A 368-YEAR-OLD leather jug made from Oliver Cromwell's war horse was today going under the hammer for auction.

The huge tankard was produced for the famous Parliamentarian who overthrew the monarchy to mark his status as Lord Protector of the British Isles in 1653.

It was one of a dozen been made from the hide of Cromwell's dead horse Blackjack and it would have been used to carry water or ale.

A few years later the 2ft tall jug was deposited at the family bank C. Hoare and Co. in London and left there.

It fell into the ownership of the Hoare family and has been passed down from generation to generation.

The family has now decided to sell it at auction with Dukes Auctioneers of Dorchester, Dorset. It has been given a pre-sale estimate of £6,000.

Senan MacDonagh, of Dukes, said: "These jugs became known as blackjacks because of the horse. But very few of them were recorded at being 30cm or higher.

"This one is an incredible survivor."

"The connection to Oliver Cromwell make it particularly important."

Astride Blackjack, Cromwell fought many of the battles of the Civil War that raged in England between 1642 and 1651.

The historic vessel bares a silver pendant inscribed 'Oliver Cromwell 1653 Lord Protector of England Scotland and Ireland'.

The front has a silver metal armorial mount which is a variation of Cromwell's coat of arms and the motto 'Pax Quaeritur Bello'.

Mr MacDonagh added: "The date '1653' on the rim of the jug may suggest that it commemorates the year Cromwell became Lord Protector.

"The question is whether the mounts were added by an antiquarian 150 years after the jug was made. Expert opinion is divided but the leather vessel itself is certainly of the period.

"Early collectors liked to link objects to significant historical figures and it was not uncommon for them to 'improve' objects."

After it entered the ownership of the Hoare family, the jug was kept on top of a piano in the dining room of Stourhead House in Wiltshire before the mansion and estate was left to the National Trust in 1947.

The descendants now selling it live in Bere Regis, Dorset.

Cromwell defeated King Charles I, who was subsequently beheaded for high treason, before he became the Lord Protector of England.

He died of natural causes in 1658 and upon the return of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II had his corpse exhumed from Westminster Abbey and beheaded.