An exhibition of important local documents and photographs which date back 900 years will be unveiled in Thornton-le-Dale next week.
The recently-formed Thornton-le-Dale History Group is hosting the one-day exhibition at the former Lady Lumley’s grammar school in the village on Sunday May 4.
Experts have hailed the collection as being of “national significance” and one of the most important discoveries in North Yorkshire for the past 10 years.
Central to the exhibition is the Hill family archive which was recently discovered in an attic and features around 2,000 documents that span 900 years of history.
The Hill family of Thornton-le-Dale were Lords of the Manor of Thornton and Farmanby from 1663 and of the Honour, Forest and Lordship of Pickering from 1733 until 1887, making them one of the most powerful and influential families in the region over several centuries.
Among the documents found are land surveys, rentals and Bailiff’s charge lists, from 1580 onwards, as well as numerous building and Thornton Estate accounts and correspondence – making the collection a treasure trove for family history groups and agricultural and landscape historians.
Letters from John Hill, who was Commissioner of Customs in London during the first half of the 18th Century, have also been discovered as well as an early valuation of a sugar plantation in Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands, which was owned by his brother, William.
The Hill family also had interests in Jamaica and Nevis, in common with other North Yorkshire families who owed their wealth to involvement in the Atlantic economy from the 17th Century onwards.
The collection has attracted a number of admirers, including Philip Green of the National Archives who says parts of it are considered to be of national significance.
And Keith Sweetmore, the director of North Yorkshire County Record Office where the collection is now held, described it as the most important discovery in his 10 years in the post.