Seal from Stone Priory found in Surrey

Published: 8 years ago Author:

Seal imageA large, well-preserved and impressive medieval seal matrix was found in Cobham in August and was reported to the Surrey Finds Liaison Officer, David Williams. The seal, which measures 74mm x 45mm, shows Mary seated and holding aloft a flower. On her lap is the Christ child who holds a book. The surrounding inscription reads:

+S'ECCE SCE MARIE ET SCI W(V)LFADI MARTIRIS DE STANIS

This can be read as The Seal of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Wulfad the Martyr of Stanis. Initial enquiries looked at the possibility that this originated from a church in nearby Staines. However, Saint Wulfad is not a local saint and Googling soon showed that he is closely connected with the town of Stone in Staffordshire. This is in fact the seal of Stone's Augustinian Priory. The Augustinian Priory at Stone was founded in the 12th century, possibly around 1138-47, and was set up as a daughter-house of Kenilworth Priory in Warwickshire. It was a small community, with 8 canons and two novices in 1521. The house was dissolved in Spring 1537. However, the Priory Church continued to be used as the Parish Church until it was demolished and replaced by the current church of St. Michael & St. Wulfad in 1758.

As far as can be ascertained at the moment there is no known connection between Cobham and Stone. Although the medieval Earls of Stafford had lands in Surrey Cobham is not amongst them, so the seal's arrival in Surrey is presently a mystery. One possibility is that during the dissolution of Stone Priory a canon from Stone took with him the Priory's possessions at its dissolution and migrated to Newark Priory which was not dissolved until 1539-40. There may be other explanations.

There is much interest in the Stone area and reports have been broadcast on BBC Radios Stoke and Surrey. Negotiations are taking place between the finder and landowner and interested parties in Stone. At the beginning of December 2011 the seal was placed on loan for six months and can be seen displayed in Stone parish church.

An 1850 reference to an accession of a seal impression from Stone Priory can be found in the British Museum's W. G.de Birch catalogue. We followed this up with a trip to the British Library and were shown a plaster cast of a medieval beeswax impression. The cast was made c1850 when the cataloguing was done.From direct comparison between the seal and the cast of the impression, there is now no doubt that the Cobham matrix is the original used.

In the accompanying photograph the matrix is on the right and the British Library's impression is on the left.

The PAS database reference for the seal is SUR-B74173

Contact: David Williams 07968 832740

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