Common Seals of Plymouth, Sidmouth and Stonehouse

In: The Common Seals of Devon, Part III, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1875, Vol VII, p 269.


R.N. Worth, F.G.S.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The paper, third in a series on the Common seals of Devon was read at the Association’s July 1875 Torrington meeting. A company seal, sometimes also called a corporate seal or common seal, is a device for embossing the company’s name (and usually the company registration number) onto documents. Historically, it was a requirement to seal contracts, deeds and share certificates in this way to make them valid. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers

Since my last notes on the common seals of Devon, three hitherto undescribed seals have come under my notice, which are here dealt with. 

PLYMOUTH. - I have found among the corporation muniments of Plymouth impressions of a small seal used by the mayors in the latter half of the 17th century. It bore the borough arms - a saltire and four castles - and the motto, "Turis fortissimo, est nomen Jehova". This is the first instance of the use of the borough motto with which I am acquainted, and I am inclined to think it was adopted as a memorial of the Siege which the Plymouth Roundheads successfully endured between the autumn of 1642 and the spring of 1646.

SIDMOUTH. - Mr. P. 0. Hutchinson has kindly favoured me with particulars respecting the seal of the Local Board of Sidmouth. When the Local Board was established there was no known seal belonging to the place, which never had either a mayor or a corporation. Before the Conquest, Mr. Hutchinson informs me, the manor belonged to Ghyda, the mother of Harold. William gave it to the abbot of St. Michael's Mount in Normandy. Henry V. handed it over to the Monastery of Sion in Middlesex. Henry VIII. seized the manor and left it to his successors. James I. sold it to a Mr. Mainwaring, and it has since continued in private hands, now resting in the Balfour family. Neither the St. Michael's Mount nor Sion seals could with propriety have been adopted by the Local Board; and Mr. Hutchinson suggested a fishing boat, rigged with two lug-sails, as most of the Sidmouth boats are. This device was adopted, and it is accordingly borne by the seal of the Board, with the words "Sidmouth Local Board."

STONEHOUSE. - The Stonehouse School Board have adopted for their seal the arms of the ancient family of Stonehouse - azure on a bend cotised argent, three martlets sable; surrounded by the words "Seal of the East Stonehouse School Board."