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May 2017: That's a wrap

Leaves on seal

The image on the left shows a large seal wrapped in sycamore leaves which is attached to a deed from c.1670 (ref. R/D138/1/1). What's unusual about it is the fact that not only is it covered in leaves, but that they are still green. They are believed to be original and from the period which means that they have survived virtually intact for more than 340 years.

The deed is an exemplification of common recovery relating to two messuages, a dovecote, two gardens and land in Caversham, Reading connected with Dr Robert South. Dr South was born in Hackney to a well-off family in 1634. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford gaining a Doctorate of Divinity (DD) in 1663. He was privately ordained in 1658 and was the chaplain to the Duke of York (the future James II). Dr South died in 1716.

RD138 man in deed

The deed forms part of a collection of deeds relating to Dr South and the inside of this one is quite dramatic. It contains very ornate etchings at the top and sides as well as the starting initial (see images above and below). It is a fine example of the level of detail that sometimes went in to documents such as deeds. Perhaps the only let down is the fact that it does not contain any colour.

RD138 initial

Due to the fragile nature of the leaves, we cannot actually see the seal itself as to unwrap it would no doubt result in destroying them. Nevertheless it is truly amazing that the sycamore leaves have stood the test of time and that we can see them, and the beautiful deed that they are attached to, today.

RD138 full deed


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