Tokens of Affection
Greenwich Park wasn’t always open to all. In fact for much of its life it’s been enclosed, open only to the privileged few. Around 1700, you needed a pass to get in, though of course once those gates were locked, unless your house actually backed onto the park you were stuck in or out side.
No nasty bar codes or plastic photo-cards then, though. These were tiny, stamped-metal tokens and cute as buttons. Hell- the super-rich probably could have used them as buttons…
I’d seen the drawings of the little pass-tokens in A D Webster’s 1902 book on the park (he says they’re copper, the British Musuem reckons they’re bronze; take your pick…)
but I guess it hadn’t occurred to me where Webster might have got the tokens from to draw them until the splendid Graham Dolan told me where one was – in the British Museum.
In fact there are two – the vanilla version, plain and oval, and another, curious in that someone’s cunningly set it into the ring of an iron key – though who knows whether it’s a key to the park gates, the person’s front door or their bulging treasure chest.
The key and token were donated to the museum by Montague Guest in 1907, with his entire collection of admission tokens and cards (you’ve got to have a hobby…) but even after writing to the museum I can’t ascertain whether they’re on display in the coins and medals department or tucked away in storage.
Nobody knows exactly when the gates were finally flung open to all and sundry, but Webster reckons there was at least some general access by the time of George IV, grandson of the George who was on the throne when these delightful little trinkets were being flashed by the great and the good to get past the parkies.
Interestingly, neither token in the BM is the one Webster drew from – it’s number 576; the BM tokens are 289 and 488.
Clearly, somewhere then, there are at least 573 other delightful little copper/bronze ovals knocking around – check down the back of your sofas, chaps…
the attachments to this post: