street lay off the eastern side of Covent Garden in Westminster.

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

Obverse: (mullet) AT.THE.FLEECE.TAVERNE , around the central depiction of  a sheep’s body facing left and suspended in a harness around its middle.
Reverse: (mullet) .IN.COVEN.GARDEN. , around twisted wire inner circle, letters W.C within.

This is one of two undated tokens, a farthing and a half penny, of similar design which were issued from the Fleece Tavern in Covent Garden and which bear the issuer’s initials W.C. The slightly larger half penny tokens also carry the issuers name in full, William Clifton, so there is no doubt who was responsible for their issue.

Although not a common inn sign today the emblem of the Fleece or Golden Fleece was not uncommon in the 17th century. As well as being a common inn sign it was also adopted by tradesmen working in branches of the wool trade.

A plan of Covernt Garden (c.1720) showing the approxiamest location of the Fleece Tavern

A plan of Covent Garden (c.1720) showing the approximate location of the Fleece Tavern

Immediately after the Restoration the taverns of Covent Garden, notably the Rose and the Fleece taverns on Bridges Street, gained an unsavoury reputation as places of licentiousness and violence which included several mur­derous assaults that took place on their premises.

The establishment of the Fleece tavern dates to the building of Bridges Street in 1632. According to one early token researcher, Henry Beaufoy,(1)  an entry in the 1651 rate book for the Covent Garden area notes the Fleece tavern as being located six houses down from the corner of Bridges Street and Russell Street, an area later taken up by the Drury Lane Theatre. The same rate book also confirms that William Clifton was then the tavern’s landlord. The location of the Fleece on the south-west side of Bridges Street is confirmed by later authors. However, John Aubrey (2) writing in 1696 claims it to have been in York Street. This may allude to the tavern having a back entrance, no doubt a very convenient resource for such a dubious establishment.

Prior to 1633/4 William Clifton was landlord of the Goat tavern in nearby Russell Street before moving to the Fleece where he took over from the previous landlord, Thomas Gough (3) . After arriving in his new premises in Bridges Street he soon appeared to have issues with William and Mary Long, who ran the neighbouring Rose tavern which was located on the corner of Bridges Street and Russell Street. The Fleece seems to have been a more prosperous establishment than its neighbour. According to one previous study (1)  in the local rate book of 1657 William Clifton is assessed at 26/- whilst William Long at the Rose was assessed at only half that amount. This relative prosperity bias may be down to the comparative size of the two establishments. In the 1666 Hearth Tax return from the Covent Garden district the entry for William Clifton is for a sizeable premises with 24 hearths while that for Mary Long (at the Rose) is for on 14 hearths. Despite running a large tavern such as the Fleece it appears that William Clifton still found time to undertake additional responsibilities within his local parish (St. Paul’s, Covent Garden). In 1644 he is reported as being an overseer of the poor (4).

The churchwardens’ accounts for St. Paul, Covent Garden contain several references to the Fleece;

1657 – refer to a payment of 26/- “for mending the grate over the sewer by the Fleece Tavern”.

1658 – payment on 12th April to “Mr. Clifton £3-13-0 for wine for the last yeare”‘.

There is a further mention of William Clifton in an issue of the Kingdom‘s Intelligencer of December 1661. A public announcement refers to the loss of a looking-glass and some gilt leather hangings. Anyone who knew of their whereabouts and who reported the matter to “Mr. Clifton at the Fleece Tavern” was to be rewarded with 40 shillings.

In the original research undertaken into this token issuer by Henry Beaufoy he mentions that he was unable to discover Clifton’s name in the burial registers of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden although there were interments recorded for the following related or associated individuals;

12th November 1658 – Mr. Clifton’s man

21st March 1661 – Thomas, son of William Clifton

13th September 1672 – Amey Watts, Mr. Clifton’s servant

26th February 1675 – Widow ………… More, from the Fleece – The parish clerk had left a blank in the register and added a footnote that he did “not lerne her christian name” 

St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden - Much as it would have appeared when originally built in 1633

St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden – Much as it would have appeared when originally built in 1633

Clifton was vintner at the Fleece from 1633/4 until at least 1672. According to one source William died in 1672 and his wife, Martha, continued as landlady. The current researcher has not been able to find any records of the marriage of William and Martha Clifton. The farthing and half penny tokens issued in the name of the Fleece only bear William’s initials, instead of the a triad of token issuer’s initials which are usually displayed if the primary issuer is a married man. On the basis that neither of the token types issued by William Clifton from the Fleece probably date to no later than c.1660 it would be reasonable to assume that William and Martha weren’t married until after this time.

The seal of William Clifton of the Fleece tavern in Govent Garden. The bottle is of the shaft and globe variety (1650-80) and was found by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on excavations on St. Helen’s Place, Bishopsgate in the City of London. Photograph by Nicholas Major and supplied by Nigel Jeffries (MOLA).

The seal of William Clifton of the Fleece tavern in Govent Garden. The bottle is of the shaft and globe variety (1650-80) and was found by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) during excavations on St. Helen’s Place, Bishopsgate in the City of London. Photograph by Nicholas Major and supplied by Nigel Jeffries (MOLA).

While it is not known when he died a foot note in a manuscript copy (held in the library of the Royal Society) of John Aubrey’s earlier sited reference to the Fleece tavern states “Clifton the master of the house, hanged himself having perjured himself”. This being the case it fully explains why no burial record can be found for William Clifton in the parish register for St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden or for that matter any other parish burial records. As a suicide victim Clifton would have not been eligible for burial in consecrated ground and hence his death will have gone unrecorded in church records.

According to one source (3) the Fleece burnt down in 1688 and was rebuilt as a private house. This building was still standing in 1722 as an advertisement in the Daily Post for 22 January 1722 relates “To be let furnished or unfurnished a very good house in Bridge Street, two doors from the Play House, the corner of Vinegar Yard at the Green Raith which was formerly the Fleece Tavern“. The former location of the Fleece, like the Rose, must have been engulfed in the exten­sions to the Drury Lane Theatre in 1766.

Despite its reputation the Fleece Tavern was a popular haunt of Samuel Pepys . Between the period 1660 to 1669 he visited the tavern on at least 4 separate occasions which he records in his famous diaries. The associated entries are listed below chronologically.

1st December 1660

“I went to my Lord St.Albans lodgings, and found him in bed, talking to a priest (he looked like one) that leaned along over the side of the bed, and there I desired to know his mind about making the catch stay longer, which I got ready for him the other day.  He seems to be a fine civil gentleman.  To my Lord’s, and did give up my audit of his accounts, which I had been then two days about, and was well received by my Lord.  I dined with my Lord and Lady, and we had a venison pasty.  Mr. Shepley and I went into London, and calling upon Mr. Pinkney, the goldsmith, he took us to the tavern, and gave us a pint of wine, and there fell into our company old Mr. Flower and another gentleman; who tell us how a Scotch knight was killed basely the other day at the Fleece in Covent Garden, where there had been a great many formerly killed.”

The “Scottish knight” referred to above confuses two facts regarding this actual occurrence.  The knight in question was in actuality Sir John Godschalke of St. Martin in the Field, and the murderer reputed to be one Scotsman named “Balenden”.

9th October 1661

“This morning went out about my affairs, among others to put my Theorbo out to be mended, and then at noon home again, thinking to go with Sir Williams both to dinner by invitation to Sir W. Rider’s, but at home I found Mrs. Piece, la belle, and Madam Clifford, with whom I was forced to stay, and made them the most welcome I could; and I was (God knows) very well pleased with their beautiful company, and after dinner took them to the Theatre, and shewed them “The Changes” and so saw them both at home and back to the Fleece tavern, in Covent Garden, where Luellin and Blurton, and my old friend Frank Bagge, was to meet me, and there staid till late very merry.”

25th November 1661

“Having this morning met in the Hall with Mr. Sanchy, we appointed to meet at the play this afternoon.  At noon, at the rising of the House, I met with Sir W. Pen and Major General Massy, who I find by discourse to be a very ingenious man, and among other things a great master in the secresys of powder and fireworks, and another knight to dinner, at the Swan, in the Palace yard, and our meat brought from the Legg; and after dinner Sir W. Pen and I to the Theatre, and there saw  “The Country Captain,” a dull play, and that being done, I left him with his Torys1 and went to the Opera, and saw the last act of “The Bondman” and there found Mr. Sanchy and Mrs. Mary Archer, sister to the fair Betty, whom I did admire at Cambridge, and thence took them to the Fleece in Covent Garden, there to bid good night to Sir W. Pen who staid for me; but Mr. Sanchy could not by any argument get his lady to trust herself with him into the tavern, which he was much troubled at, and so we returned immediately into the city by coach, and at the Mitre in Cheapside there light and drank, and then yet her at her uncle’s in the Old Jewry.”

31tst December 1666

“Rising this day with a full design to mind nothing else but to make up my accounts for the year past, I did take money, and walk forth to several places in the towne as far as the New Exchange, to pay all my debts, it being still a very great frost and good walking. I staid at the Fleece Tavern in Covent Garden while my boy Tom went to W.Joyce’s to pay what I owed for candles there.”

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Nigel Jeffries of Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) for drawing my attention to the existence of glass bottles (1650-80) in their in their collection with seals bearing the details of William Clifton of the Fleece in Covent Garden.

References:

1) Burn, H.B. – A descriptive catalogue of the London traders, tavern, and coffee-house tokens presented to the Corporation Library By Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy. (London, 1853).

2) Aubrey, J – Miscellanies Upon Various Subjects (Forth edition, London, 1857).

3) Sheppard, F. H. W.(General Editor) – Survey of London. Volume 36 – Covent Garden. (London, 1970).

4) Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Volume 10 – Companion. (London, 1995).

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Filed under Tokens from Pepys' London, Tokens from West of the City Walls