May 3rd 2022.
Next club meeting Monday 9th May 2022.
Subject – The Goddard Penny By David Guest
Monday 6th June 2022
· Annual General Meeting and Display Competition
Monday 4th July 2022.
· Varieties in Milled coinage - Where to draw the line By Mick Martin
Meetings are held at the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, commencing at 7.00 p.m.
We are hoping to organize a Summer Social involving a guided tour in the City of London taking in some of the sites involved in tokens. Further details will be available at the May meeting.
Gerry Buddle’s subject was ‘A London Bestiary’ a Bestiary being a medieval treatise on animals.
Gerry began by taking us back to the London of the 17th Century, illustrated with a medal showing a view of London as a tangle of streets with everyone living on top of one another - all 370,000 of them. He reminded us that house numbers were not invented till the middle of the 18th Century. So how did you find an address? The answer was that you had a sign, which was doubly useful as most people were illiterate. In the mid 17th Century the Civil War was drawing to a close and the economy was not doing well. As a consequence there was a shortage of small change, official attempts to provide small change having failed. Hence small businesses set about issuing their own small change – token coins. They not only acted as cash but also provided an opportunity for the owner of the business to advertise it and to put the ‘address’ of the business – its sign - on the token so people knew where it was. For this talk Gerry was going to concentrate on tokens that used animal designs as signs. From time to time the talk was annotated with snippets from Samuel Pepys’ diaries, one of Gerry’s heroes who gives us a very good idea of London in the 17th Century.
The first beast was a Dolphin, from John Warner, an apothecary, at the Dolphin and Bell in Aldersgate street. Heraldic dolphins were very popular. Next we had Bartholomew Fish at Queen Hythe, the sign being a pun on the owner’s name. An unusual sign next was a lobster issued by an enigmatic ‘E.G.’. Possibly E.G. was an armourer, since the cuirasses worn by cavalry units were called lobsters.
Gerry then moved on to birds. A common sign was a cockerel, often because of cock fighting, but in this case for John Wolrich at the Cock, who was in fact a cook. A less common sign was the Hen and Gerry had a brood hen on its nest from Battle Bridge in Southwark, South London. Even less common than Hens are Ducks but we had Will Johnson at the Drake near Temple Bar. The next token is unique and was issued by landlady Ann Allen at the Heathcock, which was a pub that fell down in 1754! It was not unusual for pubs to have landladies rather than landlords, often they were widows but sometimes ran the pubs in their own right. Magpies are familiar birds and we had a token issued by a W.T. ‘at the pie’. Gerry pointed out that signs were generally only one colour and so it helped if you added the colour to the legend on the token. In the case of a Raven on a token, it seems superfluous, since Ravens are black, yet we now had a token for the Black Raven by Sam Sallway.
The next token required some work to figure out. One of only two, the other being in the British Museum, it is for the Golden Falcon by M.P. It has a Falcon on it, which could have meant it was something to do with the stationers guild but the legend read ‘At the Standard’. It turns out the ‘Standard’ was one of the water courses in Cheapside. Also in the area was a house that was called the ‘Golden Falcon’, so it wasn’t a pub after all. It belonged to a stocking seller, Osbert Pecke who died but his wife was Mary Pecke, so she probably kept the business on after he died. Thomas Stiver’s token had three doves on it, the sign for the tallow chandlers company. A more common sign is that of a Swan. Gerry showed a token by J. Marshall for the Swan tavern, where Pepys had eaten on more than one occasion. We also had the Swan with two necks for W.M.M. The significance of the two necked swan is uncertain. Next we had an animal ‘meal man’ John Browne at the Pelican. The Pelican is depicted heraldically as a ‘Pelican in her piety’, pecking her own breast to feed her chicks. Moving on from birds we now had a succession of beasts, starting with the commoner signs.
A very common beast depicted on signs was the Boar, the badge of Richard III. We started with Robert Baynes at the Boar and Three Horseshoes, then the Red Bull, this one a butcher’s sign though bull baiting was also popular at the time. Horses appear very often and we had the Black Horse in Abchurch lane. After that we have the badge of Richard II, a Hart, from James Morey at the White Hart. We then moved on to dogs, which have always been popular with people in England, split into categories, we had working dogs, with a shepherd’s dog, peculiar dogs, including a dog with three hats, in Pudding Lane. We had dogs behaving badly, with a token showing a dog with his head in the pot from St Martin Le Grand. Cats are much less common, though Gerry had one for Dick Whittington's cat and the Whittington stone stands on Highgate Hill, where supposedly he turned round. Bears often featured on signs of the period with bear baiting and dancing bears being sources of entertainment but the token Gerry showed us was almost certainly for a pub in Bride Lane. Bigger cats turn up on signs, including Lions, possibly because of their use in the Coat of Arms.
We had an octagonal token (the second scarcest) for John Eldridge, a fishmonger at the Lion and Still in Billingsgate. A very unusual early (1620-30) lead token followed with a Camel and three cloves on it. Three cloves was the badge of the Grocers company. A grocer in the 17th century would be more like a wholesaler these days. Gerry had an example of an unusual token with a Hedgehog on it. Only one type of token is known of with a Hedgehog on. This is sufficiently odd that Tim Everson doesn’t believe it and thinks its a Boar, but Gerry is sticking to the Hedgehog. Next was another pub, one of fifty or sixty with Pepys connections, The Fox and Goose. A smaller token came next with the unusual design of a Monkey on Horseback, called the Jackanapes, which used to be a warm up act for Bear baiting, one token we missed (it came after the talk was prepared) showed a Monkey smoking a pipe!
To complete the talk we have mythical or allegorical animals, starting with an early token from 1648 featuring the Holy or Paschal Lamb in Browns Alley. A penny token (usually associated with coffee houses), for the Unicorn from Will Ward in Fleet Street. Tokens also exist for various Dragons, often for somewhere with Welsh connections and we had one for the Green Dragon in Bow Lane.
Flying horses are also quite common and Gerry had one from Charterhouse Lane.
To complete the talk Gerry mentioned two humanoid type tokens the first the Mermaid in Hackney (another of Pepys’ stops). The final token was for the Angel in Highgate. A pub of that name still exists there but it dates from 1930. It is a favourite watering spot for celebrities who live in the area.
Lastly Gerry explained about the custom of ‘swearing on the horns’ from the Highgate area to become a Freeman of Highgate. Such a privilege bestows only one significant right – if you are travelling through Highgate and you see a pig in a ditch, you have the right to take its place! If you see three pigs in a ditch, you may only take out the middle one and take its place.
There followed several questions from the audience, confirming the existence of a token with Elephant and Castle on, though the area didn’t exist at that point, the interchangeability of different tokens (shops for token exchanges also existed), their metallic composition (mainly copper or brass), where they were made (mostly at the Royal Mint as a sideline), the existence of counterfeits, both contemporary and later Victorian versions. Discussion also ranged on the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, where the plans for a rebuilding like Paris never came to fruition because the landowners rebuilt to the old plans, meaning it is still possible to revisit many of the places mentioned in the talk. We also strayed onto the topic of how the powers that be dealt with the fire and how the cost for hiring a cart to escape the fire went up from a shilling to twenty pounds!
Many thanks to Gerry for a very interesting talk and no doubt we’ll see him in another couple of years.
· 10 years ago – “Refreshing Change” – Gerry Buddle
· 20 years ago – “Unofficial Countermarks on English Coins” – Gavin Scott
· 40 years ago – “Twelve Gods of Mount Olympus” – Peter Clayton