Tag Archives: Fleet Street

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.



  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).


Filed under Tokens from West of the City Walls

The King’s Head at Chancery Lane End

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

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

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

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

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

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

21th June 1665

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

2nd April 1668

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Hercules Pillars in Fleet Street

A farthing token issued in the name of The Hercules Pillars in Fleet Street, London A farthing token issued in the name of The Hercules Pllars in Fleet Street, London

The above brass farthing token measures 15.8 mm and weighs 0.93 grams. It was issued in the name of The Hercules Pillars Tavern in Fleet Street, London.

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

Obverse: (star) THE.HERCVLVS.PILLERS , around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of Hercules with a rope wrapped around his waist pushing against two pillars.
Reverse: (star) IN.FLEET.STREETE.WESTMINSTER , around twisted wire inner circle, triad I /. S . / .M within.

Stylistically this undated farthing token likely dates to the mid 1650s and was probably struck by David Rammage at the Tower Mint. The initials of the couple that ran The Hercules Pillars at the time this token was issued (i.e. Mr. “J (or I).M” and his wife Mrs.”S.M.”) have not been positively identified although one researcher has proposed that those of the landlord belong to a Mr. John Symons.

From c.1657 to at least 1666 The Hercules Pillars tavern was run by Edward Oldham who issued his own half penny token in the names of himself and his wife. stylistically this later token appears to date to the mid 1660s. In the 1666 Hearth Tax return the tavern appears to have 17 hearths.

The location of Hercules Pillar Alley off the south side of Fleet Street from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London The location of Hercules Pillar Alley off the south side of Fleet Street from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

The Hercules Pillars was built-in the time of King James I and was a tavern of great repute in the 17th century with lovers of good living. It stood at the head of Hercules Pillar Alley on the south side of Fleet Street, south-west of St. Dunstan’s Church and north of Temple Churchyard. In John Strype‘s Survey of London (1720) he describes Hercules Pillars Alley as;

“Hercules Pillars Alley, but narrow, and altogether inhabited by such as keep Public Houses for Entertainment, for which it is of Note.”

In a letter of advice to a foreigner visiting England in 1679 the philosopher John Loche sates the following on the subject of “the home made ales of England”;

“There are also several sorts of compound ales, as cock-ale, wormwood-ale, lemon-ale, scurvy-grass-ale, colledge-ale etc. These are to be had at Hercules’ Pillars, near the Temple.”

The Hercules Pillars tavern was a popular haunt of Samuel Pepys . He mentions it in 26 separate entries in his famous diaries. These entries are listed chronologically below.

11th October 1660

“Here, in the Park, we met with Mr. Salisbury, who took Mr. Creed and me to the Cockpitt to see “The Moore of Venice,” which was well done. Burt acted the Moore; ‘by the same token, a very pretty lady that sat by me, called out, to see Desdemona smothered. From thence with Mr. Creed to Hercules Pillars, where we drank and so parted, and I went home.”

30th October 1660

“In the afternoon, to ease my mind, I went to the Cockpit all alone, and there saw a very fine play called “The Tamer Tamed;” very well acted. That being done, I went to Mr. Crew’s, where I had left my boy, and so with him and Mr. Moore (who would go a little way with me home, as he will always do) to the Hercules Pillars to drink, where we did read over the King’s declaration in matters of religion, which is come out to-day, which is very well penned, I think to the satisfaction of most people.”

4th January 1660/61

“After dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Theatre, where was “The Scornful Lady,” acted very well, it being the first play that ever he saw. Thence with him to drink a cup of ale at Hercules Pillars, and so parted.”

30th July 1661

“So in Fleet Street I met with Mr. Salisbury, who is now grown in less than two years’ time so great a limner (i.e. a portrait painter or book illuminator) that he is become excellent, and gets a great deal of money at it. I took him to Hercules Pillars to drink, and there came Mr. Whore (whom I formerly have known), a friend of his to him, who is a very ingenious fellow, and there I sat with them a good while, and so home …..”

27th March 1663

“Thence I to the Exchequer again, and thence with Creed into Fleet Street, and calling at several places about business; in passing, at the Hercules pillars he and I dined though late, and thence with one that we found there, a friend of Captain Ferrers I used to meet at the playhouse, they would have gone to some gameing house, but I would not but parted, and staying a little in Paul’s Churchyard, at the foreign Bookseller’s looking over some Spanish books….”

29th October 1663

“…Being wearied with looking upon a company of ugly women, Creed and I went away, and took coach and through Cheapside, and there saw the pageants, which were very silly, and thence to the Temple, where meeting Greatorex, he and we to Hercules Pillars, there to show me the manner of his going about of draining of fenns, which I desired much to know, but it did not appear very satisfactory to me, as he discoursed it, and I doubt he will faile in it. Thence I by coach home….”

21st June 1667

“Thence homewards, calling at my Tailor’s to bespeak some coloured clothes, and thence to Hercules Pillars, all alone, and there spent 6d. on myself, and so home and busy all the morning. At noon to dinner, home….”

6th February 1667/68

“At last I did find my wife staying for me in the entry; and with her was Betty Turner, Mercer, and Deb. So I got a coach, and a humour took us, and I carried them to Hercules Pillars, and there did give them a kind of a supper of about 7s., and very merry, and home round the town, not through the ruines; and it was pretty how the coachman by mistake drives us into the ruines from London-wall into Coleman Street: and would persuade me that I lived there.”

20th April 1668

“Thence with Creed, thinking, but failed, of dining with Lord Crew, and so he and I to Hercules Pillars, and there dined, and thence home by coach….”

22nd April 1668

“Up, and all the morning at my office busy. At noon, it being washing day, I toward White Hall, and stopped and dined all alone at Hercules Pillars, where I was mighty pleased to overhear a woman talk to her counsel how she had troubled her neighbours with law, and did it very roguishly and wittily.”

28th April 1668

“Thence with Creed to Hercules Pillars by the Temple again, and there dined he and I all alone, and thence to the King’s house….”

1st May 1668

“Thence I by coach to the Temple, and there set him down, and then to Sir G. Carteret’s to dine, but he not being at home, I back again to the New Exchange a little, and thence back again to Hercules Pillars, and there dined all alone, and then to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “The Surprizall…”

2nd May 1668

“At noon with Lord Brouncker in his coach as far as the Temple, and there ‘light and to Hercules Pillars, and there dined, and thence to the Duke of York’s playhouse, at a little past twelve, to get a good place in the pit……”

13th May 1668

“Thence, at noon, to Hercules Pillars, and there dined all alone, and so to White Hall, some of us attended the Duke of York…”

23rd June 1668

“So I away with my wife and Deb., whom I left at Unthanke’s, and so to Hercules Pillars, and there we three supped on cold powdered beef, and thence home and in the garden walked a good while with Deane, talking well of the Navy miscarriages and faults. So home to bed.”

31st August 1668

“Up, and to my office, there to set my journal for all the last week, and so by water to Westminster to the Exchequer, and thence to the Swan, and there drank and did baiser la fille there, and so to the New Exchange and paid for some things, and so to Hercules Pillars, and there dined all alone, while I sent my shoe to have the heel fastened at Wotton’s, and thence to White Hall to the Treasury chamber, where did a little business, and thence to the Duke of York’s playhouse…..”

9th November 1668

“So I staid about the Court a little while, and then to look for a dinner, and had it at Hercules-Pillars, very late, all alone, costing me 10d. And so to the Excise Office, thinking to meet Sir Stephen Fox and the Cofferer….”

18th November 1668

“Lay long in bed talking with my wife, she being unwilling to have me go abroad, saying and declaring herself jealous of my going out for fear of my going to Deb., which I do deny, for which God forgive me, for I was no sooner out about noon but I did go by coach directly to Somerset House, and there enquired among the porters there for Dr. Allbun, and the first I spoke with told me he knew him, and that he was newly gone into Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but whither he could not tell me, but that one of his fellows not then in the way did carry a chest of drawers thither with him, and that when he comes he would ask him. This put me into some hopes, and I to White Hall, and thence to Mr. Povy’s, but he at dinner, and therefore I away and walked up and down the Strand between the two turnstiles, hoping to see her out of a window, and then employed a porter, one Osbeston, to find out this Doctor’s lodgings thereabouts, who by appointment comes to me to Hercules pillars, where I dined alone, but tells me that he cannot find out any such, but will enquire further.”

23rd November 1668

“Thence with W. Hewer, who goes up and down with me like a jaylour, but yet with great love and to my great good liking, it being my desire above all things to please my wife therein. I took up my wife and boy at Unthank’s, and from there to Hercules Pillars, and there dined, and thence to our upholster’s, about some things more to buy, and so to see our coach, and so to the looking-glass man’s, by the New Exchange, and so to buy a picture for our blue chamber chimney, and so home…”

9th December 1668

“This done, and having spent 6d. in ale in the coach, at the door of the Bull Inn, with the innocent master of the house, a Yorkshireman, for his letting us go through his house, we away to Hercules Pillars, and there eat a bit of meat: and so, with all speed, back to the Duke of York’s house, where mighty full again; but we come time enough to have a good place in the pit, and did hear this new play again….”

20th January 1668/69

“Thence to my wife at Unthanke’s, and with her and W. Hewer to Hercules Pillars, calling to do two or three things by the way, and there dined, and thence to the Duke of York’s house, and saw “Twelfth Night,” as it is now revived; but, I think, one of the weakest plays that ever I saw on the stage.”

10th February 1668/69

“Up, and with my wife and W. Hewer, she set us down at White Hall, where the Duke of York was gone a-hunting: and so, after I had done a little business there, I to my wife, and with her to the plaisterer’s at Charing Cross, that casts heads and bodies in plaister: and there I had my whole face done; but I was vexed first to be forced to daub all my face over with pomatum: but it was pretty to feel how soft and easily it is done on the face, and by and by, by degrees, how hard it becomes, that you cannot break it, and sits so close, that you cannot pull it off, and yet so easy, that it is as soft as a pillow, so safe is everything where many parts of the body do bear alike. Thus was the mould made; but when it came off there was little pleasure in it, as it looks in the mould, nor any resemblance whatever there will be in the figure, when I come to see it cast off, which I am to call for a day or two hence, which I shall long to see. Thence to Hercules Pillars, and there my wife and W. Hewer and I dined, and back to White Hall, where I staid till the Duke of York come from hunting, which he did by and by, and, when dressed, did come out to dinner; and there I waited: and he did tell me that to-morrow was to be the great day that the business of the Navy would be dis coursed of before the King and his Caball, and that he must stand on his guard, and did design to have had me in readiness by, but that upon second thoughts did think it better to let it alone, but they are now upon entering into the economical part of the Navy.”

12th February 1668/69

“….and so away vexed, and called my wife, and to Hercules Pillars, Tom and I, there dined; and here there coming a Frenchman by with his Shew, we did make him shew it us, which he did just as Lacy acts it, which made it mighty pleasant to me. So after dinner we away……”

22nd February 1668/69

“After the play done, we met with W. Batelier and W. Hewer and Talbot Pepys, and they follow us in a hackney-coach: and we all stopped at Hercules’ Pillars; and there I did give them the best supper I could, and pretty merry; and so home between eleven and twelve at night, and so to bed, mightily well pleased with this day’s work.”

21st April 1668/69

“This we were discoursing when my boy comes to tell me that his mistress was at the Gate with the coach, whither I went, and there find my wife and the whole company. So she, and Mrs. Turner, and The., and Talbot, in mine: and Joyce, W. Batelier, and I, in a hackney, to Hyde Park, where I was ashamed to be seen; but mightily pleased, though troubled, with a drunken coachman that did not remember when we come to ‘light, where it was that he took us up; but said at Hammersmith, and thither he was carrying of us when we come first out of the Park. So I carried them all to Hercules-Pillars, and there did treat them: and so, about ten at night, parted, and my wife, and I, and W. Batelier, home; and he gone, we to bed.”

30th April 1668/69

“This morning I did visit Mr. Oldenburgh, and did see the instrument for perspective made by Dr. Wren, of which I have one making by Browne; and the sight of this do please me mightily. At noon my wife come to me at my tailor’s, and I sent her home and myself and Tom dined at Hercules’ Pillars; and so about our business again, and particularly to Lilly’s, the varnisher about my prints, whereof some of them are pasted upon the boards, and to my full content. Thence to the frame-maker’s one Morris, in Long Acre, who shewed me several forms of frames to choose by, which was pretty, in little bits of mouldings, to choose by.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeathan gentlemen engaging in sword and buckler play

Elizabeathan gentlemen engaging in sword and buckler play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Tokens from West of the City Walls