North Devon in 100 Objects 41

41. John Webber’s Token

This tiny copper alloy token has many stories to tell, of economics, manufacturing and local history

17th Century tokens were the first genuine trade tokens to appear in this country. The failure of parliament to provide sufficient small denomination coinage drove desperate traders to issue their own. Anyone with a reputation and enough wealth to back the tokens with real money could issue tokens. The inscriptions usually consist of the name of the issuer, his trade and occupation and the town or village in which he resided. Additionally, we often have the value, initials of the issuer and his wife, and a device or coat of arms.

This token was issued in 1666 by John Webber, a pewterer from Barnstaple.  He was making flagons and dishes for his fellow Barumites who were beginning to get rich from trade and were investing in tableware and other household goods.  The Webber family continued in the pewter trade for two more generations – John’s son, another John, was Mayor in 1702 and his grandson Alexander was Mayor in 1737.  His son Philip was wealthy enough to marry into the gentry – becoming the Incledon-Webbers of Buckland Manor in Braunton.

These tokens were usually struck in copper or brass, the commonest denomination being farthings, followed by halfpennies and some pennies. The majority of tokens are round, but square, heart shaped, diamond shaped and octagonal tokens were also made.  John Webber’s token is decorated with a fine pewter candlestick. We have flagons made by him in the museum collection.

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