Tag Archives: Whitechapel

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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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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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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William Minshew of Rosemary Lane, Whitechapel

A farthing token issued in the name of William Minshew of Rosemary Lane in Whitechapel

A farthing token issued in the name of William Minshew of Rosemary Lane in Whitechapel

The above copper farthing token measures 16.3 mm and weighs 1.12 grams. It was issued in the name of William Minshew of Rosemary Lane in eastern London in 1659.

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

Obverse: (star) WILL.MINSHEW.IN, around the depiction of a swing plough facing left.

Reverse: (star) ROSEMARY.LANE 59, around the depiction of a still mounted on a masonry hearth with flames issuing from the top right side and distillate being collected in a receiving vessel located on its left side.

The “59” in the token’s reverse legend is an abbreviated issue date, i.e. 1659.

Near contemporary depictions of similar stone hearth mounted stills to the one shown on William Minshew's farthing Token (c.16 to 17th century woodcuts)

Near contemporary depictions of similar stone hearth mounted stills to the one shown on William Minshew’s farthing Token (c.16 to 17th century woodcuts)

Rosemary Lane (originally Hog Lane, or Hoggestrete) was the continuation of what is now Cable Street, running from the junction with Dock Street and Leman Street towards the Tower of London. Rosemary Lane was renamed Royal Mint Street in 1850. It crossed the parishes of Aldgate (in the west) and Whitechapel (in the east).

The section of Rosemary Lane which passes through the Parish of Whitechapel (c.1720)

The section of Rosemary Lane which passes through the Parish of Whitechapel with St. Mary’s Church in the top right on Whitechapel Street (c.1720)

I have been unable to find any conclusive evidence of where and when William was born. However, he could well be one of the following individuals who are recorded in their respective parish baptism records;

1)      William Minshawe – Baptised in the parish church of Garlickhithe on 1st September 1630. The son of Randall and Ursley Minshawe

2)      William Mynshawe – Christened in the parish church of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe on 26th July 1630. The son of Edward Mynshawe

3)      William John Minshaw – Christened in the parish church of St. Benet Paul’s Wharf on 18th May 1637.

By 1659, the date of issue on his tokens, we know that William Minshew was resident in Rosemary Lane. In isolation the presence of only his initials on the reverse side of his tokens suggests that at the time of their issue William was unmarried. If married it would was usual for tradesmen to apply a triad of initials to the reverse side of their tokens. These typically comprised the side by side initials of the couple’s two Christian names below that of their common surname.  However, a search of local parish registers indicates a William and Alice Minshew living in the parish of St. Mary’s, Whitechapel from at least 1654. The parish baptism records the couple having the following children;

  • Sarah Minshew; baptised on 11th January 1654/5
  • John Minshew; baptised on 13th October 1658
  • Mary Minshew; baptised on 16th June 1661
  • William Minshew; baptised 7th June 1663

Further analysis of the parish registers of St. Mary’s, Whitechapel indicates the following relevant entries for the family;

  • William Minshew; buried on 9th August 1664
  • Alice Minshew; buried on 20th January 1688/9 (1)

It is not clear if the burial of William Minshew recorded above is that of the token issuer or his infant son.

A further search of Hearth Tax returns for 1666 from the districts of Whitechapel and Aldgate has failed to return any entries for either a William or Alice Minshew.

The association of the Minshew family with St. Mary’s, Whitechapel potentially narrows down the stretch of Rosemary Lane on which the family may have lived (i.e. the eastern section which lay within Whitechapel).

A depiction of a Rag Fair in Rosemary Lane, East London (late 18th century print by Thomas Rowlandson)

A depiction of a Rag Fair in Rosemary Lane, East London (late 18th century print by Thomas Rowlandson)

From the mid-17th century Rosemary Lane gained strong associations with the second-hand rag/cloth trade. However, like in other areas of London the occupations of the tradesmen and women who lived and worked in the lane were far more diverse. At least 29 tradesmen living on Rosemary Lane during the mid-17th century are known to have issued tokens. Their trades are varied and include an ironmonger, a cheesemonger, a pastry cook, a fruitier, a cable maker, a blacksmith, a fishmonger, a tobacconist, a brewer plus several victuallers. While not a fellow token issuer there was at least one other “tradesman” living on Rosemary Lane around the same time as William Minshew who is worth noting. This individual was a Hangman by the name of Richard Brandon, a trade which he had inherited from his father, Gregory Brandon, who had been an Axeman or executioner.  Richard died in 1649. While his burial register entry in the parish registers of St. Mary’s Whitechapel is in itself unremarkable, “1649. June 2. Richard Brandon, a man out of Rosemary Lane” the note next to it is not, “This R. Brandon is supposed to have cut off the head of Charles I”. The historical content of this note is supported by several contemporary anecdotes.

Based on the information contained on his token William Mishew’s occupation is unclear. The token’s obverse depicts a plough while its reverse depicts a still. In London the sign of the plough was adopted from the 16th century onwards by several taverns but was by no means exclusive to that trade. The image of a still suggests a possible inference that William may have been a distiller, although this again is by no means a certainty. The sign of the still was used by some taverns and possibly some members of the Apothecaries’ Society who, for a period in the 17th century, viewed the Worshipful Company of Distillers as partial rivals to elements of their trade.

One interpretation of the emblems on this particular token is that William Minshew was a distiller operating from premises in or near the building occupied by a tavern which went by the name or sign of the Plough. A review of the 30 token types known to have been issued from traders in Rosemary Lane indicates a degree of commonality with respect to the emblems used on their tokens. These include;

1)      Sam Crisp, cheesemonger at the sign of the still.

2)      Mr.  C.W. and Mrs.  F.W. at the sign of the plough (possibly keepers of a tavern by the name of the Plough).

3)      P. H. Doe on Armetage Bridge (2). This token bears the emblems of a wheat sheaf on its obverse and a plough on its reverse (possibly a trader in grain or cereals operating at or close to a tavern by the name of the Plough).

Notes:

1)      Rather confusingly there is a second burial register entry for an Alice Minshew the day before that listed above (i.e. 19th January 1668/9) in the adjoining parish registers of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate.

2) As yet the author has not been able to identify this exact location on Rosemary Lane.

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