Category Archives: Tokens from West of the City Walls

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

The Rose & Crown in Covent Garden, Westminster

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Rose and Crown  in Covent Garden, Westminster

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Rose and Crown in Covent Garden, Westminster

The above copper farthing token measures 15.4 mm and weighs 1.18 grams. It was issued by a tradesman (almost certainly a tavern keeper) operating from premises at or by the sign of the Rose and Crown in Covent Garden, Westminster.

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

Obverse: (.) AT THE.ROSE.AND.CROWN, around a rose crowned.

Reverse: (star) IN.COVENT.GARDEN, around twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising V | (star)M(star) | (star)M , plus a central dot below upper “M”.

The lower and off-set positioning of the mullet at the start of this token’s obverse legend suggests that the die sinker ran out of room around the edge of the die when inscribing the legend.  The anomalous line on the obverse of the token which starts below the “R” in CROWN and which runs parallel to the image of the rose and crown appears to be the result of damage to the original die from which the token was struck.

There is nothing on the token to indicate the date of its issue. However, on stylistic grounds plus the weight of evidence drawn from other dated farthing tokens during the mid-17th century it is likely that the above token was issued during the approximate period 1650 to 1660.

The emblem of the rose and crown was a badge of the Tudors. The marriage of the Lancastrian King Henry VII with Elizabeth of York extinguished the feudal rivalry between the royal houses of York and Lancaster. Thereafter the Tudor rose, half red and half white, surmounted by a crown became the royal badge.

A modern pub sign in the name of the Rose and Crown

A modern public house sign in the name of the Rose and Crown

As a trade sign in London it probably dates from the 16th century although the earliest recorded in Bryant Lillywhite’s survey dates from 1606. Its origin as a sign may have derived from the arms of the Company of Mercers. In London (and elsewhere in England) the sign also became popular amongst tavern keepers.

While several different taverns are recorded as operating in the Covent Garden area from the mid-17th century onwards I have so far failed to find any documentary mention of one bearing the common name of the “Rose and Crown”. As such its existence, like many other London taverns of this period, is only known from the paranumismatic record left by 17th century tradesmen’s tokens.

Covent Garden (c.1720)

Covent Garden (c.1720)

The initials of the couple that traded from the Rose and Crown at the time the token was issued, a Mr. “V. (or U (1)).M” and his wife Mrs.”M.M.” have not previously been identified. However, this now may be remedied based on the research outlined below.

There were several individuals living in Covent Garden at the time of the 1666 Hearth Tax with surnames beginning with “W” and Christian names beginning with either “V” or “M”. These included the following;

  • Widow Mayden – paid tax on a premises with 10 hearths
  • Mary Mason – paid tax on a premises with 12 hearths
  • Mary Mount – paid tax on a premises with 14 hearths
  • Valentine Morecot – paid tax on a premises with 9 hearths

The relatively high number of hearths represented in each of the above returns would be typical of that expected for a tavern of the period. Thus any one of these individuals could be synonymous with or related to the token’s original issuers. It is possible that by the time of the 1666 Hearth Tax the original token issuers may have moved out of Covent Garden or one or both of them may have died. While outside of the city walls Covent Garden was affected considerably by the infamous and devastating outbreak of plague in London of 1665/6.

Only one man identified from the 1666 Hearth Tax return has initials which directly fit with those of the primary issuer identified in the token’s reverse triad of initials. This is Valentine Morecot whose surname was variously spelt as Morecot, Morcot, Morecott and even Morket. Furthermore it may be shown that the Christian name of Valentine’s wife during the period 1652 to 1663 (i.e. most likely period of the token’s striking based on stylistic evidence) also began with an “M”. Thus completing the required set of token issuers’ initials as dictated by the triad on the token’s reverse.

Based on a wide assemblage of church records, parish registers and a transcript of Valentine Morecott’s Will of 1666/7 (the original of which is held by the London Metropolitan Archives) it is possible to piece together a history of the above token’s issuers. While not all of the links in this history can be fully proven (as it is possible that there may have been more than one individual in 17th century Westminster by the name of Valentine Morecott who was born c.1618) they do fit into a very probable sequence of events.

Valentine Morecott’s Story

It is probable that our particular Valentine Morecott was baptised on 21st February 1617/8 in Birchington (Kent) the son of Richard Morket of the same parish. Valentine was one of at least two brothers. One of these, Richard (born November 1615 and died May 1616) is recorded in the Birchington parish registers. Valentine’s uncle was William Morecott. William died in Northamptonshire sometime prior to 1666 as noted in Valentine’s Will of 1666/7.

On the eve of the English Civil War we find Valentine living in the Westminster parish of St. Martin in the Fields. It is likely that he lived in or close to the relatively new developments (1630s) in the west of that parish which were built by Francis Russell (4th Earl of Bedford) who employed Inigo Jones as his architect. These new developments included the now famous piazza of Covent Garden plus St. Paul’s Church on its western side.

Covent Garden in 1737. St. Paul's Parish Church can be seen at the rear of the piazza

Covent Garden in 1737. St. Paul’s Parish Church can be seen at the rear of the piazza

At the stated age of 24 Valentine married the 22 year old Mary Gibson of the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate (London). The couple married on 15th March 1641/2 (2) in St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. At the time this now famous church was less than 10 years old and was still a chapel of ease to the nearby parish church of St. Martin’s in the Fields.

It is unclear how many children Valentine and Mary had but from details found in Valentine’s Will of 1666/7 it can be assumed that they had at least one son, Thomas, who survived into adulthood. In 1666/7 Thomas is recorded as a Licensed Victualler. This is almost certainly a case of the son following in his father’s trade although other than in the paranumismatic record there appears to be no other further evidence of Valentine having been associated with this trade.

At some time prior to late 1652 Valentine became a single man again, presumably a widower. On the 1st November of that year he is recorded as marrying Martha Baldwin in the church of St. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street. Presumably this was the bride’s parish church.

The south-east prospect of St. Dunstan's in the West on Fleet Street

The south-east prospect of St. Dunstan’s in the West on Fleet Street

We can assume that the couple set up home, along with Valentine’s one known existing son Thomas, in the Covent Garden area. From 1655 onwards we find fairly frequent mention of Valentine and his growing family in the parish registers of St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. From 1645 this church became the parish church for Covent Garden. Below are listed the parish register entries relating to Valentine and Martha’s various children;

14th July 1655 – Baldwine Morecott sonne of Valentine and Martha borne

8th April 1657 – Thomas Morecott sonn of Valentine and Martha borne the 8th, baptized 15th.

6th November 1657 – Thomas sonn of Valentine Morcott in (buried) Ch : yd

2nd September 1658 – Martha daughter of Valentine Morecott (buried) in Ch : yd

At some point after becoming married in 1652 it can be assumed that Valentine and Martha ran the Rose and Crown tavern in Covent Garden. The exact location of this tavern is unknown. During their custodianship of this establishment they were almost certainly responsible for the issue of the above farthing trade tokens (3).

St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden

St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

Between 1662 and 1663 Valentine took on additional responsibilities within his local community. It is during this period that we find him listed as one of the church wardens of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. Shortly after taking on this new position in the community Valentine was to experience two personal tragedies in short succession. Having already lost two of his children in 1657 and 1658 respectively he next lost his wife. This is evident from a further entry in St. Paul’s parish registers;

6th May 1663 – Martha Wife of Valentine Morecott (buried) Ch : yard

Presumably it was the loss of Martha that caused Valentine to relinquish his church warden’s position in favour of focusing his time and efforts on raising his remaining young children in addition to running the family’s business (i.e. the Rose and Crown) so as to keep “bread on the table”. Within less than a year of Martha’s death the burial register for St. Paul’s indicates that Valentine was to befall a further tragedy. This time in the death of another of his children;

22nd January 1663/4 – John Son of Valintine Morcott Bu Ch yard

With no wife to help run his business or look after his surviving children Valentine would probably have found life difficult. The combined effects of these personal calamities and added hardship appears to have proved too great for him to bear alone and within a month of his son John’s death he married his third wife, Mary Lloyd, on 22nd February 1663/4. For Valentine, who was now in his mid-forties, this was very probably a marriage of convenience and security for his remaining children and business. The same may also have been true for Mary Lloyd.

In the next couple of years Valentine and his family were to bear witness to two of the most dramatic and tumultuous events in London’s history. At the end of April 1665 Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist and naval administrator, noted in his diary;

“Great fears of the sickenesse here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve as all!”

The “sickness” referred to was the infamous Bubonic Plague. This was no stranger to Londoners in the 17th century as there had been previous outbreaks within the city in 1603, 1625 and 1636. The outbreak of Plague in 1665 may not necessarily have been identified at first but by April several deaths in areas outside the city walls had been noted and fears of it spreading and escalating in intensity were rife.

On the 7th June Pepys came across his first direct encounter of the plague as he passed through Drury Lane on the eastern fringe of Covent Garden;

“This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “Lord have mercy upon us” writ there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell to and chaw, which took away the apprehension.”

Only a few days later (10th June) Pepys’ worst fears were realised. The plague had entered into the city of London and was claiming victims on his very door step;

“…to my great trouble, hear that the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour’s, Dr. Burnett, in Fanchurch Street: which in both points troubles me mightily. To the office to finish my letters and then home to bed, being troubled at the sicknesse, and my head filled also with other business enough, and particularly how to put my things and estate in order, in case it should please God to call me away, which God dispose of to his glory!”

A contemporary wood cut illustrating the plight of London during the out break of the Bubonic Plague in 1665

A contemporary wood cut illustrating the plight of London during the out break of the Bubonic Plague in 1665

In Covent Garden the first plague victim is officially recorded in the parish burial register on 12th April. Thereafter it appears to have rapidly taken hold in the area peaking in September with up to 97 deaths in a month. After September things started to slowly improve as illustrated in the figures below.

Between the first recorded death from the plague in the parish of Covent Garden in April 1665 and the last in August 1666 a total of 226 were recorded. This is approximately 60% of all the recorded deaths in the parish over that same period. The burial bells at St. Paul’s Church must have been continually tolling during the height of the plague (August to October 1665) and its comparatively small churchyard must have been full to overflowing. As in many other London parishes during this period it is probable that with so many dead the corpses to accommodate use of communal plague pits at locations outside the city had to be resorted to.

A contemporary wood cut illustrating the mass burial of London plague victims in 1665

A contemporary wood cut illustrating the mass burial of London plague victims in 1665

It appears from St. Paul’s parish burial register that the Morecott family was very lucky and came out of this epidemic unscathed. It is possible that once the outbreak started to spiral out of control they could have shut up their home and left the city for a safer place of refuge with relatives living outside of the city. This was a common form of escape for those who had this option available to them and could afford to do so. Unfortunately many people weren’t able to exercise such an option and had to stay in the city and take their chances. Some residents of the city were forced to flee their homes whether they had planned to or not. A rapid and unlawful escape from a house stricken by the plague was often a risk worth taking given the alternative of being boarded up in the premises as a form of guarantee until it could be proven the house hold was plague free. Being subject to such an enforced guarantee was often a death sentence for those in a household where only one family member was initially affected. A late example of residents in Russell Street, Covent Garden, illegally fleeing from an infected household before it could be officially put under guarantee (as signified by the official painting of a cross on its door together with the words “Lord Have Mercy On Our Souls”) is sited in the London Gazette of 10th May 1666. This account is reproduced in full below.

LG 10-05-1666 Issue 52

By the time the plague had almost run its course in early 1666 it had claimed the lives of 75,000 to 100,000 Londoners. This was up to a fifth of the city’s population.

No sooner was London emerging from the great calamity of the plague it was suddenly to be faced with another in the form of the Great Fire of 1666.

A contemporary oil painting of the Great Fire of London from the River Thomes looking across to Old St. Paul's Cathedral

A contemporary oil painting of the Great Fire of London from the River Thomes looking across to Old St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of London from the early hours of Sunday 2nd September to Wednesday 5th September 1666. It started in a small Bakery in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge and from there rapidly spread, the towering flames being fanned by the late summer winds. The fire gutted the predominantly thatch roofed and timber framed old medieval properties which made up the bulk of London’s buildings inside of the old city walls. The fire threatened but did not reach the Tower of London, Westminster, Charles II’s Palace of Whitehall or most of the northern and eastern suburbs outside the city walls. It consumed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, the old St. Paul’s Cathedral and most of the buildings of the city authorities. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the city’s 80,000 inhabitants. The official death toll from the fire was small, only six verified deaths being recorded. However, this figure is now challenged on the grounds that the deaths of some of the poorest victims may have gone unrecorded. In addition the intense heat of the fire may well have cremated many victims leaving no recognisable remains.

Fortunately for the Morecott family they lived in Covent Garden which was one of those districts to the west of the old city which had a lucky escape from the fire. We know they were still living in the parish at this time as only a few months later we find a further reference to the family in the parish registers of St. Paul’s;

22nd March 1666/7 – Valintaine Morcott (buried) Church yard

It is likely that Valentine’s health was failing at least a month before his death as his Last Will and Testimony is dated 20th February 1666/7(2). The opening section of the Will confirms that just prior to his death Valentine was still residing in the parish of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. In his Will he leaves the following;

To his son Thomas Morecott (Licensed Victualler) the sum of £5

To his cousin Mary Morecott (daughter of the late William Morecott of Northamptonshire) the sum of £5 to be paid on her 21st birthday.

To Valentine Morecott (son of the late William Morecott of Northamptonshire) the sum of £10 to be put aside to secure him an apprenticeship once he reaches the age of 15.

To Mary Bradford the sum of 10 shillings in order for a mourning ring (4) to be made for her in memory of Valentine.

To Thomas Malin (Cabinet maker of St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Holborn and the appointed Overseer of Valentine’s Will) Valentine’s own deaths head ring or the sum of 20 shillings in order for a  mourning ring to be made for him in memory of Valentine.

The rest of Valentine’s estate was bequeathed to his wife Mary Morecott.

The Will bears no mention to any of Valentine’s other surviving children. If his son Balwine were still alive at the time of Valentine’s death he would be 12. It is unconceivable that Valentine would have left no provision for his youngest known son in Will unless he had made a previous agreement with his wife Mary to take good care of Baldwine and continue to bring him up well after his death.

It is not known what happened to Valentine’s remaining family after his death. It is possible that his son Thomas (recorded as a Licensed Victualler in 1666) may have already taken over the family’s old business, i.e. the Rose and Crown tavern in Covent Garden. However, this by no means certain. While nothing specific about Valentine’s business premises (assuming he still had any) are mentioned in his Will it is clear that after the specific itemised bequests of money and mourning rings had been made out of his estate all his remaining money, goods and premises were to pass to his wife Mary. If the Rose and Crown tavern was still run by the family in 1666 it could therefore have passed to Mary.

Based on the negative evidence for any entries relating to the Morecott family in the parish registers of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden,  after Valentine’s death in late March 1666/7 it can only be assumed that the family sold up and moved out of the parish to make new lives elsewhere in the capital or outside the capital.

Notes:

1) Latin characters were used for the legends on 17th century tokens. In this alphabet there was no letter “J” or “U” the letter “I” and “V” were used in their place resectively.

2) It this period in Britain the Julian calendar was still used in which each successive year ran from 25th March to following 24th March. The change to the Gregorian calendar, which ran from 1st January to the following 31st December, did not occur until 1st January 1752.

3) It is apparent that Valentine Morecott married three times during his life and that each of his successive wives had a Christian name beginning with “M”, i.e. Mary from 1641/2, Martha between 1652 and 1663 and Mary from 1663/4. Assuming that Valentine was still married to his first wife after 1649 (i.e. after which the first trademen’s tokens started to appeared in England) there is an argument that the lower “M” on the triad on the token’s reverse, i.e. that which represents the issuer’s wife’s Christian name initial, could equally apply to any one of Valentine’s three wives. However, on stylistic grounds this particular token does not appear to be one of the earliest issues made prior to the mid-1650s. Furthermore a review of the most prevalent issuing period for farthing denominations during the period of mid-17th century token production (1649 to 1672) clearly indicates that by 1664 the issue of farthings had greatly declined in favour of half pennies. Taking these combined observations into consideration it may be concluded that Valentines Morecott’s farthing tokens almost certainly date from the period in which he was married to his second wife Martha (i.e. 1652 to 1663).

4) The presentation of mourning or funerary memorial rings was fairly 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) as per the funerary ring bequeathed by Valentine Morecott to Thomas Malin of Holborn.

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The Horse Shoe in Tothill Street, Westminster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The location of Tothill Street , Westminster (1720)

The location of Tothill Street , Westminster (1720)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thomas Armitage in St. Martins Lane, Westminster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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The White Horse in Stable Yard, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the White Horse in Stable Yard, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the White Horse in Stable Yard, Westminster

The above copper farthing measures 16.3 mm and weighs 1.20 grams. It was issued in the name of a tradesman operating from premises marked by the sign of the White Horse in Stable Yards, St. Margaret’s Parish, Westminster.

Obverse: (rosette) AT.THE.WHITE.HORSE , around the depiction of a horse running left.

Reverse:IN. STABLE.YARD.WESTMIN. , around twisted wire inner circle, a triad comprising I | (rosette) N (rosette) | (rosette) I , within.

Part of the Parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster showing the location of Stable Yard (c.1720)

Part of the Parish of St. Margaret’s, Westminster showing the location of Stable Yard (c.1720)

Since before the 17th century the sign of the White Horse was commonly used by inns and taverns and it is highly likely that the token in question was issued by such an establishment located in Stable Yard off Kings Street. The token’s issuer (i.e. Mr. and Mrs. I. or J. N.) have not as yet been identified. An examination of the Hearth Tax returns for Stable Yard from 1666 indicates no residents with initials which fit those in the triad on the token’s reverse. On stylistic grounds it is likely that the farthing token in question was most likely issued several years before the mid 1660s so it is possible that its issuers had moved on by the time of the 1666 Hearth Tax assessment.

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George Carter in St. Albans Street, Westminster

issued in the name of George Carter in St. Alban's Street, Westminster

A half penny token issued in the name of George Carter in St. Alban‘s Street, Westminster

The above brass token measures 21.2 mm and weighs 1.51 grams. Based on it size alone it arguably best fits into the category of a penny token although that lack of it carrying a mark of value (as most penny token of the series do) probably means that it is more likely to be a half penny token. It was issued in the name of George Carter who was possibly a tavern owner operating from premisses in St. Alban’s Street, in the Parish of St. James, Westminster.

Obverse: (rosette) GEORG. CARTER. AT. YE. ST. ALBAN , around twisted wire inner circle, within the depiction of a standing figure (presumably St. Alban) facing and wearing a crown or peer’s coronet and holding a cross in its left hand and a sword in its right. What appears to be an open book on top of a draped alter or lectern is visible to the right of the figure.

Reverse: A legend in six lines reads IN .ST / ALBANS / STREET / NEERE. ST. / IAMES . / MARKET

It is possible that the George Carter recorded on the token was one and the same as the similarly named individual in the 1664 Hearth Tax return who is noted as occupying premisses with 15 hearths in Garndner Lane, St. Margret’s Parish, Westminster. While Hearth Tax returns were recorded for the eastern side of St. Albans Street in 1666 there are as then no occupants with the surname Carter.

St. Alban's Street, Parish of St. James, Westminster (c.1720)

St. Alban’s Street, Parish of St. James, Westminster (c.1720)

St. Alban’s Street took its name from its developer and one of the area’s principal earliest inhabitants, Henry Jermyn, the 1st Earl of St Albans, a man sometimes refered to as the “Farther of the West End”.

In the 1650s the open space west of the Haymarket and north of Pall Mall, known at St. James’ or Pall Mall Fields was considered ripe for development but hitherto such had been forbidden by the Crown. In March 1661/2 the Earl of St Albans was granted a lease of much of this area by the Queen Mother. Development of the area was given further impetus in July 1662 when a meeting of commissioners for reforming the streets and buildings of London ordered the “paving of the way from St. James’, north, which was a quagmire, and also the Haymarket about Piqudillo”. A further Act of that same year also made provision for the paving of Pall Mall, the Haymarket and St. James’ Street. By September 1663 the development of St. James’s Fields by the Earl had begun. By April 1665, despite strong opposition, especially from the Lord Southampton who was a rival developer, Earl St. Albans obtained a freehold grant for over 11 acres (approximately half) of St. James’ Fields. On this land and his adjacent leaseholds he proposed a piazza, or square, of 13 to 14 houses, with subsidiary streets and plus a large covered market. This proposed development was similar to that of the Earl of Southampton’s estate of Bloomsbury. Despite some opposition and difficulties in 1665 Earl St. Albans had begun construction on his own house on his piazza, St. James’ Square. Completion of the square followed over the next decade or so.

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans

By September 1665 a covered market (St. James’ Market) had been opened between the newly founded St. James Square and the Haymarket. The southern entrance to the market was connected to the west side of St. James’ Square via a short street (St. Albans Street) leading off King Charles Street.  All of these streets were part of Earl St. Albans development of the area which the diarist Samuel Pepys comments on in his diary entry for the 1st April 1666;

“Up and down my Lord St. Alban his new building and market-house, looking to and again in every place building.”

In the 1666 Hearth Tax returns for St. Alban’s Street there are only entries for the eastern side of the street and some of these indicate that at that point in time several of the houses were recorded as newly built and still un-occupied. It is possible that by 1666 the western side of the street was still under construction and/or still comprised empty plots.

In Volume I of J.T. Smith’s 1846 publication “An Antiquarian Ramble in the Streets of London: With Anecdotes of Their More Celebrated Residents” reference is made to a mansion-house (supposedly once the residence of Earl St. Albans himself?) on the western corner of St. Albans Street at the junction with King Charles Streets which supposedly became a tavern and remained so until the building was demolished as part of improvements made to Reagent’s Street in 1820 and 1821. The same author associates this tavern as being the premises from which George Carter issued his undated trade token. As yet I have found nothing to confirm this one way or the other. That Early St. Albans took up residence in St. James Square c.1667 does not preclude him from living at the alternative address at a slightly earlier date of his development of this general area of St. James’ Fields.

There are several indicators that point to this token being issued relatively late in this mid-17th century series. These include;

1)      The token’s reverse legend style

2)      The identification of the token as possibly being of a penny denomination

3)      The construction completion date of its street of issue

All of these factors point to a date of issue in the period 1667 to 1672.

At the time of this token’s issue the wording on its reverse side could be taken to indicate that many Londoners may not have known whereabouts its place of issue in the city was. Presumably while many people may not have heard of relatively new and obscure road by the name of St. Albans Street most of them will have been much more familiar with the neighbouring location of St. James Market.

While this token issue is the only one known from St. Albans Street there are over twenty types recorded from the neighbouring area of St. James Market-place. The earliest of these is dated 1664.

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The Wind Mill in Temple Bar Without, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Wind Mill, Temple Bar Without, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Wind Mill, Temple Bar Without, Westminster

The above copper farthing measures 15.5 mm and weighs 1.00 grams. It was issued in the name of a tradesman operating from premises marked by the sign of the Wind Mill in the district of Temple Bar Without, Westminster.

Obverse: (star) AT.THE.WINDE.MILL , around twisted wire inner circle, within the depiction of a open-trestle post mill.

Reverse: (star) WTHHOVT.TEMPLE.BARR: , around twisted wire inner circle, a pair of initials I . P , within.

The Strand & Temple Bar Without, Westminster

The Strand & Temple Bar Without, Westminster

The exact location of the business which issued this token is not know but presumably it lay off The Strand.  The token’s issuer (i.e. Mr. I. or J. P.) or his precise trade have not as yet been identified. However, as the sign board of the windmill was often adopted by inn-keepers, brewers, taverners and occasionally bakers and mealmen (i.e. a dealer in meal or grain) it is likely that this token’s issuer had an association with one of these trades.

In his book “London Signs” Bryant Lillywhite’s lists over 50 historic examples of sign boards bearing the name of the windmill, the first of which appear in the early 16th century. While the sign may have been adopted by certain tradesmen over time it is possible that in some cases its original use may have signified the earlier site of an actual windmill.

The windmill depiction on the token’s obverse clearly shows an open-tresel type post windmill. Like the one illustrated below.

Open-trestle post type mill (Nutley Windmill, Sussex)

Open-trestle post type mill (Nutley Windmill, Sussex)

Such type of mill would have been common throughout Britain in the 17th century and earlier. Today there are only a handful of examples of this type still remaining in England.

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The Golden Lock in Temple Bar Without, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Golden Lock, Temple Bar Without, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Golden Lock, Temple Bar Without, Westminster

The above copper farthing measures 15.9 mm and weighs 0.96 grams. It was issued in the name of a tradesman operating from premises marked by the sign of the Golden Lock in the district of Temple Bar Without, Westminster.

Obverse: (star) AT.THE.GOVLDEN.LOCK , around twisted wire inner circle, within the depiction of a door lock escutcheon.

Reverse: (star) WTHHOVT.TEMPEL.BARR: , around twisted wire inner circle, a triad comprising I | .M. | .E , within.

The Strand & Temple Bar Without, Westminster

The Strand & Temple Bar Without, Westminster

The exact location of the business which issued this token is not know but presumably it lay off The Strand.  The token’s issuer (i.e. Mr. I. or J. M and Mrs. E.M.) have not been identified. It is likely that their business was that of an ironmonger, locksmith or smith as such tradesmen often operated under the sign of the lock.

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The Blue Boar’s Head, King Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Boar's Head in King Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Boar’s Head in King Street, Westminster

The above copper farthing token measures 15.7 mm and weighs 0.94 grams. It was issued in the name of Blue Boar’s Head tavern which was located on the west side of King Street in St. Margaret’s Parish, Westminster. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (star) THE.BORS.HEAD.IN.KINGS, around twisted wire inner circle, boar’s head looking left within.

Reverse: (star) STREETE.WESTMINSTER , around twisted wire inner circle, triad comprising I |.W.|(rosette) D within.

The initials of the couple that ran The Blue Boar’s Head tavern at the time the token was issued, a Mr. “J/I.W.” and his wife Mrs.” D.W.” as yet have not been identified.

The style of this farthing token would suggest an early date in the series, possibly 1650 to 55.

The location of Boar's Head Yard off King Street, Westminster (c.1720)

The location of the Blue Boar’s Head Yard off King Street, Westminster (c.1720)

The Blue Boar’s Head was of the oldest established tavern in the Parish of St. Margaret’s, Westminster.  It dated back to the late 14th Century. Extensions in 1396 and 1401 gave it 16 bedchambers which were sumptuously furnished. It was located adjacent to a yard which bore its name and which connected the narrow and congested King Street on its eastern side with De La Haye Street to its west.

Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, gave a suite of apartments in King Street to his mother. She lived here until her death in 1654. These apartments are understood to have been located on the north side of the Blue Boar’s Head Yard adjacent to the tavern.

Owing to its narrowness and want of light and air, and the crowded courts by which it was hemmed in on either side, King Street was among the first parts of Westminster to suffer from the plague in 1665. On its appearance, so close to the gates of the royal palace, Charles II and his courtiers, left Whitehall for the comparative safety of Oxford.

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

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

The construction of Westminster Bridge and Great George Street in 1750 led to the demolition of the old Blue Board’s Head tavern and its stable yard, which were rebuilt a short distance to the north at what was to become 34, Kings Street, Westminster. It was finally demolished, along with what was left of King Street, in 1899.

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John Parrett at the Sword & Buckler, Shire Lane, Temple Bar

A half penny token issued by John Parrett of Shire Lane, Temple Bar, London

A half penny token issued by John Parrett of Shire Lane, Temple Bar, London

The above copper half penny measures 20.8 mm and weighs 2.05 grams. It was issued in the name of John Parrett at the Sword and Buckler in Shire Lane in the district of Temple Bar Within, London in 1667.

Obverse: (rosette) IOHN.PARRETT.AT THE.SWORD , around twisted wire inner circle, within the depiction of a sword and buckler (i.e. small round shield).

Reverse: (rosette) AND.BUCKLER.SHEERE.LANE , around twisted wire inner circle. Legend within, HIS / HALFE / PENNY / 1667 in four lines.

Shire (or Sheere) Lane ran north off Fleet Street from its junction with the Strand at Temple Bar.

Shire Lane from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

Shire Lane from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

From the information displayed on his token’s we can’t tell what John Parrett’s occupation was. There is also no record of him in Shire Lane in the 1666 London Hearth Tax returns. It is possible the tat the sign of the Sword and Buckler could have been used by a tavern but this is by no means certain. The sign itself may have been an indication that buckler play or so-called sword and buckler play may have been exhibited there or near by at some point in time. Sword and buckler play was once common in England, especially in the time of Elizabeth I.

Elizabeathan gentlemen engaging in sword and buckler play

Elizabeathan gentlemen engaging in sword and buckler play

By a proclamation of 1609 buckler play, bear-baiting and the singing of ballads was banded in the City of London and adjoining counties was to be prohibited and those transgressors of the new law were to be severely punished. However, on the restoration of King Charles II licences for the pastime of buckler-play and other mischievous sports were, for the payment of a fee, made available from the Master of Revels.

It is likely that it was a sword and buckler fight which Samuel Pepys described in his diary entry for 37th May 1667;

“So to my chamber, and there did some little business, and then abroad, and stopped at the Bear-garden-stairs, there to see a prize fought. But the house so full there was no getting in there, so forced to go through an alehouse into the pit, where the bears are baited; and upon a stool did see them fight, which they did very furiously, a butcher and a waterman. The former had the better all along, till by and by the latter dropped his sword out of his hand, and the butcher, whether not seeing his sword dropped I know not, but did give him a cut over the wrist, so as he was disabled to fight any longer. But, Lord! to see how in a minute the whole stage was full of watermen to revenge the foul play, and the butchers to defend their fellow, though most blamed him; and there they all fell to it to knocking down and cutting many on each side. It was pleasant to see, but that I stood in the pit, and feared that in the tumult I might get some hurt. At last the rabble broke up, and so I away to White Hall…”

In the time of John Stow, the famous Elizabethan historian of the City of London, it is recorded that every haberdasher sold bucklers. Hence it is said that the device was often associated with haberdasher.

In addition to John Parrett in Shire Lane the sign of the sword and buckler is also recorded during the period 1660 to 1720 by businesses operating at the following London addresses;

  •  Swan Alley, East Smithfield.
  • Ludgate Hill.
  • Old Fish Street, Queenhithe.

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