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The Baron Dacre is a title in the peerage of England, which draws its name from the manor of Dacre near Ullswater in Cumbria, which is itself named after the nearby Dacre Brook, from the Brythonic for "trickling stream" (cf the modern Welsh dagrau meaning 'tears'). The title dates back to 1321 and whilst it is not the oldest barony, it has arguably the most convoluted history of any barony having, for a time at least, managed to divide itself into two, besides being subject to forfeiture, fallen into abeyance on a number of occasions, and featuring at least two murders along the way.

There is also a Baron Dacre of Gillesland, being one of the subsidiary titles of the Howard line of Earls of Carlisle created on the 30th April 1661 and still held by that family, as well as the life peerage of Baron Dacre of Glanton assumed by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper before his death in 2004.

The Dacres and the barony of Gilsland

The barony of Gilsland (or Gillesland as it also known) lies in the former county of Cumberland. During the reign of William II Gilsland came into the possession of Hubert de Vaux, from whom it eventually descended into the hands of his great-grandaughter Maud. She married a Thomas de Multon (d 1271) and the great-grandson of this marriage, another Thomas, was summoned to Parliament as the Baron Multon of Gilsland on the 26th August 1307. This Thomas later but died without male issue in 1314, but his daughter and heiress Margaret married Ranulph or Randolf de Dacre three years later in 1317.

The Dacres were a family long established in the county of Cumberland, where they were considered as one of the 'De'ils Dozen' and "famous for their exploits in checking or avenging the depredations of the Scots". Taking their name from the manor of Dacre in Cumberland they were, together with the families of Neville and Percy, one of the powers of the time in the north of England. Randolf's grandfather William de Dacre of Dacre (died c.1258) had been a Sheriff of Cumberland and then Yorkshire, as well as holding the office of Governor of Carlisle. Randolf in turn also became the Sheriff of Cumberland and Governor of Carlisle and was summoned to Parliament on the 15th May 1321 "by writs directed Ranulpho de Dacre whereby he is held to have become Lord Dacre"; that is as opposed to being the 2nd Baron Multon, since his wife "was also heir to any Barony of Multon (of Gilsland) which may be held to have existed".

Randolf, who died in 1339, was succeeded in turn by three of his sons. First there was William, who having fought at the battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 and served as sheriff of Dumfries in 1467, died without issue on the 18th July 1361. Second there was Randolf who having served as Warden of the West Marches on a number of occasions was murdered in his bed at Halston on the 17th or 18th August 1375. Finally there was Hugh, prime suspect in his brother's murder, on which charge he was held in the Tower of London. Despite the widely held belief that Hugh was indeed responsible for his brother's death, he was released from the Tower on the 2nd July 1376 and allowed to enter into possession of the Dacre estates. He died on the 24th December 1383 and was succeeded by his son William the 5th Baron, who is said to have married a Joan Douglas, daughter of James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, although many doubt this. The 5th Baron died on the 20th July 1399 and was succeeded by his son Thomas, born 27th October 1387 at Naworth Castle.

The division of the Dacre Barony

Thomas de Dacre, the 6th of his line, married Philippa Neville one of the many offspring of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland who bore him two sons Thomas and Randolf. However when 6th Baron died on the 5th January 1458, his eldest son Thomas had predeceased him some years previously leaving only a daughter named Joan. Thus whilst the 6th Baron's nearest heir male was his second son Randolf, his heir general was his grand-daughter Joan. The 6th Baron had anticipated these events by entailing the majority of his estates in favour of his surviving son Randolf, who thus inherited Irthington, the caput of his barony, and much else besides and in 1459 a writ of summons was despatched to Randolf as a matter of course to attend the House of Lords as the Baron Dacre.

However Joan had married a Richard Fiennes or Fenys, the eldest son of Roger Fiennes of Herstmonceaux, and on the 7th November 1458 this Richard Fiennes was issued a patent confirming his position as "Lord Dacre and one of the barons of our realm", and thus Richard Fiennes also received a writ of summons to attend the parliament of 1459 as the Baron Dacre. Richard's father Roger Fiennes was a veteran of the battle of Agincourt and former member of parliament for Sussex who was sufficiently wealthy to spend £3,800 transforming his manor house at Herstmonceaux into "one of the splendours of fifteenth century architecture". What was more to the point was that the Fiennes were amongst the leading supporters of Margaret of Anjou and the Duke of Somerset who were keen to build up their party in their struggle with Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. (cf War of the Roses).

Although by this time in the fifteenth century, the idea that baronies could be inherited was well established, the precise rules governing their inheritance had yet to be decided. The fact that it was felt necessary to issue a patent to Fiennes, and that Randolph de Dacre was issued a summons notwithstanding said patent probably indicates that the expectation was that the title would pass to the heir male. It was probably the intention that the Fiennes patent should supersede and overrule this expectation, but that nevertheless a writ was issued to Randolph (perhaps by some clueless clerk) that frustrated that intention. Thus we have "the curious result that a single peerage in effect become two".

As it happens Randolph de Dacre was as keen a Lancastrian as his rival and he fought and died at the battle of Towton on 29th March 1461 and was subsequently attainted at the Yorkist parliament of 1461, thus bringing his claim on the title to an abrupt end. This however was not the end of the story as Randolph's younger brother and heir, Humphrey (who was also attainted in 1461) succeeded in obtaining a pardon from Edward IV in 1468. On the 8th February 1473 he petitioned parliament for a reversal of the attainder, proclaiming that "the seid Humfrey is as repentaunt and sorowful as eny creature may be of all which the seid Randolf or he have doon or comitted." His petition was duly granted, but there remained the question of what to do about the problem of having two Lords Dacre.

On the 8th April 1473 Edward IV issued his determination that Richard Fiennes should, by the right of his wife, "be reputed, held, named and called the Lord Dacre" and to "keep, have and use the same seat and place in every one of our parliaments as Thomas Dacre, knight, late Lord Dacre, had, used and kept". The king also decreed that "Humphrey Dacre and the heirs male of the body of Thomas Lord Dacre coming, be reputed, had and named and called Lord Dacre of Gilsland and have, use and keep the place in parliaments next adjoining beneath the said place that the said Richard Fenys, knight, Lord Dacre, now hath and occupieth". It might well be argued that Edward whose claim to the English throne was based on the descent from the heir-general, was predisposed to favour the merits of the Fiennes case, but his decision at least had the virtue of satisfying the various parties concerned.

As it happens the technical distinction between the 'Baron Dacre' and the 'Baron Dacre of Gisland' that Edward established was largely ignored by everybody who continued to refer to the holders of the Fiennes version of the title as the Barons Dacre of the South and the holders of the Dacre version as the Barons Dacre of the North.

Dacre of the North

As noted above the alternative version of the title Baron Dacre was vested in the heirs male of the 6th Baron Dacre. The Randolf Dacre who died at Towton in 1461 being adjudged the first of his line to hold this title, which was recovered by his younger brother Humphrey in 1473. Humphrey later became Governor of Carlsisle and attended Richard III's coronation but died on the 30th May 1485.

The title passed to his son Thomas who in 1513 commanded a troop of horse at the battle of Flodden, and was awarded lands around Lanercost in return for his efforts. He later became Warden of the West March for Henry VIII, and married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Robert Greystoke and suo jure Baroness Greystoke, although the Dacres do not appear to have claimed this title. Thomas died after falling off his horse on the 24th October 1525 and was succeeded by his son William, the 4th Baron, who also served as the Warden of the West March between 1527 and 1534, but found himself in the Tower of London on a charge of treason. He was later released and apperared as one of the twelve mourners at the funeral of Henry VIII and one of the four peers who registered a protest against the Book of Common Prayer.

Thomas 5th Baron died at Kirkoswald on the 1st July 1566 at the age of only forty, leaving as his heir his only son George, then about five years old. Thomas's widow was Elizabeth Leyburne, the daughter of a James Leyburne of Cunswick, and she subsequently remarried Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk who therefore became guardian of the young George and his sisters. Sadly George died after a fall from a wooden horse on the 17th May 1569 leaving his three sisters as his co-heirs. The Duke promptly ensured that all three of the Dacre sisters were married to three of his own younger sons, thereby (eventually) ensuring that Dacre inheritance passed into the hands of the Howard family. (It would perhaps be a trifle cynical to suggest that a Howard gave young George a little push, but stranger and more brutal events have occurred during the course of the history of the British peerage.)

However the grant of 1473 had clearly invested the title in the "heirs male of the body" of the 6th Baron Dacre, of which there are number still living, being the uncles of George, the 6th Baron Dacre of the North. The eldest of these, Leonard now "became heir male and in that character rightly assumed the title Lord Dacre of Gillesland." However the Duke of Norfolk came to be of the opinion that there was some doubt regarding the descent of the title of Baron Dacre of the North and appointed a panel of commissioners to report on the matter. The commissioners duly decided that the Dacre barony had been created by writ and thus was now in abeyance between the three sisters. As the Complete Peerage remarks of the commissioners "Their decision ... appears to have been much influenced by the Duke's views and interests" and notes the authority of George Townsend who baldly stated that "This decision was wrong", which by any standard it was.

Leonard was said by William Camden to have "stomached it much, that so goodly an inheritance should fall to his nieces". How goodly the inheritance was can be ascertained from the information that the Barony of Gilsland itself comprised some 70,000 acres of land, on top of which there were further estates in Cumberland including those of Greystoke and Dacre itself, another 20,000 acres around Morpeth in Northumberland and a further 30,000 acres in Yorkshire. The Cumberland estates largely ended up with William Howard the youngest of the Howard brothers, and it was his great-grandson Charles Howard who later became the Earl of Carlise, selecting as one of his subsidiary titles that of Baron Dacre of Gillesland, in recognition of his ownership of the Dacre and Gilsland estates.

Leonard, who notwithtanding the Duke of Norfolk's opinion on the matter, continued to call himself the Baron Dacre, soon appeared as one of the instigators of the Rising of the North in 1569, principally it seems to allow him to seize control of the family estates which he rapidly occupied, whilst continuing to make protestations of loyalty to the crown. Unfortunately for Leonard Elizabeth I soon became aware of his duplicity and ordered his arrest, and sent the Lord Hunsdon to deal with him. Leonard was defeated at the battle of Gelt's Bridge near his home of Naworth Castle, after which he fled into exile in Scotland. Leonard was attainted in 1571 and later died in Brussels on the 12th August 1573.

His brother Edward, who had also been attainted in 1571, also subsequently claimed the title, but he died in exile at Beveren in the autumn of 1584. The youngest brother of all, Francis similarly called himself Lord Dacre and even managed to gain possession of some of the Cumberland estates in 1584. Despairing of ever obtaining any justice he left the country in 1591, for which offence he was attainted, and entered the service of Philip II of Spain. He was back in Scotland in 1597 when his intrigues caused some concern to the government and later died at Chester-le-Street on the 19th February 1633. His only son and heir was Randolf who died in the following year on the 10th December 1634, "and consequently the Peerage, if one in tail male, became extinct".

Dacre of the South

Although it had been Richard Fiennes who had been named as the Baron Dacre in the patent of 1459, it is his wife Joan who is in the words of the Complete Peerage "according to modern doctrine suo jure Baroness Dacre", and is thus now regarded as the 7th of her line rather than her husband. After her death in 1486 she was succeeded by her grandson Thomas, who was Constable of Calais in 1493 and fought at the battle of Blackheath in 1497, and was later locked up in the Fleet prison on a charge of harbouring felons.

On his death the title once more skipped a generation, and passed to his grandson Thomas, the 9th Baron. He was one of the jurors at the trial of Anne Boleyn in 1536, but was later a member of a hunting party at Laughton Park in Sussex when one of the park keepers was killed. Thomas was adjudged guilty of murder and was hanged at Tyburn on the 29th June 1541. As a convicted felon his title was considered forfeit, and his only son, also Thomas, who might otherwise have inherited was prevented from so doing and died at the age of fifteen on the 25th August 1553. In the end it was Gregory, younger brother of the 9th Baron who was restored by Act of Parliament in 1558 and became the 10th Baron. Gregory married Anne Sackville, daughter of Richard Sackville and thus sister of the 1st Sackville Earl of Dorset. He died without issue at Chelsea on the 25th September 1594 leaving as his heir his daughter Margaret.

Margaret whose claim to be recognised as suo jure baroness was recognised in 1604, married a Sampson Lennard of Knole, Clevening and Aperfield, a former sheriff of Kent and member of parliament. Sampson was on the verge of being called to the House of Lords by right of his wife (he even obtained a warrant confirming his precedence as Baron Dacre of the South) when his wife inconvenently died on the 10th March 1612. So the title passed to their son Henry Lennard, the 12th Baron, whose tenure was comparatively brief as he died on the 8th August 1616 of a "new ague" and was succeeded by his son Richard.

Richard, the second lord Dacre of the Lennard family died 20th August 1630, and was succeeded by his son Francis as the 14th Baron Dacre, who assumed the name of Barret in pursuance of the will of Edward Barret, Baron Newburgh, who had previously served Charles I as chancellor of the exchequer. With the death of Randolf Dacre, who called himself the 10th Baron Dacre of the North, Francis put in a claim for the title and estates of the Dacre family, since the original compromise arrangement of 1473 had specified that these should pass to the Barons Dacre of the South in the event of any failure in the male line of the Dacres of the North. Two centuries may well have passed since Edward IV originally issued his determination of 1473, but the Baron Dacres of the South had obviously not forgotten the details. Of course the Howards, who had already appropriated all the Dacre estates in 1569 were not about to surrender these simply because the law obliged them to do so, but they were however sufficiently motivated to buy Francis off with the manor of Dacre and some further land in Cumberland.

Francis latersided with Parliament during the Civil War, but was neverthless one of the twelve peers who protested at the king's trial. He therefore found little difficulty in obtaining a pardon in 1661, but died not long afterwards on the 12th May 1662 after a short illness.

His son and successor Thomas made a particularly notable marriage on the 16th May 1674 to 'Anne Palmer otherwise Fitzroy', daughter of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of Charles II, who may well have been Anne's biological father. Thomas was promised £20,000 as a dower (which was never paid) but was created the Earl of Sussex on the 5th October. Perhaps Thomas never forgave the Stuarts for coming up with the cash as he later became a supporter of the Glorious Revolution in 1688, much to his wife's dismay who refused to have much to do with him afterwards as a result. Thomas died without male issue on the 30th October 1715, at which point the earldom became extinct, but the barony of Dacre fell into abeyance between his two daughters Anne and Barbara.

It was Anne who eventually became the 16th Baroness Dacre, after the death of her sister Barbara in 1741. She first married her second cousin Richard Barrett on the 15th June 1716, but he died of smallpox on the 15th December later that same year. She next married Henry Roper, 8th Baron Teynham, and after his death on the 16th May 1723 she took as her third husband, Robert Moore, a younger son of the Earl of Drogheda. At Anne's death on the 3rd July 1755 she was succeeded by Thomas Barrett-Lennard the only child of her first marriage born postumously fairly obviously, and the 17th Baron of his line. Thomas died without any surviving legitimate issue on the 6th January 1786 (although he did leave an illegitimate, son also Thomas Barrett-Lennard who became a baronet in 1801) and was succeeded by Trevor Charles Roper, the son of Charles Roper, one of the offspring of Anne's second marriage.

Trevor died without issue on the 4th July 1794, leaving as his heir his sister Gertrude. Gertrude, regarded as the 19th of her line, married a Thomas Brand of Hoo, and it was their son Thomas Brand who succeeded as the 20th Baron at her death on the 3rd October 1819. Thomas, a barrister and Whig member of parliament, died on the 21st March 1851 and was succeeded by his son Henry who became the 21st Baron Dacre. Henry had the fortume to be named as the heir of John Trevor-Hampden, 3rd Viscount Hampden who died on the 9th September 1824, and in accordance with the terms of the late Viscount's will, on the 18th November 1824 Henry assumed the surname of Trevor. Henry was succeeded by his son and heir, Thomas Crosbie Trevor, who died without issue on the 26th February 1890 and was succeeded by his brother Henry Bouverie who reverted to using Brand as his surname.

Henry Bouverie Brand the 23rd Baron had previously been created the Viscount Hampden in 1884 and the title of Baron Dacre remained with the Viscounts Hampden until the death of the 4th Viscount Hampden and 26th Baron in 1965. He did without male issue and the viscountcy passed to a cousin whilst the Dacre barony fell into abeyance between his two surviving daughters. Five years later in 1970 the abeyance was terminated in favour of Rachel, since although her sister Tessa Mary survives, having married Julian Ogilvie Thompson, and has issue, she is a resident of South Africa and has surrendered any claim on the title.

Rachel, the 27th Baroness of her line, married William Douglas-Home, third son of Charles Cospatrick Archibald Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home and Lillian Lambton, on the 26th July 1951. It is their eldest son James Thomas Archibald Douglas-Home who is the heir to the title and can anticipate becoming the 28th Baron Dacre in due course.


Baron Dacre

Baron Dacre of the North (Baron Dacre of Gilsland)

Title forfeit 1461 restored 1473

Claimants to the title

Baron Dacre of the South


Title forfeit 1541, restored 1558


In abeyance between 1715 and 1741



In abeyance between 1965 to 1970


  • The Complete Peerage
  • Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th Edition
  • J Enoch Powell and Keith Wallis The House of Lords in the Middle Ages (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968)
  • Dacre at http://www.thecumbriadirectory.com/Town_or_Village/Dacre/Dacre.php
  • The Earls Rebellion or "The Rising of The North" (1569) http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Documents/NorthernRebellion.htm
  • The History of Naworth http://www.naworth.co.uk/history1_new.htm

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