Tag Archives: Great Plague

Thomas Bonny at the sign of the Clothworkers’ Arms in Bedlam

A half penny tradesman's token issued by Thomas Bonny of Bedlam

A half penny tradesman’s token issued by Thomas Bonny of Bedlam

The above brass half penny token measures 20.8 mm and weighs 2.28 grams. It was issued in the name of Thomas Bonny a tradesman who operated his business in the district of Bedlam in Bishopsgate Without district of the City of London.

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

Obverse: (sexfoil) THOMAS (rosette) BONNY (rosette) AT (rosette) THE , around a twisted wire inner circle within which is a depiction of Clothworkers’ Arms.

Reverse: (sexfoil) IN (rosette) BEDLAM (rosette) 1667 (rosette) , around a twisted wire inner circle within the legend in three lines reads HIS / HALFE / PENNY . Below a triad of initials reads, .T|B.| M.

The reverse of the token bears a triad of issuers’ initials, i.e. those of Thomas Bonny and his wife. Given that Thomas’s wife’s first name began with the letter “M” and given the time period in which the token was issued there is a high probability that her name was either Mary or Margaret as both names were very popular in 17th century England. The issue date of the token, i.e. 1667, is clearly stated on its reverse.

The location of the Bedlam or Bethlem district of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720)

The location of the Bedlam or Bethlem district of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720)

The token issuer’s place of abode, i.e. Bedlam, was the colloquial name given to Bethlem, a 13th century priory church founded by the Italian bishop-elect of Bethlehem to raise alms and funds to support the crusades to the Holy Land. It was located just north of St. Botolph’s Parish Church off Bishopsgate Street outside the city walls. By 1330 Bedlam was more often referred to as a hospital which in medieval terms may have simply denoted a hostel for travelling alms-seekers. By the 1370s the hospital had been seized by the crown and was becoming a far more secularized institution. It was from this period that it became first associated with the care of the mentally ill. So was to begin a centuries long tradition for which the institute, and its later nearby successor, was to became famous throughout Europe.

Detail from a map of Elizabethan London (1572) taken from "Civitates orbis terrarum" showing the location of Bethlem Hospital in the Bishopsgate Without Ward of the city

Detail from a map of Elizabethan London (1572) taken from “Civitates orbis terrarum” showing the location of Bethlem Hospital in the Bishopsgate Without Ward of the city

Although Bethlem had been enlarged by 1667 to accommodate fifty nine patients, the Court of Governors of the hospital observed at the start of 1674 that;

“The Hospital House of Bethlem is very old, weak & ruinous and to small and streight for keeping the greater number of lunatics therein at present.”

Given the increasing demand for admission and the inadequate and dilapidated state of the building it was decided to rebuild the hospital on a site at nearby Moorfields. This was just north of the city walls and one of the largest open spaces in London. The architect chosen for the new hospital, which was built rapidly and at great expense between 1675 and 1676, was the famous natural philosopher and City Surveyor Robert Hooke.

Engraving by Robert White of the new Bethlem Hospital designed by Robert Hooke and built at Moorfields, outside of the City of London in 1676

Engraving by Robert White of the new Bethlem Hospital designed by Robert Hooke and built at Moorfields, outside of the City of London in 1676

By the late 1670s the original site and any remaining buildings which had once comprised part of the original Bethlem Hospital had been absorbed by the wide spread urban development to the west of Bishopsgate Street Without. Today nothing remains of the medieval hospital. Its former site is now occupied by the Great Eastern Hotel next to Liverpool Street Railway Station.

The device illustrated in the obverse field of the token is the coats of arms of the Worshipful Company of London Clothworkers (Note 1). It is likely that in this case the device represents the trade sign that hung over, or adjacent to, the token issuer’s business premises in Bedlam and/or is a direct indication of his profession.

In Search of the History of Thomas Bonny & His Family

The following brief history of our token issuer and his immediate family has been pieced together from a wide variety of sources including parish registers (Note 2) and records, livery company records, school admission registers, tax records, contemporary newspaper entries and finally probate records.

Due to the relatively large number of 17th century Londoners having the name “Thomas Bonny” (or phonetically similar surnames, e.g. Bonney, Bonnie, Bonne, Bunny, Bunnee, Bonnes and Boune etc.) reconstructing the history of this token issuer has been challenging given the increased potential for ascribing the life events and records relating to one individual with those of contemporaries having the same or a similar name. With increased potential for such confusion being apparent added caution and conservatism has been applied in reconstructing the following brief family history. Despite such efforts the following must be considered as only a possible and not definitive history.

Thomas Bonny was born c.1616. Nothing is known of his early life or where he was born. By the time he was 31 (in 1647) we know that he was married and he and his wife had just had their second son, Thomas(1). From later evidence(2) we know that Thomas Bonny had at least two other children, Eleanor and a younger daughter by the name of Judith. It is also possible that Thomas’s first son was named Francis (Note 3).

A reference to Thomas in 1659 indicates that by that date he was a goldsmith (Note 4) and citizen of London. As a goldsmith in the mid-17th century it is also possible that Thomas’s business activities could have includes aspects of the banking trade.

In 1659 Thomas enrolled his second son Thomas, then aged 12, as a student in the Merchant Taylors’ School. Founded in 1551, by the Merchant Taylors’ Company, this early school was located in the Manor of the Rose, in Suffolk Lane in the Candlewick Ward of the city of London.

By 1657 Thomas Bonny, the goldsmith and later token issuer, was living in Cheapside in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch(3) . He was 41 years old. It has to be assumed that by this date his wife had died as in this same year he re-married. His new bride, Mary Metcalf, was the widower of John Metcalf who had lived in a property on the northern side of the church of St. Mary Colechurch on the south-west side of Old Jewry. Prior to his death, in 1656, John Metcalf had been a prominent member of the parish and keeper of the Royal Exchange(4) .

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) showing part of Cheapside Ward and including location details of the home of Thomas Bonny in Old Jewery (in yellow); the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch (in red); the Mercers' Hall (in blue) and the Great Conduit (in green) being one of the city's principle supply points of "clean" water.

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) showing part of Cheapside Ward and including location details of the home of Thomas Bonny in Old Jewry (in yellow); the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch (in red); the Mercers’ Hall (in blue) and the Great Conduit (in green) being one of the city’s principle supply points of “clean” water.

From 1657 until the time of the Great Fire of 1666 there is an abundance of documentary evidence for Thomas Bonny in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch(5). Much of this comes from parish records such as the churchwardens accounts and vestry minute books. A sample of this evidence is presented below.

Firstly, from annual rate assessments of the inhabitants of the parish(6);

1) For the Lord Mayor’s relief payments which were levied to support the poor house holders of the city, and which were collected door to door or at the church door on stimulated dates, we find the following entry for the years 1657, 1659, 1660, 1661 and 1666;

Mr. Thom. Bonny (also spelt Bonney) – 1 penny per week or annually 4 shillings and 4 pence

A separate payment of 1 penny a week for the above is also recorded in the name of Mrs. Bonny in 1657. 

2) For the annual assessment for the payment of the parish’s poor rates of 1663 and 1664;

 Mr. Bonny – 3 shillings and 6 pence

3) For the annual assessment of payments to pay for the wages of the parish “raker” (i.e. street cleaner) for 1666;

Mr. Bonny – 3 shillings and 6 pence

Secondly, from the three years of existing records for the congregation’s seating arrangements in the 13 sets of pews of the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch between 1657 and 1661 (i.e. 1657, 1678 and 1661) we have the following listings for the Bonny family (variously spelt in the entries as either Bonny, Bonney or Boney)(7) ;

 Mr. Bonny – Pew 12 in 1657 and 1658 and Pew 10 in 1661.

Mrs. Bonny – Pew 8 in 1657 and 1658 and Pew 9 in 1661.

Between 1662 and 1666 Thomas Bonny is known to have had associations with two adjacent properties on the west side of Old Jewry immediately north of the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch. The most southerly of these was surveyed in 1648 as comprising a cellar, 13 ft. 4 in. by 11 ft.; a shop and staircase, 16 ft. by 12 ft.; a yard 11 ft. by 4 ft. 8 in.; the hall and kitchen over the shop, 18 ft. by 12 ft.; a staircase and house of office, 5 ft. by 5 ft.; the room over the hall and kitchen, 20 ft. by 12 ft.; and 2 garrets over that room, 20 ft. by 12 ft. This house contained 3 storeys and garrets above ground and the first and second storeys would each appear to have jettied 2 ft. over the street beyond the storey below. At some time in the 1650s this property was divided into two and according to the Hearth Tax return of 1662 we know that Thomas Bonny was occupying one part of it which had 3 hearths and shared a common oven with the other part of the property(8). By the time of the Hearth Tax assessment of 1666 Thomas no longer appears to be in this property and instead can be found in the adjoining house to the north. This house had been in the possession of John Metcalf from at least 1638 until his death in 1656 and obviously passed into Thomas Bunny’s hands when he married John’s widow Mary in 1657. According to a contemporary survey this property comprised a cellar, 14 ft. by 11 ½ft.; a shop and entry, 17 ft. by 12 ft.; a yard, 11 ft. by 5 ft.; a chamber, 18 ½ ft. by 11 ½ft.; a kitchen and staircase, 11 ½ ft. by 10 ft.; a chamber, 12 ft. by 10 ft.; and a garret, 20 ft. by 11 ft.(9).

Thomas Bonny took on a 21-year lease on the latter of the 2 properties from its owners, the Worshipful Company of Mercers. Like the neighbouring tenement to the south this property was divided into 2 parts just prior to 1662 when it was probably represented by 2 houses, each with 3 hearths. In 1662 these were occupied by a Mr. Joseph Moore and Mrs. Frances Howell, a widow. By the time of Hearth Tax of 1666 the 2 houses, each of which still contained 3 hearths, were occupied by Thomas Bonny himself and a Mr. James Townsend(10,11).

In 1666 Thomas Bonny became a churchwarden for the parish of St. Mary Colechurch(12). He and his wife had survived the ravages of the plague of 1665, which had killed approximately 100,000 of the city’s population. However, they weren’t to escape the effects of the Great Fire of early September 1666 which consumed four fifths of the city including all of Cheapside Ward. Thomas Bonny is officially listed as one of those who lost his property in the parish, most likely during the course of the first full day of the fire (i.e. Monday 3rd of September).

A plan of mid-17th Century London showing the extent of destruction of the city by the Great Fire of September 1666 plus the location of Thomas Bonny's home in Cheapside Ward (yellow dot) and the main street running through the district of Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Without Ward (green line)

A plan of mid-17th Century London showing the extent of destruction of the city by the Great Fire of September 1666 plus the location of Thomas Bonny’s home in Cheapside Ward (yellow dot) and the main street running through the district of Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Without Ward (green line)

It is unclear what happened to the Bonny family immediately after the Great Fire but by 1667 we know from the numismatic and  hand writing evidence (Note 5) that Thomas and Mary were living and working in Bedlam in the Bishopsgate Without district of the city. This area of London was not directly affected by the inferno of 1666 and like other districts spared by the fire saw an immediate escalation in its property and rent prices as those who could afford to invested in new properties in the city did so.

It is possible that Thomas Bonny planned to rebuild his home in Old Jewry, Cheapside as a “Mr. Bonner” paid the sum of 6 shillings and 8 pence on 21st May 1668 to the city authorities for the staking out of his old home’s foundations(13) . Quite how far his plans got to either rebuild on or sell his cleared building plot are unclear.

It is not known in which part of Bedlam the Bonny family lived and worked but we know from the numismatic evidence that Thomas’s business address was “at” or “by” the trade sign of the Clothworkers’ Arms. The depiction of such an image on his token might be interpreted as a direct advertisement of his occupation. While it is not impossible that Thomas Bonny could have switched trades (i.e. from a goldsmith to a clothworker) after being forced out of Cheapside by the Great Fire it appears highly unlikely that he did. A search of the transcribed on-line master and apprentice records relating to the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers(14) has failed to find any one associated with this Livery Company during this period with the name Bonny (or a phonetically similar sounding surname). Furthermore, documentary evidence exists confirming that Thomas Bonny was still describing himself as a “citizen and goldsmith of London” in mid-1668(15). It appears most likely that the coat of arms depicted on his token simply represented the historic trade sign hung above the property in or adjacent to which he lived and worked. This was a time before the official numbering of properties in London’s streets, lanes and allies.

It wasn’t uncommon (Note 6) for tradesmen to apply a previous occupant’s or neighbour’s trade sign to their address, especially where such a sign was an established local land mark that was well known to the local populace.

By late June 1668 it appears that Thomas Bonny’s health was starting to fail as on the 24th of that month he made his Last Will and Testament in which he describes himself as being “sick in body but of perfect memory”(15). Despite his obvious concerns Thomas’ health didn’t finally fail him until early November 1671 as confirmed by the following burial register entry in his local parish church, St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without.

7th November 1671 – Burial of Thomas Bonnes (aged 55)

Thomas’s Will was subsequently proven on 16th November 1671(16). He named Mary, his wife, as executrix and requested the following provisions to be made after the settlement of any debts or expenses outstanding on his estate;

a) To his eldest daughter Eleanor Churcher, 1 shilling to be paid 3 months after his death.

b) To Judith Bonny, his second daughter, 20 shillings to be paid 3 months after his death.

c) To Thomas Bonny, his son, 20 shillings to be paid 3 months after his death.

d) To George Bonny, his brother, his coloured suit and coat plus 10 shillings to be paid and delivered to him a month after his death

e) To his loving wife, Mary Bonny, the remains of his estate together with all ready money, goods and chattels

Thomas’s Will makes no reference to his eldest son. Whether Thomas outlived him or there had been a rift between the two is unknown.

Coincidentally on the same day as Thomas Bonny’s Will was proven the following entry was made in the register of the Bonny family’s parish church, St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without;

16thJanuary 1671 – Marriage of Thomas Boone and Sarah Finch

This is possibly the marriage of Thomas Bonny (the token issuer’s) second son who was born in 1647 and would have been 24 at the time of his father’s death.

No further clear references to the Bonny family appear after the above date other than for some possible references to one of his sons and grandsons in the late 1680s and early 1690s (Note 3).

 

Footnotes:

1)  The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1528, formed by the amalgamation of its two predecessor Companies, the Fullers (incorporated 1480) and the Shearmen (incorporated 1508). It succeeded to the position of the Shearmens’ Company and thus ranks twelfth in the order of precedence of Livery Companies of the City of London.

The original craft of the Clothworkers was the finishing of woven woollen cloth: fulling it to mat the fibres and remove the grease, drying it on tenter frames, raising the nap with teasels and shearing it to a uniform finish. The Ordinances of the Clothworkers’ Company, first issued in 1532 and signed by Sir Thomas More, sought to regulate clothworking, to maintain standards and to protect approved practices.

From the later Middle Ages, cloth production gradually moved away from London, a situation exacerbated by the Great Fire of London and the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Famous members of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers included King James I and the famous diarist and naval administrator, Samuel Pepys.

2) A search of transcribed London parish baptism, marriage and burial records(17,18,19,20) has identified various individuals in the London area in the mid-17th century by the name of Thomas Bonny (or with a phonetically similar surname). These are listed below as well as possible entries for the token issuer’s wife, i.e. Mary or Margaret Bonney etc. together with their possible children;

6th September 1636 – Baptism of Rachell the daughter of Thomas and Mary Bone. St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

20th April 1641 – Burial of Thomas Bonny. St. Dunstan in the East. London

12th November 1642 – Marriage of Thomas Bonnce and Jean Fletcher. Holy Trinity Church, Minories.

16th April 1653 – Marriage of Thomas Bonner and Mary Fowler. St. Augustine’s Church, Watling Street.

13th April 1657 – Baptism of Thomas Bonus to Thomas and Joane Bonus. St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

14th June 1668 – Marriage of Thomas Boane to Marry Bibble. St. James’ Church, Clerkenwell.

8th January 1670 – Burial of Mary Bones (aged 35). St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

16th January 1671 – Marriage of Thomas Boone and Sarah Finch. St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

7th November 1671 – Burial of Thomas Bonnes (aged 55). St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate Without.

25th July 1673 – Burial of Thomas Boone, the son of Nicholas Boone. St. Andrews’ Church. Holborn.

28th August 1673 – Burial of Mary Bone. St. Sepulchre’s Church. Holborn.

Unfortunately, when analysed on their own there is no way of knowing which, if any, of the above entries are references to the same Thomas Bonny (or his wife) who issued a half penny trade token in 1667 from his premises in Bedlam. However, the burial record for Thomas “Bonnes” in the parish church of St. Botolph’s, Bishopgate is arguably of particular relevance in relation to our token issuer. Living in the district of Bedlam it is highly likely that Thomas Bonny’s local parish church was St. Botolph’s and as such that would be the obvious location for his burial, assuming he didn’t move out of the parish after 1667. This entry has been used as the principal starting point in the research presented in the above brief family history

3) It is possible that Thomas Bonny’s first son was named Francis Bonny. An individual by this name, who was also a London goldsmith, was living in the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn in the early 1680s. From Francis’ Last Will and Testament(21), which was made on 10th March 1683, we know his then wife was named Hester Bonny and that he had a nephew (i.e. possibly the son of one of Thomas Bonny the token issuer’s other three children) named Thomas Bonny who then lived in Covent Garden.

At some point c.1688, and possibly in relation to the internal political and religious turmoil created in the Kingdom by the Glorious Revolution, Francis Bonny and a Mr. John Whiting put up £1000 each in sureties for the bail of a Mr. Jasper Grant. Mr. Grant was indicted for “spiriting away a person beyond sea” and after being subsequently convicted of this crime “fled in rebellion to Ireland”. Francis Bonny subsequently gave John Whiting a bond to indemnify him and afterwards committed suicide(22). The following notice was published in the London Gazette on 27th February 1689(23);

“Whereas Francis Bonny late of London, goldsmith, died £1,100 indent to the Crown. These are to give notice thereof to Debtors of the said Bonny, that they may not make any payment to their own prejudice.”

In a further issue of the London Gazette that month(24) Hester Bonny, inserts a notice that Thomas Bonny (i.e. Francis’ nephew) has some time since;

“fraudulently and deceitfully got into his hands, several trunks, wherein was writings of great value and, Jewels, Plate, Linen, etc., of Francis Bonny decd and other persons. And all, persons are cautioned against buying the said goods.”

After Francis’s death a legal battle subsequently started between the Treasury (representing the Crown) and Francis’s widow Hester. The Treasury’s solicitor argued that in committing suicide Francis’s entire estate were to be forfeited to the Crown (as per the legal custom at that time). Hester’s counter argument to the Crown was that at the time of his suicide Francis was “non compos mentis” (i.e. insane).  In early 1691 Hester Bonny eventually won her legal battle and the bulk of her husband’s estate passed to her(25) as per the provisions of Francis’ Will of 1683.

4) While Thomas Bonny is clearly listed as a goldsmith and citizen of London in documents dated 1659(26) and 1668(27) a search of the transcribed master and apprentice records for the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths has failed to identify him(28).

5)  Handwriting evidence further supports that Thomas Bonny, the 1667 token issuer of Bedlam, was the same Thomas Bonny who was lining in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch up until the Great Fire of September 1666.

Signatures of Thomas Bonny - c.1666 (top) and 1671 (bottom)

Signatures of Thomas Bonny – c.1666 (top) and 1671 (bottom)

An analysis of the two signatures above supports this. The first dates to c.1666, when Thomas was churchwarden of St. Mary Colechurch. It is taken from an entry in the latter’s parish registers. The second if from Thomas Bonny’s Last Will and Testament which is dated 24th June 1668. This Will was proven 8 days after the burial entry for “Thomas Bonnes” which was made on 7th November 1671 in the registers of parish church of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without (i.e. the local parish church for the district of Bedlam).

6) There are many examples of mid-17th British tradesmen who issued tokens displaying trade signs that are seemingly inappropriate to their occupations. The following examples are all taken from tokens issued by goldsmiths(29);

a) Henry Pinckney of Fleet, London, at the sign of the Three Squirrels.

b) Samuel Calle of Exeter at the signs of the Smoking Man and Covered Cup.

c) Joseph Partington in Skinner Row, Dublin, at the sign of the King’s Head.

  

References:

  1. Robinson, C.J. Rev – Register of the Scholars Admitted into The Merchant Taylor’s School from A.D. 1562 to 1874. Compiled from Authentic Sources with Biographical Notes. Volume I. (London, 1882).
  2. London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: MS 9172/61; Will Number: 311.
  3. Keene, D.J. & Harding, V. – Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. (Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 1987).
  4. Ibid 3.
  5. People in Place Project – St Mary Colechurch: Vestry Minutes 1613-72 (London, 2011).
  6. Merry, M & Baker, P. – Source specific data sets, Cheapside and Tower Hill, 1558-1769. On-line data sets accessible at http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/752. (Institute of Historical Research, Centre for Metropolitan History, London 2007).
  7. Ibid 6.
  8. Ibid 3.
  9. Ibid 3.
  10. Ibid 3.
  11. Davies, M.; Ferguson, C.; Harding, V.; Parkinson, E. & Wareham, A. – London and Middlesex Hearth Tax. The British Record Society. Hearth Tax Series Volume IX, Part II. (London, 2014).
  12. Ibid 6.
  13. Mills, P. & Oliver, J. – The Survey of Building Sites in the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Volume I. (London Topographical Society Publication. No.103. 1967).
  14. The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online – Apprentices and Freemen 1400-1900 (ROLLCO at http://www.londonroll.org/).
  15. Ibid 2.
  16. Ibid 2.
  17. Searched via the data bases available at Ancestry – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/).
  18. Searched via the data bases available at Findmypast – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (findmypast.co.uk).
  19. Searched via the data bases available at FamilySearch – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (https://familysearch.org/).
  20. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  21. PROB 11/394 – Will of Francis Bonny (10th March 1683), National Archives, London.
  22. Shaw, W.A. – Appendix: 1691, 2 January – 4 May in Calendar of Treasury Books. Volume 17, 1702 (London, 1939).
  23. The London Gazette – Issue 2536, Page 2. (London, 1689).
  24. Hilton-Price, F.G. – A Handbook of London Bankers with Some Account of Their Predecessors the Early Goldsmiths. (London, 1891).
  25. Shaw, W.A. – Appendix III, 1689-1692 in Calendar of Treasury Books. Volume 9 (London, 1931).
  26. Ibid 1.
  27. Ibid 2.
  28. Ibid 14.

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Filed under Tokens from North of the City Walls

John Patston at the Iron Gate, Tower of London

A farthing tradesman's token issued by John Patston at the Iron Gate adjacent to the Tower of London

A farthing tradesman’s token issued by John Patston at the Iron Gate adjacent to the Tower of London

The above copper farthing token measures 16.9 mm and weighs 1.10 grams. It was issued in the mid-17th century by John Patston a tradesman living adjacent to the Tower of London in the liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower, Middlesex.

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

Obverse: (mullet) IOHN. PATSTON. , around twisted wire inner circle. Two monograms possibly arranged to form a merchant’s mark. Upper most a conjoined “T” and “S”. Below “I” followed by conjoined “H”, “O”, “N” and finally a “P” in the style of a merchant’s mark.

Reverse: (mullet) AT. THE. IRON. GATE , around twisted wire inner circle. Within a triad of initials comprising I | .P. | .A , with three dots below.

The token is undated but on both stylistic and probability grounds most likely dates to the period 1649 to the early 1660s.

The triads of initials on the reverse of the token are those of its issuer, John Patston, and his wife, Mrs. A. Patston. A further abbreviation of the token issuer name (i.e. John P.) appears in the second of the merchant mark like arrangement of monograms on the tokens obverse. The significance of the first monogram (i.e. Ts) is unknown and remains a tantalising mystery. Could it be the abbreviation of a business partner’s name or something totally different?

John Patston’s business address is clearly stated on his token as being at the Iron Gate. This location was within the precincts of the Tower of London at the south-east corner of the Tower Ditch (i.e. the moat) immediately adjacent to a set of water stairs that took their name from the gate. On the west side of the Iron Gate was Tower Wharf and on the east side St. Katherine Street which led into the Liberty of St Katherine by the Tower. This extra-parochial district of east London comprised approximately 1,000 houses many of which were in a poor state of repair and were crammed along narrow lanes. The district was inhabited by many seamen and rivermen plus vagabonds and prostitutes. Foreign craftsmen and immigrants were also attracted to the area as the Liberty did not come under the jurisdiction of the City’s guilds. Despite the areas high population density in the Great Plague the Liberty’s mortality rate was only half of the rate in areas to the north and east of the City of London.

The Tower of London and part of the Liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower showing the location of the range of buildings adjacent to the “Iron Gate” from where John Patston traded (map c.1720).

The Tower of London and part of the Liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower showing the location of the range of buildings adjacent to the “Iron Gate” from where John Patston traded (map c.1720).

In the maps published to illustrate Strype’s Survey of London and Westminster of 1720 (1) only one range of buildings are shown adjacent to the Iron Gate. This survey describes the approach to the gate from the west as follows;

Next, on the same South side, toward the East, is a large Water Gate, for Receipt of Boats and small Vessels, partly under a Stone Bridge from the River Thames. Beyond it is a small Postern, with a Draw-Bridge seldom let down, but for the Receipt of some great Persons, Prisoners. Then towards the East is a great and strong Gate, commonly called the Iron Gate, but not usually opened.

The plan illustrating Haiward’s and Gascoyne’s survey of the Tower of London pre-dates that in Strype’s Survey by 123 years. It shows two significantly longer and parallel ranges of buildings on the south side of the Tower Ditch leading up to the Iron Gate. It was one of these tenements that was later occupied by John Patston and his family in the mid-17th cen

The Liberty of the Tower of London from Haiward’s and Gascoyne’s survey of the Tower (1597)

The Liberty of the Tower of London from Haiward’s and Gascoyne’s survey of the Tower (1597)

Interestingly this particular token is reported to have been found by a “mudlark” in recent times on a stretch of the River Thames foreshore immediately south of the Tower of London. As such it was literally only a stone’s throw from its original issuer’s premises at the Iron Gate where it had originated some 360 years earlier.

(Left) Volunteers from the Thames Discovery Project surveying the foreshore in front of the Iron Gate & Tower Wharf where the John Patson farthing token is believed to have been found in the 1990s (Right) Arial view of the Tower of London clearly showing the once location of the Iron Gate and the Tower beach foreshore

(Left) Volunteers from the Thames Discovery Project surveying the foreshore in front of the Iron Gate & Tower Wharf where the John Patson farthing token is believed to have been found in the 1990s (Right) Arial view of the Tower of London clearly showing the once location of the Iron Gate and the Tower beach foreshore

In Search of John Patston and his Family

Other than working at premises at or by the Iron Gates near the Tower of London John Patston’s token gives no clue as to what his trade might have been. However, sufficient references remain in the historical record to allow us to address this question and many others relating to the life of this particular token issuer and his family.

The following partial life history of John Patston has been generated from parish registers, Livery Company records, hearth tax returns and probate records. While there is always the chance of confusing the historical records relating to different individuals, who share the same name, the use of specific time line, family relationship and geographical identifiers can often be used to help eliminate or minimise this risk. Where available such criteria have been applied in this case.

John Patston was born c.1636 in Northamptonshire (Note 1). On 10th May 1648 his father John, a vintner in Northampton, bound him as an apprentice grocer to John Barnaby of London (2). It appears that that young John Patston was the last of four separate apprentices that John Barnaby took on over his career. The young John would almost certainly have been bound into a standard seven year apprenticeship after which he would have received his freedom and become eligible to set up business himself as a member of the Worshipful Company of Grocers.

Unfortunately John Barnaby died in late 1650 (3) and it can only be assumed that John Patston was re-bound to another master grocer in order to complete his apprenticeship. Irrespective of this initial upset in his early career by 1659 John had become a citizen grocer of London. This is apparent from the apprenticeship records of the Worshipful Company of Grocers which recorded on 1st September of that year John took on his own fist apprentice. This was Collyer Hutchinson the son of Francis Hutchinson a yeoman of the Liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower, Middlesex (4). Collyer was the first of four apprentices that John took on over the duration of his career.

Collyer Hutchinson’s family lived in the Liberty adjacent to the business address as stated on John Patston’s farthing token (i.e. the Iron Gate). Whether this is an indication that by this date John had already taken up residence in premises at the Iron Gate isn’t certain. However, by 10th January 1659/60 an entry in the registers for St. Katherine by the Tower clearly places him locally and therefore it might be deduced that he was already established at the Iron Gate. This particular register entry is further illuminating in that it not only records the christening of John’s son, also named John, but additionally the name of his then wife, Anna. This is almost certainly the same “Mrs. A. Patston” whose initials are recorded in the triad on the reverse of John’s farthing token (Note 2).

The Royal Hospital and Collegiate Church of St. Katharine by the Tower. Demolished in 1825 to make way for St. Katherine' Docks

The Royal Hospital and Collegiate Church of St. Katharine by the Tower. Demolished in 1825 to make way for St. Katherine’ Docks

On 14th December 1664 John Patston took on a second apprentice namely John Sperry, the son of a yeoman (of the same name) from Riseley in Bedfordshire (5).

The Hearth Tax returns for 1666 records that John Patston was occupying premises with 6 hearths on the south side of Tower Ditch (6), i.e. that area adjacent to the Iron Gate. At this time this constituted the second largest number of hearths recorded from any of the premises bordering the south side of the Tower.

On 4th May 1666 John took on new apprentice. This was Humphrey Hutchins, the son of a Thames waterman (of the same name) from the Liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower, Middlesex (7). A further review of the Hearth Tax returns for 1666 indicates that Hutchins family lived in a dwelling having only 2 hearths in Lees Court close to St. Katherine’s Church (8). Presumably John Patston knew the father of his new apprentice well. The two would have likely worshipped at the same parish church. Also as a waterman, presumably plying his trade from the local Iron Gate and St. Katherine’s Water Stairs, it can be imagined that Humphrey would have ferried John Patston up and down the River Thames on many occasions.

How the Patston family’s fortunes fared during the Great Plague of 1665 is unknown but given that John appears to have re-married sometime prior to 1672 one assumption is that Anna may have been a victim of the deadly outbreak that cut short the lives of an estimated 100,000 Londoners in less than a 12 month period. No record of Anna’s burial has so far come to light.

John’s second wife was named Elizabeth. A record of their marriage has so far not been identified although on 20th October 1672 the couple christened their daughter, also named Elizabeth, at the nearby parish church of St. Dunstan in the East. This was followed two years later, on 5th October 1674, by the christening of their son, named John, at the same parish church (Note 3). Evidence exists that John Patston had an earlier daughter, named Sarah, in 1668 (Note 4). There is no conclusive evidence as to who her mother was but it was very possibly Elizabeth.

It is interesting to note that in the mid-1670s the Patston family appeared to favour the parish church of St. Dunstan in the East over their previous association with the collegiate church of St. Katherine by the Tower. While both churches were local to the Tower of London St. Dunstan’s was slightly further away from the Iron Gate. It may be that this was Elizabeth Patston’s original home parish or that the Patston family were no longer trading from their former premises having possibly moved further west into the city. From evidence in John Patston’s later history it is clear that by the end of his life he had re-established an association with the church of St. Katherine by the Tower.

In 1680 John Patston was in his mid-40s and was still actively trading as a grocer. On 2nd April of this year he took on what was to be his fourth apprentice. This was Joseph Faircliff the son of Humphery Faircliff an embroiderer from the neighbouring parish of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London (9).

On entering his apprenticeship the young Joseph Faircliff would have been expecting to serve his new master for at least the next seven years of his life. However, this was not to be. Less than a year later John Patston’s health appears to have taken a turn for the worse. John must have been aware that whatever was afflicting him was gravely serious as on 22nd February 1680/1 he prepared his Will in which he described himself as “weak in body but sound and perfect in mind” (10). Within ten days of making his Will John was dead. The register of St. Katherine by the Tower records his death on 12th March 1680/1 and his burial in the adjoining churchyard on 15th March.

Places mentioned in the history of John Patston in and around the Liberty of the Tower of London (from Strype's Survey of 1720)

Places mentioned in the history of John Patston in and around the Liberty of the Tower of London (from Strype’s Survey of 1720)

John Patston’s Will, which was proven on 14th March 1680/1 (11), is enlightening in that it reveals several more facts relating to his family history.

It is clear from his Will that at some time after 1674 (i.e. the last known reference to his wife Elizabeth) John had re-married for a third time. As yet no record has been identified of either John’s marriage to his last wife Blanch or to the death of his second wife, Elizabeth.

At the time of John Patston’s death he had three surviving children, a son John and two daughters Sarah and Elizabeth. All three were under the age of 21 and un-married. The mention of only one son suggests that his first recorded child (.i.e. John, born to him and Anna in January 1659/60) was already dead.

By the provisions of John’s Will his wife Blanch was bequeathed £200. His three surviving children, Sarah, Elizabeth and John, who are seemingly listed within the Will in order of their respective ages, were each bequeathed £100 which was payable to each of them on reaching the age of 21 or, in the case of the two girls, on the occasion of their marriages. To his surviving apprentice Joseph Faircliff, who is described as a mealman (i.e. a trader in grain and cereal) John left the sum of £5. After the payment of all outstanding debts John left the balance of all his goods and estate to the executor of his Will, namely Humphrey Hutchins, waterman of the Liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower (12). Rather than just being the father of John’s third apprentice it appears that Humphrey Hutchins was also one of his most trusted friends.

Notes:

1) John Patston’s estimated year of birth (i.e. 1636) has been back calculated from the date when his father bound him as an apprentice grocer to John Barnaby in 1648. In the mid-17th century the typical age for boys to be bound into apprenticeships was 12 although there are examples of some boys being older (i.e. in the range 14 to 18) which could push John Patston’s birth year back to as early as 1630.

2) An entry for 8th March 1655 in the parish registers for St. Mary Whitechapel in east London contain reference to the marriage of a John Patston, of the parish of St. Albans Wood Street (aged 25) and Anne Rappitt of St. Mary Whitechapel (aged 19) who was the daughter of William Rappitt, a baker of the same parish. While the names and ages of this couple fit well with the triad of initials of our token’s issuers’ the occupation stated in the marriage registry for John (a gold wire drawer) does not fit with his previous and later known occupation as a grocer. As such this record has been discounted a being a reference to a different Mr. J. and Mrs. A. Patston to that of our token issuers.

3) In addition to the contemporary documentary references to John and Elizabeth Patston evidence of their marriage is further substantiated from the numismatic record.

A half penny tradesman's token issued by John and Elizabeth Patston at the Iron Gate adjacent to the Tower of London. This example was found by a "mudlark" on the foreshore of the River Thames.

A half penny tradesman’s token issued by John and Elizabeth Patston at the Iron Gate adjacent to the Tower of London. This example was found by a “mudlark” on the foreshore of the River Thames.

Examples of a second trade token type exist which bear an almost identical set of monograms to those on the reverse of John Patston’s farthing token. This second token is struck on an octagonal brass flan and is of a half penny denomination. The obverse of the token depicts a representation of the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Grocers around which is the triad of initials of its issuers I. P. and E. Above a legend, in three lines, gives the token issuer’s address as “AT IRON GATE”. The reverse of the token bears the legend “HIS HALFE PENNY” in three lines. Below are two monograms possibly arranged to form a merchant’s mark either side of which is a rosette decoration. The upper most monogram comprises a conjoined “T” and “S”. The second below comprises an “I” followed by conjoined “H”, “O”, “N” (i.e. for JOHN) and finally a conjoined “P” and “E”. The added letter “E” in the monogram and the triad displayed on this token is an obvious reference to John Patston’s second wife Elizabeth.

While this second token type is undated its use of a distinctive octagonal flan is something that is only seen in the last four years of the generally accepted issuing period of 17th century British tradesmen’s tokens which ran from 1649 to 1672.

4) On 25th June 1691 a Sarah Patston, aged 2 (i.e. born c.1668) of the Liberty of St. Katherine by the Tower married Jabez Phillips aged 23 at the parish church of All-Hallows, London Wall. This is very probably the marriage of John Patston’s daughter Sarah as recorded in his Will. A review of baptism entries in the registers of the church of St. Katherine by the Tower for 1668 has failed to identify an entry for Sarah. However, it does contain the following puzzling entry which cannot be easily reconciled with the currently perceived family history of John Patston the token issuer.

  • John, some say a bastard, the son of Sarah Patston, daughter of John, was born the 13th of December, baptised the same day.

The above entry is reported here for completeness and as an example of how difficult such research can be, particularly where there is more than one person living in an area of study during the same period and who share a common name or set of initials.

 

References:

1) 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).

2) Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers, Grocers’ Company Apprenticeships 1629-1800. Volume 48. (Society of Genealogists. 2008).

3) PROB/11/213. National Archives (London).

4) Ibid [2].

5) Ibid [2].

6) Davies, M.; Ferguson, C.; Harding, V.; Parkinson, E. & Wareham, A. – London and Middlesex Hearth Tax. The British Record Society. Hearth Tax Series Volume IX, Part II. (London, 2014).

7) Ibid [2].

8) Ibid [6].

9) Ibid [2].

10) PROB/11/366. National Archives (London).

11) Ibid [10].

12)   Ibid [10].

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Nathalie Cohen of Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) for her permission to reproduce her photograph of volunteers of the Thames Discovery Programme surveying the foreshore in front of the Tower of London (as viewed from the north end of Tower Bridge).

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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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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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Filed under Tokens from North of the City Walls