Lothbury

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Centre for Metropolitan History

Publication

Author

Walter Thornbury

Year published

1878

Supporting documents

Pages

513-515

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'Lothbury', Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 513-515. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45061 Date accessed: 21 October 2014.


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CHAPTER XLIII.

NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE BANK:—LOTHBURY.

Lothbury—Its Former Inhabitants—St. Margaret's Church—Tokenhouse Yard—Origin of the Name—Farthings and Tokens—Silver Halfpence and Pennies—Queen Anne's Farthings—Sir William Petty—Defoe's Account of the Plague in Tokenhouse Yard.

Of Lothbury, a street on the north side of the Bank of England, Stow says: "The Street of Lothberie, Lathberie, or Loadberie (for by all those names have I read it), took the name as it seemeth of berie, or court, of old time there kept, but by whom is grown out of memory. This street is possessed for the most part by founders that cast candlesticks, chafing dishes, spice mortars, and such-like copper or laton works, and do afterwards turn them with the foot and not with the wheel, to make them smooth and bright with turning and scratching (as some do term it), making a loathsome noise to the by-passers that have not been used to the like, and therefore by them disdainfully called Lothberie."

"Lothbury," says Hutton (Queen Anne), "was in Stow's time much inhabited by founders, but now by merchants and warehouse-keepers, though it is not without such-like trades as he mentions."

Ben Jonson brings in an allusion to once noisy Lothbury in the "Alchemist." In this play Sir Epicure Mammon says:—
This night I'll change
All that is metal in my house to gold;
And early in the morning will I send
To all the plumbers and the pewterers,
And buy their tin and lead up; and to Lothbury
For all the copper.
Surly. What, and turn that too? [Cornwall,
Mammon. Yes, and I'll purchase Devonshire and
And make them perfect Indies.

And again in his mask of "The Gipsies Metamorphosed"—
Bless the sovereign and his seeing.
* * * *
From a fiddle out of tune,
As the cuckoo is in June,
From the candlesticks of Lothbury
And the loud pure wives of Banbury.

Stow says of St. Margaret's, Lothbury: "I find it called the Chappel of St. Margaret's de Lothberie, in the reign of Edward II., when in the 15th of that king's reign, license was granted to found a chauntry there. There be monuments in this church of Reginald Coleman, son to Robert Coleman, buried there 1383. This said Robert Coleman may be supposed the first builder or owner of Coleman Street; and that St. Stephen's Church, there builded in Coleman Street, was but a chappel belonging to the parish church of St. Olave, in the Jewry." In niches on either side of the altar-piece are two flat figures, cut out of wood, and painted to represent Moses and Aaron. These were originally in the Church of St. Christopher le Stocks, but when that church was pulled down to make way for the west end of the Bank of England, and the parish was united by Act of Parliament to that of St. Margaret, Lothbury (in 1781), they were removed to the place they now occupy. At the west end of the church is a metal bust inscribed to Petrus le Maire, 1631; this originally stood in St. Christopher's, and was brought here after the fire.

This church, which is a rectory, seated over the ancient course of Walbrook, on the north side of Lothbury, in the Ward of Coleman Street (says Maitland), owes its name to its being dedicated to St. Margaret, a virgin saint of Antioch, who suffered in the reign of Decius.

Maitland also gives the following epitaph on Sir John Leigh, 1564:—
"No wealth, no praise, no bright renowne, no skill,
No force, no fame, no prince's love, no toyle,
Though forraine lands by travel search you will,
No faithful service of thy country soile,
Can life prolong one minute of an houre;
But Death at length will execute his power.
For Sir John Leigh, to sundry countries knowne,
A worthy knight, well of his prince esteemed,
By seeing much to great experience growne,
Though safe on seas, though sure on land he seemed,
Yet here he lyes, too soone by Death opprest;
His fame yet lives, his soule in Heaven hath rest."

The bowl of the font (attributed to Grinling Gibbons) is sculptured with representations of Adam and Eve in Paradise, the return of the dove to the ark, Christ baptised by St. John, and Philip baptising the eunuch.

In the reign of Henry VIII. a conduit (of which no trace now exists) was erected in Lothbury. It was supplied with water from the spring of Dame Anne's, the "Clear," mentioned by Ben Jonson in his "Bartholomew Fair."

Tokenhouse Yard, leading out of Lothbury, derived its name from an old house which was once the office for the delivery of farthing pocketpieces, or tokens, issued for several centuries by many London tradesmen. Copper coinage, with very few exceptions, was unauthorised in England till 1672. Edward VI. coined silver farthings, but Queen Elizabeth conceived a great prejudice to copper coins, from the spurious "black money," or copper coins washed with silver, which had got into circulation. The silver halfpenny, though inconveniently small, continued down to the time of the Commonwealth. In the time of Elizabeth, besides the Nuremberg tokens which are often found in Elizabethan ruins, many provincial cities issued tokens for provincial circulation, which were ultimately called in. In London no less than 3,000 persons, tradesmen and others, issued tokens, for which the issuer and his friends gave current coin on delivery. In 1594 the Government struck a small copper coin, "the pledge of a halfpenny," about the size of a silver twopence, but Queen Elizabeth could never be prevailed upon to sanction the issue. Sir Robert Cotton, writing in 1607 (James I.), on how the kings of England have supported and repaired their estates, says there were then 3,000 London tradesmen who cast annually each about £5 worth of lead tokens, their store amounting to some £15,000. London having then about 800,000 inhabitants, this amounted to about 2d. a person; and he urged the King to restrain tradesmen from issuing these tokens. In consequence of this representation, James, in 1613, issued royal farthing tokens (two sceptres in saltier and a crown on one side, and a harp on the other), so that if the English took a dislike to them they might be ordered to pass in Ireland. They were not made a legal tender, and had but a narrow circulation. In 1635 Charles I. struck more of these, and in 1636 granted a patent for the coinage of farthings to Henry Lord Maltravers and Sir Francis Crane. During the Civil War tradesmen again issued heaps of tokens, the want of copper money being greatly felt. Charles II. had halfpence and farthings struck at the Tower in 1670, and two years afterwards they were made a legal tender, by proclamation; they were of pure Swedish copper. In 1685 there was a coinage of tin farthings, with a copper centre, and the inscription, "Nummorum famulus." The following year halfpence of the same description were issued, and the use of copper was not resumed till 1693, when all the tin money was called in. Speaking of the supposed mythical Queen Anne's farthing, Mr. Pinkerton says:—"All the farthings of the following reign of Anne are trial pieces, since that of 1712, her last year. They are of most exquisite workmanship, exceeding most copper coins of ancient or modern times, and will do honour to the engraver, Mr. Croker, to the end of time. The one whose reverse is Peace in a car, Fax missa per orbem, is the most esteemed; and next to it the Britannia under a portal; the other farthings are not so valuable." We possess a complete series of silver pennies, from the reign of Egbert to the present day (with the exception of the reigns of Richard and John, the former coining in France, the latter in Ireland).

Tokenhouse Yard was built in the reign of Charles I., on the site of a house and garden of the Earl of Arundel (removed to the Strand), by Sir William Petty, an early writer on political economy, and a lineal ancestor of the present Marquis of Lansdowne. This extraordinary genius, the son of a Hampshire clothier, was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society. He studied anatomy with Hobbes in Paris, wrote numerous philosophical works, suggested improvements for the navy, and, in fact, explored almost every path of science. Aubrey says that, being challenged by Sir Hierom Sankey, one of Cromwell's knights, Petty being short-sighted, chose for place a dark cellar, and for weapons a big carpenter's axe. Petty's house was destroyed in the Fire of London. John Grant, says Peter Cunningham, also had property in Tokenhouse Yard. It was for Grant that Petty is said to have compiled the bills of mortality which bear his name.

Defoe, who, however, was only three years old when the Plague broke out, has laid one of the most terrible scenes in his "History of the Plague" in Tokenhouse Yard. "In my walks," he says, "I had many dismal scenes before my eyes, as particularly of persons falling dead in the streets, terrible shrieks and screeching of women, who in their agonies would throw open their chamber windows, and cry out in a dismal surprising manner. Passing through Tokenhouse Yard, in Lothbury, of a sudden a casement violently opened just over my head, and a woman gave three frightful screeches, and then cried, 'Oh! death, death, death!" in a most inimitable tone, which struck me with horror, and a chilliness in my very blood. There was nobody to be seen in the whole street, neither did any other window open, for people had no curiosity now in any case, nor could anybody help one another. Just in Bell Alley, on the right hand of the passage, there was a more terrible cry than that, though it was not so directed out at the window; but the whole family was in a terrible fright, and I could hear women and children run screaming about the rooms like distracted; when a garret window opened, and somebody from a window on the other side the alley called and asked, 'What is the matter?' upon which, from the first window it was answered, 'Ay, ay, quite dead and cold!' This person was a merchant, and a deputy-alderman, and very rich. But this is but one. It is scarce credible what dreadful cases happened in particular families every day. People in the rage of the distemper, or in the torment of their swellings, which was, indeed, intolerable, running out of their own government, raving and distracted, oftentimes laid violent hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out at their windows, shooting themselves, &c.; mothers murdering their own children in their lunacy; some dying of mere grief, as a passion; some of mere fright and surprise, without any infection at all; others frighted into idiotism and foolish distractions, some into despair and lunacy, others into melancholy madness."