An image of an elephant can be clearly seen carved into the surface of the stone in the medieval seal. Picture: Kevin Elfleet

A metal detecting enthusiast from West Norfolk unearthed a rare, 13th century medieval gold seal which may once have belonged to King Henry III.

Steve Brown, who is a member of the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Metal Detecting Club, was out with his son in the autumn when he found the seal lying just below the surface of the soil.

The seal is in excellent condition and appears to have avoided damage from ploughing for more than 800 years.

Initial inspections suggest it could have once belonged to King Henry III, who reigned for a large part of the 13th century.

Speculation suggests the seal may have been lost by Henry while visiting Norfolk – he is known to have visited the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham some 12 times during his reign.

The seal features an engraved image of an elephant on presumed carnelian stone, set in gold with a Latin inscription around the edge.

Carnelian was used for seals because hot wax does not stick to its surface.

The image is interesting because King Louis IX of France gifted an elephant to Henry III in 1254, reportedly after he acquired it during a crusade in Palestine. 

Henry had the elephant sent to the Tower of London menagerie in 1255. 

The seal, which measures about an inch-and-a-half, has been handed to Gressenhall archaeological unit under the Treasure Act and is currently going through the treasure process.