The Medieval seal from Stone Priory that was found in a Surrey field is now back in the town, and hundreds of people have so far visited St Michael’s Church to have a look at the object for themselves.
The seal was delivered to the church on Thursday and will be on display for the next six months. Talks are under way to raise the £7,000 it is thought will keep the 12th century item permanently in the town.
Visitors to the church on Saturday for the annual Christmas tree festival were certainly impressed with the seal.
“It’s like our own mini Staffordshire Hoard,” said one. “Just remarkable.”
The copper object – dated between 1200 and 1300AD – was found in Cobham, Surrey, in August. It is about 7cm long, 5cm wide and weighs just 84 grams. It would have been used to create an imprint of wax on important documents at Stone Priory, which was built in the 7th century by Wulfhere, the first Christian king of all of Mercia and was dedicated to Mary and a local martyr, Saint Wulfad.
The seal depicts the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus on her knee. The child holds a book in this left hand and appears to be pointing upwards with his right.
The inscription around the seal reads ‘S’ecc Sce Marie et Sci W(v)lfadi Martiris de Stanis’ – the seal of the church of Saint Mary and Saint Wulfad, Martyr of Stone.
Philip Leason, the chairman of Stone Historical and Civic Society, was at the church on Thursday for the official handover. He said: “I found it all very emotional to be honest. The seal is hundreds of years old and to see it returned to the town really was something.”
Rev Ian Cardinal from St Michael’s added: “I actually held the seal on Thursday for a few moments and it was pretty nerve-wracking! But then I thought, ‘It’s been in the ground for almost a millenium, I’m sure it will be OK in my hand for a bit’. It’s a real pleasure to have the seal in the church – hopefully we can make sure that it stays in the town permanently.”