Shropshire Star

Real or fake?: Shropshire detectorist's 'greatest find' questioned by historian

A new exhibit has gone on display at a Shropshire museum - and has sparked a row among historians as to its authenticity.

The seal moments after Steve dug it up

Shropshire metal detectorist Steve Parker discovered the 13th century 'matrix seal' in November 2022.

It would have been used to seal official documents and to demonstrate the owner’s authority, but research has thrown some doubt over the ‘validity’ of his find.

Steve said he believes the seal, which he has described as his "greatest find", belonged to Nicholas, an Abbot of the Cistercian Abbey at Buildwas around 600 years ago.

The seal, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus and a kneeling figure of the abbot with hands in prayer, has now gone on display at Much Wenlock Museum but has sparked debate among historians.

The seal positioned at the ruins of the old abbey

Emma Kate Lanyon, Shropshire Council’s museums service curator, said: “The Abbey was prospering at the time this seal matrix was made, and like many Cistercian monasteries across England, it derived much of its income from the sale of fleeces from its flocks of sheep. These were traded with merchants as far afield as Flanders and Italy.