Thame’s town crest and Lord Williams.

In the earlier post about swimming at LWS prior to the construction of the swimming pool, it noted that this took place at Jemmott’s Hole on the Thame river. (Or Jemmett – as the spelling varies in the records.) The Jemmott family owned the land where the river passed through – hence the nickname. (We say nickname as no contemporary map has been found with that name marked.) In the 19 century, John Jemmott’s profession in all the census was land proprietor or land owner. On his marriage certificate he is noted as a farmer, as was his father.

The British History online has a mention of John Jemmott of New Thame a grazier in 1688 so the name certainly can be found in Thame in the mid- 17 century so perhaps the place on the Thame dates back some considerable time. 

A more recent mention of Jemmott’s Hole was in 1943.

THAME GAZETTE – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD, 1943

It was a unique occasion in the history of Thame, thanks to Sir C Peers, the design or crest on the plaque (which will probably be adopted by the town ) is of very antique and historic interest, such crest forming part of a ring found by Mr Willcocks Mackenzie, a lorry driver and Thame man, on the left bank of the River Thame (near Jemmott’s Hole ) as recently as April 21st, 1940. He, being an honest man, reported his find to the local police, who in turn reported it to the Coroner for this part of the County, an inquest being held on this and other rings and coins included in the discovery, which valuables were declared to be treasure-trove and duly surrendered to the Crown. On representations being made to the Government, and in view of the local interest in the hoard, these interesting and valuable rings and coins were acquired by the Ashmolean Museum. Experts have decided the ring referred to must probably have belonged to Robert King, who was elected Abbot of Thame in the year 1529. Robert King was a friend of Wolsey and, it is suggested that his appointment was in a sense a diplomatic move to make the surrender of the abbey to the king (Henry VIII) easier than it might otherwise have been. The surrender was made in 1539. Whether the treasure referred to was buried or lost in flight is a matter of conjecture.

The article records that the current Thame crest only came into being in 1943, with the design based on the double barred cross found on the ring. It should be noted here that there are some erroneous on-line accounts such as that by Thame Remembers that claim the crest came into being by 1941. (They are also erroneous in calling it a Patriarchal Cross, which is of a different design. All these things are important in ensuring that the correct facts are recorded for future historians.)

However, it would now appear unlikely that the ring belonged to Robert King and Thame Abbey. The Ashmolean only say that ‘it is suggested’ that it was King’s, and more recent research published in The Society of Antiquaries of London 2016 says ‘A holistic understanding of the landscape, topography, contemporary institutions, places and events is used to interpret the hoarded material. It is advocated that the hoarded rings and coins were probably the property of Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire, not Thame Abbey as has been thought, and that they were rescued from Thomas Cromwell’s Commissioners in 1538 for burial at a place of cultural significance.’

Thame Abbey was in a dire state at the time, and was falling down of its own accord without the help of Henry VIII and his policy of closing down these hot houses of Popery. Now that doesn’t mean it would not have its treasures of course but it had been a long time since the Abbey flourished.

It seems far more likely that the hoard was dropped (possibly buried) from someone coming from Notley rather than Thame Park, and crossing the river at this point as this was the route from Notley into Oxfordshire. (It does seem strange that a monk from Thame Abbey would chose this place to bury the items (if it was a deliberate act) rather than anywhere around Thame Park.)

On the other hand the ring may have no association with either establishment. The road that crossed the River Thame at this point was an important route and so the hoard’s origins could be from anywhere.

The school archivist notes a possible John Williams connection. If in the albeit unlikely event the ring belonged to Robert King, a Williams connection with the hoard and ring is intriguing and plausible. Williams was involved in the suppression of Thame Abbey. He was certainly interested in money and jewels though it seems a bit far fetched to think that he was party to hiding some of the Abbey’s wealth – unless he was going to get a rake-off! However Abbott King’s brother William was married to Williams’s sister so the two were certainly connected. But both King and Williams would surely not have forgotten the buried treasure and would have recovered it later, so my guess is that it was more likely another monk who buried the hoard and perhaps then died. Neither King nor Williams, both arch ‘trimmers’ were ever short of wealth so probably would not have noticed or bothered about a bit of missing treasure.

Conversely Notley Abbey was significantly wealthier, indeed was one of the richest and largest in the region. By the time of the Dissolution the Abbey lay under the direct patronage of the Crown, and the final act of submission took place in an orderly fashion with pensions and benefices allocated to the abbot and the dozen or so remaining canons. Henry granted the abbey lands to Sir John Williams and others in 1542.

Perhaps the hoard was being taken to William’s residence at Rycote.

This is all conjecture of course, although a reasonable conclusion is that the hoard’s link to Thame, the town, is tenuous if not accidental.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.