Dacre – St Andrew’s Church

 

Location Penrith / Pooley Bridge
Grid Ref NY 460266

 

 

The ancient picturesque parish of Dacre has had a church on this site for over a thousand years. In the church two shafts of ancient crosses survive, one of which is pre-Viking. It is said that they illustrate Adam & Eve and the sacrifice of Isaac.

 

The stone on the floor belongs to the 10th century Viking period and may have been a grave monument, for the four panels depict the symbolic triumph of good over evil. There are several monuments to the Hasell family who have lived at nearby Dalemain since 1665. There a number of stained glass windows well worth looking at.

 

 

The south door has a large lock dated 1671 and inscribed with the initials ‘AP’, Lady Anne Clifford – Countess of Pembroke.

 

The four corners of the graveyard are marked by the famous carved stone bears, known
as the Dacre Bears. Little is known about them, but they appear to tell a story:

 

Archaeological evidence from excavations in 1929, 1982 and 1984 support the view that the church is built on the site of the monastery mentioned by Bede. Bishop Nicolson, writing in 1704, linked the bears to the chained bear and ragged staff o­n the arms of the Earls of Warwick. But these two emblems were not actually linked until the medieval age and the church and bears are much older In 1890 Chancellor Ferguson studied the bears closely and though he had solved the mystery.

 

He surmised that they were a humorous rendering of a bear legend and told the following story. 1. North West Corner – The bear is asleep with his head resting o­n top of a pillar. 2. South West Corner – A small cat like animal has jumped o­n the bear’s back. The bear’s head is turned to the right, trying to see what has happened. 3. South East Corner – The bear fights with and attempts to dislodge the animal. 4. North East Corner – The bear is alone, with a wide smile o­n its face, it appears to have eaten the animal and looks extremely satisfied.

 

Dacre Church

 

A booklet on the history of the Church is available, also a leaflet about the Dacre bears.

 

Aerial photos by Simon Ledingham. Other photos by photo by Matthew Emmott, and Nicola Didsbury (the four bears).

 

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