Tag Archives: Wapping

Mr. Dry at the Three Sugar Loaves in Wapping

A farthing tradesman's token issued at the sign of the three sugar loaves in Wapping, Middlesex.

A farthing tradesman’s token issued at the sign of the three sugar loaves in Wapping, Middlesex.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.9 mm and weighs 0.99 grams. It was issued in 1650 by a tradesman in Wapping, a district of eastern London which runs along the north bank of the River Thames.

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

Obverse: (mullet) AT. THE. 3. SVGER. LOAES, around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of three sugar loaves hanging from a common suspension hoop.

Reverse: (mullet) IN . WAPPIN . 1650 . , around twisted wire inner circle. Within, in two lines, the legend T (rosette) E / DRY

The two initials above the surname “Dry” on the reverse of the token are those of its issuer and his wife respectively, i.e. Mr. T. and Mrs. E. Dry.

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

Wapping developed along the north embankment of the Thames, hemmed in by the river to the south and the drained Wapping Marsh to the north. This gave it a peculiarly narrow and constricted shape, consisting of little more than the axis of Wapping High Street and some north-south side streets. John Stow, the 16th century historian, described it as a “continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages, built, inhabited by sailors’ victuallers” (1). A chapel to St. John the Baptist was built in Wapping in 1617 although the hamlet continued to remain part of the parish of St. Dunstan and All Angels, Stepney until it was constituted as a parish in its own right in 1694.

The Parish of St. John's Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

The Parish of St. John’s Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

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

The "Prospect of Whitby" dates from 1520 and though Execution Dock is long gone, a gibbet is still maintained on the Thames foreshore next to this famous public house

The “Prospect of Whitby” dates from 1520 and though Execution Dock is long gone, a gibbet is still maintained on the Thames foreshore next to this famous public house

In Search of Mr. Dry

Other than working at (or by) the sign of the three sugar loaves in Wapping Mr. Dry’s farthing token gives no clue as to where precisely in the hamlet his business was located. However, the design selected for his trade sign does offer a potential clue as to his trade.

In a time before the formal address numbering of buildings the use of ornate and memorable trade signs, in association with specific street names, were the standard means of expressing a location’s address. Trade signs were typically suspended from support rods at an elevated position on the street facing outer wall of their owner’s business premises. After the great fire of 1666 many of the new brick built buildings and business premises in London incorporated trade signs in the form of carved stone reliefs which were built at height into the outer wall of the buildings’ fabric.

 A trade sign incorporating one or more sugar loaves is highly suggestive of its owner being a grocer (2). 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 recognisable and associated with their trade by the public. While this particular trade sign was very much favoured by grocers, examples of it are also known to have been used by certain other tradesmen. Amongst these are occasional examples belonging to taverns plus sundry use by confectioners plus at least one ironmonger and a chandler.

(Right) Reconstruction of a 17th century maid braking sugar from a sugarloaf (Left) A 17th century sugarloaf mold found in excavations in London plus a replicated sugarloaf

(Right) Reconstruction of a 17th century maid braking sugar from a sugarloaf (Left) A 17th century sugarloaf mold found in excavations in London plus a replicated sugarloaf

An examination of the names of 17th century apprentices and masters belonging to London’s Worshipful Company of Grocers (3) has failed to identify anyone with the surname “Dry”. However, this is by no means conclusive evidence that our token issuer didn’t practice in this trade.

A review of 17th century entries from the parish registers in the Tower Hamlets area has indicated several entries in the name of “Dry” or “Drye” that could be potentially related to the token issuer and his family. Principals amongst these are;

1) Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Dry and his wife Elizabeth – Buried 4th October 1665 at St. John’s Church, Wapping.

 2) Thomas son of Thomas Dry of Wapping, Sawyer, and Anne – Christened 7th February 1665/6 at St. Dunstan and All Saints Church, Stepney.

3) Thomas Dry of Well Alley – Buried 12th February 1668/9 at St. John’s Church, Wapping. A sub-notes in the register’s margin indicate that at the time of his death Thomas was poor and bed-ridden.

East London (c.1720) from the Tower of London to Shadwell indicating the location of Well Alley (in red), Wapping

East London (c.1720) from the Tower of London to Shadwell indicating the location of Well Alley (in red), Wapping

It is by no means certain that all or any of the above records refer to the same Mr. T. Dry who issued the above farthing token in Wapping in 1650. However, on the grounds of meeting so many of the historical pre-requests as outlined on the token the first of the three listed must have a very high probability of referring to Mr. T. and Mrs. E. Dry the token issuers.

The second entry may relate to a later marriage of the token issuers, presumably after the death of the Mr. E. Dry referred to on the reverse of the earlier token of 1650.

An analysis of east London Hearth Tax returns from the 1660s has indicated one that could relate to the token issuer, assuming he was still alive and living in the area at that time. In 1666 a Thomas Drye paid tax on a property in Wapping Hamlet having 7 hearths (4). Such a number of hearths would indicate fairly substantial premises. A further, but by no means exhaustive, examination of contemporary 17th century documentation for the east London area has identified two further potential references to the above token issuer. The earliest of these is dated 14th July 1659 and comprises a list of those men appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament to act as commissioners for the militia within “the Hamblets for the Tower of London”. Amongst those listed is one Thomas Dry (5).

Re-enactors portraying the 17th century Tower Hamlets Militia or Trained Guard

Re-enactors portraying the 17th century Tower Hamlets Militia or Trained Guard

A further reference to a Thomas Dry can be found in the Middlesex Sessions Rolls for 1664. On 17th July 1664 a Thomas Dry, a grocer of Whitechapel (then an adjacent hamlet north of Wapping), came before the Justices of the Peace at Stepney.

Depiction of a mid-17th century Conventicle Preacher being brought before the Justices (by Robert Inerarity Herdman c.1873-76)

Depiction of a mid-17th century Conventicle Preacher being brought before the Justices (by Robert Inerarity Herdman c.1873-76)

Thomas was one of approximately a hundred others (most likely Puritans) who had assembled illegally at the home of William Beanes of Stepney for the purpose of exercising religion practices other than those allowed by the Church of England under the Conventicles Act of 1664. The entire group was found guilty and in the case of Thomas Dry the sentence handed down was 3 months imprisonment in Newgate gaol or payment of a fine of 40 shillings (6). It is not know which of these two options Thomas opted for but he must have known that even 3 months in Newgate could potentially result in a death sentence. It has been estimated that one in 10 of those imprisoned in the gaol during the second half of the 17th century died within its walls due to the foul and overcrowded conditions which were a breeding ground for germs and decease.

By linking together the above references in chronological order it is possible to construct various possible adult life histories for Thomas Dry. However, it is impossible to say with any certainty that all of the referenced quotes relate to a single individual and that he was the same Mr. T. Dry who issued trade tokens in Wapping in 1650.

References:

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

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

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

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) Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. His Majesty’s Stationery Office. (London, 1911).

6)      Middlesex County Records: Volume 3, 1625-67. Middlesex County Record Society. (London, 1888).

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Filed under Tokens from East of the City Walls

George Carpenter, Mealman of Wapping

A farthing token issued by George Carpenter - A mid-17th century grain dealer of Wapping, London.

A farthing token issued by George Carpenter – A mid-17th century grain dealer of Wapping, London.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.6 mm in diameter and weighs 0.80 grams. It was most likely issued in the 1650s. The token was issued by George Carpenter, a mealman (i.e. a dealer in cereal grains and milled flour) operating from premises in Wapping. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) IORG. CARPENTR. IN around a twisted wire inner circle, within a depiction of a wheat sheaf.

Reverse: (mullet) WAPING. MELL. MAN. around a twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising G | .C. | .S with a small dot below the “C”.

Even by the phonetic spelling standards of the 17th century the obverse legend on this token appears clumsy, i.e. JORG. for GEORG. along with the missing “E” in the issuer’s surname.

The triads of initials on the reverse of the token are those of its issuer, George Carpenter, and his wife, Mrs. S. Carpenter.

The depiction of the wheat sheaf on the token’s obverse almost certainly represents the trade sign which hung over George’s business premises in Wapping. The symbol of a wheat sheaf was popular in 17th century London as a tavern sign and was also adopted by many bakers and mealmen, an emblem synonymous with their respective trades (1).

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

Wapping developed along the north embankment of the Thames, hemmed in by the river to the south and the now drained Wapping Marsh to the north. This gave it a peculiarly narrow and constricted shape, consisting of little more than the axis of Wapping High Street and some north-south side streets. John Stow, the 16th century historian, described it as a “continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages, built, inhabited by sailors’ victuallers”(2). A chapel to St. John the Baptist was built in Wapping in 1617. However, the hamlet continued to remain part of the parish of St. Dunstan and All Angels, Stepney until it was constituted as a parish in its own right in 1694.

The Parish of St. John's Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

The Parish of St. John’s Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

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

A further farthing token is known to have been issued in the name of George Carpenter, mealman of Wapping. It is very similar to the one described earlier other than for the following differences;

1)      The die sinker has corrected the spelling of the issuer’s name from JORG. to GEORG. CARPENTER on the token’s obverse.

2)      The triad of initials on the reverse of the token have been altered to G | .C. | .M

Surviving examples of this second token are far commoner than first type described which until relatively recently was unrecorded.

A farthing token issued by George Carpenter - A mid-17th century grain dealer of Wapping, London.

A farthing token issued by George Carpenter – A mid-17th century grain dealer of Wapping, London.

The fact that the anomalous spelling of George’s name has been corrected on this second token is suggestive of it being a later farthing struck in the name of the original token’s issuer. The change in the triad of initials on the reverse of this second token (i.e. from “S” to “M”) is also of note and suggests that the issuer had re-married by the time this second farthing was commissioned.

The Search for George Carpenter of Wapping – A Tale of two Mealmen?

A good point to start the search for any 17th century London token issuer are Parish Registers, particularly those in the immediate locality to the area from which their trade premises were located. A review of parish registers from eastern London yields several references to a person(s) named George Carpenter in the neighbourhood of Wapping in the 1640s to 1660s. Looking at these entries as a whole it is obvious that there was more than one individual in the Wapping area during this period bearing the name “George Carpenter” and that some, if not all, of them were related.

From the parish register entries alone it is difficult to draw precise and accurate conclusions as to the history and relationships of those individuals whose initials are presented in the triads on the reverse sides of the two above trade tokens (i.e. Mr. G.C and Mrs. S.C plus Mr. G.C. and Mrs. M.C.). However, thanks to the preservation of the Will of one George Carpenter, mealman of Wapping, in the National Archives it is possible to address most of the gaps and questions raised from the Parish Register entry evidence.

It is possible that George Carpenter was the son of Thomas and Joyce Carpenter of (Old) Gravel Lane, Wapping. While it is not certain when he was born it is likely to have been several years prior to his sister Elizabeth whose baptism is probably that recorded on the 15th June 1632 in both the parish church registers of St. John’s Wapping and the neighbouring St. Mary’s, Whitechapel.

On 16th February 1636 a George Carpenter married an Alice Caustin at All Saints’ Church, Wandsworth, Surrey. It is possible that these individuals are one and the same as those recorded in the following parish register entries for St. John’s Church, Wapping which must almost certainly refer to the same George Carpenter whose Will is preserved in the National Archives at Kew (3);

1642 – August: Baptism of James son of George and Alice Carpenter

1644 – 22nd November: Baptisms of Sarah and Rebecca twins of Alice and George Carpenter, mealman

From the earlier mentioned Will of George Carpenter, mealman of Wapping, it is clear that at the time of its preparation in February 1651/2 George’s second oldest son was named William. The Will contains no mention of Sarah or Rebecca so it can be assumed that they both died in infancy.

At some time after the 1644 but prior to 1647 it appears that George Carpenter re-married as indicated from the further parish register entries from St. John’s Church, Wapping, listed below.

1647 – 16th October: Birth and baptism of William Carpenter son of George Carpenter, mealman of Old Gravel Lane, and Susana Carpenter

1650 – 24th October: Baptism of William Carpenter son of George Carpenter and Susana Carpenter

1651 – 26th June: Burial of Henry son of George Carpenter

Presumably Alice Carpenter died some time shortly after the birth of Sarah and Rebecca although no burial record has so far been found for her. A baptism record has similarly not been identified for Henry Carpenter so it is unclear if he was the son of Alice or George’s second wife Susana.

It is interesting to note from the above parish register entries that in 1647, at least, the Carpenter family were living in the same area of Wapping, i.e. Old Gravel Lane, as George’s parents had lived at the time of his sister Elizabeth’s baptism in 1632.

A map of Wapping showing the location of Old Gravel Lane (c.1720).

A map of Wapping showing the location of Old Gravel Lane (c.1720).

As yet a marriage record for George and Susana Carpenter has not been identified but presumably they must have been married by the end of in 1646 at the latest.

At the time George Carpenter made his last Will and Testament on 3rd February 1651/2 he describes his condition as being “sick and weak in body”. He states himself as still being a mealman of the hamlet of Wapping and still married to “his loving wife” Susana, who he named as executrix of his Will and whose duty was to be assisted by three overseers, namely his brother-in-law, Robert Hutton and two of his friends, Edward Parsons and George Street.

According George’s Will in February 1651/2 he had four surviving children all of whom were under the legal age of entitlement (i.e. 21). In addition to providing several interesting details concerning his surviving family, George’s Will also identifies some of his closest friends, property holdings and personal wealth. In accordance with the provisions of his Will George divided his estate and belongings into the following bequests;

1)      To his eldest son George on his 21st birthday:

The sum of £300 plus two free hold tenement properties complete with a “Corn yarde with Corn flatts, pitts, Cisternes (and) Mill Kill(n)” in Long Lane, Bermondsey. George had recently purchased these properties from William Hirrocks a citizen and brewer of London. At the time the Will was prepared both properties were being occupied by Edward Birknell, a tanner.

2)      To his second eldest son James on his 21st birthday:

The sum of £500.The interest from which was to be used for their education and maintenance until the time of their coming of age and receipt of their full inheritance.

3)      To his two youngest sons John and William on their 21st birthdays:

The sum of £250 each. The interest from which was to be used for their education and maintenance until the time of their coming of age and receipt of their full inheritance.

4)      To his cousin and servant George Carpenter:

The sum of £60.

5)      To his sister Elizabeth Hutton, brother-in-law Robert Hutton and his good friends Edward Parsons and George Street:

The sum of 40 shillings each for the purchase of mourning rings with which to remember him by.

6)      To his wife Susanna:

All the remains of his worldly house hold goods, stock, ready money, plate and leases.

A mid 17th Century Deaths Head Type Funerary Ring from London

A mid 17th Century Deaths Head Type Funerary Ring from London

Within a week of George making his Will the following record was entered into the parish register of St. John’s Church Wapping.

1651/2 – 9th February: Burial of George Carpenter the husband of Susan

George’s will was proven on 18th February 1651/2.

Without any doubt whatsoever it is certain that the first of the two farthing tokens illustrated above (i.e. that bearing the reverse triad of initials G | .C. | .S) was issued by George and Susanna Carpenter sometime between 1648/9, when the issue of such farthings commenced in London, and the death of George in February 1651/2. So what of the second token (i.e. that bearing the reverse triad of initials G | .C. | .M) issued in the name of George Carter, mealman of Wapping? The third initial does not match the Christian name of either of George’s known two wives, Alice or Susanna. So who did issue the second farthing token? The answer to this question is inferred in the following entry from the parish register of St. Dunstan’s Church, Stepney;

1654 – 10th December: Christening of George (15 days old) son of George Carpenter, mealman of Wapping, and Mary Carpenter

It appears that the second token was issued by George Carpenter junior and his wife Mary after his father’s death in 1651/2. George junior obviously decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and became a dealer in cereal grain whist staying, at least for a time, in his family home of Wapping. He even issued an almost identical farthing trade token to the one circulated by his father some years earlier. Based on the style of George junior’s token it is likely to date to the mid-1650s to early 1660s. The comparative high frequency with which these slightly later tokens appear in the paranumismatic record suggests they were issued in larger numbers and had a longer circulation life than the ones issued by his father.

A marriage record, dated 27th March 1651, exists for a George Carpenter and Mary Ward of the parish St. Margaret’s, Westminster. While this could be the marriage of George Carpenter junior it is dated nearly a year prior to George Carpenter senior’s Will in which there is no mention of his eldest son, who was then still less than 21 years of age, being married.

A further review of the London parish registers of the period has revealed several other references to George Carpenter junior, mealman of Wapping and his family.

1654 – 28th November: Birth of George Carpenter the son George and Mary – St. John’s, Wapping.

1657/8 – 4th February: Burial of a male child still-born of George and Mary Carpenter – St. John’s, Wapping.

1659 – 3rd April: Baptism of John the son of George Carpenter, mealman of Wapping Dock, and Mary Carpenter – St. John’s, Wapping.

1663 – 21st April: Christening of George (15 days old) son of George Carpenter, mealman of Upper Shadwell, and Mary Carpenter – St Dunstan’s, Stepney.

1665 – 28th May: Burial of George Carpenter the son of George and Mary Carpenter – St. John’s, Wapping.

The death of George and Mary’s infant son in May 1665 was probably due to him contacting plague. Like other areas of London the Tower Hamlets area was badly hit by the infamous outbreak of bubonic plague which decimated the capital’s population during 1665 and into 1666.

The period 1654 to 1665 the Carpenters address is variously given in the above parish register entries as Wapping (1654), Wapping Dock (1659) and finally Upper Shadwell (1663). The Hearth Tax returns from Wapping Hamlet of 1666 indicates a George Carpenter occupying premises with four hearths. Unfortunately the hearth tax entry fails to identify which part of Wapping he lived in.

References:

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

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

3)      PROB/11/220. National Archives (London).

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Filed under Tokens from East of the City Walls

Edward Fish at the sign of the Sun in Wapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An assemblage of 17th Century English Pewter Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgements:

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

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Filed under Tokens from East of the City Walls

Roger Price at the Black Boy in Wapping

A farthing token issued in the name of Roger Price at the sign of the Black Boy, Wapping.

A farthing token issued in the name of Roger Price at the sign of the Black Boy, Wapping.

The above copper farthing token measures 15.2 mm and weighs 1.09 grams. It was issued in name of John Price  of Wapping, a district in eastern London which runs along the north bank of the River Thames.

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

Obverse: (mullet) BLACK.BOY.IN.WAPIN, around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of what is most probably a young negro boy holding a clay pipe in his right hand (away from his mouth) and a beer mug or serving jug in his left hand (For an alternative interpretation of the latter object see note 1 below).

Reverse: (mullet) BLACK.BOY.IN.WAPIN, around twisted wire inner circle, a triad comprising R | .P. | .I , within.

The Parish of St. John's Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

The Parish of St. John’s Wapping with inset map indicating its relative location within Eastern London (c.1720).

A burial register entry for a Roger Price may be found within the registers of St. John’s Parish Church, Wapping for 3rd October, 1663. Roger is recorded as the husband of Jane Price. This would fit with the triad of husband and wife initials on the reverse of this token, i.e. Mr. R.P and Mrs I.(i.e. the Latinised form of J). P. Furthermore the will, witnesses on 25th September 1663, of a Roger Price of St. John’s Parish, Wapping  exists in the London Metropolitan Archives. In it Roger is described as a  merchantaitor (i.e. a mechant) and the husband of Jane Price, brother of John Price plus father and father-in-law to John and his wife Sarah Price respectively.

I have located two possible marriage records for Roger Price. These are;

1) Roger Price Spouse Jane Gay. Marriage 22 Aug 1636 in the church of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, Middlesex

2) Roger Price Spouse Jane Pugget. Marriage 26 Apr 1641 in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft, London

There exists several east London christening records after 1636 for children with parents by the name Roger and Jane Price.  These include;

Anthony Price – 1638, St. John’s Parish, Wapping

William Price – 1640, St. John’s Parish, Wapping

Jane Price – 1643, St. John’s Parish, Wapping

John Price – 1645, St. Andrew Undershaft, London

Further research is required in this area to determine if we are looking at two separate east London Price families or the possible re-marriage of a single Roger Price to a second wife (also names Jane, as per his first wife) in 1641.

As yet I have found no records for a Roger Price in east London Hearth Tax returns from the  1660s. The only Prices recorded in the 1666 return for Wapping are those for a Richard Price and a William Price. This observation is not surprising given the probable assumption that Roger Price, the token issuer, is one and the same as the Roger Price (husband of Jane Price) who we know died in Wapping in late September or early October 1663.

It is generally believed that Roger Price was the publican at a tavern by the name of the “Black Boy” in Wapping. There sign of the Black Boy was common in London during the 17th century and later. According to Bryant Lillywhite’s book “London Signs” the first example of such a sign in the metropolis is recorded as early as 1541. The sign was commonly adopted by tavern and coffee-house owner plus tobacconists and other sundry tradesmen. As a tobacconist sign the first example appears in 1614, only 45 years after the introduction of tobacco into Britain. Thereafter the sign continues in use by tobacconists well into the 19th century.

A tobacconist is recorded as having a shop upon Wapping Wall in 1667 and trading under the sign of the “Black Boy and Pelican”. As a tavern sign there are further examples of the “Black Boy” in Wapping. An example is recorded close to the Thames in the late 1760s. This example may or may not be a later reference to a further example close to Wapping Stairs. Lillywhite records this latter examples as early as the 1650s to 60s. A further example is known in Wapping High Street from at least 1802 up until at least 1906.

Notes:

1) In Volume 8 (Middlesex) of the Norweb Collection of “Tokens of the British Isles 1575-1750” the description given by Thompson and Dickenson of the item under the left arm (?) of the figure on the obverse of this token is stated as being a tobacco roll. The tobacco roll was a sign commonly used by tobacconists from earliest times in Britain as an instantly recognisable emblem of their trade.

A rare survival of a tobacconists sign in the form of a suspended tobacco roll (New Cross Road, South London)

A rare survival of a tobacconists sign in the form of a suspended tobacco roll (New Cross Road, South London)

The combined items of a tobacco roll and clay pipe in the hands of the figure on the reverse side of this token could very much be taken to suggest that Roger Price was a tobacconist. However, examination of further specimens of this token, including the one illustrated below from the Museum of London collection, clearly indicates that the object in the left hand of the figure is a large moulded hide beer mug (i.e. a jack) or jug (bombard) which were in common use in the 17th century and later.

A further example of a Roger Price farthing indicating a jack or bombar in the left hand of the Black Boy

A further example of a Roger Price farthing indicating a jack or bombard in the left hand of the Black Boy

The combination of a clay pipe and beer mug would favour this particular image as a “Black Boy” as being suggestive of Roger Price having been a publican.

Moulded hided bombard (left) and jack (right) similar to those used in the 17th century

Moulded hided bombard (left) and jack (right) similar to those used in the 17th century

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