This is a parish in Leath ward, and petty sessional division; rural deanery of Penrith W.; the poor law union, county court and rural districts of Penrith; and the county council electoral division of Greystoke. It adjoins Westmorland, from which it is separated by the river Eamont, and on the other sides it is bounded by Greystoke, Penrith, and Newton Reigny. The length of the parish from north to south is about four miles, and from east to west, two and a half; and the following townships are comprised within its limits, viz.:- Dacre, Great Blencow, Newbiggin, Soulby, and Stainton. The area is about 6,828 acres; the gross rental, £14,881 10s. 11d.; the ratable value of the land, £7,020; and of the buildings, £4,698; and population, 942. Some of the lands are held by freehold, and the rest by customary tenure. The soil is chiefly a red loam, producing good crops of grain, especially near the banks of the Eamont. Limestone is found in the parish, and at Southwaite is a mineral Spring, much used by the inhabitants.

Dacre township comprises about 1,136 acres, of which the gross rental is £1,477 10s., the ratable value of the land, £1,018; and of the buildings, £298 10s.

The village of the name is situated on the north bank of the river Eamont, about five miles W.S.W of Penrith. It is a place of very considerable antiquity, and probably gave name to the family who so long possessed it. Nicolson and Burn express the contrary opinion, and tell us that the place took its name from the family, who were originally called D'Acre. One of them, they say, distinguished himself at the siege of D'Acre during the Crusade. The family was thenceforth known as Dacre, and the name was imparted to their place of residence. "Unfortunately for this absurd story, the first of the family that appears at all is William de Dacre, and not D'Acre or Dacre." Dacor on the banks of the Eamont finds a place in historical record nearly two centuries before the achievements of this mythical warrior at D'Acre. William of Malmsbury mentions a congress held at Dacor, in 934, when Constantine, King of Scotland, attended by his son Eugenius, King of Cumberland, did homage to Athelstan.

The Dacres, in the past, ranked among the noblest and most important families in the north of England, and were possessed of the baronies of Greystoke, Gilsland, and Burgh, and many other estates in the adjoining counties, which were held by different branches of the family. Ranulph de Dacre carried off Margaret de Multon, the heiress of Gilsland, and was created a baron in 1353. Sir Richard Fienes having married Joan, the only daughter of Thomas, Lord Dacre, was by royal patent, the same year, created a baron by the title of Lord Dacre of the south. Thomas de Dacre pre-deceased his father, and, therefore, Joan was heir-general to her grandfather; but her uncle, Ranulph de Dacre, being heir-male, a severance in the family honours and estates took place. The latter obtained all the manors belonging to the family in Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire, whilst Joan and her husband received the Multon estates at Holbeach, in Lincolnshire. In the disputes between the houses of York and Lancaster, Ranulph espoused the cause of the Red Rose, and was killed at the battle of Towton. His lands were forfeited to the Crown, and the greater part of them were granted to Joan and her husband. Gregory Fienes, Lord Dacre, dying without issue, was succeeded by his sister Margaret, the wife of Samson Lennard, Esq., of Chevening, Kent, whose posterity inherited both the title and estates. Thomas Lennard, the fifth Lord Dacre of this family, married Lady Ann Fitzroy, a natural daughter of Charles II. by the Duchess of Cleveland, and in 1674, was created Earl of Sussex. He died in 1715, leaving two daughters, co-heiresses, who, with their mother in the following year, sold the manors of Dacre and Soulby and their other possessions in Cumberland for £15,000 to Sir Christopher Musgrave, Bart. Sir Christopher, the same year, conveyed them to Edward Hasell, Esq., of Dalemain, from whom they have descended to John Edward Hasell, Esq., J.P.

DACRE CASTLE, the once proud mansion of the Dacres, where the fierce old barons oft held high festival amidst their retainers, and where, protected by its ponderous walls, they could almost bid defiance to the majesty of the law, is now the residence of a husbandman. Sic transit gloria mundi. All that is now left standing to tell the tale of its former grandeur is a quadrangular building, with battlemented parapets, and four square towers of excellent workmanship, still in a good state of preservation. Traces of the moat can still be discerned. There are two entrances, one at the west tower, and another between the towers in the east front. Near the latter are the armorial bearings of the Earl of Sussex, the restorer of the castle in the latter end of the seventeenth century, which have been said to denote that this part was built or repaired "in the reign of King Henry VII." * The arms are quarterly - 1, on a fess three fleurs-de-lis, Lennard; 2, three lions rampant, Fienes; 3, three escallops, Dacre; 4, three bars, Multon. A piscina in the wall of a room now used as a kitchen, would appear to indicate its former appropriation to religious purposes. This was probably the chapel for which Margaret de Dacre received the bishop's license in 1354. The walls are about nine feet in thickness. There are two arched vaults, said to have served as dungeons, which communicate by steps with the ground floor. But its terrors as well as its glory have passed away, and never again within these vaulted chambers will the bold barons of Dacre immure their luckless captives. The castle is thus quaintly described in Sandford's MS. written about 1688:- "From Matterdale Mountaines comes Daker Bek; almost at the foote thereof stands Dacker Castle alone, and no more house about it, and I protest looks very sorrowful for the loss of its founders in that huge battle of Touton Feild; and that total Eclips of that great Lord Dacres, in that Grand Rebellion with lords Northumberland and Westmorland in Queen Elizabeth's time, and in the north called Dacre's Raide."

Allusion has already been made to the antiquity of Dacre. Though the present building does not bear traces of very great age, there is reason to believe a previous structure occupied the spot, and that it was here that King Athelstan received the homage of the Kings of Scotland and Cumberland in 934. An apartment in the castle is still known as the "Room of the Three Kings" - a name singularly corroborative both of the antiquity and importance of Dacre. It is said that this is one of the two castles now remaining which Oliver Cromwell visited.

The Church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is an ancient edifice, probably erected soon after the Norman Conquest. Tradition says it was built out of the ruins of an ancient monastery, which once stood near the river Dacre. The venerable Bede, who mentions it in his Ecclesiastical History, tells us it was presided over by a religious man named Suidbert. The church consists of nave, north and south aisles, chancel, vestry, and a tower containing three bells. The tower was rebuilt in 1810, and the church underwent considerable repairs in 1856. The aisles are divided from the naves by four pointed arches on each side, with plain mouldings springing from octagonal and circular piers, and a low Norman arch separates the nave from the chancel. In the interior is an ancient mural monument representing a knight clad in armour, with gorget and hemlet [sic]; his sword is sheathed by his side; his legs, which are broken off below the knees, are crossed, and his hands are raised in the attitude of prayer. It is fourteenth century work, and is supposed to commemorate one of the Barons of Dacre. There are also several monuments to the Hasell family. In the churchyard are four rude figures of animals, about four feet in height, sitting on their haunches, and clasping a pillar or ragged stag, on which three of the figures rest their heads. Hutchinson thinks the other is carrying on its back the figure of a lynx. It has been supposed that they refer to some armorial device of the Dacre family, as the ragged staff appears connected with the escallop shell in some of the ornaments at Naworth Castle. At the entrance to the vestry is an ancient stone, found during the restoration of the church in 1875. It is considered to belong to the eighth or ninth century. The silver cup and paten used for the communion service bear the dates 1583 and 1584. A lock on the east door was the gift of Anne, Countess of Pembroke, in 1671. The benefice is now a vicarage, in the patronage of the Rev. John White, and held by the Rev. F.N. Hasell. It was rectorial until the reign of Henry VIII., when it is supposed to have been given to the collegiate church of Kirkoswald; but at the dissolution of that college, the tithes, &c., were vested in the Crown. In 1380, Andrew de Laton, of Dalemain, left by will to the church all his personal estate, pro salute animę, that is, he tried to purchase salvation by leaving to the church the wealth he could not carry with him beyond the tomb.

In 1586, a lease of the rectory and tithes was granted by the crown to one Hammond, for 21 years, he agreeing to pay the vicar an annual stipend of £8. About the year 1669, Mr. W. Mawson, of Tymparon, bequeathed to the incumbent the tithes of Thrimby, which were sold for £200, and this sum with £200 obtained from the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, was laid out in the purchase of land at Black Burton. The present income amounts to £265 per annum.

The Parish School was built in 1749, and endowed with the Motherby estate; purchased with the ancient school stock and various donations. This was exchanged in 1799 for the Newbiggin estate, the rent of which is divided between the poor and the school. The present building was erected in 1834, and is attended by about 26 children.

The Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1873, at a cost of £400; the site for which was presented by Admiral Wauchope.

GREAT BLENCOW township has an area of 646 acres, which are assessed at £568 10s. The gross estimated rental is £938, and the ratable value of the buildings £266. The village, which gives its name to the township, is a small one, though traces still remain of its larger dimensions at one time, situated about four and a half miles N.W. by W. of Penrith. Its celebrated and well-endowed grammar school was founded by Thomas Burbank, a native of the place, who in 1577, endowed it with land at Brixworth, in Northamptonshire, which lets for £120 per annum; also land at Culgaith, in Cumberland, worth upwards of £30 per annum - now sold and the proceeds invested - and an annual rent-charge of £6 to be paid out of the Yanwath Hall estate, near Penrith. Much of the original endowment has been lost from time to time by bad investments, and the carelessness of the feoffees. The nomination of the headmaster was invested in eight feoffees, who, in 1793, rebuilt the school and master's house. Over the door is the founder's name, and the following couplet:

Ye youthe rejoice at this foundation
Being made for your good education.
A.D. 1577.

The present governing body consists of - Sir H.R. Vane, Bart., chairman; H.C. Howard, Esq., C.J. Parker, Esq., H. Riley, Esq., J.E. Hasell, Esq., and T.E.H. Dowson, Esq.

This endowed school of private foundation is one of that numerous class that owe their origin to the want of places of education so severely felt throughout the kingdom after the dissolution of monasteries in Henry VIII.'s reign, when the nation was abandoned to gross ignorance, and the delusions of every theological empiric. Up to 1880 the school was said to be "free for the classics to all the world," on the payment of entrance money. Nothing but the classics were taught upon the foundation, other branches of education being paid for. The scheme of the Charity Commissioners has materially altered all this. But the raising of the school terms has been detrimental to the interests of the immediate population, for whom primarily the endowment was intended. Many eminent clergymen have been educated here. Edward, Lord Ellenborough, Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, was once a pupil; as was also George Whitehead, the well-known Quaker. Of late years several of its pupils have distinguished themselves at Oxford, Dublin, and Edinburgh Universities.

Near the village is Ennim, for many years the property of the Troutbeck family, but purchased by H. Riley, Esq., in 1881, and much improved. The family of Blencow was settled here in the reign of Edward III., and subsequently at Blencow Hall, in Little Blencow, parish of Greystoke, but this property has been handed over to others. H.C. Howard, Esq., is lord of the manor.

NEWBIGGIN - The area of this township is 2,840 ; the gross rental, £6,354; the ratable value of land, £2,791, and of buildings, £1,911. The village is three miles W. by N. of Penrith, and at its north end is Tymparon Hall, now a farmhouse. Near the village are the Whinberry Limestone Quarries; and from Fluska Pike may be obtained an extensive view of the district. In the new enclosures here have been dug up several stone coffins, urns, and other sepulchral remains and a field near still bears the name of "Silver Field," from the number of silver rings and other ornaments which have been found. In 1675, a curious instrument of silver was discovered, to which no one has been able to assign either the name or the use. This singular relic of antiquity consists of an oval ring or frame of silver, about fourteen inches in circumference; the length of the spear or tongue attached being twenty-two inches.

The manorial privileges are exercised by H.C. Howard, Esq., of Greystoke Castle. When the commons were enclosed in 1775, a field called Barty Gills, containing 64 acres, was given to the Hasell family in lieu of the small tithes of the townships of Great and Little Stainton, Newbiggin, and Great Blencow. Dalemain, the seat of J.E. Hasell, Esq., is an elegant mansion in this township, on the river Eamont, near the foot of Ullswater, about three miles from Penrith. The manor was anciently held of Greystoke by cornage and other services. In the reign of Henry II. it was the property of John de Morville. Subsequently it came into the possession of the Laytons, and remained with them many generations; until, in 1665, it was sold by the co-heiresses to Sir Edward Hasell, Knight.

In the village are a Wesleyan Chapel, erected in 1863, at a cost of £380, and a School in connection with the Parish Church built the same year.

SOULBY is a small township containing a few scattered houses at the foot of Ullswater, and covering an area of 705 acres, of which the ratable value is - land, £507; buildings, £219; and the gross rental, £806 14s. 6d. Waterfoot House, the residence of Captain Arthur B. Broadhurst, occupies a pleasant situation, commanding a beautiful view of the vale and lake of Ullswater.

STAINTON township comprises about 1,499 acres, of which the ratable value is £2,135; and of the buildings, £2,002; and the gross rental, £5,303 15s. The village is pleasantly situated about 2¾ miles W.S.W. of Penrith. It is remarkable for its salubrity and the longevity of its inhabitants. The pleasing uniformity of its houses which are all built of stone, and most of them whitewashed, gives it an airy and cheerful appearance.

The Manor which is held under the barony of Greystoke, is owned by H.C. Howard, Esq., J.P. On the property of Mr. Thomas B. Thompson, of Keldhead, in this township, is a piece of rising ground called "Kirk-garth," commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country. This spot is supposed to have been the site of an ancient church or chapel; and the conjecture seems fully borne out from the fact that the adjoining fields are still called Kirksyke, Kirkrigg, &c., and still further corroborated by the human
bones that have been dug up here at various periods. Some years ago an entire skeleton was found, which was supposed by the surgeon who examined it, to have belonged to a female. Dr. Todd tells us that a church once stood in the parish, dedicated to St. John, but all knowledge of its site has been lost. This may have been the spot occupied by the chapel alluded to by Dr. Todd, though many think it was the site of the monastery spoken of by the Venerable Bede, which was probably destroyed by the Danes.

Near the village of Stainton, on a rising piece of ground, there formerly stood a cross, the site of which is still pointed out, and is known to this day as Baron Cross. Here, says tradition, one of the barons of Dacre was killed by a fall from his horse, and the cross was erected on the spot to commemorate the sad event. A tradition also lingers in the neighbourhood of a battle between the Britons and Romans, near Studfort Brow, in which the former were worsted and fled to the mountains near Ullswater.

Stainton School. - In 1758, Mark Scott, of Hallrigg, endowed this school with the interest of £100; and in 1826, Jane Wilson bequeathed £100 to it, the interest thereof to be applied to the education of four poor children of Stainton. The same benevolent lady also left £100 for the poor. Another £100 was left in 1832 by the Rev. Isaac Wilson, for the education of four poor girls. There are now fourteen children taught upon the endowment. The school, re-built in 1863, is a good limestone building, with red sandstone facings, and capable of accommodating 130 children. It is used as a Mission Room on Sunday evenings.

The Wesleyans also have a chapel in the township.

There are, in the neighbourhood of Stainton, extensive deposits of fossiliferous limestone, which, when cut and polished, show the delicate tracings of organic life with an accuracy beyond the power of the most skilful artist to imitate. Pieces of limestone of the most curious and fantastic shapes are frequently found buried in the soil just beneath the surface, which appear as if they had been cast in a matrix on the spot where they are found. Large numbers of these stones may be seen in the garden of Mr. Thompson, of Keldhead, which have been turned up by the plough or harrow on his own land.

CHARITIES. - The Rev. Robert Troutbeck's Dole. - The Rev. Robert Troutbeck, by will, proved, in 1706, gave to the poor of this parish £50, the interest thereof to be distributed every year by the family of Troutbeck, of Blencow, or by the vicar and churchwardens. The money was invested in an estate at Motherby, and the interest is regularly paid on Easter Sunday.

John Troutbeck's Gift. - John Troutbeck, by will, dated 27th October, 1787, gave to the poor of this parish £200, the interest thereof to be paid every Easter Sunday, on the family tombstone in Dacre churchyard by a Troutbeck, or by the minister and churchwardens.

Hodgson's Bequest. - James Hodson [sic], in 1778, bequeathed £40 for the poor of the parish, the interest to be paid on Christmas Day.

*Hutchinson's "Cumberland."



Bulmer's History & Directory Of Cumberland, 1901

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman