Seals and the People of Britain

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Seals and the People of Britain

March 15, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 6:00 pm


Organised by Dr Elizabeth New FSA & John Cherry FSA 

Online Only

The study of sigillography, seals and seal matrices has attracted a growing interest in recent years. There have been conferences at the British Museum (2007 and 2015), Aberystwyth ( 2010) and Brussels (2015).

This conference of the Antiquaries will follow the June 2018 Imprint AHRC project workshop organised by Fellows Elizabeth New and Philippa Hoskin, and will precede the 2020 exhibitions and celebrations at Canterbury and Lincoln of the anniversaries of Thomas Becket and Robert Grossteste, which will both include sigillographic material.

There have been numerous finds of personal seals in the last fifteen years by metal detectorists which have been uploaded to the PAS website, as well as several projects to make the extensive archival and museum collcetions of seal matrices, impressions and casts more accessible, including those held by the Society. This has raised awareness of this rich material, but more needs to be done to help unlock  its potential.

This conference will explore the wide range of images and text displayed by seals and how this can be interpreted to reveal social identities, both  normal and exceptional, across medieval and early modern Britain. Different identities will be explored, including: urban and rural; learned and unlearned; craft and communal. It will also explore links with personal and family names, inherited symbols, and how far family relationships influence seals.

It will also highlight the value of the historic collection of seal impressions, casts and matrices of the Society (we have already secured the agreement the Society’s Librarian and Curator), and will invite interest in the possibility of setting up an organisation to study and publish seals and seal matrices in the UK.

Programme *

9.30-10.00 Registration (with tea and coffee)

10.00 Welcome

10.10 -10.45 Introduction. Dr Elizabeth New

10.45- 11.20 Understanding the people of medieval England through seal matrices by Laura Burnett and Rob Webley

11.20 to 11.40 Coffee

11.40- 12.15 Widows and their Seals by Alister Sutherland

12.15 -13.00 Exhibition in Library of seals. Particularly concentrating on womens’ seals, Scottish seals, and popular art on seals.

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch provided

14.00 -14.35 New Impressions: a fresh look at sealing practices in Scotland by Alice Blackwell

14.35 – 15.10 Seals and Identities: Scottish Private Seals in the Durham Cathedral Archive by Rachel Davis

15.10-15.15 short break

15.15 – 15.50 Women and their Seals by Dr Helen Geake

15. 50 – 16.25 Personal Seals: insights into popular culture by Malcolm Jones

16.25-16.40  Discussion

16.40- 17.00 Summing up conclusion and comments on Sigillvm by John Cherry

17.00 – 17.45 Reception with wine and nibbles.

Please note that due to COVID 19 restrictions this event may be online only. 

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Registration is essential.
  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • Once you have registered we will be in touch regarding how you can join via Zoom video-calling.
  • The event will also be live-streamed to YouTube here, so you can watch along if you prefer
  • Places through zoom will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The event will begin at 10.00, GMT.
  • You will recieve an email with the link to join the day before the lecture.
  • Attendees’ cameras and microphones will be off throughout.

If you have any questions please contact our Communications Manager on [email protected]

Get tickets online


March 15, 2021
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BE United Kingdom
020 7479 7080


Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080