Looking at the Evidence

A friend contacted me to see if I could tell him more about one of his favourite finds, a seal matrix, found on a farm in Hertfordshire. Alas, it is not the best of images and I have only one view. This is what I know; It is set in a copper alloy mount with a small amount of remaining gilding and looks very much like a a masonic seal – but with a difference. I haven’t seen any emblems or images in freemasonry showing two pairs of compasses on top of one another, and in that configuration.

I asked masonic friends and showed them the image, but they were unable to help. There was another avenue of enquiry, and I decided to ‘go to the top’.

I realised when working as a Community Service Volunteer that if you want something done, go as far up the chain of command as you can and talk to the main man. So I did. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the headquarters of English freemasonry in London boasts a library and museum, and houses one of the finest collections of masonic material in the world. The museum is open to the public and there isn’t a charge. Surely they would know.

Assistant Curator Andrew Tucker told me that, “The symbolism is undeniably masonic, and was probably owned or indeed commissioned by a mason. It is difficult to tell the age, they are still being produced today purely as ornaments
but many are Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian. Some are unique and others were mass produced. We don’t have one quite like this, although we have several of the same sort. The design would have been up to the maker or commissioner and would not have to follow any strict adherence to masonic symbolism as used by a Grand Lodge.”

So, there we go. I’m none the wiser. Just another one of the secrets of freemasonry. If you’ve found or find a similar seal – one with the compasses in the same position – please let me know.

Sketchley Coin and/or Token

My first masonic find – James Sketchley half-penny Token – or is it a Coin?

For detectorists once familiar with Sketchley – the high street cleaning group taken over by Minit in 2007, [long story – click here if you wish to know more], let me assure you that the token/coin was never given to a customer to redeem a batch of clean clothes, but I understand why you might think this way. I’ve written many times about this, but I’ll give you another brief and gentle reminder. You may like to take a look HERE HERE HERE and HERE

In the last decade of the eighteenth century small change became very scarce, and the country was flooded with innumerable tradesmen’s tokens. They were mostly of the halfpenny size and a lot of these were struck at Boulton’s Soho Works in Birmingham.

As you can see my find was something masonic. James Sketchley, printer, publisher, auctioneer and freemason minted this in 1794 in honour of the election of the Prince of Wales (who later became George IV) as Grand Master. The reverse design shows a Cupid and various Masonic symbols within a triangle.

The token was 28mm diameter and 9g in weight and had the value of 1/2 penny. It is remarkable that the Sketchley token, apparently issued as a pocket piece, was accepted and circulated as a 1/2 penny coin! No other Masonic token is known to have been used in this way.

At the top of the triangle appears the G and above that the all-seeing eye. You will also notice the words ‘Wisdom,’ ‘Strength’ and ‘Beauty.’ The Latin SIT LUX ET LUX FUIT – “let there be light, and there was light,” can be seen around the outer edge.

These tokens were so superior in their copper content (compared to the coinage of the time) that they readily became tender.- and was accepted as currency throughout the entire British Empire, which at the time was most of the world. It wasn’t until 1817 that they were withdrawn from circulation by government order. The Sketchley token is not particularly rare and is the most likely artefact that a metal detectorist will come across – one can presume this has a lot to do with the token being used as currency.

8 thoughts on “Looking at the Evidence

  1. Thank you, Randy. Perhaps more interesting for a freemason rather than a detectorist. I haven’t been out swinging the coil for years … so have nothing to write about. Trying to guess where I keep hearing that last statement. Can you help me?


  2. I love it John.. What a great bit of history you have there..We have had tokens out here…. but ours are different in that we have ‘Good For’ tokens.. cigar, bath, milk , bread, 6 1/4 or 12 1/2 cents off.. that sort of thing.

    I have found some Masonic items [we have gone over this prior], but any time I find one, I get re-enervated.. they really are a unique item with a story behind them.

    Thank you my friend.. as always, a wonderful history lesson



  3. Nice article as always, John. Minor edit – The Prince of Wales mentioned became George IV, not George III. George III became King in 1760, and George Augustus Frederick became Prince of Wales in 1762, still holding that title when elected as Masonic Grand Master. ……………. I look forward to your next posting ! …… Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  4. On my to find list a seal matrix … My heart did race once when i thought i found one ..
    Turned out to be one of those weights from a set of scales ….. Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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