Last week, someone contacted me by email to ask for help to find out more about this object:
He thought it might have some historical significance. I’ve no idea, but I wonder whether the hive mind of the Internet may be able to help identify it. It seems to be a seal stamp designed to impress sealing wax on the back of an envelope. But how old is it?
The object was found about 7 years ago, near the old Hornibrook Highway bridge that used to cross the Pine River and Hayes Inlet between Brisbane and the Redcliffe Peninsula. Bert found the thing in the sand at low tide, about 5 metres away from one of the bridge pilons, at the southern end in what is now the suburb of Brighton, though in the 1930s the whole area south of the Pine River was known as Sandgate.
The bridge was built by a private company, Hornibrook Highway Ltd, as a toll bridge, and named after the company director, M.R. Hornibrook. John Bradfield, the engineer who designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was born in Sandgate and worked as a consultant on the Hornibrook bridge. It was an impressive engineering feat in its day, the longest bridge in the southern hemisphere. It was built during the 1930s depression.
During World War II, there was an air force base just south of the bridge, and after the war, the RAAF quarters were turned over to Eventide, a state owned aged care facility. I wrote about it here. Perhaps someone from either the RAAF or Eventide dropped the seal.
The Hornibrook bridge has since been replaced and pulled down, but for many years after it was decommissioned, it was a popular fishing spot, so it could have fallen out of a fisherman’s pocket at any time. There are cycle paths too, though it’s hard to imagine the MAMILS[Middle Ages Men in Lycra] we see around here finding room in their shorts for such a knobbly object. Perhaps we shouldn’t go there….
The real puzzle is the heraldic symbol on the seal. Do the three deer – bucks couchant – have any particular meaning? From a small and inadequate search of Google images, I have tracked down a lot of English pubs called Three Deer Heads, or similar, and found that 3 deers (standing, not sitting) is the heraldic symbol of Jesus College, Oxford.
Nothing else. The problem is that every man and his dog seems to have acquired a heraldic seal during the 19th century. By the time the Hornibrook Highway opened in 1935, sealed envelopes had long since replaced the use of sealing wax on correspondence, but people are still making and using seals to the present day, if eBay is to be believed.
Bert subsequently contacted me to thank you all for your help, and says he asked some people in the Geology Department at University of Queensland, who think think the stone is Carnelian or Jasper and the metal may be a copper alloy of some sort. He added:
I’ve also done some research on the meaning of the symbols. “One who will not fight unless provoked” and “peace and harmony” (http://www.fleurdelis.com/symbolism.htm) were the meanings I could find, as well as its use “British armory, as well as in that of other countries” from http://www7b.biglobe.ne.jp/~bprince/hr/foxdavies/fdguide12.htm (around 3/4 down the page or just do a stag search on the page).