A vessica-shaped lead personal seal matrix with legend S'ELE : IWIES D'AVDRIT; seal of Ellen from Audrit (?). At the centre, a fleur de lys; decorated reverse.
England: 13th century AD.
Very Fine condition.
Height 3.5 cms (1.4 ins)
Supplied with the hard wax impression.
Provenance: from a detailed Lincolnshire collection.
Personal seals: Before the Norman Conquest of Britain, people did not have hereditary surnames: they were known just by a personal name or nickname. When communities were small each person was identifiable by a single name, but as the population increased, it gradually became necessary to identify people further - leading to names such as John the butcher, William the short, Henry from Sutton, Mary of the wood, Roger son of Richard. Over time many names became corrupted and their original meaning is now not easily seen. After 1066, the Norman barons introduced surnames into England, and the practice gradually spread. Initially, the identifying names were changed or dropped at will, but eventually they began to stick and to get passed on. So trades, nicknames, places of origin, and fathers' names became fixed surnames - names such as Fletcher and Smith, Redhead and Swift, Green and Pickering, Wilkins and Johnson. By 1400 most English families, and those from Lowland Scotland, had adopted the use of hereditary surnames.
British Medieval personal lead seal for a lady
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