Tag Archives: Whitehall Palace

The Bell Tavern in King Street, Westminster

A farthing token of the Bell Tavern, King Street, Westminster

A farthing token of the Bell Tavern, King Street, Westminster

The above brass farthing token measures 15.9 mm and weighs 0.89 grams. It was issued in the name of The Bell Tavern which was once located in King Street in St. Margaret’s Parish, Westminster. The design of the token may be formally described as follows;

Obverse: (mullet) THE. BELL. TAVERN. IN, around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of a bell within.

Reverse: (mullet) KINGS. STREET. WESTMINS, around twisted wire inner circle, within a triad of initials comprising C | .D. | .M

While this particular token is undated on stylistic grounds its issue date can be attributed to the 1650s.

The triad of initials on the reverse of the token are those of its issuers, a Mr. “C.D.” and his wife Mrs. “M.D.”. As yet these individuals have not been identified but it is likely that Mr. C.D. kept the tavern at some period between 1641 and 1655. The later part of this period fits with the stylistic dating of the token. It is reported (1) that a William Austen kept the Bell in 1641 while between 1655 and 1664 the tavern was kept by the London vintner Samuel Walker and afterwards by his widow (2). A review of the 1664 Hearth Tax returns for King Street in Westminster confirms that Samuel Walker was paying tax on a property with 20 hearths in the southern end of the street.

King Street was a narrow but very busy thoroughfare which once linked the southern side of Whitehall Palace with Westminster Abbey. Today its original course is largely marked by that of Parliament Street.

King Street, Westminster (c.1720) - From right to left - Downing Street (Red); Axe Yard (Blue); Bell Yard (Purple) & Bell Alley (Green).

King Street, Westminster (c.1720) – From right to left – Downing Street (Red); Axe Yard (Blue); Bell Yard (Purple) & Bell Alley (Green).

At the north end of King Street, the corner of what is now Downing Street and what was then the southern side of Whitehall Palace, stood a gate called the King’s or Cock-pit Gate. It had four domed towers; on the south side were pilasters and an entablature enriched with the double rose, the portcullis, and the royal arms.

King's Gate at the north end of King Street and southern entrance to Whitehall Palace. Demolished in 1723.

King’s Gate at the north end of King Street and southern entrance to Whitehall Palace. Demolished in 1723.

At the south end of King Street at the entrance to Palace Yard stood a second gate known as High Gate the construction of which commenced under King Richard II in 1384. These gates were demolished in 1723 and 1706 respectively (3).

There were innumerable courts, alleys and lanes leading off King Street. On the west, south of Downing Street, were Axe Yard, Charles Street, Gardiners Lane, Sea Alley, Bell Yard, George Yard, Blue Boar Court, Antelope Alley and Bell Alley. The street was the home for many of the principal taverns of Westminster which included the Blue Boar’s Head, the Swan, the George, the Angel, the Antelope, the Black Dog, the Old Rhenish Wine House, the Sun, the Trumpet and the Bell. Amongst the notable inhabitants of the area in the 17th century were;

  • Oliver Cromwell and his mother who allegedly lived in a house close to the Blue Boar tavern.
  • Erasmus Dryden, Member of Parliament for Banbury and grandfather of the famous poet John Dryden, lived in a house just north of the Sun tavern.
  • Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist and Naval Administrator, who lived in Axe Yard off the north-west side of the street before moving to Seething Lane.
  • Wenceslaus Hollar, the notable Bohemian artist and engraver, who died in poverty in a rented house off King Street in Gardiners Lane.

Although narrow, King Street was wide enough to accommodate all the pageantry of state coronations, funerals and other such pageants that passed through it. The street was reportedly picturesque (4);

“The houses rose up three and four stories high; gabled all, with projecting fronts, story above story, the timbers of the fronts painted and gilt, some of them with escutcheons hung in front, the richly blazoned arms brightening the narrow way.”

However it was reportedly also dirty (4);

“The roadway was rough and full of holes; a filthy stream ran down the middle, all kinds of refuse were lying about.”

King Charles I travelled down King Street on the way from Whitehall Palace to his trial at Westminster. He went back by the same route as a condemned man. In 1658 Oliver Cromwell’s funeral procession followed the same route. Cromwell himself narrowly escaped assassination in the street, where he had a house north of Boar’s Head Yard. While travelling along the narrow and crowded street in his state carriage he became separated from his guard. As the carriage passed a cobbler stall in the street Cromwell’s companion in the coach, Lord Broghill, saw a door in the premises open and shut, while something glittered behind it. Broghill immediately dismounted from the carriage and hammered at the cobbler’s door with his scabbard, when a tall man, armed with a sword, rushed out and made his escape into the crowd.

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

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

Even in the mid-17th century the Bell tavern was regarded as an ancient establishment. The first known mention of the tavern occurs in 1465. Approximately 50 years later it is referred to as follows (5);

“A tenement called the Bell with a medowe and all the tenementes perteynyng to the same sett in the Kynges strete of Westminster.”

Not surprisingly the Bell Tavern was one of half a dozen taverns in King Street that was regularly visited and mentioned by Samuel Pepys’ in his diary. This particular tavern gets five mentions in the diary between March 1660 and February 1666/7 and was the location of one of his many extra marital liaisons on at least one occasion.

Shrove Tuesday 6th March 1660 – “So I went to the Bell, where were Mr. Eglin, Veezy, Vincent a butcher, one more, and Mr. Tanner, with whom I played upon a viall, and he a viallin, after dinner, and were very merry, with a special good dinner, a leg of veal and bacon, two capons and sausages and fritters, with abundance of wine. After that I went home…”

Monday 2nd July 1660 – “Met with purser Washington, with whom and a lady, a friend of his, I dined at the Bell Tavern in King Street, but the rogue had no more manners than to invite me and to let me pay my club.”

Saturday 9 January 1663/64 –After dinner by coach I carried my wife and Jane to Westminster, leaving her at Mr. Hunt’s, and I to Westminster Hall, and there visited Mrs. Lane, and by appointment went out and met her at the Trumpet, Mrs. Hare’s, but the room being damp we went to the Bell tavern, and there I had her company, but could not do as I used to do (yet nothing but what was honest) …”

Friday 14 December 1666 – “So I to Westminster Hall, and there met my good friend Mr. Evelyn, and walked with him a good while, lamenting our condition for want of good council, and the King’s minding of his business and servants. I out to the Bell Taverne, and thither comes Doll to me…”

Friday 1 February 1666/67 – “Thence by water to Billingsgate; thence to the Old Swan, and there took boat, it being now night, to Westminster Hall, there to the Hall, and find Doll Lane, and ‘con elle’ I went to the Bell Taverne, and ‘ibi je’ did do what I would ‘con elle’ as well as I could, she ‘sedendo sobre’ thus far and making some little resistance. But all with much content, and ‘je tenai’ much pleasure ‘cum ista’. There parted, and I by coach home.”

Based on the place-name evidence apparent on the earlier illustrated plan of King Street (c.1720) at first glance there appear to be two possible locations for the Bell tavern. These being;

1)      At the eastern entrance to Bell Yard at the northern end of King Street.

2)      At the eastern entrance to Bell Alley at the southern end of King Street.

Thanks to the survival of a late 17th century hand bill advertising the sale of several paintings at in Westminster during mid-October 1691 the precise location of the Bell tavern becomes very apparent;

“At the Bell-Tavern over against the Gate-House in Kings-Street Westminster. Will be exposed to sale a curious collection of paintings; being most originals, by the best masters of Europe, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the 13th 14th 15th and 16th of this instant October, 1691 Beginning exactly at four of the clock in the afternoon, and so will continue till all be sold.”

The hand bill clearly places the tavern at the head of Bell Alley at the southern end of King Street adjacent to “the Gate-House”. It is most probable that the gate house being referred to is that linking King Street with the western corner of New Palace Yard.

The southern end of King Street (c.1720) showing possible locations of the Bell tavern at the head of Bell Alley (marked in green).

The southern end of King Street (c.1720) showing possible locations of the Bell tavern at the head of Bell Alley (marked in green).

This gate house can be clearly seen behind the ornamental fountain in the upper right hand side of a contemporary view of New Palace Yard as viewed from Westminster Stairs.

New Palace Yard 1647 by Wenceslaus Hollar - The Gate House in the north-west corner is that which is described as being adjacent to the Bell tavern in 1691.

New Palace Yard 1647 by Wenceslaus Hollar – The Gate House in the north-west corner is that which is described as being adjacent to the Bell tavern in 1691.

During the reign of Queen Anne (1702 to 1714) the Bell tavern was the headquarters of the October Club, a boisterous fellowship of Tory parliamentarians who took their name from the strong winter ale they reportedly drank at their meetings.

In “A Journal to Stella”, Jonathan Swift makes an indirect reference to one of the October Club’s meetings at the Bell tavern (6);

10th February, 1710/11 –We are plagued here with an October Club that is a set of above a hundred Parliament men of the country, who drink October beer at home and meet every evening at a tavern near Parliament, to consult affairs, and drive things on to extremes against the Whigs, to call the old ministry to account, and get off five or six heads.”

A few months later when Swift happened to be eating at the Bell tavern some prominent Octoberists invited him to join them at their dinner. But, he reported;

“I sent my excuses, adorned with about thirty compliments, and got off as fast as I could. It would have been a most improper thing for me to dine there, considering my friendship with the Ministry. The Club is about a hundred and fifty, and near eighty of them were then going to dinner at two long tables in a great ground-room.”

During the first quarter of the 18th century the Bell tavern was also the meeting place of a Freemason’s Lodge. By 1751 it appears that the tavern had been re-named as the Crown tavern (7).


1)      Berry, G. – Tavern Tokens of Pepy’s London. (London, 1978).

2)      Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Volume 10 – Companion. (London, 1995).

3)      Brayley, E.W. & Britton, J. – The History of the Ancient Palace and late Houses of Parliament at Westminster. (London. 1836).

4)      Besant, Sir W. & Mitton, G.E. – The Fascination of London: Westminster. (London 1902).

5)      Cox, M.H. – Survey of London: Volume 10: St. Margaret, Westminster, part I: Queen Anne’s Gate Area. (London, 1926).

6)      Rogers, P. – October Club (act. 1711–1714). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (Oxford University Press, 2013).

7)      Whatley, S. – England’s Gazetteer: Or, An Accurate Description of All the Cities, Towns, and Villages of the Kingdom. Volume 2. (London 1751).



Filed under Tokens from Pepys' London, Tokens from West of the City Walls

A Ticket to Attend The Royal Touching Ceremonies of Charles II

Royal Touching Ceremony Entrance Ticket or Pass dating to the reign of Charles II

Royal Touching Ceremony Entrance Ticket or Pass dating to the reign of Charles II

The object above is an entrance ticket or pass dating from the reign of King Charles II. It measures 29.7 mm and weighs 11.15 grams and is bi-metallic comprising an inner brass core and an outer copper collar.

Unlike the tradesmen’s tokens which are the primary focus of this website the above ticket or pass had no monetary value at the time of its use between the 1660s to 1680s. It was issued by official agents of the Crown to sufferers of scrofula as a form of official entrance ticket or pass to one of Charles II’s royal healing or “touching” ceremonies. These were held in the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall throughout his reign.

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

Obverse: CAR . II . D . G. M . B . FR . ET . HI . REX (six pointed star) around the depiction of a three masted ship sailing left (Note 1).

Reverse: SOLI DEO GLORIA (six pointed star) around the depiction of the angel Michael spearing a recumbent dragon at his feet.

Before considering the method of issue and use of the above types of ticket or pass it is worth explaining further the context of their use and the formal ceremony to which they gave their bearer access.

 The Curative Royal Touch for King’s Evil and the presentation of Touch-Pieces

Historically in Britain scrofula or the “King’s Evil” was a name applied to a variety of skin diseases but in particular a form of tuberculosis, affecting the lymph nodes of the neck and which resulted in bulbous swellings and sores. It has been estimated that in 17th century London 1% of the population were suffers of the disease which effected people of all social classes.

From the reigns of King Edward the Confessor in England (1003 to 1066) and Philip I (1052 to 1108) in France it was believed that a touch from the king could cure diseases given that the monarch had been granted divine powers. Subsequent English and French kings were believed to have inherited this “royal touch”, which was taken as an indication of their god given right to rule. In grand ceremonies, kings touched hundreds of suffers afflicted by scrofula. In later years those attending such healing ceremonies also received a gold coin, typically an Angel, from the monarch which was also believed to be blessed with an extension of the monarch’s healing powers. These presentational coins became known as “touch-pieces” and over time became treated as amulets and were pierced for wearing around the recipient’s neck by a ribbon.

A gold Angel of Henry VIII - First Coinage Issue, 1509-1526

A gold Angel of Henry VIII – First Coinage Issue, 1509-1526

The last Angels to be minted for general circulation were issued in 1642(1) from the Royal Mint which was located in the Tower of London. After this date the mint was seized by Parliament at the start of the Civil War and in whose control it remained until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.

During the reign of James I the location of the royal touching ceremony was transferred from the Chapel Royal to the Banqueting House within the Palace of Whitehall(2) , Westminster. This continued to be the London venue for the ceremony throughout the reign of Charles I. During the Commonwealth period the practice ceased on British soil although it was continued by Charles II while in exile on the continent. On his restoration in 1660 he was quick to restore the ceremony, presumably as a means of re-affirming his rightful position as monarch through the practice of a divinely given gift (i.e. that of healing by touch).

In September 1660 Thomas Simon, the mint’s then chief engraver, was ordered to prepare sketches and dies for a new series of Angels(1).

Thomas Simon's Sketch for the proposed new Angel coinage of Charles II

Thomas Simon’s Sketch for the proposed new Angel coinage of Charles II

While there was an obvious early intent by Charles II to restore the Angel into common circulation within the Kingdom, and for use as touch-pieces, it never happened. However, in February 1664/5 Charles commissioned a new supply of purpose made gold “touch-pieces” from the mint at the Tower of London(2). The first issue of these new presentational medalets was struck from dies which were almost certainly cut by John Roettiers who was one of the mint’s chief engravers. Over Charles II’s reign six separate sets of dies were commissioned for the on-going striking of touch-pieces. Although the same emblems as used on the old Angels (i.e. St. Michael spearing a fallen dragon plus a ship in full sail) were maintained on the new touch-pieces their designs were different to those of the earlier Angels in that the monarch’s titles were switched to appear on the side depicting the ship, thus making it the obverse whereas on the Angel it had been on the reverse side.

A golden Touch-Piece of Charles II

A golden Touch-Piece of Charles II

During Charles II’s reign the royal touching ceremony became immensely popular. It is estimated that between 1660 and 1684 the king administered the royal touch to no fewer than 105,000 people, all of whom would have received one of the touch-pieces which contained the equivalent of 10 shillings worth of 22 carat gold(2).

During the reign of Charles II the touching ceremonies were held on Fridays between 1st November and 18th December, then during the months of January and for a month over Easter. It was suspended over the warmer months of the year to lessen the risk of spreading infection of any diseases amongst the gathered masses.

The first of Charles II’s touching ceremonies was attended by 600 suffers. However, thereafter the number was reduced to a more manageable 200 per session. While most of those who attended the Whitehall touching ceremony would have been from London and the Home Counties there is evidence that some of those who attended were from much further afield. Records exist of a petition addressed to the local assembly of Portsmouth, New Hampshire (USA) which was presented by a colonial sufferer of scrofula who wanted financial assistance to travel to London to be receive the royal touch(2).

The first touching ceremony performed by Charles II after his restoration was held on Saturday 23rd June 1660. It was recorded by both the diarists Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Pepys’ diary entry relating to this event is only very brief(3).

“So to my Lord’s lodgings, where Tom Guy came to me, and there staid to see the King touch people for the King’s evil. But he did not come at all, it rayned so; and the poor people were forced to stand all the morning in the rain in the garden. Afterward he touched them in the Banquetting-house.”

John Evelyn’s account of the event however, is far more detailed despite the fact that it entered erroneously in his diary under the date 6th July(4).

“His Majesty began first to Touch for the Evil according to custome: Thus, his Majestie sitting under his State in the Banqueting house: The Chirurgeons cause the sick to be brought or led up to the throne, who kneeling, the King strokes their faces or cheekes with both his hands at once: at which instant a Chaplaine in his formalitie, says, He put his hand upon them, and he healed them, this is sayd, to everyone in particular: when they have been all touch’d they come up againe in the same order and the Chaperlaine kneeling and Angel gold, strung on white ribbon on his arme, delivers them one by one to his majestie: and Who puts them about the neck of the Touched as the passe: whilest the first Chaperlaine repeates: That is the true light who came into the World: Then followes an Epistle (as at first a Gospell) with the Liturgy prayers for the sick with some alteration: Lastly the blessing; And then the Lo: Chamberlaine and Comptroller of the household bring basin, Ewer and towell for his Majestie to wash:”

(Left) Front piece from John Browne's Adenochoiradelogia (London, 1684) depicting Charless II presiding at a Royal Touching Ceremony at the Banqueting House, Westminster. (Right) The Banqueting House as it appears today.

(Left) Front piece from John Browne’s Adenochoiradelogia (London, 1684) depicting Charles II presiding at a Royal Touching Ceremony at the Banqueting House, Westminster. (Right) The Banqueting House as it appears today.

After Charles II’s death touching ceremonies continued under his brother King James II although it is understood that he was a less keen advocate of the practice as his older brother had been. After the succession of King William III and Queen Mary the ceremony was temporarily stopped until being resumed for a final period (in Britain at least) under the patronage of Queen Anne. She performed the ceremony for the last time on the 30th March 1712 in St. James’s Palace, Westminster.

Amongst the last 300 people that day who receive the royal touch and receive one of the last issued golden touch-pieces was a young boy of nearly three years of age who suffered from poor eyesight believed to be a result of scrofula. The little boy was the son of a book seller from Lichfield in Staffordshire. His family had been recommended to seek the royal touch for their son by Sir John Floyer, a former physician to Charles II. After making the three day journey to London with his parents and attaining an entrance ticket to the ceremony, after first being medically certified as eligible by an appointed doctor, he was admitted to the royal touching ceremony. The ceremony obviously made a marked impression on the young boy’s memory. As a grown man, many years later, he recalled his vague memories of the event and how he had met a lady wearing diamonds and a long black hood(2).While he may not have recalled receiving a golden touch-piece from her he undoubtedly did as he wore it on a ribbon around his neck for the rest of his life. After his death this touch-piece was kept safe and later found its way into the collection of the British Museum where it remains today. While this is not a particularly remarkable story it is made far more interesting once the identity boy is revealed. The boy grew up to become the famed Dr. Samuel Johnson the renowned poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.

Dr. Samuel Jouhnson Touch-Piece - Presented to him by Queen Anne 30th March 1712 at the last ever Royal Touching Ceremony held in Britain

Dr. Samuel Johnson Touch-Piece – Presented to him by Queen Anne 30th March 1712 at the last ever Royal Touching Ceremony held in Britain

Royal Touching Ceremony Entrance Tickets

The number of sufferers wishing to attend the royal touching ceremonies throughout the 17th century was considerable. While there was a genuine belief on the part of most attending such ceremonies that they could be healed there was also the allure of 10 shillings worth of gold in the form of the presentational touch-piece they would be given. While sufferers were only meant to attend one touch ceremony in their lifetime the temptation of receiving 10 shillings worth of gold meant that many fraudulently tried and did attend on multiple occasions(5). From the reign of Charles I onwards, in order to control the numbers of people attending each ceremony and to ensure that they didn’t attend on multiple occasions, certain control measures were put in place. The list of control measures were further extended after the restoration of Charles II and by then included the following;

1)      Those wishing to attend the ceremony had to obtain a special certificate or declaration letter from their parish minister and church wardens confirming that they were suffering from the “King’s Evil” and that they had not previously attended a royal touching ceremony.

2)      The day prior to the ceremony those wishing to take part were to attend the Sergeant-Surgeon whose duty it was to confirm them as suffering from the “King’s Evil”.

3)      On the basis that those wishing to receive the royal touch had met the above two requirements they were given an admission ticket to the ceremony in the form of a metal token or ticket. On presenting this ticket to officials at the Banqueting House on the day of the ceremony the bearer was granted admission.

Both Charles I and II employed the use of entrance tickets to their touching ceremonies. None of the entrance tickets used during the reign of Charles I have survived whist those used during the time of his son have. The entrance tickets used under Charles II were almost identical in design to the gold touch-pieces medalets commissioned in 1664/5. However, at 29 mm as opposed to 22 mm, their diameter was slightly larger than the new touch-pieces. Also the tickets incorporated six pointed stars which separated the beginning from the end of their obverse and reverse legends. Like the new touch-pieces, the dies used to strike the admission tickets were probably engraved by John Roettiers of the Royal Mint in the Tower of London. There is no evidence to confirm when in Charles II’s reign the admission tickets were introduced. The similarity of their design to that of his new touch-pieces has led some to the conclusion that the tickets were a copy of touch-pieces and so were introduced shortly after the striking of the first batch of the new medalets. However, given that Charles was conducting touching ceremonies as early as July 1660, presumably using a supply of earlier dynastic Angels, there is no reason that the admission tickets weren’t struck early in his reign and that the design of the new touch-pieces of 1664/5 was based on those of the tickets. As early as July 1660 there is official mention in the Parliamentary Journal of “tickets” being issued to gain access to the touching ceremony(6).

“His Majesty hath for the future, appointed every Friday for the core; at which time, two hundred and no more are to be represented to him, who are first to repair to Mr. Knight, the king’s surgeon, living at the Cross Guns in Russel Street, Covent Garden over against the Rose Tavern, for their tickets. That none might lose their labour, he thought fit to make it known, that he will be at his home every Wednesday and Thursday, from two till six of the clock, to attend that service; and if any persons of quality shall send to him, he will wait upon them at their lodgings, upon notice given to him.”

It is possible that the tickets referred to in the contemporary account above could have been hand written or, less likely, metallic tickets-tokens previously used in the time of Charles I.

After their collection on the day of each touching ceremony the admission tickets were re-issued for use on future occasions.  However, to further reduce the possibility of people gaining fraudulent entry to the ceremonies (possibly via the use of counterfeit tickets) the organising officials randomly alternated between the use of four different varieties of the tickets which, while obviously different in appearance, varied only in as much as the metal flans on which they were struck, i.e. copper, copper with a brass centre (as per the one illustrated at the beginning of this article) brass and brass with a copper centre. The bi-metallic copper & brass tickets are much rarer than the other two types.  It is noted that some surviving examples of these entrance tickets have either one or two notches filed in their upper edges. The notches have been made purposely and in a non-haphazard fashion. It has been suggested that such identifying marks were made as a further method of establishing their validity and to counter-act fraudulent entry to the ceremonies(2).

The continual collection and re-issue of the tickets would help account for their comparative scarcity. Some will have inevitably been lost in the continual process of reuse. Some examples have been clearly pierced for suspension which has given rise to the idea that these examples, at least, were actually used as touch-pieces in place of the usual gold medalets. Alternatively these pierced base metal tickets may just have escaped collection and then been pierced for wearing in the belief that they posed the same healing powers as the gold touch-pieces.


1)      The ship on both the touching ceremony entrance tickets and Charles II’s gold touch-pieces can be identified as “The Sovereign of the Seas” which was launched at Woolwich in 1637. At 1,637 tons with 102 guns the ship was the largest afloat at that time. She cost £65,000 to build which was ten times more than any other man-of-war of the time. It is ironic that Charles II should have selected an image of this ship to adorn his touch-pieces as it had contributed so much to his father’s downfall through the unpopular Ship Tax

His Majesty's royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas - a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

His Majesty’s royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas – a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

The ship was re-named “The Sovereign” in 1651 and then “The Royal Sovereign” in 1685. During her operational life she took part in the battles of Kentish Knock, Beachy Head and La Hogue. The vessel was accidentally destroyed by fire on 27th January 1696 at Chatham. A few days later the diarist John Evelyn wrote in his diary(4), “The R. Sovereign burnt at Chatham, that ship built in 1637 was perhaps the original Cause of all the after trouble to this day” – a judgement written seven years after the “Glorious Revolution”.


  1. Farquhar, H. – Royal Charities. Part II – Touchpieces for the King’s Evil. – British Numismatic Journal. Volume 15. (London, 1919).
  2. Woolf, N. – The Sovereign Remedy: Touch-Pieces and the King’s Evil – British Numismatic Journal. Volume 49. (London, 2011).
  3. Latham, R.C. – The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Volume I – 1660 (Harper Collins, 2010).
  4. De Beer, E.S. – The Diary of John Evelyn. (Everyman Edition. London 2006).
  5. Lysons, Rev. D. – The Environs of London: Being an Historical Account of the Towns, Villages and Hamlets within 12 miles of the Capital. Volume I. County of Surrey. (London. 1792). Page 82, Footnote 40 siting Mercurious Politicus, 21st February 1661.
  6. Lysons, Rev. D. – The Environs of London: Being an Historical Account of the Towns, Villages and Hamlets within 12 miles of the Capital. Volume I. County of Surrey. (London. 1792). Page 82-83, Footnote 41 siting Parliamentary Journal, 2 to 9th July 1661.

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Filed under Tokens from Pepys' London, Tokens from West of the City Walls

Palsgave’s Head Tavern, Temple Bar Without, Westminster

A farthing token from the Palsgrave's Head tavern, Temple Bar Without

A farthing token from the Palsgrave’s Head tavern, Temple Bar Without

The above copper farthing measures 16.2 mm and weighs 0.76 grams. It was issued in the name of the Palsgrave’s Head tavern in the district of Temple Bar Without, Westminster.

Obverse: (star) THE.PAVLSGRAVE.HEAD , around twisted wire inner circle, depiction of the Palsgrave (i.e. the Elector Palatine of the Rhine) within.

Reverse: (star) WTHHOVT.TEMPLE.BARR , around twisted wire inner circle, triad comprising I | .R. | (rosette) D , within.

The Palsgraves Head tavern was situated in Palsgrave Place, a narrow paved court which ran off the south side of The Strand, about half way between Temple Bar and the St. Clement Danes Church. The court and tavern took its name from the sign of the Palsgrave’s Head.

Location of the Palsgrave Head Court from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

Location of the Palsgrave Head Court from John Ogilby & William Morgan’s 1676 Map of the City of London

The title of “Palsgrave” was an alternative to that of Count or Elector Palatine of the Rhine (a former territory of the Holy Roman Empire).  The Palgrave in question has traditionally been associated with Frederick V (1596 to 1632) who held the tile of Elector Palatine between 1610 to 1623 and briefly that of King of Bohemia between 1619 and 1620. In 1612 Frederick married the Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of James I. A more recent alternative identification of the Palsgrave in question has been suggested as Charles Louis (1617 to 1680), the son of Frederick and Elizabeth and elder brother to Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the celebrated Royalist General of the English Civil War.

After the death of his older brother in 1629, and of his father in 1632, Charles Louis became Palsgrave, inheriting his father’s possessions in the Electorate of the Palatinate. Along with his younger brother Prince Rupert of the Rhine, he spent much of the 1630s at the court of his uncle, King Charles I, in England, hoping to enlist English support for his cause. The young Elector Palatine was largely unsuccessful in this, and became gradually estranged from the King, who feared that Charles Louis might become a focus for opposition forces in England. Indeed, the political crisis leading up to the outbreak of the English Civil War, Charles Louis had considerable sympathy for the parliamentary leaders, especially the Earl of Essex, feeling them more likely to come to the aid of the Palatinate on the continent. Although Charles Louis was involved in the early stages of the Civil War with his uncle, he was mistrusted for his parliamentary sympathies, and soon returned to his mother in The Hague. There he distanced himself from the royalist cause in the Civil War.

In 1644, Charles Louis returned to England at the invitation of Parliament. He took up residence in the Palace of Whitehall, even though his brothers, Rupert and Maurice, were Royalist generals. Contemporaries (including King Charles) and subsequent generations believed that Charles Louis’ motive in visiting Roundhead London was that he hoped that Parliament would crown him King, in place of his uncle. Charles Louis’ endorsement of the Parliamentary party was a cause of enmity between uncle and nephew, and when a captive Charles I met his nephew once again in 1647, the elder Charles accused the Prince of angling after the English throne. Charles Louis was still in England in October 1648 when the Peace of Westphalia restored the Lower Palatinate to him. He remained in England long enough to see the execution of his uncle Charles I in January 1649. He returned to the Rhine Land the same year never to return to England.  His English relations and mother never forgave him for his Parliamentary alliances during the Civil War.

If a reference to Palsgrave Place or Court could be found prior to the death of Frederick V in 1632 the true identity of the particular Palsgrave refered to in the 17th century sign board could be confirmed. Contemporary portraits of Frederick and Charles Louis do note rule out either man as that featured in the original sign and reproduced on the above token. However, on balance the portrait of the latter does appear to most resemble that depicted on the token.

Portraits of the Palsgraves Frederick (left) & Charles Louis (right)

Portraits of the Palsgraves Frederick (left) & Charles Louis (right)

The farthing token looks typical of the style of others which can be dated to the 1650s. A further half penny token exists m this tavern which appears slightly later in dated (c. late 1650s to mid 1660s).

A half penny token issued in the name of the Palsgrave's Head Tavern

A half penny token issued in the name of the Palsgrave’s Head Tavern

It is possible that the above half penny token was issued by the widow of the landlord (Mr. I. R.) who issued the original farthing token after she had re-married as both women have the same Christian name initial (i.e. “D”).

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