Tag Archives: Pepys

The Black Bell in Thames Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ralph Lucas at the White Bear in Abchurch Lane

A half penny token issued in the name of the White Bear Tavern in Abchurch  Lane

A half penny token issued in the name of the White Bear Tavern in Abchurch Lane

The above brass half penny token measures 19.3 mm and weighs 2.08 grams. It was issued in 1665 in the name of Ralph Lucas of The White Bear Tavern in Abchurch Lance in the Candlewick Ward of the City of London. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (rosette) RALPH. LVCAS.AT.THE.WHIT, around twisted wire inner circle, within is a depiction of a bear on all fours paws walking left wearing a collar and waist harness.

Reverse: (rosette) IN. ABCHVRCH.LANE.1665, around twisted wire inner circle, legend within three lines reads HIS / HALF / PENY.

location of the White Bear Tavern and Later Pontack's in Abchurch Lane. Taken from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

The approximate location of the White Bear Tavern and Later Pontack’s in Abchurch Lane. Taken from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

A Ralph Lucas is recorded in the “Lane Syde” part of Abchurch Lane in the 1666 Hearth Tax returns. He is recorded as occupying a property with 5 hearths. This was almost certainly a reference to the White Bear Tavern. By September of that same year the tavern, like all the other properties in Abchurch Lane was consumed by the Great Fire of London. The lane was re-built over the following three years but it appears that Ralph Lucas did not return to resurrect the White Bear. Instead the approximate site of the old tavern was used for a new establishment which traded under the sign of “Pontack’s Head”.

The new proprietor, of what was to become one of the city’s most fashionable eating houses, was François-Auguste Pontac, the son of Lord Arnaud de Pontac who was the parliamentary president of Bordeaux.

Arnaud de Pontac (1599-1681)

Arnaud de Pontac (1599-1681)

François-Auguste use his newly established French Ordinary(1) as an outlet for the celebrated wines from his family’s vineyards, particularly those from the estate of Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux. It was a sign board depicting his father’s image which he chose to hang outside his new premises. The diarist John Evelyn was a regular at Pontack’s and in his diary entry for 13th July 1683 he wrote this of his host;

“I had this day much discourse with Monsieur Pontaq, son of the famous and wise prime President of Bordeaux. This gentleman was owner of excellent vignoble of Pontaq and Obrien, from whence comes the choicest of our Bordeaux wines; and I think I may truly say of him, what was not so truly said of St. Paul, that much learning had made him mad. He spoke in all languages , was very rich, had a handsome person, and was well bred; about forty five years of age.”

Pontack’s Head was famous for its French cuisine and excellent wines. The fashion for such new French cookery was not to the tastes of all Londoners and many retained an insular contempt for such new fashions. However, amongst those who could afford it and who were more adventurous in their eating habits it was a great hit and could possibly be described as the capital’s first trendy and exclusive French Wine Bar.

Thomas Rowlandson's satirical depiction of "A French Ordinary" where dead cats and "slops" are all on the menu.

Thomas Rowlandson’s satirical depiction of “A French Ordinary” where dead cats and “slops” are all on the menu.

A French refugee in London writing in 1693 took pride in the fact that where it was difficult to obtain a good meal elsewhere “those who would dine at one or two guineas per head are handsomely accommodated at our famous Pontack’s”

Amongst those who frequented Pontack’s were such personalities such as John Evelyn, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, John Locke and Sir Christopher Wren. It was also to become the location where Fellows of the Royal Society held their annual dinner until 1746. As a fellow of the Royal Society from 1665 and as its president from 1684 to 1686 it is almost certain that the famous diarist Samuel Pepys would have visited at Pontack’s. A further well-known diner at Pontack’s is believed to have been the artist William Hogarth. Hogarth even paid Pontac a dubious compliment in his third scene from “The Rakes Progress” series.

The room of this boisterous scene is adorned with pictures of Roman Emperors, one of which has been removed to make way for a portrait of Pontac. One contemporary of Hogarth commented on Pontac as follows ” an eminent French cook, whose great talents being turned to heightening sensual, rather than mental enjoyments, has a much better chance of a votive offering from this company, than would either Vespasian or Trajan.” Such advertisements, were no doubt all to the good for Pontack’s and its proprietor’s reputation.

William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress: The Rake at the Rose Tavern (1734)

William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress: The Rake at the Rose Tavern (1734)

It is not clear when François-Auguste Pontac died. However in January 1735, there is a reference to a Mrs. Susannah Austin;”who lately kept Pontack’s, and had acquired a considerable fortune” prior to marrying the banker William Pepys of Lombard Street.

Notes:

1) An Ordinary was a term used to describe a tavern or eating house which served regular meals.

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George Carter in St. Albans Street, Westminster

issued in the name of George Carter in St. Alban's Street, Westminster

A half penny token issued in the name of George Carter in St. Alban‘s Street, Westminster

The above brass token measures 21.2 mm and weighs 1.51 grams. Based on it size alone it arguably best fits into the category of a penny token although that lack of it carrying a mark of value (as most penny token of the series do) probably means that it is more likely to be a half penny token. It was issued in the name of George Carter who was possibly a tavern owner operating from premisses in St. Alban’s Street, in the Parish of St. James, Westminster.

Obverse: (rosette) GEORG. CARTER. AT. YE. ST. ALBAN , around twisted wire inner circle, within the depiction of a standing figure (presumably St. Alban) facing and wearing a crown or peer’s coronet and holding a cross in its left hand and a sword in its right. What appears to be an open book on top of a draped alter or lectern is visible to the right of the figure.

Reverse: A legend in six lines reads IN .ST / ALBANS / STREET / NEERE. ST. / IAMES . / MARKET

It is possible that the George Carter recorded on the token was one and the same as the similarly named individual in the 1664 Hearth Tax return who is noted as occupying premisses with 15 hearths in Garndner Lane, St. Margret’s Parish, Westminster. While Hearth Tax returns were recorded for the eastern side of St. Albans Street in 1666 there are as then no occupants with the surname Carter.

St. Alban's Street, Parish of St. James, Westminster (c.1720)

St. Alban’s Street, Parish of St. James, Westminster (c.1720)

St. Alban’s Street took its name from its developer and one of the area’s principal earliest inhabitants, Henry Jermyn, the 1st Earl of St Albans, a man sometimes refered to as the “Farther of the West End”.

In the 1650s the open space west of the Haymarket and north of Pall Mall, known at St. James’ or Pall Mall Fields was considered ripe for development but hitherto such had been forbidden by the Crown. In March 1661/2 the Earl of St Albans was granted a lease of much of this area by the Queen Mother. Development of the area was given further impetus in July 1662 when a meeting of commissioners for reforming the streets and buildings of London ordered the “paving of the way from St. James’, north, which was a quagmire, and also the Haymarket about Piqudillo”. A further Act of that same year also made provision for the paving of Pall Mall, the Haymarket and St. James’ Street. By September 1663 the development of St. James’s Fields by the Earl had begun. By April 1665, despite strong opposition, especially from the Lord Southampton who was a rival developer, Earl St. Albans obtained a freehold grant for over 11 acres (approximately half) of St. James’ Fields. On this land and his adjacent leaseholds he proposed a piazza, or square, of 13 to 14 houses, with subsidiary streets and plus a large covered market. This proposed development was similar to that of the Earl of Southampton’s estate of Bloomsbury. Despite some opposition and difficulties in 1665 Earl St. Albans had begun construction on his own house on his piazza, St. James’ Square. Completion of the square followed over the next decade or so.

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans

By September 1665 a covered market (St. James’ Market) had been opened between the newly founded St. James Square and the Haymarket. The southern entrance to the market was connected to the west side of St. James’ Square via a short street (St. Albans Street) leading off King Charles Street.  All of these streets were part of Earl St. Albans development of the area which the diarist Samuel Pepys comments on in his diary entry for the 1st April 1666;

“Up and down my Lord St. Alban his new building and market-house, looking to and again in every place building.”

In the 1666 Hearth Tax returns for St. Alban’s Street there are only entries for the eastern side of the street and some of these indicate that at that point in time several of the houses were recorded as newly built and still un-occupied. It is possible that by 1666 the western side of the street was still under construction and/or still comprised empty plots.

In Volume I of J.T. Smith’s 1846 publication “An Antiquarian Ramble in the Streets of London: With Anecdotes of Their More Celebrated Residents” reference is made to a mansion-house (supposedly once the residence of Earl St. Albans himself?) on the western corner of St. Albans Street at the junction with King Charles Streets which supposedly became a tavern and remained so until the building was demolished as part of improvements made to Reagent’s Street in 1820 and 1821. The same author associates this tavern as being the premises from which George Carter issued his undated trade token. As yet I have found nothing to confirm this one way or the other. That Early St. Albans took up residence in St. James Square c.1667 does not preclude him from living at the alternative address at a slightly earlier date of his development of this general area of St. James’ Fields.

There are several indicators that point to this token being issued relatively late in this mid-17th century series. These include;

1)      The token’s reverse legend style

2)      The identification of the token as possibly being of a penny denomination

3)      The construction completion date of its street of issue

All of these factors point to a date of issue in the period 1667 to 1672.

At the time of this token’s issue the wording on its reverse side could be taken to indicate that many Londoners may not have known whereabouts its place of issue in the city was. Presumably while many people may not have heard of relatively new and obscure road by the name of St. Albans Street most of them will have been much more familiar with the neighbouring location of St. James Market.

While this token issue is the only one known from St. Albans Street there are over twenty types recorded from the neighbouring area of St. James Market-place. The earliest of these is dated 1664.

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The Blue Boar’s Head, King Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Boar's Head in King Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued in the name of the Boar’s Head in King Street, Westminster

The above copper farthing token measures 15.7 mm and weighs 0.94 grams. It was issued in the name of Blue Boar’s Head tavern which was located on the west side of King Street in St. Margaret’s Parish, Westminster. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (star) THE.BORS.HEAD.IN.KINGS, around twisted wire inner circle, boar’s head looking left within.

Reverse: (star) STREETE.WESTMINSTER , around twisted wire inner circle, triad comprising I |.W.|(rosette) D within.

The initials of the couple that ran The Blue Boar’s Head tavern at the time the token was issued, a Mr. “J/I.W.” and his wife Mrs.” D.W.” as yet have not been identified.

The style of this farthing token would suggest an early date in the series, possibly 1650 to 55.

The location of Boar's Head Yard off King Street, Westminster (c.1720)

The location of the Blue Boar’s Head Yard off King Street, Westminster (c.1720)

The Blue Boar’s Head was of the oldest established tavern in the Parish of St. Margaret’s, Westminster.  It dated back to the late 14th Century. Extensions in 1396 and 1401 gave it 16 bedchambers which were sumptuously furnished. It was located adjacent to a yard which bore its name and which connected the narrow and congested King Street on its eastern side with De La Haye Street to its west.

Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, gave a suite of apartments in King Street to his mother. She lived here until her death in 1654. These apartments are understood to have been located on the north side of the Blue Boar’s Head Yard adjacent to the tavern.

Owing to its narrowness and want of light and air, and the crowded courts by which it was hemmed in on either side, King Street was among the first parts of Westminster to suffer from the plague in 1665. On its appearance, so close to the gates of the royal palace, Charles II and his courtiers, left Whitehall for the comparative safety of Oxford.

The Blue Boar's Head - A mid 19th century view of the inn post its re-building in the mid 18th century

The Blue Boar’s Head – A mid 19th century view of the inn post its re-building in the mid 18th century

The construction of Westminster Bridge and Great George Street in 1750 led to the demolition of the old Blue Board’s Head tavern and its stable yard, which were rebuilt a short distance to the north at what was to become 34, Kings Street, Westminster. It was finally demolished, along with what was left of King Street, in 1899.

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Henry Morrell in Hartshorne Lane, Westminster

A half penny token of Henry Morrell of Hartshorne Lane, Westminster

A half penny token of Henry Morrell of Hartshorne Lane, Westminster

The above copper half penny measures 21.0 mm and weighs 1.22 grams. It was issued in the name of Henry Morrell.

Obverse: (rosette) HENRY.MORRELL.AT.YE.LIME , around twisted wire inner circle, H M E inter spaced with three rosettes with two sets of three dots arranged in triangular form below with a fourth rosette in between.

Reverse: (rosette) WHARF.IN.HART.HORNE.LANE , around twisted wire inner circle, HIS/ HALFE /PENNY /1667 in four lines plus six dits arranged in an elongated cross pattern within.

Hartshorne Lane, Westminster (1720)

Hartshorne Lane, Westminster (1720)

Lime wharf was a but busy wharf on the River Thames at the bottom of Harshorne Lane, which ran south off the Strand to the west of where the present day Charing Cross Station is located. This part of the city was outside of the area affected by the Great Fire of 1666.

As yet I’ve been unable to find any record as to the trade or further background details of Henry Morrell or his wife whose name , based on the reverse triad of initials, was presumably Elizabeth? Henry Morrell is not listed in the Hearth Tax records for 1662, 1664 or 1666. However, there is a record of the marrige of a Henry Morrell and an Elizabeth Estridge in the parish registers of St. Gregory by St Paul’s on 12th May 1664.

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