Early Bronze Age bead fragment from Much Wenlock
Mr Ellery, HM Coroner for Shropshire, held a Treasure inquest on 9 March 2016 at Telford Coroner’s Court into a recently-discovered medieval silver seal matrix. The seal was reported through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme having been found while searching with a metal-detector on cultivated land near Wrockwardine.
Seal matrices were used to close, authenticate and officiate documents in the medieval period. This example was reported promptly by the finder to Peter Reavill – Finds Liaison Officer for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.
In his report (authored with James North (PAS and Hereford Cathedral Archives / Dr John Cherry formerly of the British Museum) they confirm that the seal matrix is made of cast silver. It has a handle on the reverse and a well cut detailed design on the front face. The central design depicts a shrine of The Nursing Madonna and Child with a cleric in an act of prayer at its base. The Madonna is stood cupping her bare breast and presenting it to the Christ child. She is hooded / veiled and is garbed in a tradition full length robe with a sash tied around her waist. The scene is positioned beneath a gothic canopied arch supporting a roof which is topped with carved decorations. The cleric is depicted below with his head tilted upwards as if looking towards the shrine. His hands are closed in prayer.
The inscription is formed from well cut neat medieval letters, it reads:
SECRTV ROG’ D’ VEILOREAVE CLERI’ NR.
which can be interpreted as: Secret (or counter seal) of Roger of Veiloreave – Clerk. The form of the name Veiloreave is unusual and it has been suggested that it is a placename which has been translated from Welsh – this is unsurprising given Shropshire’s position on the Welsh border. The term clerk derives from cleric. The role of a cleric within the 13th and 14th centuries would have involved various administrative responsibilities at medieval courts, where they would have been entrusted with keeping records, as most laymen were illiterate. A cleric could also be clergyman. The religious nature of the piece does suggest that this clerk was also a priest, especially if we are to assume that the image of the priest is a personal representation of the person in question.
Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire, said:
“This type of seal matrix would have acted as a personal seal for the closing of letters / correspondence. The form is well known from other discoveries and is securely dated to the late thirteenth to early fourteenth century (most likely mid-14thCentury c. AD 1340-1410). The fact that it is exceptionally well made in good quality silver indicates that the original owner was relatively rich. As a cleric who could read and write Roger would have been an important person who potentially wielded considerable administrative power.”
Shropshire Museums have expressed an interest in acquiring the find for the people of the county – with the hope that it will be displayed in the Medieval Galleries at the Shrewsbury Museum and art Gallery at the Music Hall. It will join other amazing medieval treasures already on display – including the fantastic Bayston Hill Seal Matrix, The Myddle coin hoard and other stunning treasures. Now the find has been officially declared treasure – it will be valued by the Governments Treasure Valuation Committee and the museum will be given a period of grace to raise the relevant funds. These monies will be paid to both the finder and landowner as a reward under the Treasure Act (1996).
More information and images of the seal (pictures used with permission of British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme) can be found here: https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/757251
More information about PAS and Treasure can be found here: https://finds.org.uk/documents/advice.pdf
More information on Shrewsbury Museum can be seen here: http://www.shrewsburymuseum.org.uk/
Bayston Hill Seal Matrix: https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/768437
Myddle Coin Hoard: https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/412525
For more information, please contact:
Peter Reavill – Finds Liaison Officer (Shropshire and Herefordshire)
Portable Antiquities Scheme
Tel: 01584 813641