Reprinted from Newsletter 113, dated 2004 October

A puzzle: Where was the Swan Inn?

Adrian Pearse

A coin, of a copper or a similar colour metal. A profile of Queen Victoria is embossed on it, facing left. Her hair is tied up. Around the circumference reads “Victoria Queen of Great Brit”, and at the bottom, they year 1853.
The reverse of the same coin. Around its circumference are the words “Swan Inn, Glastonbury”, with the business and town separated by crosses. The centre of the coin is blank.

The illustrations show a token issued in 1853 by the Swan Inn, Glastonbury, but an initial examination of directories of the period has failed to provide additional information.

Hunt’s Directory for 1848 lists in addition to a number of beer retailers the following hostelries: the George Inn, the White Hart, the Glastonbury Arms, the Queen’s Head, and the Rose and Crown in the High Street; the Bell and Red Lion in Magdalene Street; the Lamb Inn in Northload Street; and the Torr House Inn in Chilkwell Street.

Most of these are mentioned in Kelly’s Directory for 1861, with the addition of the Crown, and the 1866 edition adds the Mitre.

Tokens were widely issued by public houses and tradesmen especially in the 17th and 18th centuries to compensate for a shortage of small change and thereby increase the number of transactions. However, by the early 19th century production of low-denomination currency had greatly increased, as seen, for example, in the ubiquitous “cartwheel” penny weighing one ounce, and the need for such tokens declined, though they continued to be produced and, as seen with this example, to the same standard as the national currency.

This token is nine-tenths of an inch in diameter and unusually bears no denomination.

Should any reader possess more information concerning the Swan Inn and its location it would be appreciated for inclusion in a future newsletter.