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Uttlesford treasures go on display with local support

A medieval seal matrix featuring a pelican is one of four archaeological treasures from Uttlesford district which go on display at Saffron Walden Museum this week.

Museum Treasures

Thanks to the generous support of The Arts Society Saffron Walden, the museum has been able to purchase the exceptional silver medieval seal matrix which was found in Great Hallingbury parish.

Medieval gold coins, a brooch and a ring with a secret inscription have also been purchased by Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, adding to the display of local archaeology. All the finds were made by metal detectorists and reported under the Treasure Act 1996. The finder of the brooch and the landowner of the ring both kindly waived their awards which reduced the costs to the museum.

The silver seal matrix was used to stamp wax seals on letters and other documents, and is very finely engraved with an image of a nesting pelican, and a motto in medieval French which translates as "I am private and a good friend". In medieval legend, the 'pelican in her piety' was thought to feed her chicks on blood from her own breast, so the pelican also became a symbol of Christ's sacrifice for humankind. The owner must have been a wealthy person to have such a fine silver seal matrix for sealing their documents. The seal matrix is thought to date from around 1250 to 1350. It has been acquired with the support of The Arts Society Saffron Walden as an important local example of medieval craftsmanship.

The three gold coins, all quarter-nobles of Edward III and dating from around 1350, were found in the Great Dunmow area. Edward III was the first medieval king of England to introduce a gold coinage, so these three small coins represent an important event in our monetary history. Also of medieval date is a delicate little silver-gilt brooch from High Roothing, in the form of two serpents coiled in a circle.

The gold ring was found in the Stansted Mountfichet area and dates from the reign of Charles II. The tiny skull engraved on the hoop is a clue to its intriguing secret. This is a 'memento mori' ring, a personal way of commemorating the death of a loved one. The inside of the hoop is engraved with the initials of the deceased S C and the date on which they died, 17 March 1680.

Cllr Vic Ranger, Uttlesford District Council's Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, said: "I am so pleased that Saffron Walden Museum is able to acquire and display such important finds from Uttlesford district. The support of local people and organisations like The Arts Society Saffron Walden, working in cooperation with Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, is much appreciated."

All four treasures can be viewed in the Museum from Wednesday 22 November, between 10am and 4.30pm Tuesdays to Saturdays and 2pm to 4.30pm on Sundays.

21 November 2017