Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge, has placed a temporary export bar on the Dering Roll, a decorated manuscript roll of arms on vellum. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the roll in the United Kingdom.
The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the roll is of outstanding significance for the study of early English heraldry and is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune. The Committee awarded a starred rating to the roll meaning that every possible effort should be made to raise enough money to keep it in the country.
The Dering Roll was produced in England in the last quarter of the 13th century. It is eight and a half feet long and contains the coats of arms of approximately one-quarter of the English baronage of the reign of King Edward I. As the earliest surviving English roll of arms it is a key document of medieval English knighthood. As a statement of the knights who owed feudal service to the constable of Dover Castle, it carries outstanding local as well as national significance.
Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee said: “This is an extraordinarily iconic object being the oldest complete English roll of arms in the history of English Heraldry”
The decision on the export licence application for the Dering Roll will be deferred for a period ending on 19 April 2008 inclusive. This period may be extended until 19 July 2008 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the Dering Roll at the recommended price of £192,500 excluding VAT is expressed.
Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the Dering Roll should contact the owner’s agent through:
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council,
London WC1B 4EA
Notes to Editors
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- The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by MLA, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.
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- When, in the development of personal armour, a mounted warrior was encased from head to foot in mail, and wore a helmet over his mail coif which concealed his features, painted shields came to serve as marks of recognition at tournaments, both for participants and spectators. Devices on shields went beyond marks of recognition to offer symbolic evidence of lineage (the devices were hereditary) and of affinity, expressing the bonds of patronage and service. The Dering Roll belongs to the period when heraldry was coming to be regulated by well defined rules: the earliest surviving treatise on the subject, the anonymous ‘De Heraudie’ (written in Anglo-Norman French), probably dates from the same period. Heraldic displays, whether on rolls of arms or carved in stone (as in the nave of Westminster Abbey), were visual demonstrations of the relationships underpinning political communities.
- The composition of the Dering Roll, if not its execution, must be the work of a specialist herald. In wartime heralds had important functions in the field and (because of their immunity from hostile action) in diplomacy. They were also the new experts in matters of armoury and secular ceremony. By the late 13th century heralds had assumed an established and professional position, being regularly paid and wearing the coats of arms of their masters. The heralds produced several distinct kinds of document: general rolls, the largest group; occasional rolls, giving the names and arms of those present on a particular occasion, usually a siege or tournament; local rolls; and ordinaries, in which the shields are grouped by their designs for the purposes of identification. The Dering Roll is the earliest local roll.
- There are surviving 13th-century manuscripts of the Camden Roll (British Library, Cotton roll XV.8) and of the Heralds’ Roll (London, College of Arms, MS. B. 29, pp. 20-27). These three are all roughly contemporary: the Dering Roll must date from after 1277, when William Peyferer succeeded his father; a terminus ad quem of 1279 has been suggested for the Heralds’ Roll; and the Camden Roll has been dated c.1280. The 13th-century manuscript of the Heralds’ Roll, to which Dering is most closely related, survives as a mutilated fragment – perhaps only a quarter of the original – chopped up and pasted into a book in the 17th century.
- The Dering Roll has a small amount of modern repair and some rubbing and occasional flaking of the paint in the shields is visible (inevitable in a roll, where the very process of rolling and unrolling is bound to flex the surface of the vellum). But overall the condition is entirely satisfactory.
- Further details about the Dering Roll can be found in the auction catalogue (sale L07241 lot 46 on 4 Dec 07) on the Sothebys website.