Thomas Phipps: A Chandler’s Trade Token

Trade tokens from 1652 associated with Thomas Phipps of Reading, Berkshire have been noted in several sources, including web pages of dealers offering them for sale. At least one source refers to the image on the jeton or token as representing a man making candles.

Was Thomas Phipps, then, a candle maker?

William Boyne, Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century in England, Wales, and Ireland by Corporations, Merchants, Tradesmen, etc., London: John Russell Smith, 1858, lists various trade tokens from Reading, including the following on p. 12. Presumably “O” refers to the obverse, and “R” to the reverse:

O. THOMAS . PHIPPS = A chandler
R. OF. REDDING . 1652 = T. E. P

O. JOHN . PHIPS = The Tallowchandlers’ Arms.
R. OF . READING . 1655 = I. E. P

The “T. E. P” would refer to the letters which appear prominently on the back of the tokens in online photos in dealers’ websites. Was the John who is listed the one who was Reading mayor?

The Thomas Phipps tokens are also listed in Spink & Son’s Monthly Numismatic Circular, February 1908, under Reading in the section titled “Trade Tokens in the Seventeenth Century.”

Charles Coates, in The History and Antiquities of Reading (London: J. Nichols and Son, 1802, p. 460) similarly refers to the Thomas Phipps tokens in the following terms:

“Thomas Phipps.” A man dipping candles – “Of Redding, 1652, T. P. E.”

(He shows the “P.” as being elevated a bit between the “T.” and “E.”) Coates, by the way, refers to the Constantine Phipps monument in the parish church at White Waltham as being located on the south wall of the chancel, in apparent direct contradistinction to information from an apparently credible source which was included in the last post.

The token is also listed in The History and Antiquities of the Town and Borough of Reading in Berkshire (Reading: Samuel [Reader?], 1835, p. 265). It’s also mentioned in the British Museum website, and in various other sources.

Does this association of this Thomas Phipps with the occupation of tallow chandler relate to the following?

In H.R. Phipps, “Phipps Families of Berkshire,” reference is made early in the article to various Phipps (however spelled) individuals of Reading. Listed are several persons. Note the 3rd, a Thomas who is “prob. a candlemaker.” This would seem to be based on the token.


  • John P., Mayor of R., 1564 [in other words, John Phipps was mayor of Reading, as is mentioned in various sources]
  • Thos. P. [i.e. Thomas Phipps] of St. Mary’s had children Agnes 1621, Thos. 1624.
  • Thos. P. [i.e. Thomas Phipps], prob. a candlemaker 1652, on a jury 1641, 1651.
  • Joseph P. [i.e. Joseph Phipps], burd. [presumably, buried] at Tilehurst 1639.
  • Anne P. [i.e. Anne Phipps], marrd. [i.e. married] 20. 11. 1645 [i.e. 20 November 1645] at St. Mary’s Willm. Newbery.

H.R. Phipps then says, “I now come to my family which seems quite distinct from above.” He then goes into a discussion of Francis Phipps of Reading, with some errors as noted in previous posts. Is this really “distinct from above,” or is it simply that he didn’t know how to connect these individuals?

Then we have the Joseph Phipps who was imprisoned in Reading as a Quaker dissenter, and who eventually (rather late, in 1682) came to Pennsylvania. He was a tallow chandler or candle maker, with some claiming that his father was a Thomas Phipps of Reading.

If this Joseph somehow connects, then it lends credence to the concept already put forth and which seems suggested by various pieces of evidence presented in past posts, that the family splintered on religious grounds.

It’s extremely obvious, based on the Actes and Monuments of John Foxe, as discussed earlier, as well as later Quaker activities and other factors, that some part or parts of the Phipps or Phips family or families became highly polarized, perhaps at multiple points in history. Additional polarization very likely occurred due to the Civil War.

This would explain why some Phipps individuals discussed in earlier posts would enjoy wealth, high social position, and prestige, while other Phipps individuals living within walking distance would live their lives in lowly positions.


One thought on “Thomas Phipps: A Chandler’s Trade Token

  1. From Reading, Berkshire, England, the St Laurence Parrish Index Transcripts of Baptisms 1605 – 2005, includes the baptism of “Joseph son of Thomas Phipps” on August 28 of 1640. This appears to be the same Joseph Phipps who migrated from Reading to Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1682. The same source also has a baptismal listing for “Joseph son of Thomas Phipps” on October 23, 1639. It is very likely that this earlier Joseph (baptized in 1639) is the same Joseph who was buried at Tilehurst in 1639. If so, it may be that the second Joseph (son of Thomas) was named after the first one who died, which was a custom to re-use the first name of children who died in infancy for later children born to the same couple. Another source from Reading, the St Laurence Parrish Index Transcripts of Burials 1605 – 1901, shows the burial of a Thomas Phipps on August 18, 1678. Could this have been the same Thomas, father of Joseph? Are these records tied to the same Thomas Phipps, noted in this blog post as the tallow chandler (or candle maker)?

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