Just a few days ago I wrote a blog post about the Hoare family and how I had visited their fabulous estate called Stourhead, which is one of the National Trust properties in the UK. I wrote how Richard Hoare, in 1672 had a goldsmith’s business at Cheapside and set up a system of banking because goldsmiths had secure premises and had always been the storehouses for cash and valuables. The shops on Cheapside were the commercial heart of London with shops for the sale of luxury goods and was known as Goldsmith’s Row, the center for the manufacture and sale of golden jewelry in medieval London.
Richard Hoare, knighted by Queen Anne in 1702, the same year she became queen, prospered, and he not only made precious jewelry for the queen and others, he became Lord Mayor of London in 1712, and took his goldsmith venture into the banking industry. He soon moved his banking facilities to Fleet Street, the main thoroughfare halfway between the City of Westminster and the City of London.
Hoare introduced many aspects of modern banking, including issuing printed checks and the C.Hoare and Co Bank is the oldest private bank in the United Kingdom to this day. It is family owned and run by the 11th generation of Hoares’ descendants.
Well I got to thinking, is this where the word hoard came from? According to the Dictionary, the word, hoard, has it’s origins from the Old English noun, hord, which was a secret stock or store for something. Hmmmm….. sounds very familiar to our story of goldsmith, Richard Hoare.
Then I read another fascinating tale; that of the Cheapside Hoard, which was discovered in 1912, when a workman’s pickax smashed through the brick cellar in an old house being demolished at 30-32 Cheapside in London! Found in a buried, wooden coffin-styled box, was 500 pieces of 17th century goldsmith’s stock, including rings, brooches and chains with bright gem stones and enameled gold settings, along with cameos, scent bottles and crystal tankards. Well that fits nice and tidy with our Hoare family name and background doesn’t it? What was so incredible about this stash of jewelry, with huge rubies, pearls the size of acorns, emeralds, diamonds and sapphires, is that it was left as designed and not altered as other pieces from this period tended to be; broken up, re-fashioned and reworked over the centuries and therefore didn’t survive.
Now who hid the stash and what was done with it after it was found? More to the story…….
In 1637, a gem dealer named Gerrard Pulman paid the East India Company 100 pounds for the safe passage on the ship, Discovery, from the Orient back to England. With him was a crate that took three men to lift, a great sea-chest, and smaller boxes full of diamonds and other gems worth many millions today. He lost a walnut-sized diamond from a purse around his neck when bathing on the voyage, and two weeks later he was dead….. poisoned by the ship’s surgeon, an inquiry found. Pulman’s body was stripped and thrown overboard. By the time the treasure chests were opened in London upon arrival, they were half empty. The missing gems, stolen by crew and officers, were sold to jewelers across London. One crewman pulled a pocket full of loot out at the Three Tun Tavern in Fleet Street and dropped an enormous pearl through a crack in the floorboards. Many believe these gems ended up in the Cheapside Hoard. But, who buried the treasure and why was it not discovered until 1912? One theory was that the jeweler buying up the gems very likely buried it below the cellar floor to keep them safe. This was also a time of great upheaval as many jewelers were soon to became soldiers in the Civil War of 1642. From 1645 to 1646, fifteen percent of the population of London was killed by the Great Plague, so many people fled the city to avoid the war and then to avoid the plague.
Then in 1666, a fire that started in a bakery, spread quickly through the city. In less than three days it consumed more than 13,000 buildings, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, about a block away from the hoard. The Great Fire of London, as it came to be known, destroyed most of the city’s wooden structures, including those above the site of the treasure. Evidence of fire damage found during the Cheapside excavations led experts to conclude that the jewels were buried no later than 1666. It is unlikely that the owner of the hoard perished in the fire, as very few casualties were actually recorded.
Following the Great Fire of London and the rebuilding of the city, new structures were erected in the Cheapside district around 1670. This time, brick and mortar structures rose above the forgotten cellars, sealing the Cheapside Hoard for two and a half centuries.
So more than likely, whoever buried the hoard died and the stash was never discovered until the workmen started demolishing the old jewelry premise in 1912. The workmen stuffed the loot, some dating back 1500 years to the Byzantium period, into their hats, pockets and knotted handkerchiefs and took them to “Stoney Jack,” an antiques dealer and pawn shop owner, who literally went on pub crawls offering men work, giving them a shilling or “half a pint” for any interesting finds that were brought to him! “Stoney Jack,” who was George Fabian Lawrence sold all the treasure given to him to the new London Museum. The Cheapside Treasure was an epic success when the London Museum opened in 1914, revealing some of the treasure, including a watch set in a single emerald the size of a small apple!
During WWI the treasure went into bank vault storage and came out when the entire collection went on display at the Museum of London in 2013.
Oh my, what a person can discover from just one visit to a National Trust property and an inquiring mind! What an adventure! More to follow!