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Edward Brent of Pickle Herring in Southwark

A mid-17th Century Half Penny Trade Token Issued by Edward Brent of Southwark.

The above mid-17th century copper half penny token measures 20.6 mm and weighs 2.31 grams. It was issued in the name of Edward Brent in 1668 and attributed to a tradesman of that name who operated a business from Pickle Herring Stairs on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, London.

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

Obverse:  The depiction of a boat sailing right.

Reverse: A legend in five lines reads; EDWARD / BRENT / HIS . HALF / PENNY (cinquefoil) / 1668

The above token must have been issued and/or survived in the present era in relatively large quantities as it almost certainly the commonest 17th century trade token known from Southwark (1) .

The vessel depicted on the token’s obverse is a Hoy. Such vessels were small sloop-rigged coastal ships or heavy barges used for carrying cargos of up to approximately 60 tons. In the 17th and 18th centuries such vessels were a common sight on the River Thames.

A depiction of an 18th Century Hoy

An undated farthing trade token, which is likely to be of a slightly earlier date of issue , is known to have been struck in the name of Edward Brent (2) . This token also depicts a boat on its obverse and clearly states the issuer’s business address as “AT PICKELL HERRING”. The token also records the initials of its issuer, and his wife in the form of a triad of letters, “E.C.B” (i.e. Mr. E. Brent and Mrs. C. Brent).

Pickle Herring Stairs was one of the many watermen’s landing places on the River Thames where their boats (i.e. river taxis) picked-up and set down fee paying passengers (Note 1). The precise location of Pickle Herring Stairs is shown below as being on the south bank of the river in Southwark, close to the parish church of St. Olave, and off the north side of Pickle Herring Street which ran east along the backside of the waterfront buildings.

A map of Southwark  of 1720 showing the locations of St. Olave’s Church (in blue) and Pickle Herring Street (in yellow).

The Token Issuer & His Family

It is likely that Edward Brent, the issuer of the above half penny trade token, was born in the early part of the 17th century. He was possibly the individual of the same name who was christened on 7th May 1615 in the parish church of St. Olave, Southwark, and was son of Edward Brent, a stone mason of that same parish. He had at least one brother and sister who survived into adulthood (3) .

To date no details of Edward’s marriage or any apprenticeship he may have served have come to light. However, by 1647 it appears that he was married and living on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark. This is clear as on 27th March of that year the parish registers of St. Olave’s, Southwark record the birth of his first daughter. This was to be the first of Edward’s ten recorded children all of which were registered in the same parish church between March 1647 and April of 1661 (Note 2). In none of the associated birth or baptism records of these children is the name of Edward’s wife recorded. However, based on the triad of issuers’ initials (i.e. E.C.B.) on Edward’s earlier mentioned farthing trade token, coupled with evidence presented in his Will (4) , we know that his wife’s name was Christian (Note 3).

The various parish register entries for the births and baptisms of Edward’s children are further enlightening as they record their father’s profession at the time of each of their respective births/baptisms. Between 1647 and 1652 Edward Brent is described as a “limeman”, that is to say someone employed in the trade and manufacture of burnt lime.  However, those entries from 1655 to 1661 alternatively list Edward as a “shipwright”. This is a fairly dramatic change in his stated occupation but might account for the pictorial designs selected for his farthing and half penny tokens both of which depict sailing vessels. Alternatively this design may be an indirect reference to him having been a bulk carrier of raw materials (i.e. lime, chalk and coal) on the river as would have been dictated by his apparent continued involvement in the local lime trade (5) .

From the mid-17th century, if not earlier, it appears that Edward was a man of some considerable means. By 1649 his involvement in the local lime trade was not merely as a simple commodity trader but as a producer also. In that year he purchased the manor of Ingress in Greenhithe, Kent from Mary Shires and her sons Edward and Robert, both of the Inner Temple, London. Edward paid £1,122 for this estate which included a manor house and farm, fresh and salt water marshes, a wharf, a lime-kiln together with a chalk quarry (6) . The estate and manor house was later to pass to Edward’s oldest son and remained in the Brent family until at least 1689 (7) .

Badeslade’s North Prospect of Ingress Abbey, 1719 (8) . – The Seats of Jonathan and Nathaniel Smith built in 1700 on the former estate of Edward Brent at Greenhithe in Kent (Note 4).

After 1649 it may be assumed that Edward’s principal source of burnt lime was from his own kilns in Kent. These were located both on his estate in Greenhithe and possibly in the neighbouring parish of Swanscombe where he also had business interests (9) . The feed stock for his kilns consisted of stone, quarried from his chalk pit at Ingress, coupled with fuel, in the form of coal, which is likely to have been brought in by sea from the North East Coalfield. His Kent lime works were served via fleets of horse and carts plus several hoys (Note 5) which were used to ship the final burnt lime from his wharves at Greenhithe up the River Thames to distribution and sales depots on the edge of London. Edward operated a further kiln and coal stockyard located close to Pickle Herring in Southwark where it appears many of his hoys were harboured (10) . His principal lime sales and distribution depots, or “lime shops” as he referred to them, which served the city were located close to St. Saviour’s Stairs, in Southwark, and at Hermitage Bridge in the Parish of St. Botolph’s Without Aldgate, London. Both locations would have been served by stockyards, stables and moorings for the initial off-loading and subsequent despatch of lime (11) .

In an Act of Parliament dated 14th July 1659 Edward Brent is listed as one of several individuals who were charged with the duty of appointing and mustering a local band of armed men to form the Southwark Militia.  It is not known if Edward was part of any other of the city’s “Trained Bands” of militia prior to this date but it is from this association that we may assume he was granted the title of Captain which he is known to have held (12) .

 The details of Edward’s career development and fortunes are unclear but by the time of the issued of his half penny trade token in 1668 he must have been a man of considerable standing and presumably wealth. In this year he is reported as being an Assistant Warden of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights (13) and, for the brief period between 6th August and 15th September, he was an acting Alderman, representing the Cordwainer Ward of the City of London. Edward’s electors for this post were none other than the then Lord Mayor of London, Sir. William Peake, Sir Robert Hanson (a future Lord Major of London) and Robert Gore (a London mercer) (14) .

By 1667 Edward owned several properties in addition to those premises which were directly associated with his lime trade operations. These includes an unspecified number of houses in Southwark lying in Clink Street, Angel Street, Angel Alley and two further houses in Winchester Park together with additional properties in Newington, Surrey.

While no burial register entry for Edward Brent is know we know that he died sometime shortly after making his last Will and Testament on 17th February 1676/7 as a now lost monument in St. Olave’s churchyard was recorded in 1734 bearing the inscription “EDWARD BTRENR, ESQ. 1676” (15) . He was survived by his wife Christian and at least five of his ten known children, Edward, Nathaniel, Sarah, Judith and Martha. At the time of his death it has been suggested that Edward Brent was a “dissenter” and this may account for that fact that no burial record can be found for him in the burial register of St. Olave’s Church in Southwark. Clearer evidence exists for the fact that Edward’s oldest son, Edward, was a “dissenter”, at least in his later life. Such religious beliefs could easily been have reflected those of his father/parents (Note 6).

In his Will Edward (which passed through probate on 3rd April 1677) left the bulk of his sizeable estate and lime business to his wife Christian. She was entrusted to continue her husband’s business until such time as her sons Edward and Nathaniel came of age (at twenty-one) or married. Thereafter, the following provisions were to be put in place (16) ;

  1. Edward was to go into partnership with his mother and was to jointly own the chalk extraction and lime burning operations located in the parishes of Northfleet and Swanscome in Kent in addition to the “lime shop” at Hermitage Bridge in the Parish of St. Botolph’s Without Aldgate, London. He was also to inherit several of his late father’s horses and carts plus hoys. On the death of Christian these holdings were to pass to her son, Edward and thereafter his heirs.
  2. Nathaniel was to inherit the properties, lime kilns and wharfs at Pickle Herring Stairs along with the limeshop and stables near to St. Saviour’s Stairs in Southwark. He also inherited his late father’s properties in Newington, Surrey, as well as those in Angel Street and Angel Alley plus Clink Street in Southwark. Provision was also made to ensure that his brother Edward would provide him annually with chalk, at a fixed and fair price delivered to Greenhithe, from the family’s quarries at Northfleet. Similar provisions were made for the supply of a quantity of burnt lime from his brother’s kilns. In lieu of such an alternative monetary value was set against each of the above provisions. In the event that Edward did not comply to this, then his part of the family inheritance would then revert to his brother Nathaniel. Nathaniel was also to inherit several of his late father’s horses and carts plus hoys.

The last of these two provisions was a shrewd mechanism whereby both of Edward sons would be able to separately operate parts of their late father’s business by effectively sharing the outputs of the family’s single set of quarries at Northfleet.

Edward Brent’s Will made further sizable provisions to his grandson “Little” Edward. These comprised the sum of £800 plus two properties in Winchester Park, Southwark. These were to be held in trust for young Edward by Christian and/or Nathaniel Brent until his coming of age at the age of twenty-one. Edward’s Will also made provision for his daughters, Sarah, Judith and Martha (17) .

Edward Brent made lesser bequests of £10 and £20 respectively to his nieces, Mary Hubard and Joan Albrey plus £10 to his servant Roger Lawrence. Charitable bequests of £100 and £10 respectively were also made to be distributed over time to the poor of the parishes of Greenhithe and St. Olave, Southwalk (18) .

Notes:

  1. It is believed that the name “Pickle Herring” was derived from this part of Southwark’s historical connection to the Yarmouth Herring trade. The area was also known for its brewing (19) .
  2. The following list of Edward Brent’s ten known children has been compiled from the birth and baptism entries of the parish church of St. Olave, Southwark. Where a child’s name has been found to be illegible in the original document a blank has been entered;
    1. (BLANK), a daughter, born 27th March 1647 to Edward Brent, limeman.
    2. Mary, a daughter, born 7th March 1649 to Edward Brent, limeman.
    3. (Blank), a daughter, born 2nd April 1651 to Edward Brent, limeman.
    4. (Blank), a daughter, born 11th January 1652 to Edward Brent, limeman.
    5. Judith, a daughter, born 24th February 1652 to Edward Brent.
    6. Martha, a daughter, born 30th September 1655 to Edward Brent, shipwright.
    7. Edward, a son, born 30th September 1656 to Edward Brent, shipwright.
    8. Edward, a son, buried (possibly a still-born or infant death) 7th December 1657 to Edward Brent, shipwright.
    9. Nathaniel, a son, baptised 3rd September 1659 to Edward Brent, shipwright.
    10. Rachel, a daughter, baptised 18th April 1661 to Edward Brent, shipwright.
  3. One reference names Edward Brent’s wife as Christian White, the daughter of Roger White of Dover in Kent (20) .
  4. Although pictured 30 years after the estate passed from the hands of the Brent family this view clearly shows the extent of the chalk quarries to the east and west plus what appears to be smoke rising from a possible lime-kiln located at the base of a chalk face to the south-east of the estate buildings (21) .
  5. By 1676 it is known that Edward possessed a fleet of at least ten hoys which presumably underpinned many of the haulage operations associated with his lime trade business. These vessels included the Mayflower, the Mayfloss, the Resolution, the Clout, the Prosperous, the Drift, the Providence, the Hopwell and the Luce (22) .
  6. Edward Brent’s son, Edward, followed in his father’s footsteps. He continued in the lime trade both on his father’s estate in Greenhithe and in Southwark. He became a prominent London figure in his own right and in from 1690 to his death in 1698 was a freeman and Member of Parliament for the town of Sandwich in Kent. His nonconformist leanings lead to a petition against his parliamentary election. At the time of his death it appears that Edward was suffering from financial difficulties and still appears to have been engaged in the Kent lime trade (23) .

Acknowledgements:

The author would like to thank both Tim Everson and Tim Scotney for providing preliminary information and references which were used in the preparation of this article.

References:

  1. Everson, T. – Seventeenth Century Trading Tokens of Surrey and Southwark. (Llanfyllin, 2015).
  2. G.C. – Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century in England, Wales and Ireland by Corporations, Merchants, Tradesmen, Etc. – A New and Revised Edition of William Boyne’s Work. – Volume 2. (London, 1967).
  3. Public Record Office – National Archives Catalogue Reference: Prob 11/353.
  4. Ibid 3.
  5. Ibid 3.
  6. Hasted, E. – The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent. Volume 2. (Canterbury, 1797).
  7. Ibid 6.
  8. Kip, J; Badeslade, T & Harris, J. – English houses and gardens in the 17th and 18th centuries: A series of bird’s-eye views. (London, 1908).
  9. Ibid 3.
  10. Ibid 3.
  11. Ibid 3.
  12. Frith, C.H. & Rait, R.S. – Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. (London, 1911).
  13. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  14. Beaven, A.B. – The Aldermen of the City of London. (London, 1908).
  15. Mottley, J. (under the pseudonym Robert Seymour) – A survey of the cities of London and Westminster, borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent. Volume I. (London, 1733).
  16. Ibid 3.
  17. Ibid 3.
  18. Ibid 3.
  19. Ibid 2.
  20. Hayton, D.; Cruickshanks, S. & Handley, S. – The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1690-1715. (2002).
  21. Capon, L. – Early Roman Features, Possibly Defensive, and the modern development of the parkland landscape at Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe. Archaeologia Cantiana Volume 129. (2009).
  22. Ibid 3.
  23. Ibid 20.

 

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John Empson at the sign of the Crown and Beacon in Duke’s Place

A mid-17th century token issued by John Empson of Duke's Place, London

A mid-17th century token issued by John Empson of Duke’s Place, London

The above copper half penny token measures 20.9 mm and weighs 1.34 grams. It was issued by a tradesman operating from Duke’s Place in London in the mid-17th century. Its design may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) IOHN . EMPSON . 1667 . , around the depiction of crown or coronet above a fire beacon. A banner across the latter bears the motto NISI DOMINUS.

Reverse: (sexfoil) IN (cinquefoil) (cinquefoil) PLACE, around a twisted wire inner circle. A in three lines reads HIS / HALFE / PENY below a triad of initials reads, I| F.|A .

The token’s issue date of 1667 is clearly stated in its obverse along with the name of its issuer, John Empson. The triad of initials on the token’s reverse are those of the token issuer and his wife, whose christian name began with the letter “A”. The token’s reverse also states the location of John Empson’s business, i.e. Duke’s Place in the Aldgate Ward of the city. At the beginning of the 17th century this area comprised a mixture of late 16th century buildings scattered within the partial remaining structures of the former Priory of Holy Trinity, Christ Church which previously occupied the site. After the dissolution of the priory, in 1531, King Henry VIII gave it to Sir Thomas Audley. It subsequently passed to his son-in-law, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, from whom the name “Duke’s Place” is derived.

Part of the Ward of Aldgate, London, showing the district of Duke's Place (c.1720).

Part of the Ward of Aldgate, London, showing the district of Duke’s Place (c.1720).

The pictorial image on the token’s obverse (i.e. a coronet above a fire beacon) is almost certainly a depiction of the trade sign which hung over its issuer’s (or a neighbour’s) business premises. If it was his personal trade sign, and not just one which had long been associated with the building he operated from, its design may well offer clues as to his trade/profession. The sign of a fire beacon is not at all common and combined with a coronet it is believed to be unique, at least in London. Examples of a beacon, as used for a 17th century London trade sign, are known for both a distillers and a tavern. Both of these examples are from Southwark(1) . In the case of the tavern, which took its name from a nearby fire beacon, its proprietor is also known to have issued his own trade tokens(2) .

The Latin motto (i.e. Nisi Dominus(3) , which may be translated as “Except the Lord”) draped across the pictorial image on John Empson’s trade token is not so easy to explain (Note 1).

In Search of John Empson and his Family

Initial investigations indicated the existence of two separate individuals by the name of John Empson living in the parish of St. James, Dukes Place in the latter half of the 17th century. The first of these men died in 1681 while the second was still inhabiting the area during the early part of the 18th century. Despite their common surnames it appears the two individuals were totally unrelated. Subsequent research has indicated that it was the former of the two men who was responsible for the issue of the above token. The following brief history of this individual, and his immediate family, has been pieced together from a variety of contemporary sources including parish registers, livery company records, hearth tax returns and probate records.

The plan below is based on the Agas Map of London (c.1561) and shows some of the locations that are mentioned hereafter in the story of John Empson and his family.

Part of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) - Locations Shown: St. Peter le Poer Church (1); St. Henen's Bishopsgate (2); Priory of Holy Trinity, i.e. Dukes's Place (3); Perimeter of Aldgate Ward (4); St. Botolph's Without, Aldgate (5); The Minories (6); St. Katherine Coleman (7); Future location of Swan Alley (8).

Part of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) – Locations Shown: St. Peter le Poer Church (1); St. Henen’s Bishopsgate (2); Priory of Holy Trinity, i.e. Dukes’s Place (3); Perimeter of Aldgate Ward (4); St. Botolph’s Without, Aldgate (5); The Minories (6); St. Katherine Coleman (7); Future location of Swan Alley (8).

While it is not certain there is a possibility that the issuer of the above token can be identified with one John Empson who was baptised on 12th February 1608/9 in the parish of North Walsham in north east Norfolk (Note 2).

Around the age of seventeen (i.e. c.1625) it can be assumed young John, like so many other provincial young men of his age, was bound into a London apprenticeship by his father in order to learn a trade. Typically, such apprenticeships lasted for a period of seven years after which, assuming the apprentice had stayed the course, he would be eligible to become a freeman of his master’s associated livery company. Assuming John served an uninterrupted apprenticeship period it would be logical to assume he gained his freedom c.1632. The name and trade of John’s master is unknown but it is likely that he was a member of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, as by 1651 this was the trade by which John listed himself (see below).

On 29th November 1649 John Empson married Mary Mathews at the parish church of St. Peter le Poer in the Broad Street Ward of London. In 1651 the couple had a son as recorded in the parish registers of St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate.

“Edmond Empson son of John Empson cordwainer and his wife Mary was baptised this 18th day of May.  A. D…………1651”

It is not clear where John Epsom and his family were living at this time but it was presumably within the parish of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate (Note 3). The eastern boundary of this parish runs alongside the Aldgate Ward of the city and as such is in very close proximity to Duke’s Place, the location of John’s business premises as noted on his trade token issued in 1667.

Unfortunately, John and Mary’s son died only three months after his first birthday as recorded in the parish registers of St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate.

“Edmund Empson infant son of John Empson was buried in the churchyard the 25th day of August. A.D…….1652”

Between 1652 and the mid-1660s there appears to be no further reference to John Empson and his family despite the death of his first wife, Mary, and his subsequent re-marriage to his second wife, Ann. Despite extensive searches in both London and Middlesex parish registers the current writer has been unable to find any documentary references to either of these two key events in John Empson’s life. While both must have transpired during the period 1651 to 1667 (Note 4) their occurrences are only known from indirect references in later dated records. While the date and cause of death of Mary Empson remains unknown it is clear (as will be seen later) that she was buried in a grave in the south side of the churchyard of St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate.

The parish church of (Great) St. Helen's Bishopsgate, London showing the now paved over ancient churchyard where the Empson family were buried.

The parish church of (Great) St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, London showing the now paved over ancient churchyard where the Empson family were buried.

The next documentary reference to John Empson occurs in the London Hearth Tax returns for Lady Day (i.e. 25th March) 1666. His name appears as one of the 249 property occupiers listed under the parish of St. James’, Duke’s Place. According to his entry in the returns he was then occupying a property having five hearths(4) . We can’t be certain if this property was serving as his family home or just his business premises but typically we might expect it to have represented both as it was common for tradesmen of the period to live either over and/or behind their place of work. The latter, if a shop or tavern, would normally face onto a thoroughfare for ease of public access and marketing of the tradesman’s goods.

We do not know if and how the Empson family were effected by either the Great Plague of 1665 or the Great Fire of September 1666. However, they were lucky in respects to the latter as neither of the adjacent locations in the city with which they appear to have then been  associated  (i.e. the parishes of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate and St. James’, Duke’s Place) were greatly affected by the devastating fire which consumed 83% of the city within just a few days.

From 1667 until 1679 John Empson and his family again appear to fall off the historical radar with no contemporary references to them being known. Then in 1680 John reappears in, of all places, the records of the Worshipful Company of Innholders.

At some time after 1651, when John Empson was recorded as a cordwainer and prior to 1680, he appears to have changed his profession and become a member of the Innholders Company. This is apparent as on 3rd May 1680 the latter Company’s records list him as taking on an apprentice, one Robert Holkey or Holby/Holbie (Note 5), the son of Henry, a woollen draper from Aylsham(5) . Based on evidence presented hereafter it would appear that Robert was one of John’s cousins from Norfolk and hailed from a neighbouring parish to where John is believed to have been born in 1608/9.

While the surviving apprentice registers for the Innholders Company are not totally complete sufficient remain to conclude that Robert Holby/Holkey was the first apprentice John had taken on since becoming a member of the Company(6) . This begs the questions of how long had John been in the trade and what exactly attracted him into it?  The number of hearths recorded in his Hearth Tax return for 1666 (i.e. five) does not imply he was then occupying an inn which one might expect to have far more hearths associated with it. One possible explanation is that John entered his new trade through a business inheritance which came via his second wife Ann.

One potential reason for John Empson taking on an apprentice at this time could be related to his age and the reduced ability for him and his wife to carry on managing their business effectively, presumably with only domestic servants to rely on as back-up. If John Empson the token issuer was one and the same person as the individual baptised in North Walsham in 1608/9 then by 1680 he would have been 71 years old and presumably thinking of retirement. Unfortunately, events were to overtake John and just over a year later it appears his health was failing him.

On 2nd August 1681 John Empson made his last Will and Testament (7) in which he described himself a citizen of London and Innholder. Three weeks later John was dead. His burial is recorded in two of his local parish churches St. Botolph’s Without, Aldgate, and St. Helen’s Bishopsgate where his body was interred. Firstly, from the parish registers of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate we learn that;

“24th August 1681 – John Empson, Innholder, buried at St. Hellen’s.”

The burial register entry from St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate is more informative and even confirms the burial location of his first wife, Mary.

“John Empson was buried in the Churchyard on the South side in his first wife’s grave the 24th day of August 1681.”

According to the provisions of John’s Will he was to be buried in the churchyard of St. Hellen’s Bishopgate. His wife, Ann, was made executrix of his Will and was to inherit his estate after payment of any outstanding debts and funeral expenses plus the following set of bequests(8) ;

  1. To James Empson, his brother in North Walsham. – Twelve pence.
  2. To Katherine Roys – His best bed with green curtains and valance and all things associated unto.
  3. To Henry Mathews his son in law (Note 6) – The deeds and ownership of the house in which Henry currently lived (which presumably was owned by John).
  4. To each of the children of Henry Mathews – Four pounds.
  5. To Israel Turant (his servant) – Forty shillings.
  6. To Elizabeth Kempe (the daughter of Joan Kempe) – Twenty shillings.
  7. To the widow of Captain Philip Starky (Note 7) – Ten pounds
  8. To each of his cousins; Thomas, John, Joseph, Robert and John Holkie/Holby the younger of Norwich, Norfolk) – A small gold mourning ring.
  9. Thomas Berry, the son of John Berry of Aylesham, Norfolk – A small gold mourning ring.
  10. Moses Roys of White Friars, London – Thirty shillings.
  11. William Carter, cordwainer of London – Thirty shillings.

By a request in his Will John Empson also charged his good friends Moses Roys and William Carter to act in assistance to Ann in executing the terms of his Will(9) .

As an aside, an inventory dated 30th September 1861, of the contents of John Empson’s London home (10) is appended to the probate copy of his Will (Note 8). Apart from giving us a glimpse of the Empson family’s living conditions and household goods this inventory is interesting in several other respects. Firstly, its opening lines indicates its location as being within the parish of St. Botolph’s Without, Aldgate. This is a neighbouring but separate parish to St. James’, Duke’s Place where the Empson’s were living in 1666 and 1667. The property described in the inventory would also suggest that if John Empson was still an acting innholder at the time of his death, as suggested by statements in both his Will and the inventory, he was living in a separate and much smaller dwelling to that of a typical 17th century inn. This might suggest he was the acting manager rather than the proprietor of whichever inn he was associated with at the time of his death.

After John’s death his widow Ann appears to have retained strong ties with his cousin and once apprentice Robert Holby. By the late 1680s Robert was living in the parish of St. Mary’s, Whitechapel. He stated profession at that time being a Glover (Note 8)(11) .

After John’s death Ann Empson is known to have had two properties in Swan Alley, in the Minories district of the parish of St. Botolph Without, Aldgate. These she leased off the Master of the Bridge House (i.e. the warden of London Bridge)(12) . It is possible that one of these properties was that detailed in the household inventory attached to the probate copy of John Empson’s Will.

The Minories district of St. Botolph's Without. Aldgates showing the location of Swan Alley (c.1720).

The Minories district of St. Botolph’s Without. Aldgates showing the location of Swan Alley (c.1720).

In the third quarter of the 1680s Ann Empson was living in Middlesex in a leased property located in Blewgate (or Blue Gate) Fields in the hamlet of Wapping in the parish of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney. This she leased off one Robert Hasting, Esquire(13) .

The Hanlet of Wapping (c.1720) showing the location of Blue Fields.

The Hanlet of Wapping (c.1720) showing the location of Blue Fields.

By this time Ann’s health was obviously faltering as she made her Last Will and Testament on 16th September 1687(14) . Just over a year later in January 1688/9 she died. Her death is recorded in her local parish registers of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney.

“6th January 1688 – Ann Empson of Wapping, widow (buried) at St. Hellens, London.”

By the terms of her Will Ann requested “to be decently interred in the churchyard of the parish of Great St. Helens, London, in or near the place where my late husband was buried.” In accordance with this request her burial is further recorded in the parish registers of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate.

“Ann Empson of the parish of Stepney was buried in the churchyard – 7th January 1688”

Ann made Robert Holby, her “loving Kinsman”, the executor of her Will as well as its principal beneficiary. Robert was to inherit the bulk of her estate after payment of any outstanding debts and funeral expenses and after the following specific bequests had been made(15) ;

  1. Robert Holby – Her lease hold properties in both the Minories and Blue Gate Fields.
  2. Richard Roys (her kinsman (Note 9) and the son of Moses Roys) – Twelve pence.
  3. To whom ever stripped, laid out her body prior to burial – All her cloths, linen and woollen garments.
The signatures of John (left) and Ann (right) Empson respectively taken from their last Will and Testaments.

The signatures of John (left) and Ann (right) Empson respectively taken from their last Will and Testaments.

Notes:

  1. John Empson and his immediate family had various trade associations throughout their history in the city. These included links to the Worshipful Companies of Cordwainers, Innholders plus possibly the Glovers and Leathersellers Companies also. None of the mottos of these Livery Companies match that on John’s token. As such its significance in this case remains an enigma.
  2. This individual was the son of a John Empson and his wife (who was possibly named Alice) of North Walsham, Norfolk. In addition to John Empson junior this individual had at least a further three children. Namely, Amphilius (baptised in North Walsham on 11th March 1609/10), William (baptised in North Walsham on 1st March 1611/2) and James (baptism date and location unknown).

    The parish church of St. Nicholas, North Walsham (right) and its highly ornately covered font (left) in which John Empson was potentially baptised in 1608/9.

    The parish church of St. Nicholas, North Walsham (right) and its highly ornately covered font (left) in which John Empson was potentially baptised in 1608/9.

  3. The parish church of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate formed the nucleus of the former Benedictine convent based on the site. In 1543 the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers acquired the site where they set-up their new Hall. Thereafter the area and the parish church itself retained close associations with this Livery Company. Given that for a significant part of his working life John Empson’s was a cordwainer it may not be by accident that he chose to live in this part of the city.
  4. The last documentary mention of Mary Empson is the baptism record for her and John’s son which is dated 1651. The first historic reference to John’s second wife, Ann, is found in the numismatic record in 1667. This takes the form of the letter “A” in the triad of issuer’s initials on the reverse side of his trade token issued in that same year.
  5. The published form of Robert’s surname in Volume 17 of London Apprentices is in fact “Holkey”(16) and not “Holbey”. However, the current writer is of the opinion that the published form of the name is a transcription error of the Livery Company’s original 17th It appears that this same individual is mentioned in several later dated documents related to the Empson family(17)(18) . In these he is variously described as being one of John Empson’s cousins from Norfolk or a kinsman of Ann Empson. In these later documents his name is variously spelt “Robart Holbie” or “Robert Holbey”.
  6. In this case the term “son-in-law” can almost certainly be translated into the more modern equivalent term “step-son”. This implying that when John married Mary Mathews she was likely a widow with at least one surviving child (i.e. Henry) from a previous marriage.
  7. The lady here being referred to is likely to Mary Starky or Starkey who, by the date John Empson’s Will was written in 1681, was a widow. The name of Captain Philip Starkey is of some potential historical interest. A person having that same name and title, which can be of no coincidence, lived in London during the 17th century and is known to have been buried in the parish church of St. Katherine Coleman in 1679. Philip Starkey was a cook of London Wall and was master of the Worshipful Company of Cooks for 1688 to1689. During the Commonwealth period he was employed as a master cook to the household of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. He also officiated at several state banquets organized by Cromwell for foreign ambassadors for which he charged a fee of £20(19) . At the time of his death he was Captain of the Red Company of the London trainedband(20) .
  8. An inventory of John Empson’s home at the time of his death in 1681. This dwelling was located in the parish of St. Botolph Without, Aldgate, possibly in Swan Alley off the Minories.inventory-pdf
  9. Although inferred in Ann’s Will (of 1687) the family relationships between herself and Richard and Moses Roys are not yet known. Moses and a Katherine Roys are also mentioned in John Empson’s Will (of 1681) in which Moses is described as John’s “loving friend” of White Fryers, London. The family of a Moses and Katherine Roys are variously recorded in the parish registers of St. Dustan in the West along with St. Bride’s, Fleet Street, London in the 1680s. Prior to this, in the 1670s, the family of a Moses and Mary Roys are recorded in the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn. It is possible that both family units are based on the same Moses Roys who could have re-married Katherine after the death of Mary. Either way as yet no records have been found relating to a Richard Roys being the product of either marriage, although it appears likely that he was. One hypothesis is that Moses Roys was the brother of Ann Empson which by birth would make her Ann Roys. Unfortunately such a family connection can’t yet be proven although records have been found of a William and Ann Roys being born to a William and Joan Roys of the Liberty of Norton Folgate, London in 1628 and 1629 respectively.

References:

  1. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  2. Everson, T. – Seventeenth Century Trading Tokens of Surrey and Southwark. (Llanfyllin, 2015).
  3. G.C. – Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century in England, Wales and Ireland by Corporations, Merchants, Tradesmen, Etc. – A New and Revised Edition of William Boyne’s Work. Volume 2. (London, 1967).
  4. 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).
  5. Webb, C. – Innholders’ Company 1642-1643, 1654-1670, 1673-1800. London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 17. (Society of Genealogists, London. 1998).
  6. Ibid 5.
  7. Reference Number: MS 9052/22. Will Number: 19. London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London.
  8. Ibid 7.
  9. Ibid 7
  10. Ibid 7.
  11. Reference Number: MS 90172/77. Will Number: 2. London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London.
  12. Ibid 11.
  13. Ibid 11.
  14. Ibid 11.
  15. Ibid 11.
  16. Ibid 5.
  17. Ibid 7.
  18. Ibid 11.
  19. Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Volume 10 – Companion. (London, 1995).
  20. Ibid 19.

 

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Robert Manfield at the Sign of The Death’s Head in Distaff Lane

A mid-17th century token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Death's Head in Distaff Lane, London.

A mid-17th century token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Death’s Head in Distaff Lane, London.

The above copper farthing token measures 16.2 mm and weighs 1.02 grams. It was issued by a tradesman from the Bread Street Ward of London in the mid-17th century. Its design may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) AT . THE . DEATHES . HEAD , around the depiction of a human skull.

Reverse: (mullet) IN . DISTAF . LANE . 1652 , around a twisted wire inner circle. A triad of initials within reads, R|.M.|(rosette)D .

The token’s issue date of 1652 is clearly stated in its reverse along with a triad of initials which belong to its issuer and his wife. In this case a Mr. R.M. and a Mrs. D.M.  What is also clear is that the token issuer’s business premises were located in Distaff Lane (Note 1) in the Bread Street Ward of London. This street crossed the parishes of St. Mildred’s, Bread Street and St. Margaret Moses, Friday Street and was home, on its north side, to the hall of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers.

A map of part of part of the Bread Street Ward of London (c.1720) showing the location of the Cordwainer's Hall (indicated in yellow) on Distaff Lane.

A map of part of part of the Bread Street Ward of London (c.1720) showing the location of the Cordwainer’s Hall (indicated in yellow) on Distaff Lane.

The design on the token’s obverse is almost certainly a depiction of the trade sign which hung over its issuer’s (or a neighbour’s) business premises. If it was his personal trade sign, and not just one which had long been associated with the building he operated from, its design may well offer clues as to his trade/profession.

In the late 16th and 17th centuries the image of a skull, or death’s head, has various potential interpretations when used as a trade sign or a decorative device on jewellery. In the case of the latter use, other than being a typical design element incorporated into mourning jewellery, the image of a skull often formed the central design of rings worn by Elizabethan bawds and procuresses (1). Additionally, it has been suggested that when used as a mid-17th century trade sign the image is potentially indicative of the apothecary trade(2). It was probably the latter suggested association which lead at least one previous researcher to suggest the issue of the above token was either Richard Meynell or Robert Moore, both of whom were known apothecaries operating in London during the mid-17th century(3).

A Re-appraisal of the Potential Identity of the Token Issuer

The current author has endeavoured to confirm the historic attribution of the above token’s issue to either of the mid-17th London century apothecaries Richard Meynell or Robert Moore. Attempts have been made to link either of these men with an abode or business premises in or near Distaff Lane in the Bread Street Ward of the city. A review of tithe and property rental values for inhabitants of London in 1638(4) together with hearth tax records for 1662 and 1666(5) has failed to identify either of these two men as having associations with this area of the city. However, further similar searches for individuals who lived in this same area, and who had the same initials as the token issuer (i.e. R.M.), have proven positive.

In both 1638 and 1662 a Robert Manfield is recorded as living in the parish of St. Margaret Moses, the parish church for which was located on the south-east corner of the cross-roads of Friday Street where it intersected with Distaff Lane and Pissing Lane. Additional searches of both local parish registers and contemporary Livery Company apprenticeship records have further identified the name of Robert Manfield’s wife and the Manfield family’s place of residence. All of these additional details match the issuer’s information as presented on the above token. As such it is now possible to confidently re-attribute the issue of this token to the above named individual. A summary of related information discovered relating to this token issuer, and his family, is given below.

It is unclear to whom and where Robert Manfield (alternatively spelt Maunsfield, Manfeild, Manfild, Mansfild and Mansfilld) was born but on the basis that he became a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Girdler’s in 1622(6) it is reasonable to assume, by back calculation (Note 2), that he was born in 1598 (± 2 years).

Although having been apprenticed to a master craftsman of the Girdler’s Company, on receiving his freedom John Manfield set-up business as an ironmonger(7) . This was not unusual as by the end of the 16th century a lot of the traditional product markets for girdlers began to dwindle as dress fashions began to change. After this time the trades practiced by the members of the Company of Girdler’s increasingly began to overlap with the traditional skills of other craftsmen associated with metal or leather working (i.e. pinners, cordwainers plus gold and silver wire drawers and ironmongers).

Within five years of completing his apprenticeship John Manfield was married and he and his wife, Dorothy, were living in the parish of St. Margaret Moses in the Bread Street Ward of London(8). It is noted that the initial of his wife’s Christian name fits with the appropriate initial in the triad of previously discussed on the above token(9). It is possible that the couple’s first home in the parish was that at which Robert was recorded at in a London tithe and rental listing document of 1638 (10). According to the order of listings in this document it is likely that John’s premises were located close to the Cordwainers Hall, which could locate him in the same property in Distaff Lane from where he later issued his trade token in 1652.

In 1627 Robert and Dorothy Manfield baptised their first recorded child, whom they named John(11). Between this date and 1650 they went on to have a total of thirteen children all of whom were baptised, and some buried, in the parish church of St. Margaret Moses on Friday Street. A total of seven of the couple’s children died during infancy and of these three died within a week of their baptisms (Note 3).

It would appear that John’s business was successful and by 1631 he was obviously earning sufficient to employ at least one household servant(12) and possibly one or more apprentices of his own.  Over the course of his career Robert took on at least four separate apprentices (Note 4). It is also possible his first son (i.e. John Manfield), also took an active role in the family business (Note 5) as by 1659 he is also recorded in the parish records of St. Margaret Moses as being an ironmonger in his own right (13) .

Robert Manfield appears to have taken an active role in his local community. He is known to have been a parish constable and also to have been politically opinionated and active (14). He is recorded as being a financial contributor to both the Relief of Ireland (i.e. post the 1641 Irish Rebellion) and later the parliamentary war effort during the English Civil War(15). His parliamentary sympathies in the run-up to the Civil War are further noted in an account quoted by Sir John Strangeways relating to a demonstration of London apprentices in Westminster on 24th November 1641. According to this report one of the apprentice demonstrators, a Master Cole, claimed that his and other masters had armed their apprentices and dispatched them to Westminster in response to calls from some members of parliament for assistance in helping change the outcome of a Common’s vote in which the “best affected party” faced defeat. Cole’s master was none other than Robert Manfield of Distaff Lane(16).

Robert Manfield continued to operate as an ironmonger in Distaff Lane after the English Civil War. His last recorded presence in the street is in 1663 when the hearth tax returns for the Upper Precinct of the parish of St. Margaret Moses note him as occupying a property containing four hearths. The position of his listing in this document, as being just prior to that for the Cordwainer’s Hall, suggests that his property may have been one of the private residences located alongside this landmark building in Distaff Lane(17).

A section of the Agas Map of central London (c.1561) showing the relative positions of the Cordwainer's Hall (indicated in yellow) on Distaff Lane and the parish church of St. Margaret Moses (indicated in green).

A section of the Agas Map of central London (c.1561) showing the relative positions of the Cordwainer’s Hall (indicated in yellow) on Distaff Lane and the parish church of St. Margaret Moses (indicated in green).

Unfortunately, the hearth tax returns compiled for March 1666 for the parish of St. Margaret Moses have not survived. As such it is not possible to confirm if Robert Mansfield or his family were still present in Distaff Lane after the tumultuous year of 1665 in which so many of London’s population either perished from the Great Plague or fled the city never to return.

Despite extensive searches by the present author and at least one earlier researcher(18), the last record of Robert or Dorothy Manfield that can be traced in London is one dated 2nd August 1665.  Again this is found in the parish registers of St. Margaret Moses and takes the form of a mention to Robert in a family members burial record(19) ;

“John Manfield the grandson of Robert Manfield, (buried) in the new church-yard.”

The John Manfield mentioned above was the son of Robert’s first son, also named John Manfield, and his wife Jane who he married in the early 1650s. At his death John Manfield junior was nearly twelve years of age. The fact that he died in mid-Summer of 1665 may be indicative as to the cause of his death as this was the period during which the Great Plague was at its peak within the city. The mention of Robert Manfield, as opposed to the deceased boy’s father John, in the above burial register entry likely implies that Robert was acting as guardian to his grandson at the time of the latter’s death and as such is suggestive of Robert still residing in the parish of St. Margaret Moses at that time.

Interestingly a review of Mills and Oliver’s Survey of building sites after the Great Fire of 1666 makes no mention of Robert Manfield as either a new or previous plot owner in Distaff Lane or in any other part of the city(20). This could be evidence that he either died during the later phase of the Great Plague or he and his remaining family left the city during that period never to return again.

Notes:

  1. In the Agas map of c.1561 gives the name of what was later to become Distaff Lane as Maidenhead Lane. The Hearth Tax Survey of 1663 clearly refers to this road as Distaff Lane as does Mills and Oliver’s survey of London after the Great Fire. The latter also refers to those sections either side of the Cordwainer’s Hall as East and West Maiden Lane.
  2. In the first quarter of the 17th century the typical length of a trade apprenticeship in London was seven years and the average age of those boys entering into them was seventeen. This age dropped over the following century.
  3. The following table chronologically lists the entries for the children (and house hold servants) of Robert and Dorothy Manfield as presented in the parish records of St. Margaret Moses(21).RMT1
  4. The following is a list of known apprentices who were bound to Robert Manfield. It is almost certainly not a complete list.
    1. Master Cole – Actively serving his apprenticeship in late 1641(22).
    2. Daniell Partridge – Bound as a new apprentice in 1656(23).
    3. James Chapman – Received his freedom in 1657(24).
    4. Robert Drinkwater – Bound as a new apprentice in 1658(25).
  5. The following table chronologically lists the entries for John Manfield and his family in the parish records of St. Margaret Moses(26).JMT1

References:

  1. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  2. G.C. – Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century in England, Wales and Ireland by Corporations, Merchants, Tradesmen, Etc. – A New and Revised Edition of William Boyne’s Work. Volume 2. (London, 1967).
  3. Whittet, T.D. – A Survey of Apothecaries’ Tokens, Including Some Previously Unrecognised Specimens. Journal of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Issue 230. (London, 1983).
  4. Dale, T.C – The Inhabitants of London in 1638. Edited from Ms.272 in Lambeth Palace Library. Society of Genealogists. (London, 1931).
  5. 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).
  6. Ibid 5.
  7. Lindley, K. – Popular Politics and Religion in Civil War London. (Aldershot, 1997).
  8. Bannerman, W. B. – The registers of St. Mildred, Bread Street, and of St. Margaret Moses, Friday Street, London. Harleian Society. Vol. 92. (London, 1912).
  9. Ibid 8.
  10. Ibid 4.
  11. Ibid 8.
  12. Ibid 8.
  13. Ibid 8.
  14. Coates, W.H. – The journal of Sir Simonds D’Ewes, from the first recess of the Long Parliament to the withdrawal of King Charles from London. (Yale, 1942).
  15. Ibid 7.
  16. Ibid 7.
  17. Ibid 5.
  18. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  19. Ibid 8.
  20. Mills, P. & Oliver, J. – The Survey of Building Sites in the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. (London Topographical Society Publication. No.103. 1967).
  21. Ibid 8.
  22. Ibid 14.
  23. The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online – Apprentices and Freemen 1400-1900 (ROLLCO at http://www.londonroll.org/).
  24. Ibid 23.
  25. Ibid 24.
  26. Ibid 8.

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The Three Tuns Tavern Against the Great Conduit in Cheapside

A mid-17th century token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of The Three Tuns, near the Great Conduit in Cheapside, London.

A mid-17th century token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of The Three Tuns, near the Great Conduit in Cheapside, London.

The above copper farthing token measures 16.8 mm and weighs 1.17 grams. It was issued by a tradesman from the Cheapside Ward of London.

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

Obverse: (mullet) AGAINST . THE . GREAT , around the depiction of three barrels in a triangular stacked arrangement.

Reverse: (mullet) COVNDVIT . IN . CHEAPSIDE , around a twisted wire inner circle. A triad of initials within reads, I|.H.|.S

The triad of initials on the reverse of the above token are those of its issuers. In this case a Mr. I/J.H (where “I” also represents “J” in the Latin alphabet) and a Mrs. S.H.

The design on the token’s reverse is almost certainly a depiction of the trade sign which hung over its issuer’s (or his neighbour’s) business premises. If it was his personal trade sign, and not just an historic one which had long been associated with the building he worked from, its design may well offer clues as to the token issuer’s trade.

The Three Tuns (i.e. barrels) was a fairly common trade sign in 17th century London and one typically associated with taverns. The sign is likely derived from the ancient coat of arms of the Vintners Company of London which, like the token, depicts three wine barrels.

The token’s issue date is not stated in its legend. However, on stylistic grounds it arguably dates from the 1650s or early 1660s. What is clear from the token’s design is the business address of its issuer, i.e. at the sign of the Three Tuns “against the Great Conduit in Cheapside”. This places the token’s issuing location in the heart of the parish of St. Mary Colechurch in the vicinity of the Mercers’ Hall, close to where Cheapside meets Poultry. This was the historic site of the Great Conduit, this being the name given to the flow dispensing house and tap system located at the terminus of London’s first public water supply system (Note 1). This “fresh” system operated from 1245 to the time of its partial destruction during the Great Fire of London of September 1666 (Note 2).

By 1666 there were no fewer than fifteen Conduits in London. They were generally sited in the middle of streets and typically comprised an elaborate pillar like stone structure, which supported an elevated lead tank, and had multiple outlet pipes from which water could be drawn via taps.

The depiction of the "Little Conduit" in West Cheapside from a print of 1585.

The depiction of the “Little Conduit” in West Cheapside from a print of 1585.

In Search of the Token Issuer

There are few clues as to the identity of the issuer of the above token. What we can be certain of is that his Christian name began with the letter “I” or “J” and that his surname began with the letter “H”.  Furthermore, we know that at the time of the token’s production the issuer was married to a woman with a Christian name beginning with the letter “S” and that his business premises were “at the sign of The Three Tuns, against the Great Conduit in Cheapside”.  Also, the style and value of the token infers that it was issued during the 1650s or early 1660s. The central image of three barrels on the token’s obverse additionally suggests that the issuer’s profession might have been that of a vintner and proprietor of a tavern in Cheapside having the trade sign (i.e. “The Three Tuns”).

The fact that our token issuer was a resident of Cheapside in the mid-17th century is fortunate as this Ward of the City has been heavily studied as part of the “People in Place Project” (1). This has led to a considerable amount of parish records and tax return information related to this area being transcribed and published in searchable data base format (2). Using these data bases, which cover the period 1610 to 1687, but which are not all encompassing in their content, searches have been made based on the following criteria;

  1. All males in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch with surnames beginning with “H”. Then, where sufficient information is available in the original records, searching within the resultant sub-group for those individuals with a Christian name beginning with either the initial “I” or “J”.
  2. All males in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch with surnames beginning with “H” who are recorded as being married. Then, where sufficient information is available in the original records, searching within the resultant sub-group for those individuals whose wives’ Christian names begin with the letter “S”.

A summary of the results from the above searches are listed in the table below.

Analysis table of mid=17th century male inhabitants identified from the parish records of St. Mary Colechurch who could have issued The Three Tuns trade farthing (click on image to enlarge).

Analysis table of mid-17th century male inhabitants identified from the parish records of St. Mary Colechurch who could have issued The Three Tuns trade farthing (click on image to enlarge).

From an analysis of the above presented data, coupled with the estimated dates between which the above token was issued, two possible issuer’s names stand out. These are John Higgenbottom and John Heath. Both men were married, as indicated by the Pew List for the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch.

The above data indicates that John Heath was resident in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch from at least 1649 until 1661 and that he was married from at least 1649 to 1658. Unfortunately his wife’s first name is not recorded in the parish church’s pew list and subsequent searches of local parish registers has failed to find any further evidence of her. John Heath is also listed as being one of fifty eight individuals whose property was destroyed in the Great Fire of September 1666. However, his name is not recorded as one of those who staked out his original building plot, in preparation for its rebuilding, after the fire (3).

As for John Higgenbottom, the above summary table indicates that he was first recorded in the parish in 1653 and was still present (or at least a person of the same name), in a re-built property after the Great Fire, until at least 1672. The parish pew list suggests he was married from 1656 to 1661. Again there is no evidence for his wife’s Christian name.

Further searches for the above two individuals have been made in the records of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, given the suggestion by the token’s design that this was the potential trade of its issuer. In the case of John Higgenbottom, no match has been found. However, in the case of John Heath multiple matches (Note 3) are available and furthermore two of these directly place a vintner of that name in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch in both 1654 (4) and 1662/3 (5).

The Hearth Tax returns for 1662/3 lists a John Heath occupying a property containing 5 hearths in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch. Research conducted by the “People in Place Project” goes on to suggest that the property in question was one of the two indicated in yellow in the map of Cheapside parishes reproduced below (6). Both of these properties were located on the south side of Cheapside and were sandwiched between “Gropecunt Alley” on the west and “Bird in Hand Alley” on the east. Given the legend on John Heath’s token, i.e. “Against the Great Conduit in Cheapside”, it is most likely that of the two properties indicated below John Heath’s was that which faced onto the main street opposite the Great Conduit and Mercers’ Hall (i.e. that labelled number 2).

A reconstructed plan of part of Cheapside Ward, London as it would have been in the mid-17th century.

A reconstructed plan of part of Cheapside Ward, London as it would have been in the mid-17th century.

Despite being listed in the register of those who lost property in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch in the Great Fire of September 1666, John Heath is not listed in the parish as one of those who paid Hearth Tax on Lady Day of 1666. His place in the register for the properties of “Bird in Hand Alley” appears to have been taken by a Mr. William Empson (7).

This observation is puzzling but could be explained by a number of possible scenarios, including the following;

  1. Whilst still owning his property/tavern in Cheapside John Heath may have moved out of the parish, and possibly sub-let it to William Empson. Many of the wealthier classes moved out of London in 1665 to escape the ravages of the Great Plague. Not all of these people were to return to the city and many established new businesses outside of the capital whilst still retaining legal claims on their original London premises.
  2. John Heath may have been one of those thousands of unfortunate inhabitants of the city to have been claimed as a victim of the Great Plague which decimated London’s population in 1665/66. If John did die then, and was still married at that time, his widow and/or children (assuming he had any) would presumably still had claim to his property. Hence his name, as that of the lease holder of his Cheapside premises, could still have been recorded in the 1666 parish listing of those who lost property in the Great Fire.

A general search of mid-17th century London parish registers has so far failed to identify a Mr. John and Mrs. S. Heath. While the general parish records for St. Mary Colechurch contain multiple entries for John Heath and his un-named wife, their children (supposing they had any) are conspicuous by their absence in the parish’s registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Only a single reference to the family has so far been found in this set of records and this is dated 20th September 1666 and is reproduced below;

The burial record of a "John Heath" from the parish registers of St. Mary Colechurch, London. Dated 20th September 1665.

The burial record of a “John Heath” from the parish registers of St. Mary Colechurch, London. Dated 20th September 1665.

We cannot be sure if the John Heath in this record is our token issuer or possibly a relation (e.g. his son) as neither the age or parents’ names of the diseased are given. It is tempting to think that the above register entry is a direct reference to the death of John Heath the token issuer. If this is the case it would explain why his name was absent from Cheapside Ward Hearth Tax retrurns of Lady Day 1666.  Whilst no cause of death is recorded in the register its timing coincides with that period during which the Great Plague of that year was at its height. As such it is highly likely that the above entry was for a victim of the plague.

Footnotes:

1) In this case of the Great Conduit the word “Conduit” is used in an archaic sense. In medieval times it referred to the terminal point of a water supply system, whereas today the word would apply only to the pipeline. Today such a terminal structure would probably be termed a “Cistern” or “Public Fountain”.

2) The history of the Great Conduit started in 1237 with the purchase by the City Corporation of several fresh water springs to the west of the City Walls, near Tyburn. This was the beginning of a major civil engineering project to harness this water in a reservoir from where it could be channelled over 2.5 miles, via a gravity pipe line system, into the heart of the city. From here it could be tapped off for use by the public via a series of Conduits. Construction of this water distribution system, largely comprising buried lead pipes, took several years until by c.1245 the terminal structure, known as the Conduit, was completed. This pioneering initiative must have contributed greatly to the successful growth of the City in the years that followed. It was not until the 1390’s, when second and third Conduits, located further west in Cheapside, that the original one became known as “The Great Conduit”(8).

The course of the fresh water pipe line which served the Little and Great Conduits in Cheapside Ward, London

The course of the fresh water pipe line which served the Little and Great Conduits in Cheapside Ward, London.

By the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries the original water supplies at Tyburn became further supplemented with natural fresh water supplies on high ground further west at Marylebone and Paddington and then from others to the north at Highgate, Highbury and Dalston (9). Some of these major extension works were financed by the City Authorities while others, such as the refurbishment of the Conduit Houses themselves, were undertaken by private citizens who donated large sums of money either during their lifetimes or by bequest in their Wills.

Families living locally to each Conduit had the right to tap water for their own domestic use free of charge. Typically they collected and transferred the water to their homes in large 6 gallon vessels, known as “tankards” or “tynes”, or alternatively pails, pots or half-tubs. Independent water-bearers also operated from the vicinity of the larger Conduits. These tradesmen effectively operated under a licence granted to them by the City Authorities to whom they had to pay an annual fee in return. They collected water from the Conduits in a variety of vessels for subsequent distribution around the city to both private homes and businesses (i.e. notably brew houses, tanneries and cloth dyers etc., etc.).

A mid-17th century London trade token likely issued by a fresh water delivery man operating from the Long Acre Conduit, London. His token clearly illustrates some of the tools of his trade for delivering water. On the obverse is a man with a yoke and two pales while on the reverse is depicted a horse drawn cart carrying a water barrel.

A mid-17th century London trade token likely issued by a fresh water delivery man operating from the Long Acre Conduit, London. His token clearly illustrates some of the tools of his trade for delivering water. On the obverse is a man with a yoke and two pales while on the reverse is depicted a horse drawn cart carrying a water barrel.

There are very few good contemporary images or descriptions of the Great Conduit in Cheapside. From what evidence is available it appears that in its final form it comprised a rectangular building, with a gabled roof, together with an adjoining tower, both having castellations. The latter possibly housed the Counduit’s lead cistern or head tank which supplied a series of gravity fed discharge taps below. These were possibly located on a common discharge manifold and were located the outer facing walls of the adjacent Conduit House.

The depiction of Cheapside Market showing the "Great Conduit" (building far right). Taken from a page of Hugh Alley's “A Caveat for the City of London” published in 1598.

The depiction of Cheapside Market showing the “Great Conduit” (building far right). Taken from a page of Hugh Alley’s “A Caveat for the City of London” published in 1598.

The above described hydraulic arrangement of cistern manifold and taps is suggested in a representation of Cheapside Market contained in Hugh Alley’s “A Caveat for the City of London” published in 1598 plus in an earlier representation of the Conduit produced c.1550. The latter clearly shows the location of the Great Conduit in relation to the entrance to the Mercers Hall which was to its immediate north-west off Cheapside.

A section of a map of London (c.1550) showing the parish of St. Mary Colechurch and highlighting the location of the Great Conduit (in yellow) in front of the Mercers' Hall.

A section of a map of London (c.1550) showing the parish of St. Mary Colechurch and highlighting the location of the Great Conduit (in green) in front of the Mercers’ Hall.

A further representation of the Great Conduit, from the Agas Map of London, of c.1561, confirms its location at the junction of Cheapside and Poultry, just to the south of the parish church of St. Mary Colechurch but does not indicate the presence of the earlier noted adjoining tower structure. This omission may possibly be down to the map’s lack of precise detail and/or some degree of artistic licence in the Conduit’s representation. A lack of precise detail may also account for the omission of the same tower in the ground plan of the Great Conduit in Leake’s survey of London after the Great Fire, published in 1666. From this map the plan dimensions of the Conduit House may be roughly estimated as being 45 feet long (east to west) and 20 feet wide (north to south) (10). In both the c.1550 and 1561 representations of the Great Conduit groups of “tankards” or “tynes” can be clearly seen standing in the street immediately to the west.

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) showing part of Cheapside Ward and highlighting the location of the Great Conduit (in yellow) in front of the Mercers' Hall.

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) showing part of Cheapside Ward and highlighting the location of the Great Conduit (in yellow) in front of the Mercers’ Hall.

The Great Conduit was ruined by the Great Fire of 1666, and in 1669 was proclaimed as a “hindrance to the neighbourhood” and was removed by order of the City Authorities.  The resultant reclaimed materials were sold with the exception of cistern which was taken to the Guildhall (11). By the time of the Great Fire the Great Conduit was arguably no longer in great use as by then many of the surrounding houses in the neighbourhood enjoyed their own piped running water, supplied from the New River.

Manhole cover commemorating the history and location of the Great Conduit in Cheapside plus the present day entrance to its now buried undercroft chamber.

Manhole cover commemorating the history and location of the Great Conduit in Cheapside plus the present day entrance to its now buried undercroft chamber.

Today the approximate site of the Great Conduit is marked by both an official “Blue Plaque” and a further commemorative inscription on a manhole cover. This is no ordinary services manhole but one that leads directly to the remains of the Great Conduit original sub-structure or undercroft. This hidden chamber beneath Cheapside, was first discovered in 1899 during an inspection of local sewers (12). At that time it was wrongly identified as an ancient Roman Subway. Although reported at the time the discovery of this subterranean chamber was ultimately forgotten until in 1994 when it was re-discovered by British Telecom as part of the redevelopment of the site of No.1 Poultry.

At the time of its rediscovery in 1994 the Great Conduit’s undercroft had been largely backfilled with construction debris, presumably by workmen carrying out underground works nearby. The walls of the undercroft were found to be massive, measuring some 2 meters thick (13). This indicates that its original builders were fully aware of the significant loads the Conduit’s substructure would have to support from the large water filled lead cistern above.

The undercoft of the Great Conduit in Cheapside as it appeared when first discovered in 1899 and after its rediscovery and subsequent excavation by Museum of London Archaeology in 1994.

The undercroft of the Great Conduit in Cheapside as it appeared when first discovered in 1899 and after its rediscovery and subsequent excavation by Museum of London Archaeology in 1994.

Both in the 1899 and the 1994 photographs of the undercroft can clearly be seen a doorway in its eastern wall (i.e. that facing onto Poultry). This indicates that at the time the Conduit was built in the 13th century the undercroft must have been at, or just below, the original medieval street level.

3) The records for the Worshipful Company of Vintners list two separate individuals by the name of John Heath who were apprenticed in London into the trade in 1624/5 and 1634 respectively (14). Their respective entries in the company’s apprentice register are summarised below.

  1. John Heath – Son of John Heath of Bermondsey, Surrey apprenticed to Thomas Angell on 2nd March 1624/5.
  2. John Heath – Son of John Heath, a gentleman of Bristol, Gloucestershire, apprenticed to Ralph Moore on 4th November 1634.

In the 17th century the duration of most apprenticeships, served for a master of one of the London Livery Companies, was typically seven years. Boys were typically bound into such apprenticeships between the ages of 12 and 14 and would have come to the capital from all over Britain.

Records also exist in the Vintner’s Company of a John Heath, presumably referring to one or  both of the above individuals, acting as master and taking on his/their own apprentices as listed below;

  1. George Geary, apprenticed on 3rd November 1648.
  2. William Eames, apprenticed on 4th November 1651.
  3. John Moore, apprenticed on 7th September 1658.

As yet no evidence has been found linking any of the above apprentices to the parish of St. Mary Colechurch and as such the token issuer John Heath.

References:

  1. People in Place – Families, households and housing in London 1550-1720.   (history.ac.uk/cmh/pip).
  2. 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).
  3. Mills, P. & Oliver, J. – The Survey of Building Sites in the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. (London Topographical Society Publication. No.103. 1967).
  4. Rogers, K. – The Mermaid and Mitre Taverns in Old London. Entry for the Mitre Tavern, Cheapside. (London, 1828).
  5. Keene, D.J. and 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. (London, 1987).
  6. Ibid 5.
  7. Ibid 6.
  8. Flaxman, T. – The Great Conduit in Chepe. (Worshipful Company of Water Conservators. London, 2014).
  9. Ibid 8.
  10. Ibid 5.
  11. Ibid 5.
  12. Wintle, W.G. – London Underground: a visit to the subterranean city. (Harmsworth Magazine, Volume 3, September 1899.).
  13. Burch, M; Treveil, P. & Keene D. – The development of early medieval and later Poultry and
  14. Cheapside: Excavations at 1, Poultry and vicinity, City of London. (Museum of London Archaeology, Monograph 38, 2011).
  15. Webb, C. – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers. Volume 43. Vintners’ Company 1609-1800. (Society of Genealogists, London. 2006).

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Ralph Butcher in Bishopsgate Without

A farthing tradesman's token issued by Ralph Butcher of Bishopsgate Without, London (Image courtesy of Simmons Gallery)

A farthing tradesman’s token issued by Ralph Butcher of Bishopsgate Without, London (Image courtesy of Simmons Gallery)

The above brass farthing token measures 16.9 mm and weighs 0.90 grams. It was issued in the name of Ralph Butcher a tradesman who operated his business in the Bishopsgate Without district of London.

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

Obverse: A legend in italics in three lines reads; Ralph / Butcher / 1666 .

Reverse: (circle with eight radiating rays) WITHOVT . BISHOPS . GATE , around a twisted wire inner circle within the depiction of a rod from which is suspended six candles, three either side of a lion rampant facing left.

The design on the token’s reverse is almost certainly a depiction of the trade sign which hung over Ralph Butcher’s premises or that of premises adjacent to his. If it was his personal trade sign, and not just an historic one which had long been associated with the building he worked from, its design may well offer clues as to the token issuer’s trade. The rod with suspended candles would have been instantly recognizable in the 17th century as an emblem associated with a wax or tallow chandler (Note 1).

The district in which Ralph Butcher’s trade property was located, i.e. Bishopsgate Without, lay immediately to the north east of London’s city walls outside the Bishopsgate entrance to the city and along the Old North Road. It was one of the parts of London which was spared by the Great Fire of September 1666 which, by coincidence, was the year in which Ralph Butcher issued his token.

In Williamson’s standard catalogue of 17th British tradesmen’s tokens (1) a foot note against the entry for the above token indicates that in 1664 the same Ralph Butcher was trading in Tower Street, within the heart of the City of London. His evidence for this being the existence of a farthing token bearing the sign of the Three Sugar Loaves with the obverse and reverse legends; RALPH BVTCHER. 1664. IN. TOWER. STREETE. The token’s reverse bears a triad of issuer’s initials; R.B.A.

A farthing trade token of Tower Street issued by R & A B in the name of the Three Sugar Loaves in 1664

A farthing trade token of Tower Street issued by R & A B in the name of the Three Sugar Loaves in 1664

In addition to indicating the presence of a tradesman by the name of Ralph Butcher operating in Tower Street in 1664 we may deduce from the token that the Christian name of the issuer’s wife began with the letter “A” (e.g. Ann or Agnes for example). In addition, the trade sign indicated (take this word out***), if personal to the issuer and not just a historical one associated with his premises etc., may be indicative of Ralph Butcher being a grocer. The trade sign of one or more sugar loaves was commonly adopted by grocers in 17th century London to mark and advertise their shops (2).

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London in c.1720

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London in c.1720

In Search of the History of Ralph Butcher & His Family

The following brief account of the life of the above token issuer and his immediate family has been pieced together from a variety of sources including parish registers, livery company records, hearth tax and probate records and finally burial registers related to the Society of Friends of London.

Initial searches of transcribed London parish registers and related genealogical data bases (3)(4)(5)(6) has indicated two families with the surname Butcher living in 1660s London having heads of the family by the name Ralph. The first of these families (Ralf and Mary Butcher) lived in the parish of St. Sepulchre, Holborn while the second (Ralph and Ann Butcher) lived, or at least had strong associations, to the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without. Given that the Ralph Butcher we are interested in was issuing trade tokens in Bishopsgate Without in 1666 (if not also in Tower Street in 1664) the primary focus obviously falls on the second of the above two identified families.

In an attempt to confirm Ralph Butcher’s profession the trade signs on both the earlier described trade tokens associated with his name have been used as a guide. As previously noted the depiction of a rod of suspended candles or sugar loaves and on trade signs of the period is strongly associated with candle makers and grocers respectively. A review of the master and apprentice records for the Worshipful Companies of Tallow Chandlers, Wax Chandlers and Grocers (7)(8)(9) has failed to identify a Ralph Butcher associated with any of them. As such it is reasonable, but by no means certain, to conclude that our token issuer’s practiced an alternative trade.

The first reference to Ralph and Ann Butcher in the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without, occurs in the parish baptisms records where we find the following entry for his son;

5th May 1660 – Simon the son of Ralph and Ann Butcher

Ralph Butcher is further recorded as living in the ‘first precinct on the West” of the parish in the returns from the 1662/3 Hearth Tax. He is listed as paying 10 shillings on a property with 5 hearths (10). Unfortunately the Hearth Tax assessments for Bishopsgate Without from 1666 have not survived. However, those for Tower Street have but contain no listing for a Ralph Butcher.

We can’t be sure if Ralph Butcher, the token issuer of 1666 from Bishopsgate Without, is the same individual who issued the earlier farthing token from a business in Tower Street in 1664. Having now ascertained that both the former and latter tokens were issued by a Ralph Butcher who had a wife whose Christian name began with “A” further supports Williamson’s assumption that both tokens were issued by the same individual.

By 25th January 1668/9 Ralph Butcher’s health was obviously a cause for concern for him as it was on this date that he draw up his Last Will and Testimony (11)  This document is very enlightening as its opening sentences not only confirms the status of his health, i.e. being “weak in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory”, but goes on to verify him as being of the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without, and his standing as a “citizen and poulterer of London” (Note 2). As a poulterer Ralph would have sold both poultry and game to the general public typically from a street facing open fronted shop located either in front of or below the private rooms of his home.

A 17th Century Poulterer's Shop - By Frans Snyders (1579–1657)

A 17th Century Poulterer’s Shop – By Frans Snyders (1579–1657)

Ralph Butler’s Will confirms him as still being married to his “loving wife” Ann who he made executrix and principal beneficiary of his estate and worldly goods. His Will makes no mention of any surviving children but does mention the existence of three other “kinsfolk”, namely Richard Butcher, Elizabeth Watkins and a nephew, John Block. To each of these individuals he left only the token sum of one shilling each. Additional sums of 40 shillings each were bequeathed to his good friends William Harwood and Ezekiel Woolley who he also requested to act as overseers of his Will.

Ralph’s Will clearly indicates he owned or had interests in multiple properties. These included his own home and a neighbouring one in the Bethlem district of the parish, the latter of which was then occupied by a William Pemberton. Ralph’s other holdings comprised two copyhold properties in the village of Plaistow in Essex (some 6 miles from Bishopsgate). At that time these were in the hands of tenants, namely George Sherebofe and Ralph’s friend Ezekiel Woolley.

Ralph Butcher went on to live a further 20 months after making his Will. His burial record is enlightening in that it more accurately confirms whereabouts in the parish he was living at the time of his death, the cause of his death (as best known at the time), where he was buried and his precise religious denomination.

Ralph’s death was not recorded in the burial register of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate Without, despite the fact he was still living in the parish at the time. Instead it is to be found in the London and Middlesex burial records of the Society of Friends. It appears that Ralph Butcher was a Quaker. His burial register entry (for 25th November 1670) reads as follows;

Ralph Butcher neer halfe Moon Ally without Bishopsgate Departed this Life the 25th day of the 9th Month 1670 and was buryed in the Burying in Checker Ally his Distemper was given in a Dropsie.

Assuming Ralph didn’t move residences within the parish during the last 20 months of his life we know that the location of his home was between Half Moon Alley and Bethlem (or Bedlam as it was more commonly known). This puts it approximately within the bounds of the red circle in the map below, where Half Moon Alley is marked in yellow.

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720) indicating the general area where Ralph Butcher is believed to have lived. Half Moon Alley is indicated in yellow.

A map of the Ward of Bishopsgate Without, London (c.1720) indicating the general area where Ralph Butcher is believed to have lived. Half Moon Alley is indicated in yellow.

Ralph’s cause of death is given in his burial record as dropsy. This was the term commonly given in the 17th century to edema, a condition whereby liquid is retained in parts of the body and under the skin causing severe swelling.

Ralph Butler’s body was interred in Chequer Alley Quaker Burial Ground (Note 3) which was located north of the city walls on Bunhill Fields between Upper Moor Fields and Old Street. His Will was proven on 2nd December 1670 (12).

No further conclusive record has been found relating to either Ann or Simon Butcher after Ralph’s death. However, the burial registers of the Society of Friends of London do record the interment, in Chequer Alley Burial Ground, of a still born child on 15th September 1672 to a Richard and Ann Butcher. This poses the question – did Ann Butcher marry Ralph’s “kinsman” Richard after her husband’s death?

Footnotes:

1)  An almost identical token in terms of style, design, trade sign and issuing location to that described above for Ralph Butcher was issued in the name of Henry Slater in 1667. It is unclear if Henry operated from neighbouring business premises to Ralph Butcher, thereby qualifying him to use the same trade sign, or if he took over those formerly occupied by Ralph in 1666.

2) George Berry has previously identified only two 17th century poulterers’ token from London. These were issued by John Puller of the Strand and Edmund Warner of Newgate Market (13). The identification of Ralph Butcher’s trade now brings the count of known London poulterers’ token issues to three.

A half penny trade token of 1666 issued by Edmund Warner, a poulterer, of Newgate Market.

A half penny trade token of 1666 issued by Edmund Warner, a poulterer, of Newgate Market.

3) The site of Chequer or Checker Alley Quaker Burial Ground lies in an area historically known as Bunhill Fields. This name is possibly derived from a corruption of “Bone Hill”, alluding to the area having been used for occasional burials since the early medieval period. There was certainly a mass secondary interment of human remains on the site in 1549 when over 1,000 cartloads of bones were brought from the charnel house of St Paul’s Cathedral after its demolition (14). The initial burial ground site, which comprised 30 square yards, was purchased for the sum of £270 in 1661 by the London Quakers (15). This was the first freehold property owned by Quakers in the city. The plot lay between of Checker Alley, on its southern side and Coleman Street, on its northern edge. This cemetery opened four years earlier than that of the nearby “Dissenters'” burial ground, on the eastern side of Bunhill Row and north of the “New Artillery Ground”. The latter still forms part of Bunhill Fields Cemetery and Memorial Gardens today.

A map of Bunhill Fields in 1676 showing the location (in yellow) of Checker Alley Quaker Burial Ground at its maximum extent in size

A map of Bunhill Fields in 1676 showing the location (in yellow) of Checker Alley Quaker Burial Ground at its maximum extent in size

As well as burials arising from routine deaths Checker Alley Burial Ground also contains the graves of 1,177 Quakers who died in the Great Plague of 1665/6. The initial plot of 30 square yards quickly became full and additional plots of land were purchased to extend it, until by c.1845 about £3,600 had been invested in the site (16).

Graves were not individually marked with monuments or gravestones. The sole exception was a small tablet on the wall, simply inscribed “G. F.”, in commemoration of George Fox (1624–1691), one of the founders of the Quaker movement. However, so many Quakers came to visit this that it was denounced as being idolatrous by Robert Howard, a prominent member of the Society, and it was destroyed. George Fox is now commemorated by a more modern marker which has also been set against the wall (17).

The location of Quaker Gardens south of Old Street, London

The location of Quaker Gardens south of Old Street, London

The burial ground closed in 1855 by which time it contained approximately 12,000 burials. Shortly after this date work began on the site’s redevelopment. In 1880, as part of the initial land reclamation works some 5,000 bodies were exhumed and re-buried with carbolic acid in a corner of the remaining site (18). The cleared land was subsequently built on until less than half an acre of the original open site remained. What remains of the site today has now been neatly laid out and constitutes Quaker Gardens, a small public garden in the extreme south of the London Borough of Islington. Apart from a couple of memorial plaques, one of which commemorates George Fox, nothing remains to remind the passer-by of its former use or history.

The following video clip presents further information of the Checker Alley Quaker burial ground along with other lost cemeteries of London.

References:

  1. G.C. – Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century in England, Wales and Ireland by Corporations, Merchants, Tradesmen, Etc. – A New and Revised Edition of William Boyne’s Work. – Volume 2. (London, 1967).
  2. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  3. Searched via the data bases available at Ancestry – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/).
  4. Searched via the data bases available at Findmypast – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (www.findmypast.co.uk).
  5. Searched via the data bases available at FamilySearch – Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (https://familysearch.org/).
  6. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  7. Webb, C – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records – Tallow Chandlers’ Company. 1633-1800. Society of Genealogists (London, 2003).
  8. Webb, C – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records – Wax Chandlers’ Company. 1666-1800. Society of Genealogists (London, 2000).
  9. Webb, C – London Livery Company Apprenticeship Records – Grocers’ Company. 1629-1800. Society of Genealogists (London, 2008).
  10. 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).
  11. Reference Number: MS 9172/61. Will Number: 154. London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London
  12. Ibid 11.
  13. Berry, G. – Seventeenth Century England: Traders and their Tokens. (London, 1988).
  14. Holmes, B. – The London Burial Grounds: Notes on their history from earliest times to the present day. (New York. 1894).
  15. Butler, D.M. – The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain Volume 1. (Friends Historical Society. London. 1999).
  16. Ibid 15.
  17. Bowes-Isaacson, L. & P. – Notes for Visitors to Bunhill. (Bunhill Fields Meeting House. 2001).
  18. The British Architect and Norther Engineer. Volume 7. January to June 1877. Bunhill Fields. Page 321. (Manchester. 1877).

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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.

2 Comments

Filed under Tokens from North of the City Walls

The Lion & Key in Thames Street – The investigation of a mid-17th century token from London

A mid-17th century farthing token issued by by a tradesman living off Thames Street in the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate.

A mid-17th century farthing token issued by a tradesman living off Thames Street (possibly at Lion(‘s) Quay in the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate.

The above brass farthing token measures 15.5 mm and weighs 0.99 grams. It was issued in the name of a tradesman operating in, or an adjacent area to, part of Thames Street in the Billingsgate Ward of the City of London.

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

Obverse: (mullet) THE.LYON.AND.KEY.IN , around the depiction of a lion rampant (facing left) holding a key.

Reverse: (mullet) THEMES.STREETE.1651 , around a twisted wire inner circle. A triad of initials within reads, F|.R.| (rosette) E .

We cannot be sure if the emblem on the obverse of the token is the issuer’s trade sign or a pictorial indication of his precise address. While certainly not unique, the trade sign of the lion and key was not at all common in 17th or 18th century Britain. However, in this particular example it has been suggested(1) that the trade sign was a pictorial play on words based on the name of an adjacent wharf (i.e. Lion or Lion’s Quay) which was located on the north bank of the River Thames, south off Thames Street, approximately between Billingsgate Dock and Botolph Wharf. This was one of 20 quays established in 1558 off Thames Street between London Bridge and the Tower Ditch and is clearly identified in the Agas Map of London (c.1561). The general waterfront area west of between Billingsgate up to Old London Bridge appears to have always been an important area of commercial wharfs with evidence for such dating back to the Anglo-Saxon and Roman periods.

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) between Old London Bridge and Billingsgate Dock showing the approximate location of Lion(‘s) Quay.

A section of the Agas Map of London (c.1561) between Old London Bridge and Billingsgate Dock showing the approximate location of Lion(‘s) Quay.

Lion Quay was very close to Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London broke out in the early hours of 2nd September 1666 and will have been consumed by the inferno in its early stages as it rapidly spread along Thames Street and the packed warehouses and wharfs on the adjacent Thames water front.  After the subsequent redevelopment of this part of the city this general area on the north bank of the River Thames was re-named New Quay. However, the memory of Lion Quay appears to have been retained in the name given to an alley leading south off Thames Street at a location just east of the former site of St. Botolph’s Church (which was never re-built after the Great Fire) and west of Billingsgate Dock.

Part of John Ogilby and William Morgan’s 1676 Map of London showing Thames Street and the River Thames waterfront around Billingsgate Dock post its redevelopment after the Great Fire of 1666.

Part of John Ogilby and William Morgan’s 1676 Map of London showing Thames Street and the River Thames waterfront around Billingsgate Dock post its redevelopment after the Great Fire of 1666.

Trade signs and emblems based on such a pictorial play on names, such as that above, can be found on several other 17th century tokens. For example, in nearby Queenhithe, Bartholomew Fish, a fletcher, adopted the emblem of the three fish as his trade sign while the obverse design selected for the trade farthings of Robert Hancock, a wood monger of Whitefriars, show an outstretched hand on which is perched a cockerel (i.e. a “hand” and “cock”) this being a pictorial representation of his surname, i.e. “Han(d)-cock”.

The triad of initials on the reverse of the above token are those of its issuers. In this case a Mr. F. R. and a Mrs E.R. The token’s issue date, 1651, is clearly stated on its reverse together with its location of issue, i.e. Thames Street.

A search of hearth tax records for the mid-17th century has failed to identify the token issuers from the above mentioned triad of initials. The hearth tax returns for Lady Day 1666 indicates two occupants of Lion Quay in the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate, with surnames beginning with the letter “R” (i.e. as per that of the token issuers). These were James Rix, who occupied a meagre property with only a single hearth and Peter Richards, who occupied a much larger property containing 10 hearths. The entry for Peter Richards is at the start of the list for Lion Quay which may indicate its location at the head of Lion Quay Alley and the south side of Thames Street. This property’s relatively large number of hearths may be indicative of it having been a tavern. While the first name initial of Peter Richards excludes him from being the token issuer it doesn’t exclude him from being related to him. Given the 15-year time difference between the token’s issue date and the hearth tax entry it is possible that Peter Richardson was the token issuer’s son continuing in his family’s business. It is equally probable that Peter Richards may have had no connection whatsoever with the token issuers and that the absence of a Mr. F. R. from the 1666 hearth tax returns simply implies that by that time the family had moved out of the area or had even died, possibly as victims of the great plague of 1665/6 which killed approximately 1 in 5 of the city’s population at that time.

A review of businesses and trades signs in the Thames Street area immediately after its rebuilding post the Great Fire indicates the existence of a Lion and Key tavern which in 1669 which was owned first by John Pack and Joseph Staples and later that year by Nathaniel Hawe(2). This tavern was located in the eastern part of Thames Street (later known as Lower Thames Street) far removed from the entry to Lion Quay Alley and well outside of the old parish boundaries of St. Botolph, Billingsgate.

In a further attempt to identifying the token issuers a series of earlier documentary sources plus contemporary London parish registers have been consulted. Unfortunately, most of the parish registers for the mid-17th for the token issuer’s home parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate appear not to have survived the parish Church’s destruction during the Great Fire. However, one manuscript housed in Lambeth Palace Library, now commonly known as “The Inhabitants of London in 1638”(3) lists tithe payers in nine-tenths of the city of London, by parish, for the year 1638 together with the rental value of their property. Under the entry for the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate there is only one person with initials that match those of our token issuer (i.e. F.R.) and they are those of Master Francis Risden. The same Francis Risden, and his immediate family, are also recorded in the genealogical database known as Boyd’s Inhabitants of London. It is from this source that we learn the Christian name of his wife, Elizabeth. This fits perfectly with the third letter in the triad of issuers initials on the reverse of the above token. While it is impossible to categorically confirm Francis Risden as the issuer of our token there must be a high probability that he was.

From the above sources, together with additional parish register entries, and a copy of Francis Risden’s Will(4), it is possible to piece together a very basic outline of his life and family history.

Francis Risden was the oldest of four known children born to Francis Risden (senior) and his wife Catherine Olibbey. Francis and Catherine were married on 3rd March 1605 at the parish church of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. Their four known children were all baptised in the nearby parish church of St. Mary-atte-Bow between 1606 and 1611.

1606/7 – Francis Risden, son of Francis Risden, victualler, was baptised the 11th day of February

1608/9 – Thomas Risden, son of Francis Risden, victualler, was baptised the 12th day of February

1610 – John Risden, son of Francis Risden, silk weaver, was baptised the 30th day of September

1611/12 – Barbarie Risden, daughter of Francis Risden, a silk weaver, was baptised ye 16th day of February

It is interesting to note the change of occupation of Francis Risden senior between 1608 and 1610. The leap from victualler to silk weaver could be considered as an extreme change of occupation if Francis hadn’t already some related skills pertaining to the weaving trade.

In 1619 it appears that Francis Risden senior enrolled his sons Francis (then aged 12 years) and Thomas (10 years of age) into the Merchant Taylors’ School(5). 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.

How long Francis stayed a pupil in the Merchant Taylor’s School is unknown as it what he did immediately after leaving the school.

The next reference we have to Francis Risden is from the earlier cited reference of 1638 in which he is listed as an inhabitant of the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate living in a property with a rental value of £60, this being the third highest listed in the parish at that time. Living in such a comparatively high value property would indicate Francis as being someone of relatively high status in the parish. A later reference(6) confirms that Francis was living in this same parish for at least some four years as his son, also named Francis, is recorded as having been born there on the 23rd November 1634. The same source also quotes that by 1648 Francis Risden (the token issuer) was a weaver. While no record of Francis’s marriage has so far been found in any surviving London parish register it is clear that by 1634 he was married and from other sources the name of his wife is confirmed as Elizabeth(7,8) while that of his one known daughter was Margaret (date of birth unknown)(9) .

In becoming a weaver Francis was obviously following in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately no record has so far been found of him becoming a registered apprentice under a master of the Worshipful Company of Weavers although he may have initially followed a different trade and then chose to buy himself onto the register of the Weaver’s Company at a later date. Such changing of career paths was not unheard of as long as the tradesman in question had sufficient funds to buy himself entry into the respective city Livery Company representing his new chosen trade and that he had sufficient talents in that trade to make a livelihood out of it. Given that Francis’s father had been a weaver it can assumed that he acquired at least some of his father’s trade skills while assisting him as a young boy.

 In 1648/9 Francis Risden enrolled his son (then aged 14) into his old school (i.e. the Merchant Taylor’s School). Francis obviously had sufficient regard for his old school to select it for his son.

Nothing further can be found recorded for Francis over the next 5 years until 19th of June 1654. By then, at the age of only 47, he was probably aware that his health was faltering as it was on that date he chose to make his last Will and Testament. Just over three months later Francis had died as the proving of his Will by the Court of Probate is dated in Westminster on 25th September 1654.

Under the provisions of Francis’s Will(10) he left the following after the payment of any outstanding debts and funeral expenses;

  1. To each of his surviving brothers and sister were to be paid the meagre sum of 12 pence.
  2. Thereafter a third of the value of his remaining estate to his children Francis and Margaret.
  3. The remaining part of his estate together with all goods and chattels were left to his “loving wife” Elizabeth who was also named as the Will’s executrix.

As an interesting aside to the above there is one other token known from mid-17th century London that was issued from Thames Street and which bears the same obverse emblem of a lion (rampant) holding a key. This additional token is undated so we cannot be sure if is contemporary, earlier or later in issue date than the one discussed above although stylistically they could be argued as being contemporary issues. Unlike the earlier described token type very few specimens of this second similar one have survived into modern collections. One such example is illustrated and described below.

A further mid-17th century farthing token issued by by a tradesman living off Thames Street (possibly at Lion('s) Quay in the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate.

A further mid-17th century farthing token issued by a tradesman living off Thames Street (possibly at Lion(‘s) Quay in the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate.

 Obverse: (mullet) IAMES.HAWKINS.AT , around the depiction of a lion rampant (facing left) holding a key.

Reverse: (mullet) LYON.KEY.IN.THEMSTRET , around a twisted wire inner circle. A triad of initials within reads, I|.H.| .V .

Arguably the direct reading of the above reverse token legend suggests that its issuer was a resident of Lion Quay, off Thames Street. However, we cannot dismiss the alternative interpretation that James’s trade establishment was at (or adjacent to) premises bearing the sign of the lion and key, which, as in the earlier described token type, was a pictorial play on words of the issuer’s address (i.e. Lion or Lion’s Quay).

What is interesting about this second token issuer is that he appears to have a direct link to Francis Risden, who was arguably the issuer of the earlier described token type.

Francis Risden’s Will was signed by three independent witnesses together with the public notary who was commissioned to prepare it on his behalf. The name of the latter was “James Hawkins”. An individual by this name is known to have acted as public notary in the preparing of a Will for at least one other near contemporary person from the parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate (i.e. Richard Brown in 1640)(11).

If this same public notary is the name man who issued the above token it raises a few interesting questions. For example near to the time of his death did Francis Risden call on the services of Hawkins purely by chance or was he already running an established business close by or adjacent to that of Risden himself, therefore making the two men potential contemporary friends or at least neighbours? Alternatively, did James Hawkins see an opportunity arise after Francis Risden’s death by offering to buying Risden’s old trade premises from his wife and executrix Elizabeth Risden? If the latter was the case then presumably Hawkins’s tokens were issued after those of Francis Risden. Stylistically speaking their comparative designs arguably appear to be of a similar date.

If James Hawkins, the token issuer, is indeed the same person as signed Francis Risden’s Will it makes his token issue of further interest as being possibly the only known example from a London based public notary.

Footnote:

In January 1982 an area south of Thames Street, east and west of the site of the former parish church of St. Botolph, Billingsgate, and extending down to the old Thames waterfront underwent a yearlong archaeological excavation conducted by the Museum of London. The following contemporary BBC Chronicle and Thames News reports indicate some of what was found, including the evidence of the destruction caused to the area by the Great Fire of 1666 and the evidence for the redevelopment of the area thereafter.

The excavation of the post Great Fire  levels around the area of St. Botolph’s Church and Lane – BBC Chronicle – “On The Waterfront”. 1984.

The excavation of the immediate pre Great Fire  levels around the area of St. Botolph’s Church and Lane – BBC Chronicle – “On The Waterfront”. 1984.

Excavation of St. Botolph, Billingsgate – Thames News

References:

  1. Burn, H.B. – A descriptive catalogue of the London traders, tavern, and coffee-house tokens presented to the Corporation Library by Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy. (London, 1853).
  2. London Public House History (Web Site) referencing original mortgage documents held at London Metropolitan Archives, London. For specific reference and list of landlords see the following web page www.pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/AllHallowsBarking/LionKey.shtml .
  3. Dale, T.C – The Inhabitants of London in 1638. Edited from Ms. 272 in Lambeth Palace Library. Society of Genealogists. (London, 1931).
  4. PROB 11/234 – Will of Francis Risden (19th of June 1654), National Archives, London.
  5. 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).
  6. Ibid 5.
  7. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  8. Ibid 4.
  9. Ibid 4.
  10. Ibid 4.
  11. Ibid 7.

 

 

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