Tag Archives: Covent Garden

Humphrey Vaughan of White Hart Yard, Westminster

A half penny tradesman's token issued by Humphrey Vaughan at White Hart Yard, Westminster

A half penny tradesman’s token issued by Humphrey Vaughan at White Hart Yard, Westminster

The above copper half penny token measures 18.3 mm and weighs 1.70 grams. It was issued in 1666 by Humphrey Vaughan a tradesman of White Hart Yard off Covent Garden in Westminster. Its design may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (sexfoil) HVMPHRY . VAVGHAN . IN . , around a beaded inner border, within the depiction of a man wearing a hat walking left carrying a sack over his shoulder.

Reverse: (sexfoil) WHITE . HART . YARD. 1666, around a beaded inner border. Within the legend HIS / HALF / PENY in three lines.

The portrayal of a man carrying a sack found on the obverse of this token is not unique as at least two other examples are known from the London area. These were issued by a coal and lime merchant respectively. This could act as a clue to Humphrey Vaughan’s trade.

There were several White Hart Yards in and around 17th century London including examples in Stepney, Holborn, Drury Lane, St. Martin’s Lane, Tothill Street, Bermondsey, and Southwark. Research into this token’s issuer (as outlined below) has confirmed that the White Hart Yard in question in this case was that which lead west off Drury Lane in the south-east part of the parish of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden. The street derived its name from its location immediately behind the White Hart Inn which fronted onto the Strand and is recorded as early as 1570(1).

White Hart Yard, Covent Garden, c.1720

White Hart Yard, Covent Garden, c.1720

White Hart Yard no longer exists in Westminster’s modern street plan. It ran to the south of, and in a parallel alignment to that of, today’s Tavistock Street along the stretch leading into Drury Lane. Its course is now lost under the Waldorf Hilton Hotel.

In Search of Humphrey Vaughan

Humphrey Vaughan’s half penny token offers very little information about its issuer. While it clearly states the address of his premises in 1666 as White Hart Yard it is unclear as to which of the various locations of this name, in and around 17th century London, is being referred to. Often the obverse pictorial design selected for such tradesman’s tokens offers an indication as to the issuer’s trade. In this case we are left unclear although, as has previously pointed out, this particular design is known from at least two other similar London tokens whose issuers were coal and lime merchants respectively. Fortunately sufficient references to Humphrey Vaughan remain in the historical record to allow us to further address these questions and many others relating to his family’s history.

The following partial life history of Humphrey Vaughan has been constructed from contemporary parish registers, rate book entries, various tax return registers and probate records. While there is always the chance of confusing the historical records relating to different individuals who share the same name, the use of specific time line, family relationship and geographical identifiers can often be used to help eliminate or minimise the risk. Where available such criteria have been applied in this case (Note 1 and 2).

The first clear record of Humphrey Vaughan, the token issuer, appears in 1646 in the parish registers of St. Botolph’s Aldersgate in the city of London.

3rd December 1646 – Marriage of Humphrey Vaughan and Rachell Clarke

Humphrey’s age or home parish are not recorded but on the assumption that this was his first marriage we might estimate his then age as being early 21 to 25. This gives us an estimated period for his birth as 1621 to 1625. Assuming the couple followed tradition their marriage was likely held in the bride’s home parish.

Just over 9 months later the couple’s names again appear, this time in the parish registers for St. Martin-in-the-fields, Westminster, within a record of the christening of their daughter Jane;

5th September 1647 – Christening of Jana, the daughter of Humphridi Vaughan and Rachellae

Humphrey’s association with this parish thereafter continues for the rest of his recorded life.

The same set of parish resisters go on to record the birth and death of further children to Humphrey and Rachel over the next 9 years;

16th October 1648 – Christening of Elizabeth, the daughter of Humphridi Vaughan and Rachellae

21st September 1651 – Christening of Rachel Vaughan, daughter of Humphridi Vaughan and Rachelis

3rd April 1654 – Christening of Humphrey, son of Humphrey Vaughan and Rachell (born on 2nd April 1654)

31st July 1656 – Burial of Humphrey, son of Humphrey Vaughan and Rachell

In the same year as the death of his son (i.e. 1656) Humphrey Vaughan is recorded as living in Russell Street, Covent Garden in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields. A series of entries in the Westminster rate returns books record him, and we can presume the rest of his family, in this street until at least 1663(2). Interestingly this is further backed up by the numismatic evidence from the following tradesman’s token.

A farthing tradesman's token issued by Humphrey Vaughan at or by the sign of the Goat in Russell Street, Westminster

A farthing tradesman’s token issued by Humphrey Vaughan at or by the sign of the Goat in Russell Street, Westminster

The design of this brass farthing may be described as follows;

Obverse: (cinquefoil) HVMPHRY . VAVGHAN , around the depiction of a goat walking left.

Reverse: (cinquefoil) IN . RVSSELL . STREET , around a twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising H | (mullet) V (mullet) | R , with a (mullet) blow.

The style and denomination of the token arguably suggests an issue date of the mid-1650s to early 1660s. The triad of issuers’ initials on the reverse of the token are those of Humphrey and Rachel Vaughan. The token clearly confirms Humphrey Vaughan’s business address as being at or by the sign of the goat in Russell Street. However, it falls short in confirming his occupation.

In a time before the formal address numbering of buildings the use of ornate and memorable trade signs, in association with specific street names, were the standard means of expressing a location’s address. Trade signs were typically suspended from support rods at an elevated position on the street facing outer wall of their owner’s business premises. After the great fire of 1666 many of the new brick built buildings and business premises in London incorporated trade signs in the form of carved stone reliefs which were built at height into the outer wall of the buildings’ fabric.

An analysis of Humphrey’s trade sign (i.e. the goat) offers few clues as to his trade. The first record of this sign in London is recorded in Cheapside in 1260(3). No particular set of tradesmen appear to have adopted the sign as being representative of their occupation although the image of a goat or a goat’s head does appear in the crest or as a supporter in the coats of arms of several of the city’s Livery Companies including the  Haberdashers, Curriers and the Cordwainers. This particular example of the use of the sign might have a more locational and historical significance. Russell Street, variously built between c.1610 and c.1632, was named after Francis Russell, the 4th Earl of Bedford, who was largely responsible for developing his family’s earlier grants of land in and around Covent Garden(4). The image of a goat had been adopted by the Russell family as an armorial badge. As such the goat may well have been adopted by some of the tenant tradesmen in the area in honour of their landlord’s family.

As stated above it is possible that Humphrey Vaughan’s business premises were by and not necessarily at the sign of the goat. If this were the case then the trade sign depicted on his token may not have been his own. Between 1633 and 1634 a well-documented Covent Garden vintner by the name of William Clifton, was the proprietor of the Goat tavern at the north-west corner of Russell with Bow Street. If this were the sign referred to in Humphrey’s token it would arguably put his premises very close by, if not adjacent to, the tavern. As an alternative conclusion of the evidence presented is that at the time he issued his farthing trade token Humphrey Vaughan was the proprietor of the Goat tavern in Russell Street. However, subsequent reviews of the master and apprentice records of the Worshipful Company of Vintners for the early to mid-17th century has failed to identify any mention of a Humphrey Vaughan(5) .

A map of the Covent Garden area (c.1720) showing White Hart Yard and Russell Street plus the location of the Goat Tavern (in red)

A map of the Covent Garden area (c.1720) showing White Hart Yard and Russell Street plus the location of the Goat Tavern (in red)

While unaffected by the Great Fire of London of 1666 the Covent Garden area was hit hard by the Great Plague of the previous year. It is not known how the Vaughan family fared during this tumultuous period in the city’s history but by Lady Day of 1666 it appears that they had moved out of Russell Street into alternative premises close by. This is apparent from the Hearth Tax returns for this year which record Humphrey as paying tax on a property with three hearths in White Hart Yard (6).

A further series of entries in the Westminster rate returns books, plus a listing in a tax return list for 1693 (Note 3) record Humphrey Vaughan, and presumably his remaining family, in White Hart Yard from 1672 to 1705(7)(8). The 1693 tax listing referred to above records Humphrey’s property in White Hart Yard as having a rental value of £25 and the value of his stock as £50.

At some time prior to 1686 it would appear that Rachael Vaughan died as indicated by the following entry from the parish registers of Holy Trinity, Minories.

24th June 1686 – Humphrey Vaughan, widower of St. Martin Fields, and Elizabeth Bowman, spinster of St. James, Westminster, married by Mr. Anderson.

No further records of Humphrey Vaughan have been found after 1705 and it can only be assumed that he died sometime shortly after this date. A copy of Humphrey’s Will, dated 22 July 1698, exists in the London Metropolitan Archives(9). This throws considerably more light on his occupation and later life.

At the time Humphrey made his Will in 1698 he describes himself as being in good physical and mental health. He confirms his home parish as being St. Martin-in-the-Fields and states his occupation as a “coals seller”, i.e. the seller of lump wood charcoal and sea-coal. In the 16th to 18th century London all mineral coal would have been referred to as “sea-coal” as it was almost exclusively brought into the capital by sea via fleets of collier vessels. Cargo from the latter would have been brought into wharves and stockyards distributed along the north bank of the River Thames via barge. Such small boats were used to transfer coal from the collier vessels which were moored downstream of Old London Bridge. At this time most coal supplied into London was shipped out of the north-east coalfield via the River Tyne.

A late 17th century or early 18th century trade card belonging to Philip Fruchard, Coal Merchant at the Golden Heart in All Hallows Lane off Thames Street. The image depicts porters transferring bags of sea coal off a barge into an awaiting cart

A late 17th century or early 18th century trade card belonging to Philip Fruchard, Coal Merchant at the Golden Heart in All Hallows Lane off Thames Street. The image depicts porters transferring bags of sea-coal off a barge into an awaiting cart

It is not clear if by the term “coals seller” Humphrey Vaughan was a small-scale fuel seller or if he was a fully established woodmonger trading in larger quantities of domestic fuels from his own wharf and or stockyard.  Unfortunately most of the records of the Worshipful Company of London Woodmongers (which would have included sea-coal traders) have not survived and so we are unable to search them for any mention of Humphrey Vaughan.

The central obverse detail of Humphrey Vaughan's half penny token compared with that of a coal seller from a mid-17th century copy of "The Cries of London". The latter could possibly have been the die sinkers source for the former token design.

The central obverse detail of Humphrey Vaughan’s half penny token compared with that of a coal seller from a mid-17th century copy of “The Cries of London”. The latter could possibly have been the die sinkers source for the former token design.

The size of Humphrey Vaughan’s estate, as outlined in his Will, is unclear but appears very modest as do his monetary bequests. The will mentions no surviving children only three grandchildren the bequests to which were as follows;

  • Thomas Caton – £20 to be paid to him on his 21st birthday and that Humphrey’s wife Elizabeth should provide and help in his upbringing until such time as he can be bound into a suitable trade apprenticeship which Elizabeth was to assist in finding for him.
  • Humphrey Hodge – 40 shillings.
  • Elizabeth Hodge – 20 shillings in addition to what Humphrey had already given to her prior to making his Will.

The remains of Humphrey’s estate and goods were to be left to his wife Elizabeth and then for the bequest of a final sum of 40 shillings to his friend, fellow parishioner and supervisor of his Will, Thomas Roades. This bequest was intended for the purchase of a mourning ring by which Thomas could remember him by.

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

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


1) During the research for this article several other references to a Humphrey Vaughan were made in various other London parish registers. As they do not appear to be related to Humphrey Vaughan the token issuer of St. Martin-in-the-Fields they have been omitted from the above partial life history. However, for completeness they are recorded below;

(a) 4th May 1664 – Burial of Humphrey Vaughan, aged 1 year, at the parish church of St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate.

(b) 22nd July 1674 – Baptism of Humphrey Vaughan son of Humphrey at the church of St. Katherine-by-the-Tower.

(c) 7th January 1694 – Birth and christening of Rebecca daughter of Humphrey and Anne Vaughan at the parish church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

As Humphrey Vaughan the token issuer is recorded as marrying Elizabeth Bowman in 1686 and an Elizabeth is recorded as Humphrey’s wife in his Will of 1698 it is difficult to see how he could have been married to a lady called Anne in 1694. It is also noted that there is no reference to either an Anne or a Rebecca in Humphrey’s Will.

2) The Four Shillings in the Pound Aid (Note 3) tax listings for Westminster list a second record for a Humphrey Vaughan in Sheer Lane Ward of the parish of St. Clement Danes(10). The tax assessment records his property’s rental value as £20 and the value of his stock as £0. It is assumed that this tax assessment is either for a different Humphrey Vaughan to that of our token issuer or alternatively for a second property belonging to the token issuer.

 3) The Four Shillings in the Pound Aid – This Aid or Assessment was collected in London and Westminster in order to finance the wars fought by King William between 1689 and 1697. Two Acts of Parliament passed in 1692 and 1693 specified the collection of four shillings in every pound (a 20 per cent tax) on the rental value of all property, income earned in public service, and stock or ready money held as part of a personal estate. Individuals whose property was worth less than 20 shillings were exempt. The tax was administered by the City Chamberlain, and raised £296,160 8s 10 3/4d, in 1693 from the metropolis as a whole.


1) Way, A. – Letter from ALBERT WAY, Esq. Director S.A., to Sir HENRY ELLIS, Secretary, accompanying an Indenture of Lease from the Earl of Bedford to Sir William Cecil, of a portion of pasture in Covent Garden. Read 25th January 1844. Archaeologia, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity: Volume 30. (The Society of Antiquaries of London, 1844).

2) Westminster Rate Books 1634-1900 Transcription – Entries for Humphrey Vaughan for 1656, 1663, 1666, 1672 and 1705.

3) Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).

4) Bow Street and Russell Street Area: Russell Street. Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. (London, 1970).

5) Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 43. Vintners’ Company 1609-1800. (2006).

6) 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).

7) Ibid 2.

8) City of Westminster, St Martin in the Fields, Drury Lane Ward, White Hart Yard – Four Shillings in the Pound Aid 1693/4. Centre for Metropolitan History (London, 1992).

9) London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: AM/PW/1704/086.

10) City of Westminster, St Clement Danes, Sheere lane Ward, – Four Shillings in the Pound Aid 1693/4. Centre for Metropolitan History (London, 1992).


Filed under Tokens from West of the City Walls

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.


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 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.”


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.


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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