The official opening of the Coronors office.The ancient item is a silver seal ‘matrix’ or ‘stamp’. Experts believe it once belonged to the Southcote family of South Devon as it bears the impression of the family coat of arms.

The item was discovered by local metal detectorist Paul Hockin and was the first Treasure inquest at the new Plymouth Coroner’s court which opened earlier this month.

It received its official Treasure classification due to its age and the fact that it’s made up of more than 10 percent silver.

The coat of arms engraved on the matrix shows a shield with two birds at the top and one at the bottom, divided by a chevron. The birds are thought to represent coots, a play on the name Southcote.

The date of the matrix ties in with Thomas Southcote (1622-1664) who was an MP for Dartmouth and his brother John who was appointed as the recorder of Totnes by King James II in the late 1680s. It’s could have belonged to one or both of them.

Deputy Council Leader, Peter Smith said: “Treasure and all other archaeological finds are very important and help us shed light on the past and the people who lived hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years ago. We’re very grateful to Paul for his discovery as well as for recognising its importance and having the foresight to get his father Terry to take it to the Devon Finds Liaison Officer for verification. We’re also thankful to him and the landowner who have now donated the matrix to the Museum and Art Gallery’s collections.”

The matrix is now on display in a case in the Museum’s foyer and can be viewed from 10am to 5.30pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays. It will remain on display until the end of the summer.