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Edward Munns at the sign of the Sugarloaf on London Bridge

A half penny token issued by Edward Munns - A tradesman working on London Bridge

A half penny token issued by Edward Munns – A tradesman working on London Bridge

The copper half penny token, pictured above, measures 21.2 mm and weighs 2.59 grams. It was issued in 1668 by Edward Munns, a tradesman operating from premises at or by the sign of the Sugar Loaf on London Bridge.

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

Obverse: (sexfoil) EDWARD. MVNS. AT. THE. SVGAR , around a twisted wire circle. Within the depiction of a sugarloaf

Reverse: (sexfoil) ON. LONDON. BRIDG. 1668, around a twisted wire circle, within three lines the legend HIS / HALFE / PENNY

Edward Munns was one of only six tradesmen who lived and worked in one of the buildings which were perched along the sides of old London Bridge who are known to have issued private trade tokens (1).

A map of London & The South Bank showing Old London Bridge (c.1720).

A map of London & The South Bank showing Old London Bridge (c.1720).

Old medieval London Bridge comprised a broad road carried by twenty asymmetrical narrow stone arches resting on large piled masonry piers. It was the city’s only bridge over the River Thames which, prior to the building of the Victoria Embankment on its northern side, was considerably wider than it is today. On the south side of the bridge, at Southwark, its entrance was marked by a fortified gate house. For centuries the boiled and tarred (for preservation) heads and severed limbs of executed traitors were held aloft on pikes from the top of this gate house and publically displayed to all entering the city from the south.

Traitors heads on public display on the fortified gate way at the southern end of London Bridge

Traitors heads on public display on the fortified gate way at the southern end of London Bridge

It is believed that the practice of exhibiting traitor’s heads from the gate house at the south of the bridge continued into the first quarter of the 18th century. After the re-building of the city, post the Great Fire of 1666, the new Temple Barr gate way became a more regular location for their display.

An engraving by Claes Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616 from Southwark

An engraving by Claes Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616 from Southwark

The approach to the bridge on its northern side was via Lower Fish Street, just west of the church of St. Magnus the Martyr, in the Bridge Ward of the City.

By the start of the 17th century both the east and west sides of the bridge were covered in a near continuous row of three to five storey wooden tenements which contained both private dwellings and shops which fronted onto the road. From the 1580s the bridge also housed a tidal water wheel powered pump under arches at its northern end. This pump provided the city with one of its earlier supplies of water directly from the River Thames.

A reconstruction of London Bridge as it may have appeared in the 17th century

A reconstruction of London Bridge as it may have appeared in the 17th century

In 1579 a new grand and highly elaborate five storey building, Nonsuch House, was erected towards the southern end of the bridge. As part of this re-development one of arches of the bridge was taken out and replaced by a drawbridge. Whilst this added some additional protection to the City it allowed larger vessels access to the upper part of the River Thames for the first time in hundreds of years.  Nonsuch House was Britain’s first recorded fully prefabricated building. It was built and trial erected in Holland before being shipped in pieces to London in 1578 where it was re-assembled on a space cleared for it on the southern part of the bridge.

An artists impression of Nonsuch House in the early 17th century showing the draw bridge imeadiately in front of its entrance.

An artists impression of Nonsuch House in the early 17th century showing the draw bridge immediately in front of its entrance.

In 1633 a fire broke out on the north end of the bridge which destroyed forty three houses and shops (2). Although there was some degree of re-building at this end of the bridge in the immediate years that followed a gap remained in the continual line of tenements. Luckily it was this natural fire brake which protected the buildings perched on the mid and southern parts of the bridge from being incinerated during the Great Fire of London. The Great Fire consumed most of the city of London over a period of four days in September 1666. It started in a bakery in Pudding Lane close to the bridge’s northern end.

 It was from within the hustle and bustle of the unique surroundings on old London Bridge that Edward Munns issued his half-penny trade tokens. These tokens display the trade sign (i.e. the sugarloaf) and location (i.e. on London Bridge) at or close to which Edward’s premises stood. This was a time before the formal address numbering of buildings. Ornate and memorable trade signs, in association with specific street names, were the standard means of expressing a location’s address. Trade signs would typically be suspended above a trader’s business premises or built into their fabric.  In isolation the sign of a sugarloaf is highly suggestive of its owner being a grocer(3). As one of the staple products sold by grocers in the 17th century, sugar, in the form of a distinctive wholesale loaf, would have been instantly associated with their trade by the public.  

Reconstruction of a 17th century maid braking sugar from a sugar loaf

Reconstruction of a 17th century maid braking sugar from a sugarloaf

Whilst normally indicative of a grocer the sign was also adopted by a few other tradesmen in addition to some taverns of the period. However, a review of contemporary records has indicated that Edward Munns was neither a grocer nor a tavern keeper. A clue to his occupation was initially provided in a list of the individuals and their trades who lost their properties in the London Bridge Fire of 1633. This list indicates that at the north end of the bridge, at least, there was a predominance of tradesmen involved in aspects of the cloth and clothing trade (2).

 Edward Munns was the youngest of three sons born to Thomas Munns and Susan Foster. Thomas was a citizen of London and draper from the parish of St. Mary Abchurch whilst Susan Foster was originally from the parish of St. Saviour’s, Southwark(4). The couple married in 1605 and although Thomas died in 1615 all three of his sons (Thomas b.1606, John b.1608 and Edward, b. circa 1615) went on to become drapers like their father(4). Each of the boys would have served a seven-year apprenticeship with a master draper. On completing their apprenticeships they received their freedom from their respective masters (Thomas in 1628, John in 1632 and Edward in 1637)(4) . Thereafter each of the young men would have been eligible to join the Worshipful Company of Drapers. Shortly after receiving his freedom Edward Munns started his own business from premises on London Bridge. This is confirmed from an entry in the London Poll Tax returns for 1641(2) ;

Munns, Edward – girdler on the bridge

On the 3rd March 1645 an Edward Munns married Ann Grimes at the church of Holy Trinity, Minories just outside the eastern boundaries of the city, close to the Tower of London. According to a leading genealogical index of London families(4) Edward Munns (the draper of London Bridge) had one recorded child, Ann, who married a John Heather in 1663. If Ann Munns was born circa 1645/6 this would have made her 17/18 at the time of her wedding. Given that it was common practice in the 17th century for parents to pass the mother’s first names on to their first born daughter this adds further support to Edward Munns the draper being the man who married Ann Grimes of the Minories in 1645.

 I can find no further references to Edward Munns’ wife in any surviving records. Edward’s trade tokens of 1668 carry only his name. Often, but not always, if a trader was married he would incorporate both his and his wife’s initials into the reverse of his token design. While this was very common on the farthing tokens issued by London traders during the period 1649 to the early 1660s it was not so conventional on the half penny tokens which became increasingly predominant from the early 1660s to 1672. Edward’s final Will makes no reference to a wife and implies he only had one (or at least one surviving) child, Ann. Combining all these facts together it is tempting to speculate that Edward Munns’ wife died shortly after the birth of the couples only child. She may not even have survived the birth of this child. Death of mothers in or as a result of child birth was not at all uncommon in the 17th century.

 A search of the Hearth Tax returns for 1666 has failed to identify Edwards Munns on London Bridge. However, we know he was still trading there in 1668 as that is the date on his tokens which confirms him on the bridge at or by the sign of the sugarloaf.

Two clues exist as to the precise location of the sign of the sugarloaf on the bridge. In mid-November 1667 an entrepreneur by the name of James Peters placed an advert in the London Chronicle informing those who were looking to buy or sell vacant plots of land in the city, post the Great Fire of 1666, to register with him(5) . James Peters was effectively offering his services as a land sale agent by compiling a registry of vacant and available land in the city. The advert clear states how those interested in taking advantage of his services were to find him;

 “…the dwelling house of Mr. James Peters Scrivener, at the Sign of the Sugar-loaf near the Draw-bridge on London-Bridge…”

 Returning to the Hearth Tax returns of 1666 an entry can be found for the above mentioned individual;

 James Peters – Paying tax on a property with 6 hearths located on the Bridge on the East Side

 Thus it can be deduced that Edward Munns’ shop was located by the sign of the sugarloaf which was on the south-east part of the bridge close to the draw bridge which was located on the south side of Nonsuch House.

London Bridge in the early 17th century (looking from the West) showing the general location of the sign of the sugar loaf and Edward Munns shop south of Nonsuch House

London Bridge in the early 17th century (looking from the West) showing the general location of the sign of the sugarloaf and Edward Munns shop south of Nonsuch House

 Edward Munns had a long and seemingly successful career as a London draper. In 1667 he became a member of the Worshipful Company of Drapers. From 1678 he went on to be elected to various senior offices within the Company(6) . These included;

  •  Assistant – In 1682/3 and 1683/4
  • Warden – In 1678/9, 1685/6 and 1687/8

 Over his career Edward Munns took on no fewer than seven different apprentices(6). These included(4) ;

  •  Samuel Pain – Received his freedom from Edward Munns on 23rd February 1649
  • James Goldham – Received his freedom from Edward Munns on 6th May 1657
  • Edward Kidder – Apprenticed to Edward Munns on 20th March 1666.
  • Francis Cade – Received his freedom from Edward Munns on 20th November 1667
  • John Clarke – Apprenticed to Edward Munns on 10th March 1680

 Edward Kidder was the son of Thomas Kidder, a merchant tailor, who also had premises on London Bridge prior to his death in 1656(4). No doubt Edward Munns had known the Kidder family well before he took Edward on as his apprentice. John Clare, the son of a London butcher, was almost certainly Edward Munns’ last apprentice as Edward died in 1689/90(4)(6). By this date he was in his mid-70s and so had lived to a very respectable age for the period.

 Edwards Munns’ Last Will and Testament was written on 23rd October 1688(7) and confirms that he had amassed a considerable amount of money as well as a certain amount of property during his life time. Edward made his son-in-law, John Heather, executor of his Will in which he left the bulk of his goods and estate to his daughter Ann with provision that it went primarily to her and then to her son John and not her husband. Presumably John was the eldest of the Ann and John Heather’s five children, the others being Susan, William, Elizabeth and Alice. Separate provisions were made in Edward’s Will for all five of his grandchildren. Such provisions comprised various monetary amounts. These were payable in the forms of individual differing annuities plus final sums which were to be paid to each grandchild on them reaching certain stipulated ages or, in the case of the girls, their marriages, which ever occurred first. Particularly generous provisions were made for John and Susan in Edward’s Will compared to those made for his other three grandchildren.

 Edward’s Will makes no reference to him owning any leases or property on London Bridge. This coupled with the absence of his name against any of the returns from the Hearth Tax of 1666 suggests that his premises on the bridge were either rented or held by a lease which had expired by the time he made his final Will in October 1688.  However, his Will clearly indicates that he did own land and property in Barrons Court and Barrons Alley in the Aldgate Without district of London. As yet I have been unable to locate the precise location of this address on contemporary maps or gazetteers within the fairly well-defined bounds of Aldgate Without. Interestingly the general location of this property was close to the parish church where it is believed Edward Munns married Ann Grimes in 1645 (i.e. Holy Trinity, Minories). As such it is possible that the bequeathed property in Edward’s Will was related to an inheritance secured from his late wife’s family.

   

References:

  1. Dickinson, M.J. – Seventeenth Century Tokens of the British Isles and their Values. (London, 2004).
  2. Upcott, W. – Great Fire on London Bridge, in 1633. The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 94, Part 2. November 1824.
  3. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  4. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  5. The London Gazette, Number 209, November 14th to 18th, 1667.
  6. Johnson, Rev. A.H. – The History of the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London. Vol. IV. (Oxford, 1922).
  7. PROB/11/396. National Archives (London).

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Filed under Tokens from within the City Walls

The Pastry Cook at the sign of the Crown in Shoe Lane

A pastry cook's farthing token from Shoe Lane, London

A pastry cook’s farthing token from Shoe Lane, London

The copper farthing token, pictured above, measures 15.3 mm and weighs 0.95 grams. It was issued in 1657 by a pastry cook operating from premises at or by the sign of the Crown in Shoe Lane off the north side of Fleet Street, London. Such tradesmen’s tokens normally had only a limited geographical area of circulation. Typically this may have been restricted to the immediate urban district in which their issuers lived and were known. However, some tokens inevitably travelled much further afield. Once captured amongst the small change in an individual’s pocket or purse they could have travelled great distances from their point of origin before ultimately being forgotten about and ultimately lost or discarded. This appears to have been the fate of the above example which was discovered approximately 350 years after its issue date on the River Thames foreshore at Gravesend in Kent.  

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

Obverse: (pierced mullet) PASTRY. COOKE. 1657., around a twisted wire circle. Within the depiction of a stylised crown of four arches studded with pearls and a jewelled headband with alternating decorations of crosses paté and fleurs-de-lis

Reverse: (pierced mullet) IN. SHOO. LANE -:-, around a twisted wire circle, within a triad of initials comprising I | .K. | .H

This is one of 21 different tokens issued by a variety of private tradesmen who lived and worked in Shoe Lane during the period 1649 to 1672. In the mid-17th century Shoe Lane linked Fleet Street and Holborn Hill. St. Bride’s (or St. Bridget’s) parish church served those in the lane who lived in the southern end against Fleet Street.

The initials, in capitalised Latin letters, on the reverse of the above token are those of the issuer and his wife, i.e.  Mr. “J/I.K.” and his wife Mrs. “H.K.”

It is clear from the above token image, along with those of other surviving examples, that the surname of the token issuer began with a “K”. However, it is understandable how poorer quality survivals of this token lead one earlier researcher to read this initial as an “R”. The combined initials of the token’s primary issuer could then be interpreted as “J.R.” which would fit perfectly with those of a potential issuer of the tokens who is mentioned in a contemporary survey of building sites in London a couple of years after the Great Fire of September 1666 (1) ;

Mr. John Reynolds May the 24th 1669

One foundation set out the day above said near Fleet Street formally the Sign of the Crown in Shoe Lane belonging to the said Mr. Reynolds…”

It is understandable how such a mistake could have been made but when faced with good condition examples of the above token there is no escaping that the actual surname initial on it is a “K” and not an “R”.  However, the above reference does contain some useful historical information in that;

  1. At the time of the Great Fire of London in early September 1666 a John Reynolds is credited with owing the building plot on which the sign of the Crown in Shoe Lane stood.
  2. The building identified by the sign of the Crown in Shoe Lane was located at the Fleet Street end of lane (i.e. the southern end).  

A review of Hearth Tax returns for Shoe Lane in 1666 (just prior to the Great Fire) indicates that in the St. Bride’s (Fleet Street) Precinct of Shoe Lane a John Reygnolds [sic] paid tax on premises with 10 hearths. This is the second largest hearth count for any building in the lane. The above mentioned person is almost certainly the same John Reynolds who rebuilt the Crown in 1669. The relatively large number of hearths recorded for the premises in 1666 suggests, together with its trade sign (i.e. the Crown), that it was a good sized tavern.  

A map showing part of the parish of St. Bride's Fleet Street (c.1720) indicating the southern end of Shoe Lane

A map showing part of the parish of St. Bride’s Fleet Street (c.1720) indicating the southern end of Shoe Lane

A further review of the 1666 Hearth Tax returns for Shoe Lane indicates that within a few buildings to the south of John Reynolds at the Crown was a property with an even higher hearth count of 14. More interestingly is the name of the man that is listed against this entry, John Knowles. It is possible that this man is the issuer of the above farthing trade token. The initial evidence for this can be drawn directly from his Hearth Tax return entry in that;

  1. He operated from a building located close to the sign of the Crown (as indicated on the token).
  2. He operated from a building containing 14 hearths (the highest count for any building in Shoe Lane). Such a high hearth/oven count would not be untypical for a pastry cook (i.e. the stated trade of the token issuer).
  3. His initials fit exactly with those of the token issuer (i.e. “J.K.”).

Further research has uncovered additional facts concerning John Knowles that almost certainly confirms him as the issuer of the above token. A review of contemporary London parish registers has confirmed that there was a family by the name of Knowles living in the parish of St. Bride’s, Fleet Street from at least the mid-1620s and that by the mid-1660s John and Hannah Knowles, together with their children, were almost certainly living in Shoe Lane.

The first reference to John and Hannah Knowles by name in the parish records occurs in 1647. This entry records the first of several of their children’s baptisms. These include;

    • Elizabeth – 27th July 1647
    • John Knowles – 29th June 1648
    • Charles Knowles – 6th August 1649
    • Mary Knowles – 9th December 1650
    • Hannah Knowles – 21st February 1651/2
    • Samuel Knowles – 10th September 1654
Party of Abraham Bosse's mid-17th century print entitled "The Pastry Shop"

Party of Abraham Bosse’s mid-17th century print entitled “The Pastry Shop”

Whilst it is unclear if John Knowles had always been a pastry cook it was certainly his stated trade in 1657 when he issued his token. Approximately 19 London cooks issued trade tokens during the period 1649 to 1672. However, only three of these are known to have been specifically pastry cooks.

Three decorated pies made using 17th century designs

Three decorated pies made using 17th century designs

As a pastry cook who presumably also sold his wares directly to the public from his Shoe Lane premises it is likely that all of the Knowles family would have assisted in some way in John’s busy work. His business was sufficiently large to warrant him taking on apprentices at various points in time. The following individuals are recorded in the post 1654 apprenticeship registers of the Worshipful Company of Cooks as being bound into service to John Knowles (2);

    • Richard Woodroffe – 2 March 1654/5
    • Michael Lucas – 28th January 1658/9
    • Edward Jarvis – 9th June 1662
    • Richard Michell – 9th July 1661

Apprentices would normally be bound to a master for a period of 7 years from the age of 14. Assuming they served their time they became eligible to apply for membership/freedom of their appropriate Livery Company.

A review of contemporary records has failed to highlight any further information about the later history of either John or Hannah Knowles. There are however two burial records in the registers of St. Bride’s, Fleet Street that may relate to that of John Knowles the token issuer. Unfortunately with our token issuer having a son of the same name it is difficult to differentiate between their deaths from a simple parish register entry without any reference to a spouse’s or parent’s name. Neither of the two burial register entries offer either such clues;

8th October 1665 – John Knoles from Shoo lane

31st January 1698/9 – John Knowles at Leues up ye steps popinge ally

However, given the earlier Hearth Tax evidence we know that a John Knowles was still head of the Shoe Lane household in 1666. If it had been John Knowles senior who had died the previous year it would be expected that the head of the household would have reverted to his widow Hannah, assuming she was still alive. At the relatively young age of 17 it is questionable if John Knowles junior could have legally qualified to become head of the household, even if his mother had previously died. Assuming John Knowles senior had sufficient funds it would be normal to expect him to have paid to put his sons into suitable apprenticeships or to have attained their freedom within his own Livery Company by means of “patrimony”.

Assuming that the above parish register entries relate to our token issuer and his son, and not coincidentally named individuals, the combined evidence points to the first burial record (i.e. in 1665) being that for the 17 year old John Knowles junior. The second (i.e. in 1698/9) is then likely to be that for John Knowles senior who must have returned to the Shoe Lane area after the Great Fire of September 1666 to re-establish his business.

Based on the above deduction it appears highly possible that John Knowles junior died while still working for the family business in Shoe Lane. The date of his death is significant as it coincides with a period in 1665 when London was being ravaged by one of the most infamous outbreaks of bubonic plague. Between the start of the outbreak in early 1665 and its eventual disappearance in early 1666 the plague is estimated to have claimed the lives of approximately 100,000 citizens. The death toll reached a peak during the warm Summer months but even into early October 1665 was still claiming between 2,000 to 4,000 victims per week. On the 8th October, the day of John Knowles junior’s internment; his body was one of 10 that were buried in the churchyard of St. Bride’s Fleet Street alone, the following day saw a further 16 burials at St. Bride’s and the day afterwards another 15.

Total deaths and plague related deaths in London during 1665

Total deaths and plague related deaths in London during 1665

The presumed burial register entry for John Knowles senior (i.e. 31st January 1698/9) indicates him living at “Leues” (an unknown personal or business premises name) up the steps in Popinjay Ally. This ally or court ran to the east and parallel to Shoe Lane. In August 1663 the famous diarist Samuel Pepys records entering this alley via a gate way off the north side of Fleet Street and visiting an alehouse there (3). This may have been the Green Dragon which is recorded as having issued its own farthing trade tokens during the mid-1650s to early 1660s (4). In addition to this alehouse it is likely that the ally contained a mixture of private homes and businesses. It is possible that “Leues” was one such business, possibly a cook house (i.e. a type of hot food take away establishment popular in mid-17th London) where in his later years John Knowles may have been living and working in semi-retirement.

 

References:

  1. Mills, P. & Oliver, J. – The Survey of Building Sites in the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Volume II. (London Topographical Society Publication. No.103. 1967).
  2. Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers, Cooks’ Company 1654-1800. Volume 26.  (Society of Genealogists. 1999).
  3. Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Volume IV – 1663 (Harper Collins, 2010).

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Filed under Tokens from West of the City Walls

Edward Fish at the sign of the Sun in Wapping

A farthing token issued in the name of the Edward Fish of Wapping

A farthing token issued in the name of the Edward Fish of Wapping

The brass farthing token, pictured above, measures 15.9 mm and weighs 0.80 grams. It was issued by Edward Fish, a pewterer trading at or by the sign of the Sun in Wapping, Middlesex.

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

Obverse: (mullet) EDWARD. FISH. AT , around a depiction of a stylised sun with a face and radiating rays.

Reverse: (mullet) THE. SVNN. IN. WAPIN, around a twisted wire circle. Within the initials “E” and “F” separated by a rosette decoration.

The token is undated but on stylistic and historical record grounds is likely to date from the mid-1650s to early 1660s. The initials on its reverse are those of its issuer.

Whilst there is no mention of Edward Fish’s trade on his tokens the fact that he was operating at, or by the sign of, the Sun in Wapping might suggest that he was the proprietor of a tavern or brewhouse of the same name; although the sign was adopted by other tradesmen of the period (1). Although Edward’s trade premises may have stood close by a tavern of this name he was actually a citizen of London and a member of one of the city’s more ancient Livery Companies, the Worshipful Company of Pewterers.

An assemblage of 17th Century English Pewter Ware

An assemblage of 17th Century English Pewter Ware (Image courtesy of John Bank)

In the 17th century pewterware could be found in every room of the house, not solely the kitchen. The alloy was used to make a variety of goods from spoons, basins, bowls, dishes, platters, porringers, flagons, ewers, tankards, mugs, pepperettes, pounce-pots, candlesticks and inkstands. From 1505 it became obligatory for London pewterers to stamp their ware with personalised trade marks, known as touch marks. Unfortunately while items of pewter made by Edward Fish may still be in existence in both private and museum collections there is no way of identifying them any longer. All records of such personalised touch marks from before the mid-1660s were destroyed when the records and hall of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers’ was consumed by the Great Fire of London in September 1666.

A review of contemporary maps and gazetteers does not indicate a Sun tavern or court etc. in the precincts of Wapping. However, there was a Sun Alley (2) located off New Gravel Lane, close to New Crane Stairs on the River Thames just east of Wapping in the parish of St. Paul’s, Shadwell. It is possible that this was where Edward Fish lived and ran his business making and selling pewter goods. Edward Fish was by no means the only British or London pewterer of the period to issue his own trade tokens. There are several other examples one of which, Robert Bristow, lived in an adjacent street of Wapping Wall in lower Shadwell.

A map of Wapping (c.1720) showing the location of Sun Alley in the adjacent district of Lower Shadwell

A map of Wapping (c.1720) showing the location of Sun Alley in the adjacent district of Lower Shadwell

During the mid-17th century the area to the east of the Tower of London was still relatively lightly populated and in parts semi-rural. It contained a scattering of villages, including Wapping and Shadwell, which collectively were to become the borough of Tower Hamlets.

Wapping developed along the north embankment of the Thames, hemmed in by the river to the south and the now drained Wapping Marsh to the north. This gave it a peculiarly narrow and constricted shape, consisting of little more than the axis of Wapping High Street and some north-south side streets. John Stow, the 16th century historian, described it as a “continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages, built, inhabited by sailors’ victuallers”(3). A chapel to St. John the Baptist was built in Wapping in 1617. However, the hamlet continued to remain part of the parish of St. Dunstan and All Angels, Stepney until it was constituted as a parish in its own right in 1694.

Being located on the north bank of the River Thames, Wapping had long been associated with ship building, fitting and provisioning. It was inhabited by sailors, mast-makers, boat-builders, blockmakers, instrument-makers, victuallers and representatives of all the other associated maritime trades. Wapping was also the site of “Execution Dock”, where pirates and other water-borne criminals faced execution by hanging from a gibbet constructed close to the low water mark. Their bodies would be left suspended until they had been submerged three times by the tide.

A map of Shadwell (c.1720) showing the location of Sun Alley near New Crane Stairs

A map of Shadwell (c.1720) showing the location of Sun Alley near New Crane Stairs

Edward Fish was baptised on 17th September 1626 at the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey in Surrey. In 1640, at the age of 14, his father (also named Edward Fish) apprenticed him to John Bennett a well-established London pewterer who lived and worked from premises in the parish of St. Dionis Backchurch in the Langbourn ward of the London (4). Fourteen was the usual age for boys of this period to be bound into an apprenticeship. Typically they would serve their master and learn their trade for a period 7 years before receiving their freedom (i.e. qualifying) and moving on to making their own way in life. Edward appears to have served his apprenticeship well and on gaining his freedom (17th March 1647 (5)) his master had sufficient faith in him to allow him to immediately marry his daughter. Edward Fish married Cicely Bennett on 23rd March 1647 at the parish church of St. Bartholomew the Less in West Smithfield, just outside the city walls.

By April 1648 Edward was operating as a pewterer in his own right. He obviously felt confident enough to take on an apprentice of his own, Thomas Champneys. Thomas had previously been apprenticed to a John Brooks who had passed his services on to Edward. It is not clear whether the relationship between the apprentice and master was strained or not but by September 1650 Edward has passed  Thomas on to another master by the name of Oliver Lunne (5). It is possible that Edward felt he could no longer keep an apprentice and may have fallen back on help from his wife who would have been no stranger to the trade having been born into it.

Images of pewterers' workshops from mid-16th Century Germany

Images of pewterers’ workshops from mid-16th Century Germany

By 1653 Edward and Cicely are confirmed as living in the Wapping area as testified by the baptism entry for their first child in the parish registers of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney;

31st May 1653 – Baptism of Machelle daughter of Edward Fish of Wapping, pewterer, and Cicely

In the same year Edward appears to have taken on a new apprentice, John Butterfield, a blacksmith’s son from across the River Thames in Southwark (4).

A review of London parish registers indicates that Edward and Cicely had a further three children.

2nd February 1656/7 – Richard Fish son of Edward was born ye 20th November

14th April 1663 – Susanna Fish the daughter of Edward and Sicely Fish was buried in Wapping

14th June 1663 – John Fish the son of Edward and Sicely Fish, pewterer, was born on the 2nd of June and baptised on the 14th June

All three of the above entries are from registers for St. John’s, Wapping. They confirm that in 1663 the family was still living in Wapping. The next reference we have for the family is again from the parish registers of St. John’s Wapping, this time it for the death of Edward Fish the issuer of the farthing token.

14th July 1665 – Edward Fish died of a consumption and buried in Wapping.

The date of Edward’s death has previously led one researcher to suggest that he died of the plague. Bubonic plague ravaged London throughout 1665 and into 1666 and is estimated to have claimed the lives of approximately 100,000 citizens amongst which were just over 25% of the Worshipful Company of London Pewterers (6). Deaths from the plague in and around London reached a peak at the end of Summer 1665. Edward Fish’s home parish in Tower Hamlets was equally affected by the outbreak as other areas of the capital.

However, the burial register entry for Edward Fish clearly states “consumption” (i.e. tuberculosis) as the cause of his death and not plague. Thanks to the existence of a copy of Edward’s Will (7) it is clear that at the time he made it on 15th June 1665, a month before his death, he was “of perfect mind and memory but sick and weak in body”. This does not imply plague was Edward Fish’s undoing unless he contracted it in the later stages of a protracted illness such as tuberculosis. Plague typically only has a 2 to 3 day incubation period and death usually follows very shortly afterwards. A month would be too long a period to have lingered if plague was the cause of Edward’s death.

In his will Edward Fish named his wife, Cicely, as executrix and principal recipient of his goods and estate. The Will set aside the sum of £20 to be split equally between his two sons, Richard and John, to set them up in apprenticeships when they reached suitable age (typically 14). A search for their names in the registers of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers has drawn a blank which suggests that they didn’t follow in their father’s footsteps.

A review of Hearth Tax returns from 1666 for the Tower Hamlets area has failed to identify a Widow Fish or a Richard Fish (i.e. Edward’s oldest son) in the area so it is assumed that either Cicely re-married soon after Edward’s death or moved out of the area for pastures new with her surviving children.

At some point after Edward’s death Cicely did re-marry. According to one source (8) to “one Moore a foreigner of Edinburgh” after whose death she asked (14th October 1679) to be admitted into the freedom of the Worshipful Company of London Pewterers. After some debate the court of the company agreed to accept her asking her to pay the usual fees and accept the condition that she should not bind any apprentice to her.

References:

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

2)      Saunders, A. (Ed.) – The A to Z of Charles II’s London 1682. (London Topographical Society. 2013).

3)      Strype, J. – A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster: Containing the Original, Antiquity, Increase, Modern Estate and Government of those Cities. – Corrected, Improved, and very much Enlarged Edition. (London, 1720).

4)      Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers, Pewterers’ Company 1611-1800. Volume 40.  (Society of Genealogists. 2003).

5)      Entry for Edward Fish (No.3344) within the database of pewterers held and maintained by the Pewter Society of Great Britain.

6)      Homer, R.F. – The London Pewterers and the Plague of 1665. Journal of the Pewter Society. Volume 23. Spring 2005.

7)      PROB/11/317. National Archives (London).

8)      Entry for Sicely [sic] Moore (No.6504) within the database of pewterers held and maintained by the Pewter Society of Great Britain.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thanks Roger Barnes, John Bank and Steve Custons of the Pewter Society of Great Britain for their assistance in sourcing information and illustrations used in the preparation of this article.

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John March of the Swan in Ratcliff Cross

A farthing token issued in the name of the John March of the Swan  in Ratcliff Cross in the parish of Stepney

A farthing token issued in the name of the John March of the Swan in Ratcliff Cross in the parish of Stepney

The above copper farthing token measures 16.0 mm and weighs 1.29 grams. It was issued by John March, a tradesman of Ratcliff Cross in the parish of Stepney, Middlesex.

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

Obverse: (mullet) IHON. MARCH. THE. SWN , around a depiction of a swan walking left with wings raised and with a chain around its neck.

Reverse: (mullet) AT. RATLLIF. CROSE, around a twisted wire circle, within a triad of initials comprising I | .M. | .M with a dot below the upper “M”.

The token is undated but on stylistic and historical record grounds is likely to date from the period 1650s or early 1660s. The initials on its reverse are those of its issuer (i.e. John March where “J” in Latin script is equivalent to “I”) plus that of his wife’s Christian name (i.e. possibly Mary or Martha etc.). 

Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney (c.1720) Indicating Ratcliff Cross area (in yellow) and Swan Yard (in green)

Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney (c.1720) Indicating Ratcliff Cross area (in yellow) and Swan Yard (in green)

John March lived and worked from premises at or by the sign of the Swan, Ratcliff Cross in the village of Ratcliff. During the mid-17th century the area to the east of the Tower of London was still relatively lightly populated and semirural. It contained a scattering of villages which collectively were to become the borough of Tower Hamlets.

By the early 17th century Ratcliff was one of the largest communities in the parish of Stepney. It had a population of approximately 3,500 inhabitants. Being located on the north bank of the River Thames It had long been associated with ship building, fitting and provisioning and was home to many mariners.

Very little is known about John March. His associate trade sign, i.e. the chained swan, may suggest that he was a publican or brewer. The sign of the swan had been favoured in London by brew houses and taverns from as early as the 14th century (1).

A review of early maps of the Ratcliff area indicate that just north-west of Ratcliff Cross, on the south-east corner off Broad Street was a court area known as Swan Yard. It is tempting to think that this marked the location of a tavern or brew house of the same name. This location has a very high probability of being where John March had his home and business.

A search of local parish registers has identified two baptism records which may throw further light on John March’s trade. Both of these records are from John March’s home parish, i.e. St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. A summary of these records is given below;

5th July 1650 – Baptism of Joseph, son of John March of Ratcliff, cook and Mary

15th May 1667 – Baptism of Mary, daughter of John March of Dog Road, silk weaver and Mary

It is impossible to say if either of the above refer to John March and his wife. In both entries the mother’s Christian name starts with a letter that fits with that of the token issuer’s. The first entry fits with the location of the token issuer. The location of “Dog Road” mentioned in the second entry is unclear. Given the two dissimilar trades mentioned in the above parish register entries it is unlikely that the John Marchs mentioned are one and the same person despite them both having a wife with the same Christian name.

A review of Hearth Tax returns for Ratcliff and other locations in the parish of Stepney for 1666 has failed to identify a John March. There is however a mention of a widow March living in a property with two hearths in Nightingale Lane in the adjoining village Lime House in the same parish. No burial record has so far come to light for a John March within the parish of Stepney during the period between the mid-1650s to mid-1660s. One possibility for the apparent disappearance of John March from the Hearth Tax returns from the parish of Stepney in 1666 is that he and his surviving family may have fled the area, as did so many Londoners, during the infamous outbreak of Plague in the capital during 1665/6.

 References:

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

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Thomas Railton in White Horse Street, Ratcliff

A farthing token issued in the name of the Thomas Railton of White Horse Street, Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney

A farthing token issued in the name of the Thomas Railton of White Horse Street, Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney

The above copper farthing token measures 15.3 mm and weighs 0.77 grams. It was issued by Thomas Railton, a baker living in the village of Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney, Middlesex.

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

Obverse: (mullet) THOMAS. RAILTON. BAKER , around a twisted wire circle, within is the depiction of a wheatsheaf.

Reverse: (mullet) IN. WHITHORS. STREETE, around the depiction of a pair of un-laden pan scales. Either side of the scale’s upper suspension hoop the token issuer’s initials T and R.

The token is undated but on stylistic and historical record grounds is likely to date from the period 1650s or early 1660s. As the token does not carry the usual triad of initials, representing the names of the married couple who issued the token it may be evidence that at the time of this farthing’s issue Thomas Railton was a bachelor.  

White Horse Street, Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney (c.1720)

White Horse Street, Ratcliff in the parish of Stepney (c.1720)

Thomas Railton lived and worked in premises on White Horse Street, a road of ancient origins which ran from Ratcliff to the parish church of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. Today the course of this street is represented by White Horse Road and the eastern end of Cable Street. During the mid-17th century the area to the east of the Tower of London was still relatively lightly populated and semirural. It contained a scattering of villages which collectively were to become the borough of Tower Hamlets.

By the early 17th century Ratcliff was one of the largest communities in the parish of Stepney. It had a population of approximately 3,500 inhabitants. Being located on the north bank of the River Thames It had long been associated with ship building, fitting and provisioning and was home to many mariners.

Little is known about Thomas Railton, the issuer of the above token, other than his stated profession as a baker. At least one of the emblems on his token, i.e. a pair of scales and a wheat sheaf, may have been a representation of sign under which he traded. Both of these devices were associated with the baking trade and appeared on the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Bakers of the City of London. 

St. Dunstans and All Saints parish church, Stepney (1755)

St. Dunstan and All Saints parish church, Stepney (1755)

A search of local parish registers has identified the following entries, all of which are from St. Dunstan and All Saints Church (Stepney), which may be of relevance to the token issuer.

1601/02 February – Marriage between Thomas Railton and Judith Linford, both of Poplar

It is probable that the later entry is for that of the token issuer’s parents.

1615, 14th April 1615 – Baptism of Thomas son of Thomas Railton a labourer of Poplar

1641, 8th August – Thomas Railton of Stepney, Mariner and Rose Ward, maid, the daughter of Henry Ward of Lamborne in the County of Essex, yeoman married by Lysence from the Office of Faculties

It is possible that the last entry refers to the token issuer prior to him becoming a baker. While there may be some uncertainty about this particular reference there doesn’t appear to be any with respect to the following entry from the same set of parish registers.

1663, 7th May – Marriage of Thomas Raileton of Ratcliff, baker and Susanna Fredd

No further reference can be found relating to Thomas Railton after this date. Even a review of the Hearth Tax returns for White Horse Street, Stepney for 1666 has failed to identify anyone by the name of Railton. 

It is possible that Thomas either fled the area never to return or perished without record during the devastating outbreak of plague which struck London in 1665.

While outside the city the parish of Stepney was hit hard by the plague both during the outbreaks of both 1625/6 and 1665/6. The large churchyard of St. Dunstan’s owes its size (approximately 7 acres) to extensions brought about as a means of accommodating the increased number of burials resulting from these epidemics.  

Comparative maps showing the growth of the parish burial ground of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney between c.1615 (right) and c.1720 (left) due to the excessive burial demands brought about by sucessive outbreaks of Plague in 1625 and 1665

Comparative maps showing the growth of the parish burial ground of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney between c.1615 (right) and c.1720 (left) due to the excessive burial demands brought about by successive outbreaks of Plague in 1625 and 1665

The vestry minutes from around these periods refer frequently to the extensions to the grave yard and instructions given to the sexton as to burials not to be within a certain distance of the church. In 1625/6 over 3,960 burials took place and a southern extension was added to the ancient churchyard.  The over powering smell of putrefaction from many of the shallower graves in the old overcrowded section of the churchyard was so bad that additional earth and gravel had to be brought in to raise the ground level. So great was the number of burials that by license granted by the Bishop on 24th January 1625/6, the Parish Clerk was empowered to bury parishioners, because there was more work than the Curate could cope with on his own.  

A contemporary wood cut illustrating the mass burial of London plague victims in 1665. Such scenes were almost certainly played out in the parish church yard in Stepney.

A contemporary wood cut illustrating the mass burial of London plague victims in 1665. Such scenes were almost certainly played out in the parish church yard in Stepney.

During the outbreak of plague of 1665/6 a further 6,500 victims were buried in the churchyard. At this time the population of the parish was largely comprised of sailors. The plague so devastated the area time that the Lord Chancellor of the time (Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon) later recorded the following in his memoirs (1).

Plague in Stepney

References:

1)      Hyde, E. – The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England. Oxford. 1760.

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Thomas Blagrave at the Crown tavern in Threadneedle Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 31st January 1664/65

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

Wednesday 15th February 1664/65

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

Monday 22nd January 1665/66

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

Wednesday 14th February 1665/66

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

Saturday 3rd March 1665/66

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

Friday 16th March 1665/66

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

Monday 2nd April 1666

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

Monday 4th June 1666

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

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

 

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

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

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

Foot Notes:

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

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

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

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

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James Stephens in Giltspur Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foot Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Black Bell in Thames Street

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Black Bell in Thames Street, London.

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Black Bell in Thames Street, London.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.6 mm and weighs 1.03 grams. It was issued in 1652 by a tradesman, possibly a tavern keeper, operating from premises at or by the sign of the Black Bell in Thames Street, London.

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

Obverse: (mullet) AT. THE. BLACK. BELL , around a depiction of a bell.

Reverse: (mullet) IN.THEMS.STREETE, around twisted wire inner circle, within a legend in three lines; P.N / NVCE / 1652.

It is not clear if the initials above the issuers surname “Nuce” stand for the first and last names of the issuer or alternatively represent the Christian names of the primary token issuer plus his wife (i.e. Mr. P. Nuce and Mrs. N. Nuce). It is typical to find the latter sets of initials on the reverse side of 17th century tokens in the form of a triad.

Thames Street was an important and very long thoroughfare which ran parallel to the warehouses, homes and other buildings on the north bank of the Thames between the Tower of London and Puddle Dock (south of the West End of St. Paul’s Cathedral).

The Church of All Hallows the Great on Thames Street (c.1720)

The Church of All Hallows the Great on Thames Street (c.1720)

A review of London parish registers plus other genealogical sources has so far failed to identify a Mr. P. Nuce. However, a review of London Hearth Tax returns for the years 1662 and 1666 indicates one possible candidate with matching initials plus the surname “Nuce”. This match, from the 1662, is for a man by the name of Philipp Nuce who paid tax on a property with 6 hearths in the second precinct of the parish of All Hallows the Great in the Dowgate Ward of the city. It so happens that Thames Street passes directly through this Ward, more over All Hallows Parish Church lies on the south side of Thames Street. As such Philipp Nuce must be considered as a very definite contender as the issuer of this farthing token. The fact that Philipp Nuce is not recorded in the London Hearth Tax returns for 1666 (pre the Great Fire of September 1666) may suggest that by that date he had either left the city or had died. Either of these options is possible.

We can’t be certain of the trade of this particular token issuer but the sign of the Bell or Black Bell was commonly used by taverns in the city during the 17th century. As such our token issuer may well have been a tavern keeper.

Thames Street and the surrounding areas were all consumed during the Great Fire of London in September 1666. It is unlikely that the re-use or memory of the sign of the Black Bell in Thames Street will have survived after the conflagration other than in the paranumismatic record.

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Thomas White in Fore Street, Cripplegate Without

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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