The Token Books of St Saviour Southwark
an interim search site
William Ingram, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Alan H. Nelson, The University of California, Berkeley
Welcome to the Search Site for the
Sacramental Token Books of St Saviour, Southwark
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What are token books? Tokenbooks are the written record of the effort, by the officers of St Saviour parish, in the weeks preceding Easter each year, to require every head of household in the parish to purchase tokens for the Easter communion, one token for each person over sixteen years of age in the household. These tokens were to be turned in at the church by communicants on the day of communion.
How many books are there? 144 token books survive from St Saviour's, ranging in date from about 1571 to 1643. It's not a complete series; some entire years, and some parts of some years are missing, and books from before 1571 are lacking as well. It isn't clear whether the practice stopped after 1643, but the surviving books, quite fulsome up to that point, abruptly terminate then.
Why are they important? The St. Saviour tokenbooks are unique among surviving records of English parishes. No other parish has such an extensive record from such an early date. They are important because they provide a unique annual census of parishioners and households from the 1570s to 1643 for a parish which, among other things, was a center of entertainment.
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