Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Fortune on Friday Street: Finding the Cheapside Hoard


In 1912, workmen were excavating the cellar of 30-32 Cheapside on the corner of Friday Street when they discovered a fortune in jewelry hidden in a wooden box. Containing more than four hundred pieces of jewelry from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, what became known as the Cheapside Hoard was the find of a lifetime and a historian’s dream come true. 

Though no one knows for certain, it is believed that the hoard belonged to a goldsmith who had stashed it in his cellar during the English Civil War. The house was part of what had been Goldsmith’s Row, the center of jewelry manufacture in London since the middle ages. The whole street burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and new houses were built on top of the ruins of the old ones, hiding the hoard for three hundred and fifty years. 

Even though we’re pretty sure where it came from, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to suggest an alternate theory in The Southwark Saga. We first met Mark, Jack, Will, and Harry in Tyburn when they were all still robbing coaches as highwaymen. Although they have given it up by the beginning of Virtue’s Lady, old habits die hard, and they find out that it’s more difficult to stay on the right side of the law than they thought it would be. 

You may remember Harry bemoaning the loss of an enormous stash of treasure when you first met him in Newgate...well, he left that treasure under the floor of his old girlfriend’s house on Friday Street. The money from the sale of even a portion of what’s under there could solve a lot of problems in Southwark, if only they could find a way past her father to get inside...

Today, most of the hoard is kept at the Museum of London, with some pieces at the V&A and the British Museum. If the Museum of London is a little far for you to travel right now, they have a great collection of photos of some of the hoard’s best pieces on their website here.

For an excellent, in-depth piece about the Cheapside Hoard complete with video and stunning photos, visit GIA’s website here.

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