Black and white image of two cloth seals below sketches of stamps appearing on them
London Lead Cloth Seals

This two-part, closed seal has multiple stamps on both sides. The reverse side (on the right in the above image) is stamped with the arms of London, indicated by the sword within a crossed shield. The obverse side (on the left in the image above), is stamped with letters that, when complete, would spell ‘SEARCHED,’ indicating that the cloth had been inspected. These stamps were likely applied by an inspector of the dyers guild in London, ensuring that the quality of the fabric met standards set by the guild for export.

Also on the obverse side is a cross pattée and the letters ‘W-AD’. These could either be the initials of the searcher or may stand for woad, a blue colored dye. Woad was the primary blue dye used in the European dying industry prior to the importation of indigo from Asia. In fact, woad cultivation, processing, and use as a dye was so important that laws were passed in some parts of Europe preventing the use of indigo in order to support the local woad dyeing industry.

The last stamp on the obverse side is that of a castle with a tall central turret flanked by two shorter ones. This may be Norwich castle, although a similar mark has been identified on lead seals from Essex and Suffolk. It seems that the castle stamp was applied as a counterpoint to the London arms, indicating that the goods marked by this seal had passed through multiple ports.