London ( 504), Chancery Lane, John Henthorne at the St John's Head Tavern, Halfpenny


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17th century token

Holborn (Metropolitan Middlesex)

Chancery Lane

John Henthorne at the St [John's Head] Tavern


Obv: Head of St John the Baptist in a charger

BW 505, Norweb -.

Good Very Fine.  Exceedingly rare and important.  Better than the British Museum specimen (illustrated in the Token Book published by Galata, 2010).

The St John's Head Tavern (also known as the Baptist Head Tavern) stood on Chancery Lane at the south-east corner of Lincoln's Inn, just within the Liberty of the Rolls.  In 1661 it was leased by Richard Hillyard who issued a farthing token with his wife Mary (BW 500).  In 1665 he died, and his widow married John Henthorne, who took over the property.

However, a year later most of the tavern was pulled down as a precautionary measure as the Great Fire approached, presumably because it adjoined Lincoln's Inn.  Sir Edward Atkins wrote from Lincoln's Inn to his brother on September 8th, 1666, three days after the Fire had ended, saying "Chancery lane is yet standing, except the St. John's Head near Lincoln's Inn, which was pulled downe, by way of prevention, and another house towards Holborne."

The tavern was promptly rebuilt after the Fire, and the Henthornes considered that this entitled them to a longer lease.  They brought a claim against their landlord in the Fire Court, which was heard in February 1668.  During the proceedings they claimed that the Fire had caused them to lose £200 in wines and goods and £150 in building materials.  They eventually settled for a new lease for 51 years from Christmas 1667 at the former rent of £40 p.a.

The obverse shows the head of St John the Baptist in a charger, referring to the well-known passages in the Gospels of St Matthew and St Mark in which Herodias, wife of Herod and former wife of Herod's brother, tells her daughter to ask Herod for the head of the Baptist in revenge for his act of telling her new husband that he should not marry his brother's wife.  The daughter is conventionally identified as Salome, although her name does not appear in the New Testament.