Common Seals
There have been four known designs of the Common Seal of the town, all of which depict a ship.

1. Probably made in the late 12th century. No example exists in Southampton, but an incomplete one is attached to a document of 1204 and is now in Queen's College, Oxford

2. A One-sided seal dating from the mid-13th century and a little larger than the earlier seal depicts a primitive ship, steered by an oar-like rudder (image 1). The reverse side has the Provost's seal (see below).

3. A third and larger two-sided seal dates from the 14th century. The ship on the obverse side is more elaborate then former seals, with a stern rudder, castles and a crows nest. The reverse side depicts the Virgin and Child.

4. A seal of 1587 shows an Elizabethan warship with two decks of guns, the town's arms on the centre main sail and two flags of St George (image 2). The reverse side is the same as that of the third type.

5. A new seal of 1888 was made that reproduced as far as possible the Tudor warship of the fourth design. This was replaced by an exact copy in 1953.

Seals of the Provosts and Mayors

The earliest surviving seals are of the provost (or reeve), of which six types exist within about a hundred years, 1275-1378. They vary in size and shape, but all show ships, the first five with side steerage gear.
There are three known types mayor's seal. The first from 1378 to 1387, and the second from 1388 to about 1529 show a single-masted ship. The third from 1579 depicts the town's arms.

Englefield gives a very full description of the official seals, which were then kept in the Audit House, in his Walk Through Southampton, published in 1801.

1. Common Seal of the mid-13th Century.

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2. Common Seal of 1587

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Further reading:
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p245. (HS/h)
A Walk Through Southampton, by Henry C. Englefield, p39-43. (HS/h)


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