Tag Archives: Southwark

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) .


  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) .


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.


  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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Filed under Tokens from the South Bank of the River Thames

Edward Munns at the sign of the Sugarloaf on London Bridge

A half penny token issued by Edward Munns - A tradesman working on London Bridge

A half penny token issued by Edward Munns – A tradesman working on London Bridge

The copper half penny token, pictured above, measures 21.2 mm and weighs 2.59 grams. It was issued in 1668 by Edward Munns, a tradesman operating from premises at or by the sign of the Sugar Loaf on London Bridge.

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

Obverse: (sexfoil) EDWARD. MVNS. AT. THE. SVGAR , around a twisted wire circle. Within the depiction of a sugarloaf

Reverse: (sexfoil) ON. LONDON. BRIDG. 1668, around a twisted wire circle, within three lines the legend HIS / HALFE / PENNY

Edward Munns was one of only six tradesmen who lived and worked in one of the buildings which were perched along the sides of old London Bridge who are known to have issued private trade tokens (1).

A map of London & The South Bank showing Old London Bridge (c.1720).

A map of London & The South Bank showing Old London Bridge (c.1720).

Old medieval London Bridge comprised a broad road carried by twenty asymmetrical narrow stone arches resting on large piled masonry piers. It was the city’s only bridge over the River Thames which, prior to the building of the Victoria Embankment on its northern side, was considerably wider than it is today. On the south side of the bridge, at Southwark, its entrance was marked by a fortified gate house. For centuries the boiled and tarred (for preservation) heads and severed limbs of executed traitors were held aloft on pikes from the top of this gate house and publically displayed to all entering the city from the south.

Traitors heads on public display on the fortified gate way at the southern end of London Bridge

Traitors heads on public display on the fortified gate way at the southern end of London Bridge

It is believed that the practice of exhibiting traitor’s heads from the gate house at the south of the bridge continued into the first quarter of the 18th century. After the re-building of the city, post the Great Fire of 1666, the new Temple Barr gate way became a more regular location for their display.

An engraving by Claes Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616 from Southwark

An engraving by Claes Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616 from Southwark

The approach to the bridge on its northern side was via Lower Fish Street, just west of the church of St. Magnus the Martyr, in the Bridge Ward of the City.

By the start of the 17th century both the east and west sides of the bridge were covered in a near continuous row of three to five storey wooden tenements which contained both private dwellings and shops which fronted onto the road. From the 1580s the bridge also housed a tidal water wheel powered pump under arches at its northern end. This pump provided the city with one of its earlier supplies of water directly from the River Thames.

A reconstruction of London Bridge as it may have appeared in the 17th century

A reconstruction of London Bridge as it may have appeared in the 17th century

In 1579 a new grand and highly elaborate five storey building, Nonsuch House, was erected towards the southern end of the bridge. As part of this re-development one of arches of the bridge was taken out and replaced by a drawbridge. Whilst this added some additional protection to the City it allowed larger vessels access to the upper part of the River Thames for the first time in hundreds of years.  Nonsuch House was Britain’s first recorded fully prefabricated building. It was built and trial erected in Holland before being shipped in pieces to London in 1578 where it was re-assembled on a space cleared for it on the southern part of the bridge.

An artists impression of Nonsuch House in the early 17th century showing the draw bridge imeadiately in front of its entrance.

An artists impression of Nonsuch House in the early 17th century showing the draw bridge immediately in front of its entrance.

In 1633 a fire broke out on the north end of the bridge which destroyed forty three houses and shops (2). Although there was some degree of re-building at this end of the bridge in the immediate years that followed a gap remained in the continual line of tenements. Luckily it was this natural fire brake which protected the buildings perched on the mid and southern parts of the bridge from being incinerated during the Great Fire of London. The Great Fire consumed most of the city of London over a period of four days in September 1666. It started in a bakery in Pudding Lane close to the bridge’s northern end.

 It was from within the hustle and bustle of the unique surroundings on old London Bridge that Edward Munns issued his half-penny trade tokens. These tokens display the trade sign (i.e. the sugarloaf) and location (i.e. on London Bridge) at or close to which Edward’s premises stood. This was a time before the formal address numbering of buildings. Ornate and memorable trade signs, in association with specific street names, were the standard means of expressing a location’s address. Trade signs would typically be suspended above a trader’s business premises or built into their fabric.  In isolation the sign of a sugarloaf is highly suggestive of its owner being a grocer(3). As one of the staple products sold by grocers in the 17th century, sugar, in the form of a distinctive wholesale loaf, would have been instantly associated with their trade by the public.  

Reconstruction of a 17th century maid braking sugar from a sugar loaf

Reconstruction of a 17th century maid braking sugar from a sugarloaf

Whilst normally indicative of a grocer the sign was also adopted by a few other tradesmen in addition to some taverns of the period. However, a review of contemporary records has indicated that Edward Munns was neither a grocer nor a tavern keeper. A clue to his occupation was initially provided in a list of the individuals and their trades who lost their properties in the London Bridge Fire of 1633. This list indicates that at the north end of the bridge, at least, there was a predominance of tradesmen involved in aspects of the cloth and clothing trade (2).

 Edward Munns was the youngest of three sons born to Thomas Munns and Susan Foster. Thomas was a citizen of London and draper from the parish of St. Mary Abchurch whilst Susan Foster was originally from the parish of St. Saviour’s, Southwark(4). The couple married in 1605 and although Thomas died in 1615 all three of his sons (Thomas b.1606, John b.1608 and Edward, b. circa 1615) went on to become drapers like their father(4). Each of the boys would have served a seven-year apprenticeship with a master draper. On completing their apprenticeships they received their freedom from their respective masters (Thomas in 1628, John in 1632 and Edward in 1637)(4) . Thereafter each of the young men would have been eligible to join the Worshipful Company of Drapers. Shortly after receiving his freedom Edward Munns started his own business from premises on London Bridge. This is confirmed from an entry in the London Poll Tax returns for 1641(2) ;

Munns, Edward – girdler on the bridge

On the 3rd March 1645 an Edward Munns married Ann Grimes at the church of Holy Trinity, Minories just outside the eastern boundaries of the city, close to the Tower of London. According to a leading genealogical index of London families(4) Edward Munns (the draper of London Bridge) had one recorded child, Ann, who married a John Heather in 1663. If Ann Munns was born circa 1645/6 this would have made her 17/18 at the time of her wedding. Given that it was common practice in the 17th century for parents to pass the mother’s first names on to their first born daughter this adds further support to Edward Munns the draper being the man who married Ann Grimes of the Minories in 1645.

 I can find no further references to Edward Munns’ wife in any surviving records. Edward’s trade tokens of 1668 carry only his name. Often, but not always, if a trader was married he would incorporate both his and his wife’s initials into the reverse of his token design. While this was very common on the farthing tokens issued by London traders during the period 1649 to the early 1660s it was not so conventional on the half penny tokens which became increasingly predominant from the early 1660s to 1672. Edward’s final Will makes no reference to a wife and implies he only had one (or at least one surviving) child, Ann. Combining all these facts together it is tempting to speculate that Edward Munns’ wife died shortly after the birth of the couples only child. She may not even have survived the birth of this child. Death of mothers in or as a result of child birth was not at all uncommon in the 17th century.

 A search of the Hearth Tax returns for 1666 has failed to identify Edwards Munns on London Bridge. However, we know he was still trading there in 1668 as that is the date on his tokens which confirms him on the bridge at or by the sign of the sugarloaf.

Two clues exist as to the precise location of the sign of the sugarloaf on the bridge. In mid-November 1667 an entrepreneur by the name of James Peters placed an advert in the London Chronicle informing those who were looking to buy or sell vacant plots of land in the city, post the Great Fire of 1666, to register with him(5) . James Peters was effectively offering his services as a land sale agent by compiling a registry of vacant and available land in the city. The advert clear states how those interested in taking advantage of his services were to find him;

 “…the dwelling house of Mr. James Peters Scrivener, at the Sign of the Sugar-loaf near the Draw-bridge on London-Bridge…”

 Returning to the Hearth Tax returns of 1666 an entry can be found for the above mentioned individual;

 James Peters – Paying tax on a property with 6 hearths located on the Bridge on the East Side

 Thus it can be deduced that Edward Munns’ shop was located by the sign of the sugarloaf which was on the south-east part of the bridge close to the draw bridge which was located on the south side of Nonsuch House.

London Bridge in the early 17th century (looking from the West) showing the general location of the sign of the sugar loaf and Edward Munns shop south of Nonsuch House

London Bridge in the early 17th century (looking from the West) showing the general location of the sign of the sugarloaf and Edward Munns shop south of Nonsuch House

 Edward Munns had a long and seemingly successful career as a London draper. In 1667 he became a member of the Worshipful Company of Drapers. From 1678 he went on to be elected to various senior offices within the Company(6) . These included;

  •  Assistant – In 1682/3 and 1683/4
  • Warden – In 1678/9, 1685/6 and 1687/8

 Over his career Edward Munns took on no fewer than seven different apprentices(6). These included(4) ;

  •  Samuel Pain – Received his freedom from Edward Munns on 23rd February 1649
  • James Goldham – Received his freedom from Edward Munns on 6th May 1657
  • Edward Kidder – Apprenticed to Edward Munns on 20th March 1666.
  • Francis Cade – Received his freedom from Edward Munns on 20th November 1667
  • John Clarke – Apprenticed to Edward Munns on 10th March 1680

 Edward Kidder was the son of Thomas Kidder, a merchant tailor, who also had premises on London Bridge prior to his death in 1656(4). No doubt Edward Munns had known the Kidder family well before he took Edward on as his apprentice. John Clare, the son of a London butcher, was almost certainly Edward Munns’ last apprentice as Edward died in 1689/90(4)(6). By this date he was in his mid-70s and so had lived to a very respectable age for the period.

 Edwards Munns’ Last Will and Testament was written on 23rd October 1688(7) and confirms that he had amassed a considerable amount of money as well as a certain amount of property during his life time. Edward made his son-in-law, John Heather, executor of his Will in which he left the bulk of his goods and estate to his daughter Ann with provision that it went primarily to her and then to her son John and not her husband. Presumably John was the eldest of the Ann and John Heather’s five children, the others being Susan, William, Elizabeth and Alice. Separate provisions were made in Edward’s Will for all five of his grandchildren. Such provisions comprised various monetary amounts. These were payable in the forms of individual differing annuities plus final sums which were to be paid to each grandchild on them reaching certain stipulated ages or, in the case of the girls, their marriages, which ever occurred first. Particularly generous provisions were made for John and Susan in Edward’s Will compared to those made for his other three grandchildren.

 Edward’s Will makes no reference to him owning any leases or property on London Bridge. This coupled with the absence of his name against any of the returns from the Hearth Tax of 1666 suggests that his premises on the bridge were either rented or held by a lease which had expired by the time he made his final Will in October 1688.  However, his Will clearly indicates that he did own land and property in Barrons Court and Barrons Alley in the Aldgate Without district of London. As yet I have been unable to locate the precise location of this address on contemporary maps or gazetteers within the fairly well-defined bounds of Aldgate Without. Interestingly the general location of this property was close to the parish church where it is believed Edward Munns married Ann Grimes in 1645 (i.e. Holy Trinity, Minories). As such it is possible that the bequeathed property in Edward’s Will was related to an inheritance secured from his late wife’s family.



  1. Dickinson, M.J. – Seventeenth Century Tokens of the British Isles and their Values. (London, 2004).
  2. Upcott, W. – Great Fire on London Bridge, in 1633. The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 94, Part 2. November 1824.
  3. Lillywhite, B. – London Signs: A Reference Book of London Signs from Earliest Times to about the Mid Nineteenth Century. (London, 1972).
  4. Boyd, P. – Inhabitants of London. A genealogical Index held by the Society of Genealogists, London.
  5. The London Gazette, Number 209, November 14th to 18th, 1667.
  6. Johnson, Rev. A.H. – The History of the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London. Vol. IV. (Oxford, 1922).
  7. PROB/11/396. National Archives (London).


Filed under Tokens from within the City Walls

The Horse Shoe in Tothill Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Horse Shoe  in Toothill Street, Westminster

A farthing token issued by a tradesman operating from the sign of the Horse Shoe in Toothill Street, Westminster

The above copper farthing token measures16.1 mm and weighs 1.18 grams. It was issued by a tradesman operating from premises at or by the sign of the Horse Shoe in Tothill Street in Westminster.

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

Obverse: (star) AT. THE. HORES. SHOW. IN , around the depiction of a horse shoe with its terminals pointing upwards.

Reverse: (star) TVTILL. STRET. WESTMIN , around a twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising W | .A. | .E

Tuthill or Tothill Street is located in the Parish of St. Margarets, Westminster. The street lies due east of Westminster Abbey.

The location of Tothill Street , Westminster (1720)

The location of Tothill Street , Westminster (1720)

The use of the horse shoe as a trade sign is first recorded in London in the mid-14th century. In Britain horse shoes are traditionally credited as having talismanic properties. Their use as a sign was thought to invoke good luck, success and was even to ward off evil and witches. Hence the tradition of nailing horse shoes, with the terminals upper most, above doors at the threshold to houses. In the 17th century the sign of the horse shoe was popular amongst tavern and inn keepers as well as with some tallow-chandlers.

Based on the style of this farthing token it is likely that it dates from the 1650s. With only the triad of the token issuers’ initials to work on the reverse side of the token (i.e. Mr. W.A. and Mrs. W.E.) it is very difficult to attribute its issue to named individuals.

A review of the Hearth Tax returns for Tothill Street for 1664 reveals seven individuals with surnames beginning with the letter “A”. Any one of these could represent an individual with a family tie to the original token issuers. Three of the individuals listed have initials which exactly match those of the primary issuer (i.e. Mr. W.A.). These are;

1)      William Austin paid tax on premises having 3 hearths on the north side of Tuthill Street and/or the west side of Longditch.

2)      William Allin paid tax on premises having 1 hearth on the north side of Tuthill Street and/or the west side of Longditch.

3)      William Ashfeild paid tax on premises having 3 hearths on the south side of Tuthill Street.

Further investigation of a range of London parish registers has failed to identify reference to any of the three individuals in the parish of St. Margarets, Westminster. However, possible entries for individuals with similar names and who had wives with a Christian name beginning with “E” (i.e. as per the secondary token issuer Mrs. E.W.) have been identified in other areas of London. These include;

a)      William Allin and Elizabeth Allin parents of an Elizabeth Allin who was christened at the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, London on 9th November 1650.

b)      William Allin and Elizabeth Allin parents of a William Allin who was baptised at the church of St. Mary, Whitechapel on 16th November 1659.

c)      William Allin married Elizabeth Colins on 5th May 1632 at the church of St. Saviour, Denmark Park, Southwark.

While any one of the above could be references to the issuers of the above token during a period before or after they lived in Tothill Street in Westminster there is no way of confirming this at present.

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