When we first moved into our house, there was so much to explore. My son liked looking through the various rooms but often would end up in the old workshop at the back of the house. There is an old wooden work bench there as well as a work table and cupboard which would capture the imagination of any boy. One day after a rummage through an old tin he found filled with odds and ends, he produced a funny bobble that reminded me of a pagoda.
It was a curious little thing, made of iron, which I thought was some kind of charm for a pull cord but turned out to be a seal and not just an ordinary seal, the kind a gentleman would wear at the end of a pocket watch chain. I was intrigued. Upon closer inspection, it was a bit plain for a “gentleman's” watch fob, but for me it was exciting. I ran to get the wax while my husband went to give it a good clean up so we could see exactly what the seal was. It looked like more than just someone's initials which made it all the more urgent that we find out what the seal's image was.
After some cleaning, the surface revealed a coach and horses and around the edge of the oval seal ran the inscription. It took quite a time to work out the letters, not only because the rusting had damaged the clarity of them, but also because they were, of course, written backwards. Pressing the the seal into hot wax helped us to see the image a little better but time had taken its toll on the little seal and the surface is nearly smooth and the words were still indiscernible. After peering at it under a magnifying glass for some time we discovered the inscription read: “New Diligence at the Blue Boar and George Holborn”
Fascinating! Next came the research into the name on the seal which was almost certainly an inn. One of the great things about the internet is that with a few keystrokes you are in possession of immediate information. It turns out the Blue Boar in Holborn, London, was a famous coaching inn. It was reputed to be the very place where Cromwell and Ireton intercepted papers incriminating King Charles I who was plotting against the Parliament in the 1640s.
Sadly, the Blue Boar no longer exists. My husband tells me the style of writing upon the seal is consistent with a date early in the 19th Century, which is about the time our house was built. This was also a time when it appears the Blue Boar changed hands and added “George” to the title, although according to our research, most records indicate the name was in fact “The George and Blue Boar,” rather than the other way round as engraved on the seal. The words “New Diligence” allude to the change in ownership of the inn; akin to present day signs announcing “Under new management.”
|I pressed the seal into clay to show the design better.|
Attempts at pressing the seal in wax were unsuccessful, sadly.
Our little seal may have been an early promotional item, provided as a memento or to remind a person to come again, similar to the pens and stationery hotels furnish today which the guests take away with them as a keepsake. Or like me, use! Whatever its original purpose, this little wax seal had quite a story to tell, wouldn't you say?