The Beast of Acklam

The Newcastle Courant (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), Friday, December 25, 1840; Page 3, Issue 8666.

A strange addendum to this week’s post that I’ve been sitting on for about a decade.

When I was doing my History MA I spent a lot of time researching Acklam Hall, a Restoration Era country pile and Middlesbrough’s only Grade 1 listed building, mainly because I went to college there when it had some 1970s boxes grafted to its side.
Acklam Hall as a college in the mid-20th Century

When searching through some digital archives I found the absolute cracker of a story displayed at the top of the page. An article from the Newcastle Courant (now-defunct local broadsheet) noting the death of a strange and curious creature on the Acklam Hall estate.

There was lately killed on the estate of T. Hustler, Esq., of Acklam Hall, in Cleveland, an animal, whose head resembled that of a fox, its body bore the resemblance of the cat, being somewhat shorter and stronger in its legs, and its tail was similar to the otter. It was of a dark grey colour and measured from its nose to the tip of the tail 2 feet 10 inches.

The Newcastle Courant, Friday, December 25, 1840;

The first thing to note is that the Courant was clearly a proto-Daily Sport in its choice of news story. Printed in a time when Darwin was in the midst of researching his evolutionary theories, it’s clear that he could have saved himself the trip to the Galapagos Islands and nipped up north instead to see true miracles of nature.

A mock up of the Beast of Acklam (Jenine Sharabi)

I’m open to theories as to what this actually is. In the meantime, here’s my wife’s artist’s impression and a song I wrote about the piece with my old band By Toutatis.

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