The emblem at the intersection of Ironmonger Lane and Cheapside, near Guildhall, is rather unique. It forms the shape of a pilgrimage badge, a medieval piece of metal jewelry worn by those who took religious journeys to places of spiritual significance. This particular cartouche represents the image of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Thomas was born at this site in December 1120 to Matilda and Gilbert Becket. The Beckets had immigrated from Normandy and provided their son with a pleasant upbringing. Thomas started out his life as a clerk, but was eventually persuaded to start working at the nearby Saint Pauls’s Cathedral. It was here that he was introduced to King Henry I and eventually his son, also named Henry.
At first, Thomas had a more than amicable relationship with the royals. This would all change when he was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Henry II was now king and desired to limit the powers of the church, which put him at odds with his one-time friend and confidant. The situation became so fraught and acrimonious, it resulted in the murder of Thomas at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. He would be viewed as a martyr and made a saint in 1173. Canterbury soon became a site for religious pilgrimages.