Dacre Parish

  > Is about four miles in length from north to south, and 2½ miles from east to west, and comprises the four1 townships of Dacre, Newbiggin, Great Blencow, Soulby, and Stainton. It is bounded by the parishes of Penrith, Newton-Reigny, Greystoke, the lake of Ullswater, and the parish of Barton, in Westmorland, and contains 6234 aces of land, of the rateable value of upwards of £7000, and a population of 975 souls. The lands are partly freehold and partly of customary tenure, and the soil is mostly a red loam, producing good crops of grain, especially near the banks of the Eamont. Limestone is got in the parish; and at Southwaite is a mineral spring, much frequented by the inhabitants. Edw. Williams Hasell, Esq. of Dalemain, is lord of the manors of Dacre and Soulby, and Henry Howard, Esq., of Greystoke Castle, is lord of the rest of this parish, which is distinguished by bearing the name of one of the most influential families in the north of England.

Dacre is a small village on the north bank of the river Eamont, 5 miles W.S.W. of Penrith. A short distance below the village is Dacre Castle, now converted into a farm house, but anciently the seat of the illustrious family of Dacre. It is a quadrangular building, with battlemented parapets and four square towers, of excellent workmanship, and still in good preservation, but the moat is filled up, and the outworks are destroyed. There are two entrances, on one of which are the armorial bearings of the earl of Sussex, the restorer of the castle in the seventeenth century; and this escutcheon has been said to denote that some additions or repairs were made to the castle in the reign of king Henry VII. The walls are about seven feet thick, and in one of them is a piscina, with an ornamented trefoiled arch; this, no doubt, was for the use of the chapel, which was licensed by bishop Welton here in 1354. Nicholson and Burn say that the original name of the Dacre family was D'Acre, from one of them who served at the siege of Acre2, or Ptolemais, in the Holy Land, who, from his achievements there, having received the name of the place, imparted the same on his return to his habitation in Cumberland. But Mr Howard, in his "Memorials of the Howard Family" says "this appears to be a fiction arising out of the name." William of Malmesbury mentions a congress held at Dacre, in 934, when Constantine3, king of Scotland, attended by his son, Eugenius4, king of Cumberland, did homage to Athelstan5. The Dacres became possessed of Greystoke and Gilsland baronies, and many other estates in this and the adjoining counties, which were held by different branches of the family. Ranulph de Dacre married the Multon heiress, and was created a baron in 1353. Richard Fienes was summoned jura uxoris6, in 1459, as seventh baron Dacre. After eight generations Margaret Fienes, the heiress of this family, was declared baroness Dacre, and married Sampson Lennard, Esq. Thomas Lennard, the fifth lord Dacre of this family, married lady Ann Fitzroy, a natural daughter of Charles II by the duchess of Cumberland, 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, who in the same year conveyed them to Edward Hasell, Esq., of Dalemain, great grandfather of the present proprietor, Edward Williams Hasell, Esq.

dacre.jpg (32185 bytes)The church 7, which is within 150 yards of the castle, is a neat stone structure, dedicated to St. Andrew, consisting of a nave, north and south aisles, chancel, vestry, and a tower, which was rebuilt in 1810, and contains three bells. The aisles are divided from the nave by four pointed arches on each side, with plain mouldings springing from octangular and circular piers; and the nave and chancel are connected by a low circular arch. It contains many neat mural monuments to the Hasell family; and on the north side of the chancel is the effigy of a Crusader or Knight-Templar, supposed to be in memory of one of the Barons of Dacre, and of the time of Henry III. In the church yard are four rude figures of animals, about five feet in height, sitting on their haunches, and clasping a pillar or ragged staff, on which three of the figures rest their heads. Hutchinson thinks the other is carrying on its back the figure of a lynx. There is one placed near each angle of the church yard; two facing the east, and two the west, and they appear to have been designed for bears, though they have now but little resemblance to any animal. The venerable Bede says there was a monastery at Dacre, over which the religious man Suidbret presided; and tradition informs us that the present church was built from off its ruins. The benefice is a vicarage in the patronage of the crown, and incumbency of the Rev. John Stephenson. It was rectorial till late in 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, bequeathed to the church all his personal estate, pro salutate animę8. In 1586 the crown granted a lease of the rectory and tithes to one Hammond, for 21 years, he paying to the vicar an annual stipend of £8, which was the amount of the vicar's weekly stipend, till about 1669, when Mr. William Mawson, of Timpaurin, bequeathed to him the tithes of Thrimby, which were sold for £200, which with £200 from the governors of queen Anne's bounty, laid out in the purchase of land at Black Burton9. The whole parish of Dacre pays a small fee farm rent in lieu of hay and corn tithes, and does not contain another place of worship besides the church. The net value of the living is returned at £89, but is now worth about £120 a year.

Fluskew Pike10, in this parish, commands an extensive view; and in the new enclosures here, several stone coffins, urns, and other sepulchral remains were dug up; and about the year 1785 a very remarkable silver brooch or fibula was found.

Dacre School - The Motherby Estate was purchased with several donations and an ancient school stock for the benefit of the poor and school; and in 1799 that property was exchanged for the Newbiggin Estate, by which the charity has been materially benefited. The rent is applied to this school and the poor of the parish, the former receiving £7 14s. 5d. for which six poor children receive instruction. The school was rebuilt in 1835, and is now conducted on the National system. The vicar for the time being, and Messrs. John Marshall, J.B. Sander, and Fras. Winder, are the trustees, and Mr. John Armstrong is master.

Great Blencow is a small village and constablewick, four miles N.W. by W. of Penrith. The celebrated and richly-endowed grammar school here was founded by Thomas Burbank, a native of the place, who, in 1757 endowed it with land at Brixworth, in Northamptonshire, now let for £160 per annum; also land at Culgaith, in Cumberland, worth upwards of £30 a year, and an annual rent charge of £6 to be paid out of the Yanwath Hall Estate, near Penrith. The nomination of the head master is vested in feoffees, of whom eight was the appointed number, and who rebuilt the school and master's house in 1793. The present trustees are lord Brougham, Henry Howard, Esq., of Greystoke Castle, E.W. Hasell, Esq., of Dalemain, Thomas Scott, Esq., of Penrith, Geo. Troutbeck, of Ennim Bank, and Mr. J.E. Troutbeck, of Great Blencow. The present head master is the Rev. John Stephenson, vicar of Dacre, who has accommodation for boarders. 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 the monasteries, when the nation was abandoned to gross ignorance, and to the delusions of every theological empiric. It is said to be "free for the classics to all the world" on the payment of entrance money. Nothing but the classics are taught upon the foundation, other branches of education being paid for. Many eminent clergymen have been educated here, where Edward, first baron Ellenborough, lord chief justice of the King's Bench, was once a pupil, as also was George Whitehead, the well-known quaker. Near to the village is Ennim Bank, the pleasant seat of Geo. Troutbeck, Esq., who has greatly improved the mansion and ornamented it with plantations. The family of Blencowe were settled here in the reign of Edward III, and subsequently at Blencow Hall, in Little Blencow, parish of Greystoke.

Newbiggin is a long village of detached houses, 3 miles W. by N. of Penrith, and with Great Blencow, contains 3057 acres of land, of the rateable value of £3142 19s.dalemain.jpg (49207 bytes) Dalemain, the seat of E.W. Hasell, Esq., is an elegant mansion in this township, on the river Eamont, near the foot of Ullswater, about 2½ miles from Penrith. It is situated in a beautiful park, and is built of pale red freestone, with nine windows in front, and seven on the side, having behind it a fine lawn, surrounded by woods, with a rocky eminence rising over them. As has been seen, Mr. Hasell is lord of the manors of Dacre and Soulby. Here is a school, endowed £3 2s. 4d. as interest of £100 left by Mr. Stephen Wray, about twenty years ago. The trustees are Messrs. Wm. Wilkinson, Jno. Harrison, and Thos. Madison; and Isabell Railton is the schoolmistress.

Soulby is a small township, containing a few scattered houses at the foot of the lake of Ullswater, 4½ miles S.W. of Penrith. It contains 602 acres of land, of the rateable value of £692. Waterfoot House, the seat of Jas. Salmond, Esq. occupies a pleasant situation, commanding a beautiful view of the picturesque vale and lake of Ullswater.

Stainton, a large, well-built, and pleasant village, 2¾ miles W.S.W. of Penrith, situated partly on the Keswick road. It contains 1478 acres, the gross estimated rental of which is £2203 11s. 11d. Henry Howard, Esq., of Greystoke Castle, is lord of the manor, which is a member of Greystoke barony. Stainton is considered a remarkably healthy village, and the pleasing uniformity of its houses, which are all built of stone, and most of them whitewashed, give it an airy and cheerful appearance. Mr. Clarke says that at the time he published his survey of the lakes, there was a patriarch in this village of the name of John Bristow, 94 years of age, and that eight years previously, the aggregate ages of his family amounted to 300 years, viz., himself 86, his wife 85, his female servant 79, his horse 33, and his dog 17 years of age. He never employed a physician or surgeon, nor gave a fee to a lawyer; his clothes were spun in the house, and made of the wool of his own sheep. Skirsgill House, on the river Eamont, in this township, is the seat of Miss Elizabeth Dent.

Stainton School - In 1758, Mark Scott, of Hallrigg, endowed this school with the interest of £100, and in 1826, Jane Wilson left £100 to the poor of this parish, and also the interest of £100 towards the education of four poor children of Stainton. The present school house, erected by subscription in 1838, at a cost of about £150 is a neat and commodious building; and the school is very efficiently conducted by Mr. John Harrison, by whom fourteen scholars are taught free. There is also a girls' school, endowed with the interest of £100 left by the Rev. Isaac Wilson, in 1832, for the education of four poor children of Stainton. Mrs E.W. Hasell is the principal support of this school, which has now twenty-four children. Mary Birbeck is the mistress. On the property of Mr. Thomas 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 Kirk Syke, Kirk Rigg, &c. &c. and also from several human bones having been dug up here at various periods; and about eight years ago, an entire skeleton was discovered on the spot, supposed, by the surgeon, to have been that of a female. Probably this was the chapel to which Dr. Todd alludes, and which he says was dedicated to St. John.


Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847




1. Dacre, Newbiggin, Great Blencow, Soulby, and Stainton makes 5 townships by my reckoning !
2. The siege of Acre occurred during the Third Crusade. The castle was captured after a 2 year siege by the Christians in 1191, and re-captured by the Muslims in 1291.
3. Constantine is Constantine II, king from 900 to 943.
4. Eugenius or Owen, king of Strathclyde from 925 to 937 was the son of Donald II, king of Scotland, and not of Constantine II. Donald and Constantine were cousins.
5. Athelstan, king of Wessex, reigned from 924 till 939.
6. jura uxoris - "by right of his wife", implying that the Dacres had no male heir, and Fienes was granted the title of baron Dacre through his wife.
7. The church of St. Andrew contains some structures from the 12th century, but must be of a much earlier foundation - the fragments of ancient crosses are pre-Norman. The figures in the church yard are generally referred to as bears, and Pevsner suggests that they may have come originally from Dacre castle.
8. pro salutate animę - I think this translates as something like "for the good of his soul".
9. Timpaurin must surely be what is now called Tymparon Hall, in Newbiggin. Thrimby and Black Burton are unknown to me.
10. Fluskew Pike is now Flusco Pike.

Photos © Steve Bulman.

19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman