Tag Archives: History

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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Edward Fish at the sign of the Sun in Wapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An assemblage of 17th Century English Pewter Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgements:

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

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John March of the Swan in Ratcliff Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 References:

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

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Thomas Railton in White Horse Street, Ratcliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plague in Stepney

References:

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

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Thomas Blagrave at the Crown tavern in Threadneedle Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 31st January 1664/65

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

Wednesday 15th February 1664/65

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

Monday 22nd January 1665/66

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

Wednesday 14th February 1665/66

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

Saturday 3rd March 1665/66

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

Friday 16th March 1665/66

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

Monday 2nd April 1666

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

Monday 4th June 1666

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

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

 

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

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

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

Foot Notes:

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

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

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

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

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James Stephens in Giltspur Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foot Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Black Bell in Thames Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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