Seal bags from Westminster Abbey

Jane Smith one of our Textile Conservators tells about about some 12th and 13th century items she has recently worked on for Westminster Abbey.These beautiful objects are currently on display at the V&A’s Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery exhibition.

I recently worked on two seal bags from Westminster Abbey. Seal bags were used to cover the wax seal attached to documents.

The embroidered silk seal bag below dates from 1140. It needed minimal work but a small area of loose threads and detached braid were secured with stitching. It was also micro-vacuumed on a low suction and a silk pad was inserted to provide support.

img_2079Silk embroidered seal bag dating from 1140, 12cm x 12cm

_mg_2056Micro- vacuuming the seal bag

The other seal bag (below) is still attached to the document with the seal intact inside. There is a silk cover protecting the document. The seal bag is made from woven wool fabric and embroidered in wool and silk and dates from 1280. It was cleaned with a micro-vac, a small curling area was humidified so that it lay flat and a padded support was made enabling the silk cover to be rolled and supported whilst revealing the document.

Bridget Mitchell, Arca Preservation, made a box for the document to be displayed and stored in.

img_1088Wool seal bag embroidered in wool and silk, dating from 1280, 14cm x 12.5cm

img_2231The document with seal bag in its box after conservation

See both these items at the Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery exhibition at the V&A, until Sunday 5th February 2017.