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The Cheapside Hoard

A new exhibition The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels has opened at the Museum of London. For the first time since its discovery 100 years ago The Cheapside Hoard can be seen in its entirety, Kate West went along to see it.


n the middle of June 1912, a group of navvies, who were demolishing a row of tenement buildings on the southside of Cheapside, broke through the cellar floor of one of the buildings and saw something

glinting in the earth. That June day they made a discovery that remains unmatched to this day. What emerged from the soil beneath

the building on the corner of Friday Street and Cheapside was a huge glittering cache of tangled gold chains, jewellery, gems, hardstones, cameos, rock crystal vessels, watches, beads, buttons and enamelwork. The navvies must have known they had something of great monetary value in their hands but could not have known that they had unearthed the largest and most historically important treasure of its kind ever to be found. A man who fortunately did see the

importance of the find was the man to whom the navvies took their booty. George F Lawrence, nicknamed Stony Jack, antique dealer, pawnbroker, collector of antiquities and sometime employee of the Guildhall and London Museums, was well known to all the navvies of London. They knew that if they dug something up in the course of

Items in the Cheapside Hoard – Picture copyright Museum of London

their work, anything that looked remotely old, they could take it to Stony Jack’s shop in Wandsworth and he would buy it from them. He was even known to give a man the price of a half pint of beer if what he brought turned out to be rubbish: just to keep them coming. When the Cheapside navvies turned up with handkerchiefs and pockets bulging with jewels still embedded in clods of London clay,

Lawrence set about cleaning the finds and encouraged the men to bring him everything they had. Lawrence identified what would

come to be known as The Cheapside Hoard as the stock-in-trade of a 17th century London jeweller - a stunning cache hidden away and left untouched for centuries. He knew it was the find of his life and of great historical importance. Lawrence was immediately anxious to secure the treasure for the new London Museum, which had not yet opened to the public. After a number of hasty and secret meetings, he was eventually able to acquire The Cheapside Hoard for the new museum; although it was initially shared with the City’s Guildhall Museum and only reunited when the Guildhall and London Museums combined to become the Museum of London in 1976. A small number of pieces of the Hoard were given to the British Museum as a sop to quieten their complaints and some other pieces found their way into the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is to Stony Jack’s great credit that he ensured The Cheapside Hoard was kept for the nation and was not lost

Stony Jack Lawrence


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