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The Dacre Beasties
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The Victoria & Albert Museum
The Dacre Beasts are a group of figures which were made as heraldic ornaments to represent one of the most powerful families of Sixteenth Century Northern England. The group consists of a griffin, a bull, a dolphin (which looks rather like an angry trout) and a ram.
The wealth and power of the Dacre family (of Naworth Castle, Brampton, Cumbria) was expanded in 1317 when a member of the influential and land-rich de Multon family married a Dacre family. The marriage resulted in a union of two enormous plots of land and strengthened the Dacre’s hold on Northern England. The figure of the ram, seen holding a banner, represents the de Multon family ( originally spelled 'Mouton,' the name is French for “sheep,” and, hence the ram). The banner is emblazoned with the family coat of arms.
The Dacre Beasts, commissioned by Lord Thomas Dacre (1467-1525) were crafted by unnamed local craftsmen from, as the story goes, a single, large oak grown on the family estate. The figures were painted and gilded and adorned with mounts of tinned copper. The group was restored in 1844 after being rescued from a major fire at Naworth Castle. Testing of the pigment shows that they’ve been repainted several times over the centuries. It’s likely that these are the only recorded surviving original heraldic beasts of an English Renaissance noble family.