Dacre is a hill top village known locally as Dacre Top to distinguish it from Dacre Banks down in the valley close to the River Nidd. The only significant public facilities at Dacre Top are the United Reformed Chapel and its schoolroom and it is clear that the focus of the modern Dacre has moved to the more sheltered settlement of Dacre Banks where the shops, garage, pub, village hall and church are located. The most historic house in Dacre Top is likely to be Dacre Hall. now most obviously Georgian but its origins appear to be medieval or earlier.
The move downhill is not only a modern occurrence because there is ample evidence even higher on the ridge above Dacre Top of a number of pre-historic settlements from times when climate was better or when the well drained higher land provided a more congenial environment. There are Neolithic and Bronze Age features and Iron Age hut circles and storage pits. The exploitation of the local iron ore deposits at that time is confirmed by finds of slag, hammer scale and hearths while a geophysical survey suggests that there are still more Celtic discoveries to be made.
There is extensive evidence of medieval iron smelting from the time when Dacre was a grange of Fountains Abbey near Ripon, one of the most prominent Cistercian monasteries in England. There are three miles or more of culverts for water management and many bloomery furnaces and associated features. It also seems that iron smelting continued into the era of blast furnaces for a "Smelt House" is mentioned on a map of 1611 and there is archaeological evidence that confirms it too. "Smelt house" is a term that is commonly encountered in the context of lead smelting but the field evidence here is of iron rather than lead. The evidence cannot yet be considered to be conclusive so the purpose of the smelt house is one of the questions that the project is investigating.
There are also indications of possible activity at other times including the Roman and Viking eras but, as yet, no hard evidence from these periods. It does however raise the prospect of 2000 years of more or less continuous iron making in a part of Nidderdale that has been perceived by many as a purely agricultural area.
Dacre from Darley Bank
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