By Gillian Clegg and Carolyn Hammond, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal, 16, 2007
During certain years of the 17th century there was an acute shortage of small change so local traders issued their own ‘tokens’ for barter with their customers. Coins of the Realm then were only gold or silver, not copper, and, although there were silver coins of small denominations – pennies and halfpennies – these were tiny, inconvenient to handle and the quantity minted was far less than the amount required. It is said that this was due to the fact that Royalty considered it beneath their dignity to have their likeness produced on base metals other than silver.
Trade tokens were usually made of copper but sometimes of brass, tin, pewter and, occasionally leather and were normally circular, like coins. The denominations were mainly halfpennies and farthings and the tokens usually showed the trader’s name and trade on the obverse (head) and where he traded from on the reverse (tail). Sometimes these details appeared on different sides and sometimes the denomination of the token appeared.
Tokens were only used locally. John Evelyn suggests that they seldom ‘reached further than the next street or two’. It is not known in what quantity the tokens were issued, it probably varied depending on how much business the trader carried out. In Middlesex, innkeepers and grocers were the most prolific issuers of tokens, followed by bakers and candle-makers.
According to the standard book on trade tokens by William Boyne, issued in 1858, just 260 different tokens were produced for Middlesex. There were nine for Brentford, eight for Chiswick and three for Turnham Green. Of the 20 local tokens only 10 are dated with the dates ranging from 1651 to 1670. A Royal Proclamation of 1672 prohibited the manufacture and use of trade tokens when copper halfpenny and farthing coins were minted and put into circulation.
Below is a table of the different trade tokens produced for Brentford and Chiswick, taken from George Williamson’s 1889-91 revision of Boyne’s guide. There are examples of all of these tokens, bar three, in Gunnersbury Park Museum and versions of some in the Museum of London.
Of the local tokens, the only recognisable business name is ‘ye Pack Hors in Turnam Greene’, probably now the Packhorse and Talbot, although William Bond may have given his name to Bond Street.
Text compiled by Gillian Clegg; table by Carolyn Hammond.