Thame Local History
The Thame Hoard - the Family Story
Janet Eaton, who is the daughter of Willocks McKenzie, the man who found the
Thame Hoard, and a member of Thame Historical Society,
tells the story from the family's point of view.
"On a warm spring Sunday afternoon, 21st April 1940.
My parents Willocks and Nancy McKenzie decided to go for a walk, taking their little terrier dog Spider with them.
Willocks and Nancy McKenzie, 1940, with Spider
The Second World War was at that time in full progress and my father being a retained fireman, which entailed working your daytime job (Willocks was employed by H C Pearce, with their fellmongery branch as a lorry driver. Pearces are still trading in Thame today but just as woolstaplers), and being on standby at night to fight fires anywhere in the country.
Therefore any opportunity to relax in the countryside my parents took.
The plan that afternoon was to walk alongside the River Thame to Shabbington and to catch the bus back to Thame.
They were about one mile into their walk close by a pool known as Jemmetts Hole, when Spider started to chase a water vole. Nancy and Willocks went to investigate. The chase ended up five feet from the river bank on mud that had recently been dredged from the riverbed.
In the mud they were attracted to the gleam of metal. On investigating they discovered in the mud a parcel of rings and coins. The walk was abandoned and they returned to their home.
My parents' first impression of the find was that possibly the coins might be of an interest, but the five rings, especially one of them was so large and ornate no way could it be of any value.
The rings and coins were put away in the sideboard for the night. The following morning Willocks told his boss and friend Reg Pearce of the previous day's activities. He then took a close look at the find and thought it advisable to notify the police.
From then onwards, in my father's words, 'All hell broke loose'.
The ten silver coins and five rings were taken into police custody and statements were taken from Willocks and Nancy.
I am not going to attempt to describe the coins, as Drs Joan Evans, E T Leeds and Anthony Thompson professionally do this in the Antiquaries Journal.
On Tuesday 28th May 1940, at the Spread Eagle Hotel Thame, Mr A Lett held a coroner's court where the find was declared as treasure trove and surrendered to the Crown.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford aquired the treasure and from that day to the present day have it on show in their medieval section and it is known as the Thame Hoard.
Thame town councils have incorporated the emblem of the cross from the reliquary ring in their crest.
My parents received a reward of one hundred and fifty pounds, which was a considerbale sum bearing in mind a world war was taking place at the time."