The Art Fund helps save rare medieval manuscript for the nation

  • 3 September 2008

The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity, has awarded The British Library a grant of £40,000 to help acquire the earliest surviving English roll of arms in the history of English Heraldry. The Dering Roll, a painted register bearing medieval coats of arms from the last quarter of the 13th Century, was export stopped in December 2007 and has now been acquired for £194,184 following a successful fundraising campaign by the Library.

The Dering Roll tells a fascinating history of medieval English knighthood, which includes an attempt by the notable 17th Century antiquary and politician Sir Edward Dering to forge his family history. Dering erased a coat-of-arms on the roll and replaced them with a coat-of-arms that bore the name of a fictional ancestor, Richard fitz Dering.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “This is the oldest English heraldic manuscript known, and offers a fascinating insight into courtly life in the reign of Edward I. It is also a very appealing work of art which probably arose from one man’s attempt to prove the noble ancestry of his own family. I am delighted that The Art Fund has helped to ensure the Roll will now be permanently available, free of charge, in the nation’s greatest library.”

The Dering Roll depicts 324 coats of arms, from approximately one-quarter of the English baronage of the reign of King Edward I, spread across an eight and a half foot long roll of parchment. It is a key document for the study of medieval English knighthood, made at a time when a knight’s political allegiances and his status in feudal society were of paramount importance.

The roll, which focuses on knights from Kent and Sussex, was undoubtedly produced in South East England between 1270-1280, most certainly in Dover, and is likely to have been commissioned by Stephen of Penchester, the Constable at Dover Castle from 1268 to 1299.

The Dering Roll was acquired for £194,184, with additional funding from the NHMF, Friends of the British Library, and Friends of the National Libraries and numerous individual benefactors.


Notes to editors:

The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

Art Fund Reference PR0049/08