Sir Thomas DACRE of Lanercost (Capt.)

Died: 17 Jul 1565

Buried: Parish church of Lanercost

Father: Thomas DACRE (2 B. Gillesland/ 1 B. Greystoke)

Mother: ?

Married 1: ?


1. Thomas (Christopher) DACRE

2. William DACRE

3. Anne DACRE

4. Alice DACRE

Associated with: Dau. HEWETT


5. John DACRE

Married 2: Eleanor DENTON

Married 3: Jane CARLISLE ABT 1565

Illegitimate son of Thomas, 2nd Lord Dacre of Gillesland, by an unidentified mistress. He was first recorded in 1529 as the apparently loyal servant of his half-brother William Dacre, the second baron's successor. He appears to have been arrested as a suspected accessory to William, Lord Dacre's cross-border machinations. Lord Dacre, with his uncle Sir Christopher, were imprisoned, accused of treason by some Scots "of mean condition". Dacre was committed to the Tower about 15 May 1534; he was acquitted 9 Jul 1534.

By 1535 he was serving as a soldier in Ireland, subsequently returning to Cumberland as an associate of Sir Thomas Wharton, whom the crown was promoting in the north-west as a counterbalance to the Dacres of Gillesland and the Cliffords.

Thomas Dacre's abilities were appreciated, but he lacked the resources for office: in Sep 1537 the Duke of Norfolk, considering possible keepers for Tynedale, described Dacre as ‘a quick, sharp man, brought up in practices of such wild people … but he is too poor to serve in that office.

The decisive change in Thomas Dacre's fortunes came in 1542 at the Battle of Solway Moss. War broke out between England and Scotland. James V being on the side of Rome, was unfavourable to his uncle, Henry VIII, whose policy was to renew the claims made by Edward I to superiority over the kingdom of Scotland. A Scottish army entered the West Marches of England and was put to rout on 14 Nov 1542, by a few hundred borderers under Sir Thomas Dacre, the Bastard, and Jack Musgrave of Bewcastle. Sir Thomas Dacre was rewarded in the following year by a grant, in tail male,  of some of the possessions of the dissolved Augustinian priory of Lanercost, a few miles south of Naworth, the principal residence of Lord Dacre. Thomas was thus ensconced as an agent of royal authority in the Gillesland Dacres' backyard. In Dec 1545 he was granted a pension of 20, and in either that year or 1547 he was knighted, while by 1552 he was deputy warden of the west march and was granted Grinsdale, Farlam, Lazonby, Brampton and Irthington. Perhaps he still lacked the means to enable him to wield authority effectively, for in Jun that year he successfully petitioned for the churches and estates formerly held by the canons of Lanercost. Concentrated in Gilsland, but with outliers in the west and centre of Cumberland, they had an estimated gross value of just over 70; this may not have constituted riches, but the grant still made Sir Thomas an important landowner.

The preamble to his first will, dated 9 May 1552, suggests that Sir Thomas Dacre was protestant in religion, unlike his staunchly Catholic kinsmen at Naworth. Not surprisingly he lost ground at the accession of Queen Mary, but equally predictably he recovered it under Elizabeth. Bishop John Best had thought Sir Thomas suspect in religion, but that may only reflect Best's ardent evangelicalism. In 155960 he was sheriff of Cumberland. Moreover, he clearly hoped for the backing of central government as he and his sons engaged in a series of fierce quarrels with the Dacres of Naworth. In Oct 1559 Sir Ralph Sadler wrote to Sir William Cecil in support of Sir Thomas's elder son, Christopher, allegedly persecuted by Lord Dacre with som malyce and greate extremyte in a dispute over hunting rights. A year later a hunting party from Naworth rampaged over the Lanercost demesnes, and when Christopher remonstrated Lord Dacre's second son, Leonard, allegedly told him, Thou arte a varlett and a knave and I shall breake the payte.

In 1559 Sir Thomas undertook ostentatious building works at Lanercost. The west range of the monastic complex became the centre of an imposing residence, with a great hall on its first floor and a four-storey tower at its west end. Lit by large new windows, the hall was decorated within by high-quality wall-paintings, dominated by a huge representation of the Dacre arms. This show of independence notwithstanding, as long as Lord Dacre was warden of the west march (154963) he was probably too strong for Sir Thomas Dacre of Lanercost, who on 19 Jun 1561 was appointed marshal of the garrison at Berwick. His sojourn there was unhappy, however, and he complained bitterly of arrears of payment.

He married three times and left two sons, Christopher and William, and a daughter, Anne, and also an illegitimate son, John, who served with him at Berwick.

Lady Jane Carlisle, the third wife of Sir Thomas, married him late in her life. Prior to that, she had what has been described as a “liaison” with Sir John Lowther (b. 1488 - d. 1553), bearing him two daughters, Mabel and Jane, and eventually serving as his executor upon his death in 1553. Their relationship seems to have begun in the 1540s during his tenure as constable of Carlisle Castle. Well after Lowther’s death, in about 1565, Jane became wife of Thomas Dacre of Lanercost. Lady Jane Dacre seems to have been wealthy in her own right, having inherited money and property from both her Carlisle relations and Sir John Lowther. Born into a leading Carlisle family, she inherited the Whitehall property on the city's Abbey Street. In his will, drawn up on 3 Feb 1553, Lowther made Jane his joint executor and residuary legatee, and it seems likely that at least some of her valuables were given her by him.

She had a sister, Elizabeth (b. 1510- d. 1564), who is sometimes said to have been the daughter of William Carlisle, 2nd Lord Carlisle of Torthorald, Dumfrieshire, but Lord Carlisle was a Scot and neither Jane nor Elizabeth are listed among his children. In Mar 1564/5, Jane traveled to Scotland to attend the wedding of her nephew, John Sempill or Semple (Elizabeth’s the legitimated son by Robert, 3rd lord Sempill, legitimized after their 1546 marriage), to Mary Livingston, Queen Mary’s lady in waiting. The Queen called John Sempill “the Englishman” because he had been born in the south to an English mother. It may be at this time that Jane received the gift of a chain worth 60, possibly from Mary Queen of Scots herself. Jane was apparently wealthy enough to live independently during the decade before her eventual marriage, unusual for a gentlewoman of the sixteenth century. She is reputed to have had a richly decorated house and a collection of paintings. Judging by Sir Thomas's reference to her in his own will, referring to the naturall love & good will I bear & intend towards hir better advanciment & maintenance of hir lyvinge hearafter durynge her lyffe naturall, justly & well at my hands desarved, his marriage to her had been a happy one.

Probably Lady Jane Carlisle

Described as old and weak in Jun 1563, he was probably glad to be replaced on 26 Feb 1564. Lord Dacre was no longer warden now, and later that year Sir Thomas was again appointed sheriff of Cumberland. He probably died on 17 Jul 1565, since on that day his son Christopher succeeded him as sheriff, holding office until 16 Nov following. Despite Sir Thomas's earlier claims of poverty, his son William claimed in 1566 that his father had died possessed of goods and chattels worth 1800.

Thomas Dacre first Will, in which mentioned Eleanor Denton as his wife, was dated 9 May 1552. His second Will dated 7 Jul 1565, proved 12 Jun 1566 in York by his son Christopher, and in Carlisle by his widow Jane Dacre, 26 Oct 1565.

After Sir Thomas death, Jane was involved in a bitter lawsuit with one of Dacre’s sons by an earlier marriage. In the inventory of Jane Dacre's will, drawn up on 7 Jan 1575 and proved on 24 Mar following, her goods (excluding debts) were valued at 394 2s. 10d., to which money, jewellery, and plate contributed just over 200. Her house was amply, even richly, furnished, with two well-equipped kitchens. The presence of a byble in Englissh may indicate that she shared her husband's religious position. But perhaps because of William Dacre's lawsuit she made no mention of her husband's family in her will, and requested burial not at Lanercost, but in St Mary's parish church in Carlisle.

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