Sneyd Family archives reveal true origins of Keele’s Herbert the Dragon

Herbert the Dragon, Keele’s bronze mascot, was originally thought to be around 100 years old and to have been made locally, but recently discovered documents have revealed that Herbert is actually over 500 years old - and Italian!

Herbert, a late Gothic bronze statue, was believed to date from the start of the 20th Century and be one of a pair of giant boot-scrapers, made for Keele Hall at the nearby Gresham’s Apedale Works. However, recently uncovered Sneyd family documents researched by Keele's Special Collections and Archives team have revealed that Herbert actually dates back to 1510 and was brought to Staffordshire from Italy by Col. Ralph Sneyd in 1903.

Herbert was originally installed above a well in the conservatory of Keele Hall, but in 1951 Herbert was found in three pieces in a skip and was rescued by one of the University’s founding lecturers Dr Ron Evans, and his wife Mairwen. The gothic monster was repaired, cleaned and polished and named Herbert, becoming the University mascot for sporting competitions.

Herbert with boys 1950s

Herbert with girls 1950s

Herbert now lives in his “Dragon’s Den” in the atrium of Keele University Library.

Helen Burton, Curator of Special Collections and Archives in Keele University Library, said:

"Until recently we still had a large deposit of mid-twentieth century documents in the original metal deed box. I discovered that these records include documents and photographs relating to 'Herbert', shedding a whole new lights on his origins. Herbert is in fact a late Gothic bronze 'fabulous monster', once part of a drinking fountain with a marble cistern.”