Plates 1.58-1.60: Lancaster Duchy Office Seals, Part B
Plate 1.58 depicts ten seals of varying sizes and shapes within a decorative border of columns, acanthus, and garland swags (the most lavish border of the series). The seals are arranged in four tidy rows seemingly according to size. The letter ‘C’ is contained within a scallop shell at the top center of the plate. Plate 1.59 displays seven seals, mostly large format, in a slender architectonic frame with acanthus leaves. The letter ‘D’ hovers above the frame in the top center of the plate. The organization of the seals on this print is asymmetrical to accommodate the very large great seal of Cardinal Wolsey (59.1) at the top. Plate 1.60 contains engravings of an impressive eleven seals with its border. Although the framework of slender columns and vine scroll is delicate, the plate generally appears cramped with the seals and captions placed very close to one another. The letter ‘E’ is placed at the top center of the plate just within the border, and an added caption at the top records that these seals were part of a specific collection (that is, they should be considered a set): “Ancient Seals in the Augmentation Office appendant to the Deeds of Surrender Temp.H.8.” The records of the Augmentation Office were related to revenues accrued by the Crown following the Dissolution of monasteries, colleges, and chantry chapels in the 1530s and 1540s. Now in The National Archives, these records were kept in a building near the Court of the Exchequer at Westminster until 1793. Plate 1.60 includes several broken (or fragmentary) seals, which is relatively uncommon among seals engraved for Vetusta Monumenta, while other seals on the plate were clearly in pristine condition at the time of Vertue’s production.
Across all three plates, most of the seals were represented as being attached to documents thanks to the inclusion of the parchment strips. In fact, many of the captions underscore that the seals were attached to deeds, indicating both the sender (the sealer) and recipient of the document and, at times, including the date of the document’s sealing—that is, its authentication. The majority of seals on these three plates are monastic or corporate, with just a few personal or privy seals. All but one of the seals recorded on these plates were impressions in wax. According to Vertue’s label, the seal of Thomas Wolsey, Archdeacon of Northampton, on Plate 1.59 was a silver matrix.
On Plate 1.58, From Top Left to Bottom Right:
1. (A) Counterseal of the Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross (dated 1253)
2. Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross
3. (B) Another Counterseal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross (1250s)
4. Obverse of the Seal of the Priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield (near London, 14th–16th centuries)
5. Reverse of the Seal of the Priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield (near London, 13th–14th centuries)
6. (C) Prior’s (?) Seal of Haltemprice Priory (14th century)
7. Seal of John of Chelmesford (date unknown), Label D
8. (E) Seal of Robert de Pickering, Canon of York (dated 1310)
9. Seal of the Abbey of St. Mary, Sherborne (Dorset; 16th century)
10. Seal of the Corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (13th century)
On Plate 1.59, From Top Left to Bottom Right:
1. Great Seal of Cardinal Wolsey, Cardinal College, Oxford (now Christ Church College, before 1529)
2. Silver Seal Matrix of Thomas Wolsey, Archdeacon of Northampton (1680–1707)
3. Seal of John [Crane], Abbot of St. Martin’s, Battle (Sussex; 14th century; used as a counterseal)
4. Common Seal of St. Martin’s, Battle/Battle Abbey (Sussex; 14th century)
5. Seal of Roger [de Pont L'Évêque], Archbishop of York (dated 1154)
6. (A) Seal of Stephen Sukirkeby (dated 1250)
7. (B) Counterseal of Roger [de Pont L'Évêque], Archbishop of York (12th century)
On Plate 1.60, From Top Left to Bottom Right:
1. Seal of the Priory of St. Mary of West Acre (Norfolk; 16th century)
2. Counterseal of the Priory of St. Mary of West Acre (Norfolk; 16th century)
3. Seal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (16th century)
4. Obverse of the Seal of the Abbey of Robertsbridge (Sussex; 16th century)
5. Reverse of the Seal of the Abbey of Robertsbridge (Sussex; 16th century)
6. Reverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury (Dorset; 16th century)
7. Seal of the Abbey of West Dereham (Norfolk; 16th century)
8. Obverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury (Dorset; 16th century)
9. Seal of the Priory of St. Nicholas, Burscough (Lancashire; 14th–16th century)
10. Seal of the Abbey of St. Peter’s, Chertsey (Surrey; 16th century)
11. Seal of the Abbey of Abbotsbury (Dorset; 16th century)
Note: These transcriptions record what was engraved on the plate and are not always accurate. We have used “-’ to indicate untranscribable engraved letterforms, which indicate difficulties experienced by Vertue in deciphering the legends. Space constrains also affected the engraving, as he sometimes ran out of space before a legend was complete. For precise scholarly transcriptions of the seal legends, readers should also consult the versions available in Birch 1887-1900 and more recent sources.
Plate 1.58: C
Plate 1.58, Seals:
1. (A) Reverse of the Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross (dated 1253):
Label: Counter Seal to another Deed of the ABBOT of Waltham. A°. Dni. 1253
Legend: + ----ANTE CRVCIS GVI--- NOVI : FIRMAT : HAROLD .
2. Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross (dated 1253):
Label: The Seal appendant to a Deed from the Abbot of WALTHAM to Hu:NEVIL
Legend: + HOC EST SIGILL’ . ECCLESIE . SANCTE . CRVCIS DE VALTHAAM
3. (B) Another Counterseal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross:
Label: Another Counter Seal of the ABBOT of Waltham.
Legend unclear: --NTE SIGI-’V SCE CRVCIS DE ------
4. Obverse of the Seal of the Priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield (near London, 14th–16th centuries):
Label: The Priory Seal of St. Bartholomew near LONDON in Com. Midds.
Legend unclear: * SIGILLVM --------- ET EOVETVS : SCI . BARTHOLOMEI LONDON
5. Reverse of the Seal of the Priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield:
Label: The Counter Seal of St. Bartholomew / The Priory Church in a Ship
Legend: + CREDIMVS : ANTE DEVM PROVEDI PER BARTIIOLOMEVM
6. (C) Seal of Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby:
Label: A Grant from Hen: de Lancaster Earl of DERBY to Tho: WAKE
Legend unclear: ------- NAT . IMAGO IVSSA . IOHIS . AGO --
7. (D) Seal of John of Chelmesford:
Label: John de Chelmesford
Legend: * S . IOHIS . DE . HELMERE
8. (E) Unknown Seal:
Label: Ano.Dni MCCCX.
No Legend (incomplete impression).
9. Seal of the Abbey of St. Mary, Sherborne:
Label: Abbey Seal of st. MARY de Sherborne in Com. De Dorset
Legend (incomplete impression): + SIGILLV SCE MA … NSISAELL L’AE :
10. Seal of the Corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne:
Label: The Seal of the Corporation of Newcastle upon Tine
Legend: SIGILL’ : COMVNE : BVRGENSIVM : NOVI : CASTELLE
Plate 1.58, Bottom: “Sumptibus Societat. Antiquariae Lond. 1741; The Reverses of these Seals mark’d A.B.C.D.E are from Gems”
Plate 1.59: D
Plate 1.59, Seals:
1. Great Seal of Cardinal Wolsey, Cardinal College, Oxford:
Label: The Great SEAL of CARDINAL WOLSEY for his College in OXFORD
Legend: SIGILLV’ . COE’ . COLLEGII . THOME . WVLCY . CARDINAL . EBOR . I . AGLIA A . LATERE . LEGATI .
2. Silver Seal Matrix of Thomas Wolsey, Archdeacon of Northampton:
Label: Thomas Wolsey S.T.P. Arch Deacon of Northampton / a Silver Matrix
Legend: ◉ SIGILLVM THOME ◉ WOLSEY S.T.P. ◉ ARC’HI . DIACONI ◉ NORTHAMPTON
3. Seal of John [Crane], Abbot of St. Martin’s, Battle:
Label: Seal of JOHN Abbot of Battle Abbey in Com Sussex
Legend: Sigil iohis deo gra abbatis : de : bello
4. Common Seal of St. Martin’s Battle Abbey:
Label: The Counter Seal of Battle Abbey
Legend: + SGILLVM CONVENTVS : SANCTI : MARTINI DE BELLO
5. Seal of Roger [de Pont L'Évêque], Archbishop of York:
Label: Seal of ROGER Arch Bp. of YORK to Furness Abbey Ao.Di. 1154
Legend: + SIGILLVM . ROGERI . DEI GRATIA . EBORACENSIS –RCHIEPISCOPI
6. (A) Seal of Stephen Sukirkeby:
Label: Stephen Sukirkeby to ADAM de LACEY Ano. 1250
Legend: + AVE MARIA GRACIA
7. (B) Counterseal of Roger [de Pont L'Évêque], Archbishop of York:
Label: ROGER Arch Bp. of York a Chimera of 3 Heads
Legend (counterclockwise; some letterforms reversed in engraving): + CAPVT NOSTRV . TRINITAS EST
Plate 1.59, Bottom: “Sumptibus Societat. Antiq : Lond : 1741; These two Seals mark’d A.B. are from Gems”
Plate 1.60: E
Top Caption: "Ancient Seals in the Augmentation Office appendant to the Deeds of Surrender TempH.8" (within border)
Bottom Caption: “Sumptibus Societatis Antiquaria Lond. 1741” (within border)
Plate 1.60, Seals:
1. Seal of the Priory of St. Mary of West Acre:
Label: The Seal of B. Maria de West acre Com: Norf. and the Counterseal.
No Legend (incomplete impression).
2. Counterseal of the Priory of St. Mary of West Acre:
Label: The Seal of B. Maria de West acre Com: Norf. and the Counterseal.
Legend unclear: + MVNDVS ---- : MVNDVS CONTERE : MVNDVS ERIS
3. Seal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, King of Castile and Leon:
Label: The Seal of JOHN of Gaunt Duke of LANCASTER
Legend: S’ : Privatii : Iohis : dei : gra : Regis : Castelle : et Leoionis : Ducis : Lancastrie
4. Obverse of the Seal of Thomas Taylor, Abbot of Robertsbridge:
Label: Seal appendant to a Deed of Surrender by Thomas Taylor Abbot of Roberts brigge in Com. Sussex
Legend unclear: S COE : -------- : CONV/ENTVS: DE : PONTE : OR-
5. Reverse of the Seal of Thomas Taylor, Abbot of Robertsbridge:
Label: The Counterseal
Legend: COE : D------- : SCELLI : D--V- : SCI : DE : MATPE : PVELLO :
6. Reverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury:
Label: A Seal of Schefton Abbey
Legend: SALCIE STELLA MARIS TU NOBIS AUXILIARIS GEMMA PUELLARIS REGIA DONE PARIS
7. Seal of the Abbey of Denham:
Label: Seal to a Deed of ye Abbey of Denham Com. Norfolk.
Legend: +SIGILL’ . ABBATIS : ET CONVENT . DEI : DERH
8. Obverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury:
Label: The other side of the Seal to a Deed of the Abbot of Shefton
Legend: + SIGILL’ SCE MARIE ET SCI EDWARDI : REGIS ET MARTIRIS : SCHEFTONIE
9. Seal of the Priory of St. Nicholas, Burscough:
Label: Priory Church of Burscough.
Legend unclear: + SIGILLVM SANCTI NICHOLAI--- CASSTVDE
10. Seal of the Abbey of St. Peter’s, Chertsey:
Label: Seal to a Deed of Surrender by the Abbot of St. Peter. of Chertsey
Legend: +SIGILLVM . SANCTI PETRI CERETISAEIZE
11. Seal of the Abbey of Abbotsbury:
Label: Seal of the Abbey of Abbotsbury in Com. Dorset.
Legend unclear: ---LV ----- ---- ABBATI M------ ORO
Plate 1.58, Seal Legends:
1. Counterseal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross (d. 1253), Label A:
Legend: Harold grants this treaty with Tovi before the Cross.
2. Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross:
Legend: This is the seal of the Waltham Holy Cross Church.
3. Another Counterseal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross (c. 1250s), Label B:
Legend: Counterseal of the Waltham Holy Cross Church.
4. Seal of the Priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield (near London, 14th–16th century):
Legend: Common Seal of the Priory and Convent of Saint Bartholomew in London.
5. Reverse of the Seal of the Priory of St. Bartholomew (near London, 13th–14th century):
Legend: We believe we are brought forth before God by Bartholomew.
6. To be added, Label C:
Legend: Seal of the Order of John.
7. Seal of John of Chelmesford (date unknown), Label D:
Legend: Saint John of Chelmesford.
8. Seal of Robert de Pickering, Canon of York (d. 1310), Label E:
9. Seal of the Abbey of St. Mary, Sherbone (Dorset; 16th century):
Legend: Seal of the Church of Saint Mary Sherborne.
10. Seal of the Corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (13th century):
Legend: Seal of the Corporation of Newcastle.
Plate 1.59, Seal Legends:
1. Great Seal of Cardinal Wolsey, Cardinal College, Oxford (now Christ Church College, before 1529):
Legend: Seal of the Common College of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal of York, Papal legate
2. Silver Seal Matrix of Thomas Wolsey, Archdeacon of Northhampton (1680–1707):
Legend: Seal of Thomas Wolsey, Professor of Sacred Theology, Archdeacon
3. Seal of John [Crane], Abbot of St. Martin’s Battle (Sussex; 14th century):
Legend: Seal of John, by the Grace of God, Abbot of Battle
4. Common Seal of St. Martin’s Battle/Battle Abbey (Sussex; 14th century):
Legend: Convent Seal of St. Martin of Battle
5. Seal of Roger [de Pont L'Évêque], Archbishop of York (d. 1154):
Legend: Seal of Roger, by the Grace of God, Archbishop of York
6. Seal of Stephen Sukirkeby (d. 1250), Label A:
Legend: Hail Mary of Grace
7. Counterseal of Roger [de Pont L'Évêque], Archbishop of York (12th century), Label B:
Legend: Our Head is the Trinity
Plate 1.60, Seal Legends:
1. Seal of the Priory of St. Mary West Acre (Norfolk; 16th century):
2. Counterseal of the Priory of St. Mary of West Acre (Norfolk; 16th century):
Legend: The world goes away : Trample on the world : You will be the world.
3. Seal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (16th century):
Legend: Privy Seal of John, King, of Castille and León, by the grace of God, Duke of Lancaster
4. Obverse of the Seal of the Abbey of Robertsbridge (Sussex; 16th century):
Legend: Common seal of the abbot and convent of Robertsbridge
5. Reverse of the Seal of the Abbey of Robertsbridge (Sussex; 16th century):
Legend: This is the sanctuary and house for the Virgin Mother.
6. Reverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury (Dorset; 16th century):
Legend: Hail star of the sea, you, helper to us, jewel among maidens, bring forth royal gifts.
7. Seal of Abbey of West Dereham (Norfolk; 16th century):
Legend: Seal of the abbot of God and the convent at Denham
8. Obverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury (Dorset; 16th century):
Legend: Seal of Saint Mary and Saint Edward, King and Martyr of Shaftesbury
9. Seal of the Priory of St. Nicholas, Burscough (Lancashire; 14th–16th century):
Legend: Seal of Saint Nicholas at Burscough
10. Seal of the Abbey of St. Peter’s Chertsey (Surrey; 16th century):
Legend: Seal of Saint Peter at Chertsey
11. Seal of the Abbey of Abbotsbury (Dorset; 16th century):
Legend (mostly illegible): Sigil… of the Abbot…
Commentary by Laura Whatley: Like Plates 1.53-1.54, the circumstances for the production of Plates 1.58-1.60 were outlined in the Minute Book of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) in 1736. A special committee of SAL members was appointed to visit the Duchy of Lancaster and other record offices, examine seals discovered by the antiquarian John Anstis (d. 1744), and determine if any were “curious” and “worthy” enough for the Society to publish as engravings (SAL Minutes: I.148). Based on a final report, the committee identified a large body of important attached seal impressions, most of which were held in the Duchy of Lancaster record office. George Vertue (d. 1756), the SAL’s official engraver, was sent to the various record offices in order to produce sketches of the seals. He was instructed to “draw and engrave” the seals and to give to the clerk in each office one guinea for the privilege (I.195). The seals depicted on Plates 1.58 and 1.59 were predominantly (save two, so far as can be determined) from the Duchy of Lancaster, whereas most of the seals on Plate 1.60 were from the Augmentation Office at Westminster (now Westminster Abbey Muniments). Indeed, the Minute Book does make clear that along with seals in the Duchy of Lancaster, the appointed committee also examined boxes of sealed documents in the Augmentation Office as part of their mission (I.190). As noted above, these documents were specific to King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of monasteries, colleges, and chantries in the 1530s and 1540s, which means that the impressions engraved on Plate 1.60 from this office can be dated to the first half of the sixteenth century (granted, the original matrices used to make the impressions could be much earlier in date, which is often the case with monastic and corporate seals).
The Minute Book indicates that three of the seals on Plate 1.60 were from the Duchy of Lancaster, not the Augmentation Office - a distinction not clarified in the captions on the plate itself: 1) the seal of John of Gaunt (60.3) ; 2); the seal of the Abbey of Denham (60.7); and 3); the seal of the Priory of Burscough (60.9). The seals of Denham and Burscough were described following a long list of notable seals made from antique gems in the Duchy of Lancaster office (a clear interest of the committee), many of which Vertue included on Plates 1.53-1.54 (I.192–193). The seal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (60.3) is not mentioned in the Minute Book, at least not within the committee’s report on seals. It seems sure, however, that this personal, heraldic seal of John of Gaunt, who died in 1399, was in the Duchy office and not the Augmentation Office. Already familiar with John of Gaunt and his heraldry, George Vertue perhaps had personal interest in including the seal on one of the Vetusta Monumenta plates. In the early 1730s, Vertue engraved an honorific portrait of John of Gaunt as king of Castile and Leon, which also included his coats of arms and tomb, for Paul de Rapin-Thoyras and Nicolas Tindal's History of England (1732–33).
In the Augmentation Office at Westminster, the committee found a total of eight “remarkable” monastic seals for Vertue to draw and engrave plus Wolsey’s great seal for Cardinal College, Oxford (I.193–I.195). Vertue included just five of the monastic seals mentioned in the Minute Book—Priory of St. Mary of West Acre (60.1-2); Thomas Taylor, Abbot of Robertsbridge (60.4-5); Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury (60.6 and 60.8); Abbey of St. Peter’s, Chertsey (60.10); and Abbey of Abbotsbury (60.11)—all on Plate 1.60. The other three seals were engraved on different plates in the series. The “seal of surrender” of the Abbey of Abingdon was engraved on Plate 1.53, likely because the impression was from a fine antique intaglio gem and fit thematically with the other gem seals on the plate (53.4; I.193).
In the committee’s instructions to Vertue in the Minute Book, they do organize the seals thematically, stating that Vertue should draw and engrave the seventeen seals with impressions from antique gems in the Duchy office as well as two seals of “the same kind” in the Augmentation Office (I.194). The other seal type specifically singled out in the Minute Book is those seals with “ancient buildings” on them: the committee notes four such seals in the Duchy collection and another eight in the Augmentation Office (I.194). Indeed, ten of the twenty-eight seals on Plates 1.58, 1.59, and 1.60 are architectural seals, with the majority, six seals, on Plate 1.60. The seal of the priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, which has an architectural obverse, is on Plate 1.58 (58.4-5; I.194). Notably, the committee found Cardinal Wolsey’s seal, which ultimately was engraved at the top of Plate 1.59, to be of a higher quality than the other seals selected for engraving in the Augmentation Office; they actually note that perhaps it should not be on the same plate with the other seals determined worthy of engraving–it was deserving of better company (I.194). The seal was described as a “very noble seal of exquisite workmanship for the age,” and the committee even attributed its design to the court painter Hans Holbein the Younger (d. 1543; I.194).
Interestingly, the committee also seems interested in promoting further study of the seals and of the documents to which the seals were attached. The committee’s report in the Minute Book requests that George Vertue include a number for each seal—some sort of identifier or numbering system–so that if “any gentleman” was inclined to write up an account of a deed or make observations about one of the seals, then an easy reference could be made to the seal and plate (I.195). Vertue did not follow this recommendation, as the plates to not feature a numbering or reference system; rather, Vertue only provided the brief captions above or below each seal. Vertue did enhance the border ornament for each plate. Beyond slender architectural columns and ornate capitals, the borders of these plates, which contain and frame Vertue’s engravings of the medieval seals impressions, include flowering garlands, delicate chains, crawling vines, and elaborate plumes. Vertue also was careful to include visual reference to materiality (from the thickness of the wax to the state of the parchment), method of attachment, and quality of impression.
Individual Seals on Plate 1.58
1. A, Counter Seal of the Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross: The three seals engraved at the top of Plate 1.58, according to Vertue’s labels, were used by the abbot of Waltham Abbey. The seal impression recorded on the left side of the plate is lettered A and is described as the “Counter Seal to another Deed of the Abbot of Waltham.” It is the only seal from Waltham Abbey on the plate that has a date (1253) in the label, no doubt from the document itself. The label also suggests that the impression was not on the reverse of the central seal on the plate (seal 58.2 below), but it was used as the counterseal on a similar impression in TNA attached to E 42/137 dated 1350 (Ellis 1986, M886 and M887). The medieval matrix used to create this impression is comprised of three ancient intaglio gems set within a legend. The largest gem is in the center of the seal and measures 32 mm in diameter based on the extant impression in TNA. The gem features two profile heads (almost busts) facing each other with draped shoulders. From Vertue’s rendering, the hair of each figure appears thick and is styled back away from the face. In the TNA impression, the figures have their hair rolled and bound in fillets (see Ellis 1986, M887); indeed, the hair dressing appears quite elaborate in this impression. Both heads have thick protruding chins and large noses. Above the heads is an elongated crown, and in the field between the heads are three stars, a crescent moon, and a sun. The seal’s medieval legend interprets the two figures as Harold and Tovi: +HOC : CARTE : FEDVS CVM : TOVI : FIRMAT : HAROLD’ (this is the legend from Ellis 1986, M887). Both of these men played an important role in the Waltham’s pre-Conquest history. Tovi was the original founder and benefactor of a church at Waltham for the display of the Holy Cross, and Harold Godwinson was responsible for the expansion of the foundation, establishing it as a college of secular cannons (see BHO, “Abbey of Waltham Cross” for full history). Thus, the seal locates the power and authority of the abbot of Waltham Abbey in its ancient and mythic foundation. Walter de Birch described the two busts as being in the “Byzantine style,” perhaps based on the severe rendering of the faces and the distinct noses (Birch 1907, 133). A Roman provenance is more likely due to the gem’s lack of clear Christian or Byzantine motifs. Indeed, by the fifth century, intaglio gem carving was not as popular as in second-century Rome, for example, when such profile busts were a common motif on carved gems. The figures could be any number of ancient mythological or historical figures: Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus, Sol and Luna, Maxentius and Constantine. The dating of the gem from Vertue’s engraving is certainly difficult, as Vertue could have given a medieval gem a more classical appearance. The small gem above is impossible to read in Vertue’s engraving. Ellis described the small gem (8 mm) as depicting a man on a dolphin. The motif of Eros riding a dolphin (holding a wreath or playing a flute) was popular in imperial Rome and can be found on numerous gems (cf. Spier 1992, no. 323; Henig 2007, no. 132). The small oval gem (12 x 14 mm) below depicts an animal facing or walking right. Ellis suggests that the animal is a tiger. Based on the extant impression and Vertue’s engraving, the animal looks more like an ox, wolf, or stag. In the 1916 proceedings of SAL, Hope recounted the “tragic story” of this gem seal, which was damaged sometime between 1524 and 1531 based on surviving impressions. He suggested a scenario in which the prior or some other “careless canon” let the matrix fall to the chapter-house floor or used too much force when the seal was in the press, cracking and splintering the large ancient gem (Hope 1916, 100-101). The impression of the seal attached to Waltham Abbey’s deed of surrender in TNA, for example, shows evidence of this damage (1540, E 322/252; Ellis 1986, M888).
2. Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross: The Abbey of Waltham was a house of Austin canons dedicated to the Holy Cross. It was one of the most important religious house in England due to its large scale, history of royal patronage, and close proximity to London (see Page and Round 1907, 166-172). The legend of Waltham’s foundation was recorded by one of the twelfth-century canons. He recorded that following a vision a miraculous cross was discovered at Montacute in Somerset prompting a wealthy landowner (Tovi or Tofig) to build a church for its reception at Waltham. Edward the Confessor granted the foundation to Harold Godwinson, who established it as a college of secular canons and greatly expanded its endowments until his death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. King Henry II (r. 1154–1189) obtained a papal bull in 1177 to remove the secular canons at Waltham and replace them with regulars. He had vowed to establish an abbey of canons regular dedicated to Thomas Becket for the remission of his sins. The new house, at first a priory, was converted into an abbey in 1184. The foundation was in operation until the Dissolution of the Monasteries; it was surrendered to King Henry VIII in 1540.
According to the label, this seal impression was attached to a deed from the Abbot of Waltham Abbey to Hugh de Neville. Represented is an impression of the common seal of Waltham Abbey. The legend states that this is (hoc est) the seal of Waltham Holy Cross. The iconography of this seal was featured on the seals of the abbey from the late twelfth century (an impression survives in TNA from 1184–1201 during the tenure of the first abbot, Walter de Gant, attached to E 42/97; Ellis 1986, M883) through the surrender of the abbey to King Henry VIII on 23 March 1540. Waltham Abbey was the last abbey to formally surrender under Robert Fuller, Waltham Abbey’s last abbot. There are a few sixteenth-century examples of the seal in TNA (E 41/452 and E 322/252, dated 1532 and 1540 respectively; Ellis 1986, M888).
The seal presents two angels with wings and haloes, wearing draped robes, and upholding a large cross. The figures and their gestures are mirrored. The angels are youthful, with a bare faces and thick hair. The wing of each angel farthest from the viewer is extended upward framing the cross and guiding the eye heavenward. The angels face each other with their hands gripping the large cross anchored before them (Hope described the angels looking at each other “as if talking about the cross,” Hope 1916, 96). The two angels and the large cross stand on a rocky outcrop, certainly Golgotha. The iconography certainly refers to the legend of Waltham’s miraculous foundation: the vision of the cross. Small differences in the pictorial content across surviving impressions of the common seal indicate that new matrices were engraved at least three times in the abbey’s history. An impression from 1251 reveals an interlaced decoration on the cross and a simplified pyramidal mount (DL 27/91; Ellis 1986, M884), and an impression from 1350 has a cross decorated with a wavy pattern and a larger, broad mount similar to the earliest impression from 1184–1201 noted above (E 42/137; Ellis 1986, M886). Roger Ellis noted that the 1350 impression features “more finely cut drapery” and that the “design has acquired an elegance not visible in earlier impressions” (Ellis 1986, 92, M886). The surviving sixteenth-century impressions of the Waltham Abbey seal indicate that a new seal was not engraved but rather that the old pointed oval matrix was set within a new larger matrix that created a frame or border of open tracery around the original matrix, expanding the size of the matrix and thus its impressions in wax (on the size of medieval seals in England, McEwan 2019, 103-126). Likewise, the matrix with the three ancient intaglio gems used as a counterseal (seal 1 above) was set within a larger matrix in the sixteenth century with the arms of England and Waltham Abbey displayed by lions passant (as reproduced in the Illustrated London News, 1860 ). As Hope noted, the two earlier seals became “the obverse and reverse of practically a new double seal” (Hope 1916, 99). The impression as rendered by George Vertue on plate 1.58 does not have any patterning on the cross and features a broad rocky mount; it thus seems to be visually similar to the 1184–1201 impression of the seal, although Vertue could have omitted the patterning or not been able to discern it on the impression. Thanks to the label above the engraved image, we know that it was appended to a document sent to Hugh de Neville, which helps to roughly date the impression. Hugh de Neville, who served as Chief Forester under Richard I, John, and Henry III, was born around 1170 and died in 1234. He was buried at Waltham Abbey.
3. B, Another Counter Seal of the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross: The third seal used by the abbot of Waltham Abbey is on the right side of the plate and is labeled B. Like seal A (1 above), it is identified as a counter seal: “Another Counter Seal of the Abbot of Waltham.” This seal was used as the counterseal on the 1251 document in TNA noted above (DL 27/91; Ellis 1986, M885). The small oval intaglio gem (35 x 22 mm) was set within a medieval matrix bearing the legend. Vertue’s recording of the legend on Plate 1.58 is only partial and rather muddled. Ellis transcribed the legend: +ANTE . S[ ]L’ . SCE . CRVCIS . DE WALTHAAM (“Before the seal of Waltham Holy Cross”). The inclusion of the phrase ante (“before” or “in front of”) sigillum in the legend does not seem to be common. It is language more closely associated with sealing clauses (e.g., ante hoc sigillum or ante sigillationem huius) to indicate that a document was authenticated before—that is, in the presence of—the seal or before the seal was attached with the seal essentially fixing the contents of the document in time and place. The gem features a standing male figure wearing a helmet and holding a shield. The figure stands in a contrapposto with both arms extended from the body. In the TNA impression, the figure (a Greek warrior?) is clearly nude and is holding a spear with a shield attached to his back. Nude warrior figures were common on Graeco-Roman gems. Exercising a bit of Victorian censorship, perhaps, Vertue carefully draped the figure in order to conceal his genitalia.
4. and 5. The Obverse and Reverse of the Priory Seal of St. Bartholomew's near London: Just below the three Waltham seals, Vertue engraved two seal impressions from St. Bartholomew’s Smithfield. In 1123, a clerk named Rahere founded a priory of Austin canons and a hospital nearby for the poor with the support of King Henry I (r. 1100–1135) and the bishop of London. On the founding of the priory, a canon recorded that first Rahere’s faith was renewed during a pilgrimage to Rome. He then fell ill and vowed to found a hospital if he recovered. Finally, he had a dream of St. Bartholomew who asked him to build a church in his name at Smithfield (Moore 1886, xliii-xliv, an edition of BL, Cotton MS Vespasian B. ix). A royal foundation for all intents and purposes, St. Bartholomew’s grew steadily in both wealth and importance throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries but unfortunately would experience a long decline starting in the early fifteenth century (namely, a major rebuilding program begun in 1409) due to “extravagance and bad management” (see Page 1909, 475-780). Under the last two priors during the reign of Henry VIII, St. Bartholomew’s did secure some royal favor. Prior William Bolton (1505–1532) was appointed master to the king’s works (Brewer 1864, 4083), and Prior Robert Fuller (1532–1539) was able to secure a hefty compliance from the king when the priory was surrendered in October of 1539 (Gairdner and Brodie 1894, 391). Of note, Robert Fuller also was the abbot of Waltham Holy Cross.
Vertue identified the first seal on the left as the “Priory Seal” and the seal on the right as the “Counter Seal.” Both impressions were more accurately made by the priory seal—a double-sided matrix much like the bronze matrix of the Priory of Cottingham recorded on Plate 1.5. Indeed, in his description of a surviving example in the British Library, Walter de Birch noted that the fine impression showed “marks of the pins or studs employed to keep the two sides of the matrix in proper position” (Birch 1887, 3492). This impression of the seal is attached to Harley Charter 83 A. 43, the priory’s document of surrender under Prior Fuller to King Henry VIII dated 1533. The double-sided matrix was engraved earlier, however, likely in the fourteenth century. Birch identified the seal’s style as consistent with the thirteenth century, but there is an impression of St. Bartholomew’s single-sided priory seal attached to documents in the TNA dated 1259–1260 (E (42/353), 1263 (DL 25/139), and 1302 (E 40/13688). Edward Webb referenced a deed dated 25 September, 16 Richard II (1392) with an impression of the double-sided seal attached (Webb 1921, 319-320). Taken together, this evidence suggests that the double-sided seal was engraved sometime between 1302 and 1392. There are a number of fine impressions of the double-sided seal attached to documents in TNA from the late fourteenth through sixteenth century: E 326/141 (1393), E 326/8523 (1452), E 42/439 (1525), E 326/7062 (1530), and E 322/136 (1539). Based on the legend, the seal was a conventual seal (a common seal separate from the prior’s seal) that would have had wider sanction for its custody and use than that of the prior alone. The legend is very clear in this regard: *SIGILLVM COMMVNE PRIOR’ ET COVETVS SCI BARTHOLOMEI LONDON’ (from Birch 1887, 3492): “Common Seal of the Priory and Convent of St. Bartholomew London.”
The front (obverse) of the seal depicts a male figure wearing a draped robe, holding up a flaying knife in his left hand, and sitting on an elaborate carved throne. All descriptions of extant impressions of this seal record that the figure is holding a book in his right hand, but Vertue did not include this iconographic detail in his engraving (the book was most likely unclear or illegible on the impression). Of course, the uplifted knife in the figure’s left hand allows for the clear identification of the figure as St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of the foundation. The throne has four levels: the first level, the base, has two rows of blind arcades; the second is a thin band filled with diaper; the third level bookends the figure and has more blind arcade; and the fourth level is gabled, containing trefoils and topped with crockets in the form of fleur-de-lys—all architectural features generally consistent with the English Decorated style (1240–1360; see Coldstream 1994, 7-15). In the field surrounding the enthroned figure, there is a crescent moon, large star, and 6 round discs. The obverse of the seal bears some resemblance to royal seals of the thirteenth and fourteenth century, in particular the seated figure and the multi-storied throne with blind arcades and crocketed gables. It could be compared to the Great Seals of Edward I (r. 1272–1307; cf. a fine impression from 1292, Warwickshire County Record Office CR 341/2) and Edward II (r. 1307–1327), for example. As noted above, the matrix responsible for the impression recorded on Plate 1.58 likely dates to the later thirteenth century, a hypothesis supported both by the style of its architectural throne and its likeness to the Great Seal of Edward I. Overall, the Great Seal of Edward I certainly is more elaborate and visually sophisticated, and it includes royal motifs and attributes--crown, scepter, lions—obviously not found on the St. Bartholomew common seal. The representation of patron saints seated or enthroned on monastic seals was not uncommon (the Virgin Mary, for instance, is most often enthroned), but it could be meaningful in the case of the St. Bartholomew seal since it was a notable change in iconography from earlier impressions. As discussed above, the matrix used at least between 1263 and 1302 based on surviving impressions in TNA depict St. Bartholomew in half-length, appearing to emerge from a church (see Ellis, 1986, M528). He has a halo and is both blessing and holding a cross with his left hand. The church has large rounded arches and two flanking rounded towers. The arches on the seal reflect the rounded Norman arches found in the St. Bartholomew’s twelfth-century choir and sanctuary—thus, the architecture on the seal could very well represent an aspect of the actual priory church. The double-sided matrix replaced the church architecture with the throne, perhaps because the image of the church was relocated to the reverse (back) of the seal.
The reverse (the so-called “counter seal”) depicts a stone church standing in a large ship on waves. In Vertue’s rendering, the church has pointed lancet windows, trefoils, a steeply pitched tiled roof mounted with crosses, and a large domical spire over the crossing. Ellis further described a rose window (very easy to discern) and fleur-de-lys finials on the spire for the surviving impression in TNA from 1539 (Ellis 1986, M529). In in the fields to either side of the church are the words NAVIS (L) and ECCLIE (R), the “ship of the Church.” Vertue did not transcribe the words correctly in his engraving (again, likely illegible or unclear in the impression). The ship could have a double meaning, referring to Noah’s Ark or the Barque of St. Peter as well as the nave of the church itself. Like Noah’s Ark, the nave of the church, the place where the congregation gathered for Mass, was a place of salvation. This double-sided common seal was not the first seal used at St. Bartholomew’s to feature the ship and church iconography. It appeared on the prior’s seal of office in the thirteenth century. For example, TNA retains an impression of this seal attached to DL 25/139 dated 1263, which, according to the sealing clause, was sealed with the full chapter (sigilli capituli nostri inpressione). In this instance, it was used as a counterseal to the single-sided common seal of the priory depicting St. Bartholomew in half-length on a church (see Ellis 1986, M528). Along with the words “ship” and “church,” the field of the prior’s seal includes a six-rayed sun on the left and a crescent moon on the right. The church structure in the ship is smaller and more stylizing, and the ship itself has a bird-headed prow and stern (see Ellis 1986, M531). The legend refers to the seal as belonging to the office: [.]SIGILL’.PRIORIS.ECCLESIE.SCI:BA[.]. The engraving of the priory’s double-sided common seal certainly precluded the use of such counterseals (or, at least, the ability to counterseal the priory seal), perhaps suggesting an increased communal governance at the priory. The legend of the reverse of the common seal reads: CREDIMVS:ANTE[DEVM PROV]EHI:PER:BARTHOLOMEVM. (after Ellis 1986, M529). This legend makes no specific reference to the convent or prior; rather, it is a powerful supplement to the legend and image on the obverse of the seal, declaring, “We believe that we are brought into the presence of God by the aid of St. Bartholomew.”
6. Prior's (?) Seal of Haltemprice Priory: The label suggests that this seal impression was attached to a grant from Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby, to Thomas Wake, Lord of Lidell. Vertue incorrectly seems to have understood this seal as a personal seal of Henry of Lancaster. It was more likely a seal used by the prior of Haltemprice Priory, the house of Austin Canons that Thomas Wake founded in the 1320s. A fine impression of this seal is preserved in TNA (catalogued by Ellis as a monastic seal) attached to a grant of land from both Henry of Lancaster and Thomas Wake to Haltemprice Priory dated 1337 (DL 25/330/274; Ellis 1986, M362). In this charter, Henry of Lancaster grants the manor of Stow Bedon to Haltemprice on the condition that Thomas Wake and his wife shall have the property for life. In Vertue’s engraving of the seal, it appears to depict three attached heads in profile facing left, right (positioned upside-down), and down, respectively. The head facing left has the added detail of a hat or helmet, which Birch described as “an elephant’s head with tusks and proboscis” (Birch 1887, 1.3248). Birch’s identification is not outside the realm of iconographic possibilities. There are a few examples of Roman Imperial gems featuring a figure wearing an elephant skin or mask on the head to signify Africa or Libya, such as this sard in the British Museum (1923,0401.220). Based on Vertue’s engraving and the surviving TNA impression, it is difficult to fully identify the feature atop the left-facing figure’s head. Ellis described the seal as depicting “a gryllus of three human heads in profile conjoined, with a tasseled cap” (Ellis 1986, M362). Here, the term “gryllus” was used to describe a comic figure, likely a performer. This seal matrix was likely made from an antique intaglio gem depicting an actor wearing a mask on top of his head and another mask behind. Images of actors, theater masks, and masked actors were very common on Graeco-Roman gems—indeed, a quick survey revealed more than 65 antique gems with theater motifs in the British Museum (Smith 1888, 185-190). The gem used in the Haltemprice matrix is strikingly similar to this Roman glass paste intaglio in the British Museum . The small counterseal of Roger, Archbishop of York, on Plate 1.59 featured an ancient gem with a similar three-headed figure (identified as a chimera in Vertue’s label due to the inclusion of a serpent’s tail) that the medieval legend reimagined as an image of the Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, the Haltemprice seal’s ambiguous, partial legend does not help clarify the ancient imagery or its medieval (re)interpretation.
7. Seal of John de Chelmesford: This small personal seal features an antique intaglio portrait bust. The left-facing figure is draped and beardless with thick curly hair. There are two extant impressions of this seal attached to charters in TNA that were originally in the Dutchy of Lancaster (DL 25/119/95, c. 1234-1266 and DL 25/2323/2015, c. 1234-1300). Vertue recorded the legend of this seal as S. IOHIS. DE HELMERE, but the legends of the surviving impressions in TNA have been transcribed as *S’·IOH’IS·D’·CHELMERF’ (“Seal of John of Chelmesford”). Chelmesford (or Chelmsford) is located in Essex, approximately 30 miles from central London. In the Calendar of Patent Rolls for 27 December 1266, King Henry III granted a simple protection to one John de Chelmesford, likely the same individual who sealed with this seal (Lyte 1913, 21).
8. Seal of Robert of Pickering: An impression of this personal seal with a partial legend is retained in TNA (1310; DL 27/332). The legend reads: …ROBERTI.DE.PICKERING/CANONICI.EBORA…, identifying the owner as Robert of Pickering and his status as a canon of York (Ellis 1981, P1877). Robert of Pickering, a civil lawyer and canon of Beverley Minster (Yorkshire), was elevated to Dean of York in 1312 and held this office until his death in 1333. The impression was made from a pointed oval matrix measuring approximately 45 x 28 mm. It has six different figural motifs—impressive for a relatively small personal seal—and combines antique and medieval elements. The seal’s central image likely was an antique intaglio gem. Contained in a oval, it features a head in profile facing right. The head is covered with an elaborate headdress that fully covers the head and terminates at the top with another head in profile facing up. This head is bearded. Ellis described the headdress as of the “Phrygian style” (see my discussion of the Seal of John Basset on Plate 1.53), and he suggests the second head may be that of a satyr (Ellis 1981, P1877). Like the figure discussed in relation to Henry of Lancaster’s seal (above seal 6), the figure certainly is an actor wearing a theater mask on top of his head. As noted above, images of actors, theater masks, and masked actors were very common on antique intaglio gem (see Smith 1888, 185-190). For comparison to the gem used in Robert of Pickering’s seal, consider these two Roman glass paste intaglios from the 1st century BC¬–3rd century AD with actors with masks on top of their heads: ( Ex. 1 and Ex. 2 ). Above the gem and between a key and a sword is a canopy framing two standing half-length figures. The scene is very small and the figures difficult to interpret; they possibly have their hands raised in blessing. Ellis suggested that the figures were the Virgin and Child. To either side of the antique gem is a standing draped figure. Based on the inclusion of the key and the sword in the field above, these figures could represent St. Peter (below the key) and St. Paul (below the sword). In fact, it is tempting to suggest that the actor and his bearded mask in the antique gem likewise could have been interpreted as St. Peter and St. Paul by the medieval viewer. Below, set within a pointed gothic arch, is a kneeling figure facing right with hands clasped in prayer (Vertue incorrectly recorded the figure with both hands raised in devotion), certainly representing Robert of Pickering himself. He is oriented towards the standing figure (St. Paul?) on the right. The two standing figures likely reflect important saints to Robert of Pickering. It is worth noting that St. Peter is the patron saint of York Minster, and the parish church in the town of Pickering is dedicated to both Peter and Paul.
9. Seal of the Abbey of St. Mary's, Sherborne: At the bottom of plate 1.58, Vertue engraved two seals featuring architectural designs. On the left, he recorded an impression of the common seal of Sherborne Abbey in Dorset, a Benedictine house of monks dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This was an early pre-Conquest foundation, usually attributed to Bishop Aldhelm around the time of the establishment of the episcopal See at Sherborne in the year 705. As a Saxon cathedral, it would benefit from substantial royal patronage and burials until the removal of the episcopal See from Sherborne to Old Sarum in 1075. Sherborne operated as a Benedictine abbey from 998, when monks of the Order of St. Benedict replaced the secular canons of the cathedral, until its surrender to King Henry VIII in March of 1539 (on the foundation and history of Sherborne Abbey, see Page 1908, 62-70). Vertue’s recording of the legend is accurate when compared to surviving impressions, such as the fine impression in TNA attached to E322/212 and dated 1539 (Ellis 1986, M772). Vertue even captured the use of the angular letter ‘S’ with the appearance of a backward ‘Z.’ The legend states: “Seal of the Abbey of St. Mary Sherborne.” This common seal—the metal matrix—seems to have been in use from the eleventh century (this is, roughly from the time of the arrival of the Benedictine monks) until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 (Birch 1887, 4009). It depicts a simply rendered church with a porch, apse, rounded clerestory windows, and two towers. The building on the seal could visually evoke the Saxon church, most of which was demolished and replaced in the twelfth century with a Norman church. A new matrix was not engraved to reflect the rebuilding of the church—the image of the “ancient” church perhaps underscored St. Mary’s long history.
10. Seal of the Corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne: On the bottom right of plate 1.58, Vertue engraved the corporate seal of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This seal was the under the authority of the corporate officers or burgesses of the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and reflected the corporate authority of the town when attached to documents. The earliest known town seals in England date to the 1190s and became increasingly common in the early thirteenth century (New 2015, 297-298). There is evidence for the use of two different matrices by the corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne: the version of the seal recorded in Vetusta Monumenta, and another first recorded on a charter dated 1265 from the reign of Henry III (Bourne 1736, 187) with an extant impression attached to a charter dated 1321 (BL, Additional Ch. 20535; Birch 1892, 5193). Of note, the 1321 impression of the seal was countersealed by Nicholas Lescot, Mayor. Newcastle was made a mayor town by King Henry III in the year 1252, a notable change to Newcastle’s bureaucracy that could have prompted the creation of a new corporate matrix. The matrix used to create the impression Vertue engraved for Vetusta Monumenta has been accepted as the earlier version (see Mackenzie 1827, “The Corporation,” 601-611). Both versions of the matrix featured depictions of a castle. Called Ad Murum during the Roman period and later Monkchester, Newcastle received its new name after Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (1087–1134), constructed a large fortress at the site in 1080, which was called the “New Castle upon Tyne” (Mackenzie 1827, “Historical Events,” 1-22). Along with walls and gates, castles were a common motif on common seals of English cities and towns, promoting both power and defensive strength (see Cherry 1990 and 2015; New 2008). In Vertue’s rendering, the castle is situated on a river behind a short crenelated wall. It has a large central portico with two flanking masonry projecting structures. The roof system of the castle is gabled and has a crenelated widow’s walk on which stands a banner (with no blazon) and two figures. The figures were very lightly defined and are difficult to interpret or identify. The presence of the figures was not recorded by Birch in his catalog entry for the later impressions; he only made brief mention of two “early form” shields. The castle represented on the seal impression in Vetusta Monumenta looks rather generic, and so such details could have been included to relay location-specific information. The legend simply states that this was the “common seal of the burgesses of Newcastle.”
Individual Seals on Plate 1.59
1. Great Seal of Cardinal Wolsey, Cardinal College, Oxford: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (d. 1530) was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, ordained a priest in 1498, and served as chaplain to King Henry VII (r. 1485–1509). He quickly ascended the ranks of royal favor and government under King Henry VIII, first serving as royal almoner. On King Henry’s recommendations to Pope Leo X (r. 1513–1521), Wolsey was made bishop of Lincoln, archbishop of York, and cardinal by 1515. In December of 1515, he was appointed Lord Chancellor of England (also called Lord Keeper of the Great Seal), and in 1518, he was declared a special papal representative (a legate a latere). Wolsey’s power, wealth, and influence was second only to the king’s. He was unable to successfully persuade Pope Clement VII (r. 1523–1534) to grant Henry’s annulment to Catherine of Aragon, turning the king against him. By April 1530, he had been stripped of all his offices except York and, by November of that year, he was charged with treason. Wolsey died en route from York to London to face trial on 29 November 1530.
Thomas Wolsey issued the foundation charter for Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford on 15 July 1525. Wolsey had received a series of papal Bulls giving him the power to suppress monasteries and to redistribute their wealth to the service of his new foundation. His original foundation charter named eighteen canons (see Salter and Lobel 1954, 228-238). Wolsey remained very hands on regarding the building, governing, and general life of the college until his death. Indeed, he made pleas to the king through intermediaries like Thomas Cromwell for the preservation of the college. As recorded by Cromwell, “The Cardinal takes the suppressing and dismembering of his colleges very heavily and that “He writes to the King humbly and on my knees with weeping eyes to recommend unto your excellent charity and goodness the poor college of Oxford” (Brewer 1875, 2716, quoted in Salter and Lobel 1954, 228-238). After Wolsey’s death, the college ultimately was refounded as King Henry VIII’s College in July 1532. Thirteen years later the college was surrendered to the king and on 4 November 1546 the cathedral, formerly at Oseney, and the college were united as “Ecclesia Christi Cathedralis Oxon” (Salter and Lobel 1954, 228-238).
The “great seal” Vertue recorded on Plate 1.59 was the seal used by Wolsey’s foundation and thus the matrix must have been engraved and used only between 1525 and 1531/32. Indeed, at some point a new matrix was engraved bearing the arms of King Henry VIII and the legend “Common Seal of the Dean and Canons of the College of King Henry VIII in Oxford” (Birch 1892, 5281). Based on a sulphur cast in the British Library and Vertue’s engraving, the first matrix was large, with a diameter of 4 inches (Birch 1892, 5280). The legend reads: “Common Seal of the College of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal of York, lately Papal legate,” making sure to include all of Wolsey’s offices. Its pictorial content is both complex (it has more than eight figures and seven symbolic or heraldic animals) and comprehensive in its display of Wolsey’s identity, power, and influence. As the SAL committee noted, this is a very fine seal in all aspects of design and execution (Inl.194). The figures and motifs are set within an architectural framework of rounded niches separated by columns with Corinthian capitals, reflecting the classicizing features of Renaissance architecture. The central and largest image in the seal depicts the Holy Trinity. God the Father is crowned and enthroned. He displays the crucified Christ, offering a gesture of blessing with his right hand, and the holy dove hovers between God and Christ with wings outstretched. God is wearing a large cloak. The folds of the cloak envelope additional figures, a few of which wear identifying attributes. On the left, there is a figure wearing an crown and holding a key. This likely depicts a pope wearing a papal crown and holding the key of St. Peter. On the right, there is a crowned king holding the orb of the world, King Henry VIII, and behind the king, a figure wearing a cardinal’s hat (the galero), an depiction of Wolsey himself. Overall, this image offers a vision of the power structure between God, Church, and king. The central images is flanked by two standing figures in niches. The Virgin stands crowned and holding the Christ Child on the left, and a crowned saint accompanied by an ox (St. Luke or St. Frideswide?), stands holding a book and pastoral staff on the right. Above each niche, there is a dolphin. In the field below the architectural framework is an ornamental shield bearing the arms of Cardinal Wolsey (not quite accurately rendered in Vertue’s engraving): Sable, on a cross engrailed argent a lion passant gules between four leopard's faces azure; on a chief or a rose gules barbed vert seeded or between two Cornish choughs proper, beaked and membered gules. The shield is supported by two griffins holding the mace of the lord chancellor. Above the shield, a cardinal’s hat is support by a cross. This remains the coat of arms of Christ Church College, Oxford today (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Church,_Oxford#/media/File:Christ_Church_Oxford_Coat_Of_Arms.svg). The “great seal” Vertue recorded on Plate 1.59 was the seal used by Wolsey’s foundation and thus the matrix must have been engraved and used only between 1525 and 1531/32. Indeed, at some point a new matrix was engraved bearing the arms of King Henry VIII and the legend “Common Seal of the Dean and Canons of the College of King Henry VIII in Oxford” (Birch 1892, 5281). Based on a sulphur cast in the British Library and Vertue’s engraving, the first matrix was large, with a diameter of 4 inches (Birch 1892, 5280). The legend reads: “Common Seal of the College of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal of York, lately Papal legate,” making sure to include all of Wolsey’s offices. Its pictorial content is both complex (it has more than eight figures and seven symbolic or heraldic animals) and comprehensive in its display of Wolsey’s identity, power, and influence. As the SAL committee noted, this is a very fine seal in all aspects of design and execution (Inl.194). The figures and motifs are set within an architectural framework of rounded niches separated by columns with Corinthian capitals, reflecting the classicizing features of Renaissance architecture. The central and largest image in the seal depicts the Holy Trinity. God the Father is crowned and enthroned. He displays the crucified Christ, offering a gesture of blessing with his right hand, and the holy dove hovers between God and Christ with wings outstretched. God is wearing a large cloak. The folds of the cloak envelope additional figures, a few of which wear identifying attributes. On the left, there is a figure wearing an crown and holding a key. This likely depicts a pope wearing a papal crown and holding the key of St. Peter. On the right, there is a crowned king holding the orb of the world, King Henry VIII, and behind the king, a figure wearing a cardinal’s hat (the galero), an depiction of Wolsey himself. Overall, this image offers a vision of the power structure between God, Church, and king. The central images is flanked by two standing figures in niches. The Virgin stands crowned and holding the Christ Child on the left, and a crowned saint accompanied by an ox (St. Luke or St. Frideswide?), stands holding a book and pastoral staff on the right. Above each niche, there is a dolphin. In the field below the architectural framework is an ornamental shield bearing the arms of Cardinal Wolsey (not quite accurately rendered in Vertue’s engraving): Sable, on a cross engrailed argent a lion passant gules between four leopard's faces azure; on a chief or a rose gules barbed vert seeded or between two Cornish choughs proper, beaked and membered gules. The shield is supported by two griffins holding the mace of the lord chancellor. Above the shield, a cardinal’s hat is support by a cross. This remains the coat of arms of Christ Church College, Oxford today.
2. The Silver Matrix of Thomas Wosley, Archdeacon of Northhampton: This engraving of the silver matrix of Thomas Wolsey is significant for many reasons. It is the only matrix illustrated across plates 1.53, 1.54, 1.58, 1.59, and 1.60. The matrix was used by Thomas Wolsey, the archdeacon of Northampton from January 1680 until his death in 1707. Still today, the Archdeacon of Northampton is a senior officer within the diocese of Peterborough. It was possibly included on Plate 1.59 because this Thomas Wolsey was misidentified with Cardinal Wolsey. This very case of mistaken identity regarding the seal is suggested in an issue of Notes and Queries from July 1876. In a short notice, a John Hirst wrote, “I have before me an impression of Cardinal Wolsey’s seal when Archdeacon of Northampton. It is not heraldic” (Hirst 1876, 5.16). The present location of the silver matrix is unknown. There are two impressions from the matrix in the British Library (Birch 1887, 1830 and 1831). There is also a plaster impression of this seal that was taken from an original seal impression made during Thomas Wolsey’s tenure between 1680–1707 in the British Museum (2000,0103.41). The lead impression referred to by Birch in his Catalogue of Seals was part of the collections of Sir Hans Sloane in the early 18th century (see Cherry 2017, 13, fn. 12). As Vertue’s engraving was directly after the silver matrix, the presentation of both the seal’s pictorial content and legend should be accurate. The pointed-oval matrix measures 70 x 48 mm, and it depicts a full-length Thomas Wolsey standing on a platform beneath a canopy supported by two ornate columns. The seal suggests depth in a sophisticated manner, as both the canopy and ground project back into space. The use of perspective and the architectural canopy visually underscore the late date of this seal. In Vertue’s engraving, the figure of Wolsey wears an ankle-length gown with square collar and a zucchetto or skullcap, attire appropriate to the rank of archdeacon, and he cradles a small lamb in his arms—the Lamb of God. This underscores the role of an archdeacon to tend to his local flock. All of this iconography certainly is consistent with the plaster cast in the British Museum (notably, a catalogue entry for a sulphur cast of this seal in the National Museum of Wales describes the figure as holding an open book, see Williams 1998, E 335). In the field on both sides of the figure, there are sprigs of foliage. The seal legend records simply: “Seal of Thomas Wolsey, Archdeacon of Northampton.”
3. Seal of John, Abbot of Battle Abbey: The history of the foundation of Battle Abbey is rather mythic. Standing at the top of Telham Hill and looking out over King Harold Godwinson’s (r. January 1066–October) forces, William, Duke of Normandy, vowed that if God gave him the victory he would found a monastery at the site of the battle. After obtaining the crown of England, William I was incited by a monk (also named William) originally from Marmoutier Abbey in Alsace to fulfill his vow and build the monastery. The king agreed and entrusted William the monk with the execution of his design. After a few disagreements between the king and the monk over the precise building site, the foundation had sufficiently advanced by 1076 for the consecration of the first abbot (Abbot Gausbert) of St. Martin’s of the place of Battle (for the history of Battle Abbey, see Page 1973, 52-56). As William I’s votive abbey, Battle enjoyed unprecedented privileges and patronage. When William I died in 1087 he bequeathed to Battle Abbey his royal embroidered cloak, a splendid collection of relics, and a portable altar containing relics, probably the identical one on which Harold had sworn his famous oath (Lower 1851, 41). The abbey church of Battle (depicted on the common seal of Battle Abbey discussed below) was consecrated in 1095.
According to Vertue’s inscription, the engraving on Plate 1.59 represents the abbot’s seal of John Crane, who was elected the abbot of Battle Abbey in March 1383 and served in this office until his death in 1398. Vertue had some confusion about the relationship between this seal impression and the impression on the other side of the wax bearing an image of Battle Abbey itself (below seal 4). The abbot’s seal most likely was used here as the counterseal to the abbey’s common seal, and not the other way around as Vertue stated in the inscriptions above each engraving. Notably, an impression of the abbatical seal of John Crane used as a counterseal to the common seal of Battle Abbey is retained in TNA. It is attached to a document from Abbot John to the Clerk of the diocese of York dated 1392 (E 210/2526; Ellis 1986, M048). This impression, however, is a rather small fragment and thus a close and complete comparison between Vertue’s engraving and this impression is impossible. In the catalogue entry, Ellis suggests that the matrix used by John Crane was earlier in date than his tenure as abbot in the late fourteenth century, although he does not provide a reason (one can assume he was dating the seal based on style). Ellis simply states that this “fragment of a fine impression” was made from a “fine matrix of apparently earlier date,” and he hypothesizes that John Crane used the matrix of one of his predecessors also named John—John de Thanet, John de Whatlington, John de Northburne, or John de Pevense—who were abbots successively between 1297 and 1324 (see Ellis 1986, M048). To complicate matters further, the matrix used by Abbot John Hamond (elected 1529), the last abbot of Battle Abbey, looks strikingly similar to the fragment of John Crane’s seal in TNA and the impression recorded by Vertue. There is a very fine impression of John Hamond’s seal attached to Battle Abbey’s deed of surrender signed by the abbot and sixteen monks and dated 27 May 1538 in TNA; here, it was used as the counterseal to the common seal of the abbey (E 322/16; Ellis 1986, M050). The content of the legends, all in gothic textura or bookletter, are a match: SIGIL IOHIS DEI GRA / ABBATIS : DE : BELLO. It is tempting to suggest that John Hamond used the same matrix as John Crane, but alas John Hamond’s matrix seems to have been quite a bit larger in size (based on Ellis’s estimates for the fragment of John Crane’s seal) and its legend less compressed. As recorded by Vertue (and corroborated in John Hammond’s seal), the abbatical seal of John Crane features five human figures, one animal, and two coats of arms all set within a gothic architectural framework of crocketed spires or gable niches. In the center, beneath a canopy of crocketed gables, is a standing figure of the abbot, wearing a mitre and vestments for Mass and holding a crosier in his right hand and a book in the left. In the niche above, a figure appears on horseback handing down a garment to a standing figure. This narrative vignette is from the life of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of Battle Abbey. According to medieval accounts, Martin converted to Christianity after an encounter with a half-naked beggar at the gate of the city of Amiens. Martin cut his cloak in half in order to share it with the beggar, who that night appeared to him in a dream-vision and revealed himself to be Christ. In the late fourth century, St. Martin had founded and became abbot of Marmoutier Abbey, located outside the city of Tours. As noted above, it was a monk from Marmoutier—St. Martin’s own foundation—who reminded William I of his promise to found Battle Abbey. On the right side of the abbot, in a smaller niche, there is a standing female saint (possibly crowned) and holding a palm branch (St. Catherine or St. Agnes?). In the impression of John Hamond’s seal, this female saint is holding the palm is her right and appears to be holding another object (unidentified) in her left hand. In the corresponding niche on the abbot’s left side is a standing bishop, holding a crosier. This is perhaps another depiction of St. Martin, this time as the bishop of Tours. Below each pendant figure, there is a shield of arms. On the left, the arms of France and England: quarterly, France modern and England (the Royal Arms of England, c. 1400–1603). On the right, the arms of Battle Abbey (almost correctly rendered by Vertue): on a cross between four crowns impaled on swords, a miter.
4. Common Seal of Battle Abbey: In the inscription, Vertue incorrectly identified this as the “counter seal” of Battle Abbey. This is the common seal of Battle Abbey—that is, the seal used by the corporate body of the monastery. The legend states: “Conventual Seal of St. Martin’s of Battle.” The impression recorded on Plate 1.59 is consistent with the Second Seal of Battle Abbey dated 1212 as described in Birch’s Catalogue of Seals (Birch 1887, 2611), and it likewise is a near perfect match to an impression attached to Battle Abbey’s surrender document to King Henry VIII dated 1538 in TNA (E 322/16; Ellis 1986, M047). Based on these samples of Battle Abbey’s common seal, the same matrix was used from at least the thirteenth century through the suppression of the abbey in the sixteenth century. As noted above, an impression of this common seal with the abbatical seal of John Crane (described above) used as a counterseal is retained in TNA attached to a document from Abbot John to the Clerk of the diocese of York dated 1392 (E 210/2526; Ellis 1986, M048). The common seal of Battle Abbey has an architectural image. It represents the abbey church with a tall central tower and four smaller flanking towers, all with conical roofs. Some descriptions of this seal note flags on the two tallest towers, but these were not included in Vertue’s engraving and are not visible on most surviving impressions of the seal (e.g., Ellis 1986, M047). The central tower contains a large portal with closed doors (the west front?), and the body of the church (i.e., the nave and choir) has an arcade and clerestory of rounded arches divided by a row of trefoils. Overall the architecture of the seal is stylized, but can generally be described as in the Normal style and thus visually consistent with the style of the abbey church itself (now a ruin). Indeed, the style of the seal suggests a late twelfth century or early thirteenth century date of production, and it presents a strong visual or stylistic contrast to the fourteenth-century seal of Abbot John on the reverse with its fussy gothic niches and blackletter or textura legend (blackletter only starts appearing on seals engraved in the fourteenth century; on the epigraphy of medieval English seals, see Kingsford 1929, 149-178).
5. Seal of Roger, Archbishop of York: This engraving is of a twelfth-century archbishop’s seal of dignity, the largest and earliest type of seal used by both bishops and archbishops in England. It records an impression of the seal Roger de Pont L'Évêque, the archbishop of York between 1154 and 1181. Roger previously had served as a clerk to Theobald of Bec (d. 1161), Archbishop of Canterbury, and he preceded Thomas Becket (d. 1170) as the Archdeacon of Canterbury. In 1170, Roger found himself embroiled in the dispute between King Henry II and Becket, then the archbishop of Canterbury, when King Henry had Roger preside over his son’s coronation, a function traditionally performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Based on Vertue’s engraving, Roger’s seal of dignity perfectly contained a standing effigy of the vested and mitred archbishop, blessing with his right hand and holding a crosier in his left hand. This was the standard format and iconography of seals of dignity in England and remained relatively static through time—seals of dignity followed a pattern (Harvey & McGuinness 1996, 64-65). The seal has a very simple legend: SIGILLVM ROGERI DEI GRATIA EBORACENSIS ARCHIEPISCOPI—identifying Roger by name and then office. Roger’s matrix, of course, was not intended to last beyond his lifetime. It was common practice in England to destroy, to break, the seals of bishops and archbishops upon death, which seems to have been the practice at York (Dalton 1992, 15). This impression of Roger’s seal of dignity features a second impression—a personal seal used as a counterseal—on the reverse (see below seal 7).
6. Seal of Stephen Sukirkeby: This engraving records a small personal seal made from an intaglio gem. In the label, Vertue identified the seal as being attached to a document from Stephen Sukirkeby to Adam de Lacy dated 1250. There is scant evidence about this individual and his seal. There was a Stephen, clerk of Sukirkeby, who witnessed a grant of land in South Kirkeby from the reign of Henry III now in the Nottinghamshire Archives (DD/FJ/1/248/2; Duchy of Lancaster 1964, 2.207). In medieval England, the term “kirkeby” (or “kirkby”) designated any village with a parish church, and variations of “kirkeby” were common place and personal names. Sukirkeby seems to be an abbreviation of Suthkirkeby or South Kirkby, a town in West Yorkshire mentioned in Domesday Book. Notably, Stephen de Sukirkeby appears on an indenture agreement for an exchange of lands with Edmund de Lacy dated 1250. This indenture is preserved in the Duchy of Lancaster collection (Duchy of Lancaster 1964, 1.274). This was very possibly the sealed document examined by Vertue and thus the identification of the recipient as Adam de Lacy was incorrect; Adam de Lacy (d. 1297) was born only sometime between 1247 and 1249. The seal, as Vertue rendered it, featured two standing nude figures, a frontal female figure (certainly Venus) and a male figure in profile. The inscription +AVE MARIA GRACIA reimagined this pagan iconography as the Annunciation, with the male figure understood as the Angel Gabriel and the female figure, the Virgin Mary.
7. Counterseal of Roger, Archbishop of York: This engraving records a small impression on the back of Roger’s seal of dignity discussed above (seal 5). This seal therefore was used as the counterseal to Roger’s larger official seal. At York, a secretum or “secret seal” of the archbishop was often used for the purpose of countersealing until the late fourteenth century when the secretum went out of fashion (see Dalton 1992, 6). Much like contrasigillum (“counterseal”), the term secretum is both problematic and ambiguous, as it was not used consistently in medieval records and was not always included in a seal’s legend to designate the seal as such (Harvey & McGuinness 1996, 36). The legend of Roger’s seal is a declaration: Caput nostrum Trinitas est (“Our head is the Trinity”). It refers directly to the seal’s image, not to the type of seal or to the seal owner. Like the kings of England, ecclesiastics seemed to have owned any number of small personal subsidiary seals (e.g., sigillum privatum, sigillum pavum, sigillum secretum, signetum), which could be employed as counterseals. Dalton notes that at York Minster, especially in the twelfth century and into the thirteenth, antique intaglio gems (potentially worn on the archbishop’s body) commonly served the purpose of countersealing (Dalton 1992, 6). The Graeco-Roman gem set in Roger’s subsidiary seal depicts a grotesque head with three faces and a serpent’s body or tail—a chimera. The three heads (two bearded, one not) perhaps represent Jupiter, Apollo, and Saturn. The medieval legend, of course, offered a Christian (re)interpretation of this pagan image as the Holy Trinity. Nicholas Vincent recently suggested that this classical emblem “might also have served as a visual reminder of Roger’s entanglement in the serpentine coils of Henry II’s court” (Vincent 2015, 16).
Individual Seals on Plate 1.60
1. and 2. Seal and Counterseal of the Priory of St. Mary of West Acre: At the top of Plate 1.60, Vertue engraved a partial impression of the priory seal St. Mary of West Acre, a pointed oval seal that measured 90 x 60 cm when complete, and a smaller counterseal, measuring 45 x 28 cm. There are several surviving examples of this seal and counterseal combination preserved in TNA from the sixteenth century (E 25/117/1 and E 25/117/2, both dated 1534; catalogued in Ellis 1986, M907 and M908). Like Vertue’s engraving, the two versions of the priory seal in TNA are missing much of their edges and legends, while the impressions of the counterseal in TNA are very fine and complete. In fact, you can clearly see the mark of the loop that was used to suspend the matrix (i.e., as a pendant) impressed into the wax. This priory seal and counterseal seem to have been in use since the thirteenth century, and Birch catalogs the priory seal as the “second seal” of West Acre (Birch 1887, 1.4296). The priory was founded by Ralph de Toni (Tosny, d. 1102), a Norman baron granted twenty-two acres of land in Norfolk by William the Conqueror. The priory, a House of Austin Canons, was dedicated to St. Mary and All Saints (Page 1906, 402-404). The priory steadily acquired lands and income throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but by the time of its surrender in January 1538, St. Mary of West Acre was plagued by debt and scandal, at least according to Cromwell and his Commissioner, Richard Layton. A few days after overseeing its surrender, Layton wrote, “As for Westacre, what falsehood in the prior and convent, what bribery, spoil, and ruin contrived by the inhabitants it were long to write; but their wrenches, wiles, and guiles shall nothing them prevail” (quoted in Page 1906, 402-404). The seal of St. Mary of West Acre is stunning in its structure and complexity. Vertue’s rather sketchy rendering of the priory seal does not do the medieval impressions justice, although it does record the iconography correctly. The figures are organized within a gothic architectural framework and are further contained in individual niches. In the upper niche beneath a church-like canopy is the Holy Trinity in a mandorla. God, enthroned and with a halo, supports the crucified Christ, while the dove appears at God’s right shoulder. In the extant seal impressions, God is shown frontally, whereas Vertue has his head slightly tilted to the right. Not fully rendered in Vertue’s engraving, the four Evangelist symbols (or the four beasts) surround the image of the Trinity; Vertue depicted just two winged beasts at the base of the mandorla. Below the Trinity and beneath a trefoiled niche, the Virgin and Child are represented on a large throne. The Virgin is seated, wearing heavy drapery and a crown. In the extant impressions but not rendered in Vertue’s engraving, the Virgin rests her feet on a wyvern (a winged two-footed dragon). Christ stands on the throne to the Virgin’s left, holding a fleur-de-lys. With her right hand, the Virgin Mary appears to be offering the Christ Child her breast (an image of Virgo Lactans), although Ellis identified a “globe” in the Virgin’s right hand and Birch missed or could not read this detail at all (Ellis 1986, M907; Birch 1887, 1.4296). It certainly is an ambiguous element of the seal’s iconography. As discussed in my commentary on the ad causus seal of Abingdon Abbey on Plate 1.53, the Virgo Lactans did appear occasionally on monastic seals, as it was understood as a facet of the Virgin of Humility, which had direct correspondence to the monastic way of life. To each side of the two central images are slender niches containing standing figures. On the left, there is a draped figure facing left with his hand raised in prayer towards the Trinity. Birch identified this figure as “Oliver, the Parish Priest of Westacre” (Birch 1887, 1.4296)—that is, the first prior of St. Mary of West Acre. On the right, a figure wearing a shorter garment and cloak, identified by Ellis as a knight, faces right with his gaze likewise focused on the Trinity. Ralph de Tosi (Tosny) was a knight (who participated in the Battle of Hastings), and so it is reasonable to interpret this figure as a representation of St. Mary of West Acre’s Norman founder. In Vertue’s engraving, the entire legend is missing. Birch provided a full recording of the legend as S’ CAPITVLI . ECCL’ BE . MARIE . ET . OMNIVM . SCOR . DE . WESTACRA (“Seal of the Chapter of the Church of the Blessed Mary and All Saints of West Acre”). The counterseal comprises an unusual square-cut antique intaglio gem set within a pointed oval medieval matrix. The gem features an imperial bust facing right, wearing a fillet and crown. In Vertue’s rendering, the man has long curly hair and a beard, physical details not visible in the extant impressions in TNA. In the field above the figure is a star and below a crescent moon. The seal’s legend reads: +MVNDVS ABIT : MVNDVM CONTERE : MVNDVS ERIS (“The world goes away. Trample on the world. You will be the world.”). This legend sounds like a motto, perhaps with biblical resonance. The first epistle of John, for example, implores man not to love the world, nor the things in the world (1 John 2:15). He goes on to state that “the world passeth away… but he that doth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17; Douay-Rheims translation of Latin Vulgate). The world, as defined by John, was a symbol of flesh and pride (1 John 2:16: quoniam omne quod est in mundo concupiscentia carnis et concupiscentia oculorum est et superbia vitae quae non est ex Patre sed ex mundo est). Thus, the seal’s legend seems to be both a reminder and an appeal to “trample” or resist earthly concerns and desires as they are fleeting and counterproductive to one’s salvation. This is certainly an interesting legend for a seal—an object used frequently to authenticate the receipt or exchange of earthly wealth and possessions. This seal possibly belonged to St. Mary of West Acre’s last prior, William Wingfield (d. 1555).
3. Seal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: This is an impression of a seal owned by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, which records his coat of arms after 1372 in a circular format. Although Vertue’s label at the top of Plate 1.60 states that the seals recorded on the plate were from Deeds of Surrender to Henry VIII, this seal is certainly an exception. John of Gaunt (1340¬ 1399) was a son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainaut and the founder of the House of Lancaster. He inherited the Palatinate of Lancaster through his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster (d. 1368), and he would become one of the wealthiest land-owning men of the day; his lands and net worth were comparable to the monarch. In 1371, John of Gaunt married Constance of Castille, the daughter of Peter, King of Castille and León, who had died a few years before the union in 1369. Through his wife’s claim to the throne of Spain (jure uxoris), John of Gaunt claimed the title King of Castile and León (see Armitage-Smith 1904, 92-93), but his claim would never be realized. John of Gaunt launched a military campaign in Spain to capture the throne from King John of Trastámara between 1386 and 1387, but a number of factors, ranging from illness to lack of Castilian support, led to the campaign’s failure (for full biography and more on John of Gaunt’s royal ambitions, see Goodman 1992). The version of the arms of John of Gaunt on this seal clearly reflect his claim to the throne of Castile and León. As the son of Edward III, John’s arms included the royal arms of England (Quarterly, France Ancient and England), differenced by a label of three points ermine to indicate that John was a junior descendent of the king and not the holder of the coat of arms. These arms appear on the right side of the seal as viewed. He then impaled the royal arms of England with those of Castile and León on the left (Gules, a castle or, quartering Argent, a lion rampant purpure). Notably, when he abandoned his claim to the throne of Castile and León in 1388, he reversed the marshalling on his arms, placing the differenced royal arms of England on the left (the prominent position of rank) and moving the arms of Castile and León to the right (Armitage-Smith 1904, 456-457). On the seal, the arms were presented in a circular format framed by a border of rosettes. The blackletter legend reinforced John of Gaunt’s political and heraldic ambitions: S. PRIVATII : IOHIS : DEI: GRA : REGIS : CASTELLE : ET LEOIONIS : DUCIS : LANCASTRIE (“Privy Seal of John, King of Castille and León, by the grace of God, Duke of Lancaster”). Indeed, the legend designated this as a privy seal, making it an ambitious object unto itself. In fourteenth-century England, a privy seal was a secondary seal to the royal seal used to authenticate documents produced in the king’s household (opposed to the royal chancery), which was often on the move (Harvey & McGuinness 1996, 34-35).
4. and 5. Obverse and Reverse of the Seal of Robertsbridge Abbey: Robertsbridge Abbey was a Cistercian house in East Sussex dedicated to the Virgin Mary (like all Cistercian monasteries). The abbey was founded around 1176 by Alvred de St. Martin, who served as steward to King Richard I. He was married to Alice, the widow of the Count of Eu, whose inherited lands were donated for the site of the abbey. The abbey attracted lay patronage throughout the medieval period, but it was quite small, with only eight monks, and financially insignificant at the time of its surrender on April 16, 1538 (Page 1973, 74). According to the label above the engraving, the seal recorded in Vetusta Monumenta was attached to the Deed of Surrender by Thomas Taylor, Abbot of Robertsbridge. A very fine impression of this seal is attached to the Deed of Surrender in TNA dated 1539 (E 322/203; Ellis 1986, M731). The seal of Robertsbridge is double sided, and the extant impression includes one complete lug and vestiges of the other three (for keeping the matrix aligned in the press). The lugs were also rendered in Vertue’s engraving. Both sides of the seal feature architecture. The obverse depicts the Coronation of the Virgin beneath an elaborate gothic canopied niche with slender piers, lancet windows, and crocketed spires. In Vertue’s engraving, the Virgin is seated in profile, facing Christ (or God) to her left, with her hands raised in prayer. She already wears her crown. Christ, also seated and crowned, is frontal with his right hand hovering near the Virgin’s head. Christ could be gesturing to a small figure emerging from the archway and placing the crown on the Virgin’s head or to the Holy Dove, both of which often appear in gothic versions of this scene from cathedral tympana to carved devotional ivories. Vertue’s engraving unfortunately is unclear in this regard. The Coronation of the Virgin is not in the Bible—it is an invented moment in the life of the Virgin directly following her death and Assumption into Heaven. George Zarnecki and T.A. Heslop have traced the origins of this “radical” iconography to early twelfth-century English monasteries at Reading and Worchester, respectively (Zarnecki 1950, 1-12; Heslop 2005, 790-797). The Coronation of the Virgin also can be seen on the reverse of the abbey seal of Shaftesbury engraved on this plate (seal 8 below). Beneath the Coronation scene, framed by three arches decorated with rosettes, the abbot is represented as a supplicant facing right and holding a crozier. The kneeling body of the abbot is actually in the seal’s legend, placing him in a different time and place from the sacred scene above. He is situated between the disembodied heads of two men, identified by Ellis as monks (Ellis 1986, M731). The seal’s legend supports this interpretation, as it states that the seal is under the authority of the abbot and convent; it was the common seal of the abbey. The reverse bears the image of a church standing on a masonry bridge of three simple pointed arches and two crenellated towers at each end. Water is represented below the arches of the bridge. The church has a tall crenellated central spire and two large gables topped with crosses. Notably, the church appears to be Romanesque in style opposed to the ornate gothic style of the niche framing the Coronation of the Virgin on the obverse. Birch dated this common seal to the thirteenth century when the gothic style was dominant in England (Birch 1887, 3912). Indeed, the gothic niche is indicative of the English Decorated style of the late thirteenth century (see above Plate 1.58, seal 3; Coldstream 1994, esp. 7-15). This could indicate that the representation of the church on the reverse of the seal reflects the real architecture (or architectural style) of Robertsbridge Abbey, which was begun ca. 1200 and completed by the middle of the century. The letters P and R were included in the field above the church to either side of the central tower to identify place: Pons Roberti. The legend of the reverse directs focus back to the image of the church: “Here (HEC) is presently the sanctuary and house of the mother and child.”
6. Reverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury: This is the reverse of the double-sided seal of the Benedictine nunnery of Shaftesbury in Dorset, which was founded by Alfred the Great in the year 888 and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Page 1908, 73; Keynes and Lapidge (eds.) 2004, 105). King Alfred’s own daughter was the first abbess of Shaftesbury. The abbey would continue to enjoy substantial royal patronage and donations under the Norman and Plantagenet kings, and it would become one of the wealthiest houses in all of England. The body of Edward the Martyr (d. 978) was translated from Wareham to Shaftesbury Abbey in the tenth century, and the foundation was thereafter dedicated to St. Edward, whose miracle-working shrine would become a focus of pilgrimage and a source of prestige. In Domesday Book, the nunnery was identified using both dedications to Saints Mary and Edward. The two sides of the seal reinforce this double dedication, representing St. Edward on one side of the seal and the Virgin Mary on the other. Vertue engraved the St. Edward side on the left-hand side of the plate, and he identified the St. Mary side as the “other side” of the seal in the label. There is an extant impression of this seal attached to a charter of Shaftesbury dated 1534 in TNA, and according to Ellis’s catalog, the side of the seal depicting St. Edward is the reverse (E 322/211; Ellis 1986, M769). The reverse depicts the abbey church with a large central tower and spire over the crossing, a heavily-fenestrated nave and choir, and two lower flanking towers. The crossing has a large portal or doorway that serves as a frame for the standing and draped figure of St. Edward the Martyr, whose name is inscribed on the string-course to each side of the portal (S’EDW / ARDVS). Vertue has depicted St. Edward standing in an elegant contrapposto. Underscoring the presence of the relics next to the high altar, St. Edward appears to be welcoming the viewer into his church. Only a ruin today, Shaftesbury Abbey had a large Norman church with an aisled nave, a transept divided by a substantial crossing tower, and a chancel flanked by two large chapels. The architecture on the seal certainly was not an accurate depiction of the abbey church, but it does reflect the scale, grand solidity, and Norman style of the church, which mostly dated to the early twelfth century. The legend on the reverse seems to refer to a popular Marian hymn, the Ave Maris Stella (“Hail, Star of the Sea”): SALVE.STELLA.MARIS.TV.AVXILLIARIS.GEMMA.PVELLARIS.REGIA.DONA.PARIS. Interestingly, this hymn was used as a prayer for travelers on a journey. Could this prayer not also apply to sealed documents traveling from a sender to a recipient? This is the reverse of the double-sided seal of the Benedictine nunnery of Shaftesbury in Dorset, which was founded by Alfred the Great in the year 888 and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Page 1908, 73; Keynes and Lapidge (eds.) 2004, 105). King Alfred’s own daughter was the first abbess of Shaftesbury. The abbey would continue to enjoy substantial royal patronage and donations under the Norman and Plantagenet kings, and it would become one of the wealthiest houses in all of England. The body of Edward the Martyr (d. 978) was translated from Wareham to Shaftesbury Abbey in the tenth century, and the foundation was thereafter dedicated to St. Edward, whose miracle-working shrine would become a focus of pilgrimage and a source of prestige. In Domesday Book, the nunnery was identified using both dedications to Saints Mary and Edward. The two sides of the seal reinforce this double dedication, representing St. Edward on one side of the seal and the Virgin Mary on the other. Vertue engraved the St. Edward side on the left-hand side of the plate, and he identified the St. Mary side as the “other side” of the seal in the label. There is an extant impression of this seal attached to a charter of Shaftesbury dated 1534 in TNA, and according to Ellis’s catalog, the side of the seal depicting St. Edward is the reverse (E 322/211; Ellis 1986, M769). The reverse depicts the abbey church with a large central tower and spire over the crossing, a heavily-fenestrated nave and choir, and two lower flanking towers. The crossing has a large portal or doorway that serves as a frame for the standing and draped figure of St. Edward the Martyr, whose name is inscribed on the string-course to each side of the portal (S’EDW / ARDVS). Vertue has depicted St. Edward standing in an elegant contrapposto. Underscoring the presence of the relics next to the high altar, St. Edward appears to be welcoming the viewer into his church. Only a ruin today, Shaftesbury Abbey had a large Norman church with an aisled nave, a transept divided by a substantial crossing tower, and a chancel flanked by two large chapels. The architecture on the seal certainly was not an accurate depiction of the abbey church, but it does reflect the scale, grand solidity, and Norman style of the church, which mostly dated to the early twelfth century. The legend on the reverse seems to refer to a popular Marian hymn, the Ave Maris Stella (“Hail, Star of the Sea”): SALVE.STELLA.MARIS.TV.AVXILLIARIS.GEMMA.PVELLARIS.REGIA.DONA.PARIS. Interestingly, this hymn was used as a prayer for travelers on a journey. Could this prayer not also apply to sealed documents traveling from a sender to a recipient?
7. Seal of the Abbey of West Dereham: This engraving records an impression of the small (48 x 30mm) versica-shaped common seal of the abbey of St. Mary of West Dereham (incorrectly identified as “Denham” on the plate). This house of Premonstratensian canons was founded in 1188 by Hubert Walter (d. 1205), who was the Dean of York at the time and would go on to serve as the Archbishop of Canterbury (elected 1193). West Dereham in Norfolk was Hubert Walter’s birthplace. According to the foundation charter, the “canons were to pray for the souls of the founder and his parents, his brothers and sisters and all his relatives and friends, as well as for the souls of Ralph de Glanville, justiciary of England, and Bertha his wife” (see Page 1906, 414-418, quoted from Dugdale). When Cromwell’s visitors arrived at the abbey in 1536, they recorded that the “canons were all incontinent, and were ready to confess themselves as such, longing to marry, and believing that the king had been divinely sent on earth to bring this about” (Gairdner 1887, 144). Several impressions of this common seal from the time of Abbot Angerius are retained attached to documents in TNA (DL 25/52 and DL 25/53, both dated 1231-48; see Ellis 1986, M909). The seal depicts the abbey church, specifically the central crossing tower, which has a conical roof, and the gabled nave and choir topped with crosses. The church appears compressed within the small frame that divides the image from the legend. The legend reads: “Seal of the Abbot and Convent at Dereham.” After its suppression in 1539, almost all of the abbey buildings would be demolished over town to make room for various domestic structures—today, only its foundations and a few earthworks survive. This seal therefore provides some (albeit very schematic) visual evidence for West Dereham’s lost abbey church.
8. Obverse of the Seal of the Abbey of SS Mary and Edward, Shaftesbury: This is the obverse of the double-sided seal of Shaftesbury Abbey, a Benedictine nunnery founded in the year 888 by Alfred the Great (d. 899). There is a complete extant impression of this seal attached to a charter of Shaftesbury dated 1534 in TNA (E 322/211; Ellis 1986, M769; for discussion of the reverse, see above seal 60.6). This is the second engraving of a thirteenth-century seal on Plate 1.60 that depicts the Coronation of the Virgin (see above seal 60.4). The Coronation scene is set within the center of a quatrefoil. The Virgin and Christ are frontal and seated side-by-side on a cushioned throne. Christ has a large cross-nimbus halo and is placing the crown on the Virgin’s head. Above the Virgin and Christ, the Holy Dove appears, facing down towards the figures with wings spread. To each side of the figures, there is a large candlestick. Images of the Coronation of the Virgin often include visual elements that underscore the ritual of the event, such as censing angels or angels bearing candles (cf. the thirteenth-century Coronation of the Virgin in the tympanum above the central portal of Chartres Cathedral’s north porch). The inclusion of the two candlesticks could have been an economical way to suggest ritual on a seal. Below the Coronation scene, a half-figure image of the abbess is represented within a separate architectural framework—she exists in a different time and space than the Coronation scene above. She is wearing a veil and facing right with hands raised in prayer and, according to Birch and Ellis, a crozier in one hand (Birch 1887, 4004; Ellis 1986, M769). The crozier is not rendered in Vertue’s engraving but is a likely attribute for such a figure on a monastic common seal. The legend on the obverse references both the Virgin and St. Edward, although Edward is given a bit more prominence, as his name is qualified: “Seal of Saint Mary and Saint Edward, King and Martyr, of Shaftesbury.” The last abbess of Shaftesbury Abbey was Elizabeth Zouche (served 1529-1539), and she attached the very impression of this seal recorded in Vetusta Monumenta to the deed of surrender on 2 March 1539. The abbess had fought the dissolution of her great house, offering both Henry VIII and Cromwell money to let the monastery and its fifty-six nuns remain, but her efforts failed (Gairdner and Brodie (eds.) 1894, 586).
9. Seal of the Priory Church of Burscough: Burscough Priory was a house of Augustinian canons dedicated to St. Nicholas founded in the late twelfth century. The foundation charter was granted by the lord of Lathom around the year 1189 (Ferrer and Brownbill 1907, 258). Very little documentation about the priory survives (it seems to have been associated with a leper house), and the priory buildings, including much of the church and number of noble tombs, were demolished after its dissolution in 1536. At the time of its surrender, Burscough had only five canons, including the prior, and an annual income of a meager £200. An archaeological survey undertaken in the late nineteenth century revealed a simple cruciform plan church with a cloister, nave, north and south transept, crossing with tower, and chancel. The earliest parts of the church would have dated to the late twelfth century with some additions and expansions completed as late as 1280 (see Bromley 1889, 138-142). In some regards, the depiction of the priory building on the seal seems quite fanciful, with its array of lancet, round, and cruciform windows, crisscrossed patterned roof tiles, round staircase turret attached to the western tower, and paved causeway leading to the nave portal. In the field to either side of the crossing tower are two large stars. A very fine extant impression of this seal in TNA dated 1381 reveals that Vertue’s engraving of the seal, including these lively architectural details, is quite accurate (DL 27/110; Ellis 1986, M134). Vertue certainly was able to record architecture on medieval seals without the same eighteenth-century biases that medieval (and antique) figures presented. The seal’s straightforward legend reads: “Seal of St. Nicholas at Burscough.”
10. Seal of Chertsey Abbey: In the label above the engraving, Vertue detailed that this seal impression was appended to the deed of surrender of Chertsey Abbey, and that it had been attached to the deed by the abbot. Chertsey was a Benedictine monastery dedicated to St. Peter. It was founded by Erkenwald (d. 693; first abbot of Chertsey and future Bishop of London) in the year 666. From its beginning, Chertsey Abbey received royal patronage through endowments of land and dwellings. In the ninth century, however, the monastery was attacked by the Danes—the abbot and monks were slaughtered and the buildings burnt to the ground. The foundation was not restored until Ethelwald, Bishop of Winchester (936-984), requested a group of monks from Abingdon be sent to colonize a new house at Chertsey. The resurrected monastery received large grants from Edward the Confessor (d. 1066) and seems to have enjoyed the favor and protection of William the Conqueror (d. 1087) and his descendants. Chertsey Abbey was surrendered by Abbot John Cordrey in 1537 with the understanding that King Henry VIII intended to re-establish the abbot and monks at a new priory at Bisham, where they would “pray for the good estate of the king, and of his consort, Queen Jane” (for this quote and the history above, see Malden 1967, 55-64). The engraving records the common seal of Chertsey Abbey, which seems to have been in continuous use from the eleventh century until the abbey’s surrender by Abbot Cordrey on 6 July 1537. Birch catalogued a sulphur cast from a fine eleventh-century impression of this seal, and Ellis catalogued two sixteenth-century impressions still attached to documents, one dated just a year before the suppression (see Birch 1887, 2899; Ellis 1986, M190). Ellis believed the matrix responsible for all of these impressions likely dated to the twelfth century, not the eleventh. The very simple and austere rendering of the architecture on this seal is consistent with late eleventh- and early twelfth-century architectural monastic seals (cf. seal 59.9 above). The church is presented from the north side, raised on a plinth of two steps. The aisleless nave has a gabled roof, two upper windows, and a central gabled porch. A large three-storied tower with a conical roof rises above the porch, projecting into the seal’s legend. The west end has a projecting porch or narthex with an upper window, and the east end has a projecting apse also with an upper window. The church’s roof is topped with four cross finials. In the field below the plinth, there is a decorative scroll of foliage. Vertue’s engraving of the seal impression very closely resembles the surviving impressions, certainly a testament to the clarity of the seal’s image. The legend of this common seal, mostly in Roman letters, reads: +SIGILLVM.SANCTI.PETRI.CEROTIZAECLE (“Seal of St. Peter at Chertsey”). Vertue seemed to have recognized that the legend included in angular letter at the end, but did not capture the legend correctly in his engraving (i.e., he rendered the ‘L’ as a ‘Z’).
11. Seal of the Abbey of Abbotsbury: The Abbey of Abbotsbury in Dorset was a Benedictine house dedicated to St. Peter. It was founded in the eleventh century during the reign of King Canute (d. 1035). Although the exact date of the foundation is disputed, the accepted founders were Orcus, steward of the palace of Canute, and his wife, Tola. After the death of Orcus and during the reign of Edward the Confessor (d. 1066), Tola bequeathed all her land and goods to the monastery of St. Peter of Abbotsbury (see Page 1908, 48-53; Keynes 1989, 208). The abbey was dissolved in 1539 and its buildings were leased to Sir Giles Strangeways (d. 1562). Only a few buildings from the medieval period (dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) survive today and are under the protection of English Heritage. A deep but flattened impression of the seal of Abbotsbury is preserved in TNA attached to the abbey’s deed of surrender dated 1539 (E 322/1; Ellis 1986, M005) This impression as well as the impression recorded by Vertue on this plate possibly were made from an eleventh-century matrix. Birch identified the seal as dating to the eleventh century, and it is worth noting that, other than the seal of Walter, Abbot of Abbotsbury from 1348 to 1353 (Birch 1887, 2540), there are no other known seals from Abbotsbury. As depicted by Vertue, the seal is versica shaped with a thin legend. Ellis, however, described the seal as round with a diameter of approximately 40 mm. It is impossible to account for this discrepancy, although Ellis was examining an impression of the seal with the legend completely missing. Vertue’s rendering of the legend is mostly illegible with only a few words identifiable, i.e., SIGIL, ABBATI, and ORO. The seal features the abbey church viewed from the north or, more likely, south transept with a portal, gabled roof, and crossing tower with lancet windows. The masonry nave and chancel project from each side of the projecting transept and are pierced with large lancet windows. The church is situated “above” a row of rounded arches, perhaps representing the abbey’s cloisters. Most medieval Benedictine monasteries in England located the cloister on the south side of the church. The architecture on the seal is simple and generally evokes Norman or Romanesque church architecture.
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