This week I have been fortunate enough to attend a private view of the heraldic Dering Roll. This valuable document was until recently in private hands when it was sold to an overseas buyer at auction for £192,500. But under current legislation export was held up to see if the British Library could raise the money to keep the historic roll in England. The Halsted Trust along with many other organisations and individuals offered a contribution and the auction price was raised.
The Dering Roll is a very important document in heraldry. It is the oldest surviving roll of arms dating from around 1275 and a vital document for students of the knighthood of medieval England. It contains the heraldic coats of arms of 324 shields which represents about a quarter of the English baronage during the reign of King Edward 1.
Each shield has the name of the knight that it represents except for five shields wh ere the name was either omitted or erased.
The document is no doubt the work of a specialist herald and as it mainly shows the heraldry of knights from Sussex and Kent was probably made in the south east of England. Those that have studied the document have determined that it is a list of the knights owing feudal service to the Constable of Dover Castle and was most likely therefore commissioned by Stephen of Penchester who was the Constable at that time.
The roll is called the Dering Roll after Sir Edward Dering of Pluckley in Kent who acquired it during the early part of the 17th Century and then proceeded to alter the document for his own purposes! The sixty-first shield on the roll bore the heraldic coat of arms of Nicholas de Crioll and this has been carefully changed and the arms of a fictitious Richard fitz Dering inserted! Fortunately a number of copies had been made before this date showing the original.
The Roll was in the estate of Sir Anthony Wagner,Garter Principal King of Arms (died 1995) and was sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 and subsequently saved for the nation by public donation.
It was quite fascinating to see this ancient document close up without glass and to be able to study it first hand and once again reiterates the importance of Heraldry to genealogists in family history.
There will be a workshop on Heraldry at the forthcoming 2009 International Family History Conference in Nottingham, England.