Conserving a medieval seal of the late thirteenth century

Work continues on the project to clean, repair and rehouse the Cathedral’s two thousand medieval deeds. Many of the documents have pendant seals. Made of beeswax with coloured binding components, these seals tend to become brittle over time. This makes them very vulnerable to damage from handling and unprotected storage, causing them to crack, flake and often become detached from the seal tab or cord.

 

Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

This document is dated to the late thirteenth century. It is a gift in alms of a piece of land called “la mora”, which is located between land of Matthew de Hallawe and that of the Prior and Convent of Worcester. The document was witnessed by Geoffrey D’Abitoth of Hindelip, Thomas de Piria, Richard de Pechesleye, William son of Osbert of Beverburn and John David of Pechesleye. The seal depicts a pheasant.

 

Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

It is a dark green oval pendant seal, a sure sign that it relates to ecclesiastical business. The seal was cracked with some losses around the tab, and was very liable to further flaking and loss. After the document was surface cleaned, conservation project leader Katerina Powell ACR came up with this ingenious solution to protect the seal when it was rehoused in its new conservation grade envelope.

 

Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

It has been affectionately dubbed a seal sarong: a simple triple fold of Tyvek held around the parchment seal tab with tying tape laced through to hold it in place and prevent it from slipping off the document.

 

Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

It is everything housing should be: simple, protective and easy for staff and researchers to replace. In its new clothes, we’re hoping the seal will be with us for another 750 years.

 

Victoria Stevens and Katerina Powell

 

 

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