About the object

Royal road

This disc is a pass to travel on the ‘King’s private road’. In the eighteenth century, British monarchs had their own road connecting two royal palaces some eleven miles apart. It stretched from St James’s Palace in Westminster to Hampton Court. Charles II was the first to claim exclusive use of the route, and it remained private for over a century until 1830. But from 1722 tickets like this one were issued to allow access under special circumstances. The first owner of this pass might have been a government messenger, or a tenant living somewhere along the route.

Whose initials?

Because the passes were often forged, the design had to be changed four times. This one, made in 1737, is the third version. The initials TR set in the middle of the 1737 date are those of Thomas Ripley, Keeper of the King’s Roads and Conductor of Royal Progresses. There were about 1,500 passes of this design. This one is numbered 946.

Reclaimed too late

This pass for the King’s private road was left in 1756 with a child called Nathaniel Lane, renamed Mark Fowler by the Hospital. He was one of around 500 children whose families later returned for them. In 1764 Mark was claimed by a man sharing his birth name of Nathaniel Lane. We don’t know for sure if he was the father. In the child’s record, he is called a “friend of mother”. Sadly the adult Nathaniel was too late. The child had died a few weeks after he arrived at the Hospital.