The seal matrix of a woman from an important medieval family discovered in the village of Hambleden, Buckinghamshire, has been declared treasure at a coroner’s inquest. That was the expected verdict as it fits the criteria of the Treasure Act of 1996 on two grounds — it is made exclusively of precious metal (silver) and is more than 300 years old — but as a historical artifact, it is a treasure beyond price.
Discovered by a metal detectorist in April 2019 on the grounds of the Henley Business School, the seal matrix dates to the late 13th or early 14th century but is in pristine condition. It is a pointed oval shape 1.3 inches long with a loop on the back. Around the edge of the front of the matrix is an inscription that reads “SIGILLUM.MAR.GERIE.PEVREL” meaning the “Seal of Margerie Pevrel.” In the center is the Peverel (variously spelled Pevrel, Peverell, Peveril) family crest of three garbs (a bundle of grain bound around the stalks) embedded in an urn with scrolls and florals on the sides and top.
Seal matrixes are not uncommon finds, but ones inscribed with specific names on them are more rare. Ones that name a woman are vanishingly rare. Ones found in a context directly connected to the woman who owned them can be counted on the finger of one finger. What is today the Henley Business School was the estate of Yewden Manor in the 14th century. The Peverel family owned Yewden Manor from 1248 until the mid-14th century.
There are two likeliest candidates for the Margerie Peverel who owned this seal. One is Margaret of Cornwall, wife of James Peverel and mother of Sir Hugh Peverel IV. She died in 1349. The other is Hugh IV’s daughter Margaret who was born in 1321. Both lived at Yewden Manor and one of them lost her seal while out and about on her estate.
Now that it has been declared treasure, it will be assessed for fair market value and offered to a local museum in exchange for a fee in that amount offered to the finder. The River and Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames is hoping to add it to its collection.