GALLERY: Ancient scroll charts seven centuries of family history in part of Fenland

WHAT have a land-owning dynasty dating back to the Domesday Book, a templar knight who died in the crusades, Anne Boleyn’s grand-mother and Queen Elizabeth 1 got in common..? They all have links to one quiet corner of the Fens.

And now a copy of a priceless parchment scroll, charting seven centuries of family history in and around the village of Tilney All Saints, is set to go on display in its 12th Century church.

Compiled from 1640 onwards, the scroll charts the geneaology of the Tylney or Tilney family. It begins in the 1060s, with Fredericus de Tylney, brother of the powerful Abbot Baldwin of Bury.

Fredericus, who is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Frodo de Tylney, was given extensive lands across East Anglia after the Norman Conquest of 1066. One descendent - Frederick de Tilney - was knighted by Richard I and died in the Crusades.

During the 15th Century, the scroll also reveals a direct link to Queen Elizabeth I from the Tilney family, via her mother Anne Boleyn’s grandmother, Elizabeth Tilney.

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Originally compiled in 1640 by herald Peter de Neve, the scroll found its way into the Norfolk Records Office via documents passed on from an antiquarian bookseller.

Retired health visitor June Mitchell and her husband Ian, a retired engineer, started a local history group after they moved to the village from Hertfordshire in 2000.

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“It started with a couple of neighbours getting together,” said Mrs Mitchell, 73. “Then we asked in the village if people were interested in research and we had 15 come along to a meeting.”

Last summer one member discovered that Norfolk Record Office, at County Hall in Norwich, held an 8ft parchment scroll, whose hand-drawn heraldry recorded the geneaology of the Tilney family, dating back to 1097. Members arranged to go and see it for themselves.

“They unrolled it and we were gasping, we were astonished,” said Mrs Mitchell. “It was so beautiful and the content was amazing as well.”

While the group could not take the original parchment away for further study, county archivist Dr John Alban said they could make a copy.

Members of the group contributed �400 needed for the project. Photographer Gerry Yardy was commissioned to copy the 8ft original digitally, stitching exposures together into a precise replica.

Printer Dr Andrew McNair - famed for his work with Foden’s Map of Norfolk - produced the mammoth print, which will soon be hung in All Saint’s Church.

The scroll sheds new light on the early medieval history of the Fens. But it is not clear whether the family who gave their name to the clutch of villages to the west of Lynn ever actually lived there.

“The bit that’s particularly interesting is the early bit,” said Mrs Mitchell. “We can’t find any evidence of the Tilneys actually living in Tilney.”

The village history group is still working to find out more about the village’s early history - including talking to experts about the feasibility of an archaeological dig.

An official unveiling is being held in the church on September 26 (2.30pm) when county archivist Dr John Alban will present a short talk on the history of the roll.

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