Coins found at East Worlington
Nineteenth Report of the Committee on Scientific Memoranda
Trans. Devon Assoc., 1896, Vol XXVIII, pp.62-64.
Sir John B. Phear.
Prepared by Michael Steer
The Committee’s Report was read at the Association’s July, 1896 Ashburton meeting. This interesting extract from the Report provides the reader with names of persons associated with an accidental discovery of a spectacular hoard of silver coins, secreted at some point before 1645 during the Civil War. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.
The Committee’s Report was read at the Association’s July, 1896 Ashburton meeting. This interesting extract from the Report provides the reader with names of persons associated with an accidental discovery of a spectacular hoard of silver coins, secreted at some point before 1645 during the Civil War. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers
"In the early part of June, 1895 (before the 13th), William Ashford, an agricultural labourer in the employment of Mr. Southwood, of Thornham Farm, East Worlington, while engaged in repairing a hedge, cut the ditch somewhat deeper than it had previously been, and in so doing struck upon an earthen ‘jug,' or pitcher, which was broken by the blow, and proved to be full of silver coins. Mr. Southwood, who was near at hand supervising the work, then came up, and the two together, making further search, found two more similar pitchers also full of silver coins.
"The police were communicated with, and, after some correspondence, the whole of the coins, with a few exceptions, were (on the 1st July) handed over to H.M. Treasury as 'treasure trove,' weighing altogether (inclusive of the four sealed bags which contained them) sixty-three pounds avoirdupois.
"The Treasury sent them to the British Museum for examination, etc.; and in the end a large number were given back to Mr. Southwood, a few to Ashford; a considerable number were retained in the British Museum some were sent to the Exeter Museum, and a few granted to a local clergyman who had made application for them.
"I had an opportunity of seeing the coins in the bags while in charge of the Chief Constable of Devon en route for London, and was much struck with their freshness and brightness. As well as I can remember, the great bulk of them consisted of half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences of the reigns of Elizabeth and Charles I., and I have an impression that I was told they had been found separately sorted in the three pitchers, but of this I am not certain.
"An estimate was made of the number of each sort by the expedient of weighing small counted parcels of some eight or ten, and applying the rule of three to the whole weight ; and I made a note of the result, but I am unable as yet to lay my hands upon it.
“Nothing is known, I believe, which might serve to account for the coins being where they were found. But it has been suggested that they may possibly have been money for the payment of a detachment of troops during the Civil War, which in some emergency had been carefully buried to save it from falling into the bands of the enemy, with the view to its being recovered when the exigency was passed, and that those who were privy to the concealment were killed before this took place.
"What has become of the pitchers, or their pieces (for they were all broken, I am told), I do not know, but the enclosed drawing is a copy of a sketch of one of them made by the police-inspector from memory, (J. B. Phear.)"
"Further details of this find are given by Mr. Charles Waters, of the Treasury, in a letter to Mr. G. H. Radford, which the Secretary has been allowed to make use of. The 'treasure trove ' is known as the East Worlington find, and was discovered in a field in Thornham Farm, some three miles from East Worlington village. The farmer and his son were working in a field, when they observed their day labourer, who was employed in repairing a hedge, suddenly stoop down, and begin putting something in his pockets; and approaching him they found he had met in his digging with several earthenware jars full of silver coins. In the eagerness of the search the pitchers were unfortunately broken up. The coins numbered six or seven thousand, and were of Edward VI. (very few), Elizabeth, some of James I., and the bulk of Charles I.; none being later than 1645, about which time they were apparently hidden. The bulk of the Elizabethan money was very much worn, and that of Charles was clipped. As stated by Sir John Phear, the Treasury claimed the find. The labourer was given a double handful, and the farmer five hundred of the coins. Some fifty specimens were sent to the Albert Museum, Exeter, and others sold or presented to public institutions.
"It is supposed they formed part of a military chest: -
"(1) In 1645 Exeter was blockaded, and afterwards besieged. During the autumn, Goring's troops became such a nuisance to the city that the citizens prevailed on him and Grenville to leave, a sum of money being paid to them by the Exonians. The Parliamentary headquarters were then at Tiverton, the Royalist at Torrington. The Taw Valley, Chumleigh, Kingsnympton, Place, etc., were held by Royalist pickets; and Goring, on his march to the Upper Thames, would have passed probably near the spot where the coins were found.
''(2) On Christmas Day, 1645, the Parliamentarians made a sudden raid, capturing Kingsnympton, Eggesford-House, and Chumleigh, and there was a good deal of fighting. Cannon balls have been found on or near Thornham Farm, and it is probable that this money was concealed during the time this skirmishing was going on. (J. B. R)