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
"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."