A PIECE of Stone’s medieval heritage unearthed in a Surrey field can return to its home town for good after campaigners raised the cash needed to buy it back in just five months.
A fund-raising appeal was launched in June to pull in the £8,000 needed to buy the Stone Priory Seal, discovered in Cobham last year.
It was named the 17th best historical find in the TV show Britain’s Secret Treasures this year and was loaned to Stone, where it went on display in St Michael and St Wulfad’s Church last December.
Town historians and the Anglican and Catholic communities joined forces to bring it home for good.
A series of money-spinning events pulled in cash and Stone Town Council gave a £1,000 grant towards the campaign.
Campaigners were delighted to be told last week that they had achieved their goal.
The news came as the first mass was held at the Stone Priory site since its dissolution in the 16th century, in the wake of Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic church.
The moving ceremony was conducted by Stone priest Father Gerard Doyle in the priory’s undercroft - a cellar which is one of its two surviving parts in the grounds of Priory House, near Lichfield Road.
Stone Priory had been on the site since around 670AD and the 7cm by 5cm seal, which depicts the Virgin Mary and a young Jesus, is believed to date back to the 13th century.
Alan Beckett, who was involved in the campaign, said: “Presumably one of the community at Stone had carried the seal down to a sister house in Surrey and buried it for safe keeping.
“Urgent efforts have been made to raise the £8,000 at which the seal has been valued.
"It is a mark of the radical shift in relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches that the campaign to bring back the seal has been a joint effort.
“There is still more to do. It needs some restorative work and we have to provide a suitable, secure case for it so it can be on show for the people of Stone for hopefully more years than it has been lost.
“Eat your heart out Indiana Jones you may have the Ark of the Covenant but we have the Seal of Stone Priory.”