20 April 2022
Oxford Archaeology North is proud to announce the release of a new monograph: The early medieval monastic site at Dacre, Cumbria!
Dacre is rare in having documentary evidence for an early medieval monastery, mentioned by the Venerable Bede in 731, and in the twelfth century, William of Malmesbury thought that it was where King Æthelstan of Wessex met the northern and western lords in 927. High-quality early sculptural fragments and a substantial stone drain had also been found in the nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries.
Excavations were undertaken in 1982-5, to the north and south of the parish church, and to the west of the churchyard, providing important information about its origins. A substantial early medieval cemetery of more than 200 graves was found to the north, with some burials in chests with iron fittings. Two structures were excavated to the west of this, one, with a rounded eastern end, containing a hearth made from a millstone. This was associated with a substantial assemblage of fine metalwork, loomweights, and vessel and window glass, and several Northumbrian coins were also found.
The drain in the southern churchyard was re-excavated, demonstrating that it was constructed of reused Roman stones, probably from a bridge or mill. It produced a stylus and a gold ring from its backfill. An early ditched boundary was also identified, circling the south and west sides of the medieval churchyard, which seems to have followed its line. The early cemetery was later partially covered by a medieval farmstead, consisting of at least three buildings, one with a well-made fireplace. This had become derelict by the fifteenth/sixteenth century, when the village either shrank or moved to the west, leaving the site very much as it is today.
The full colour illustrated book is available now from Oxbow Books priced £22.50