St Andrew, Dent, Yorkshire, West Riding

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (3)


Dentdale, which is nine miles long, has scattered farms but only one village, Dent. The town of Sedbergh is the outlet to the west. During the 19thc, Dent ‘marble’ was produced from quarries at the head of the dale, and three kinds are used in the chancel, with and without fossils.

The church stands in the core of the compact, stone-built village. It has a west tower which was rebuilt in the 18thc, apparently occasioned by dilapidation and an earthquake (Boulton 1995, 12-13). Its plan is common in the north-west of the county, a continuous six-bay nave and chancel both with aisles, and no chancel arch – although the third piers from the east are enlarged on the inner faces and may hint at an earlier one. The building was much renewed in 1889-90 (Pevsner 1967, 177-78; Leach and Pevsner 2009, 238-9).

Piers 1 to 3 are octagonal, but the two western piers (piers 4 and 5) of the arcades are round; some of their fabric may be 12thc, but re-used. The only feature certainly relevant to the Corpus is the nave N doorway.


Dent is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, although Sedbergh is. In 1131, Dent and Sedbergh were in the deanery of Kirkby Lonsdale, in the archdeaconry of Richmond. Tentatively, it seems that the nave gained its arcades in the early 13th century, a little later than Sedbergh. At a later period, the church was given to Coverham abbey (Boulton 1995, 4-5).


Exterior Features


Blocked N doorway to nave

The round-headed doorway must have been reset, and is blocked. It is of one order and a label. The stone is mostly a granular light grey sandstone, making a contrast with the fabric of the reddish roughly-coursed rubble wall.

The plain continuous order has a moderate chamfer and no bases survive.

The label is chamfered and plain on the inner side; on the vertical face the stones have dentation (that is, zigzag carved on two levels).

There are label-stops in the form of animal masks. These differ: that on the L has its tongue flopping between the teeth; the mask on the R is more like those seen on corbels, with teeth showing on three sides of a squareish mouth. The ears of the creatures are short and not pointed; they are at right-angles to the skull, but are slightly elongated and drawn back, conforming to the plane of the label.

Height (along circumference) of L mask 0.14 m
Height (ditto) of R mask 0.16 m
Height of opening from ground 2.21 m
Label projects from wall surface 0.06 m
Radial width of label 0.13 m
Width of opening 1.205 m

Interior Features



Nave arcades

The arcades are similar: although the cylindrical columns of piers 4 and 5 recall Romanesque arcades, their stone size is large. All four piers have octagonal bases as well as octagonal capitals; their arches are pointed and chamfered.

Octagonal bases, sides approx. 0.34 m to 0.38 m


A pair of masks terminating a label is not common because until late in the century, the label would end on an impost carried from the inner order. When continuous orders become common, then label stops become necessary, as at Moor Monkton near York. On the nave S doorway at Moor Monkton, the L label stop does not survive, but on the R side there is a stop very like the L mask at Dent. The tongue flopping out and, in the case of the Moor Monkton label-stop, the distortion of the ears, suggests that the masks, or evil spirits, have been defeated in a fight. The flopping tongue demonstrating defeat is best exemplified in a voussoir of the doorway at Birkin.

The R mask at Dent resembles forms found as corbels in earlier work, the square mouth with teeth on three sides is paralleled by, for example, Kirkburn corbels NN4 and NN17 (East Riding). It is likely that the R mask, like that on the L, would have been shown as defeated. One common way of demonstrating their defeat was to show masks muzzled by at least a band binding the jaws together; it is perhaps pushing things a bit to suggest a muzzle existed here when the stone is so weathered, but it is possible.

The pattern of dentation on the arch of the label was used around the window heads at Adel near Leeds, probably in the 1140s. It is used in work of the later 12thc on the labels of the restored nave doorway at Skipwith, where the inner order is chamfered and was probably continuous. Since zigzag patterns were used to picture spiritual Light (Wood 2001, 22-5), at Dent the sculpture in the arch may represent God’s power over the defeated evil spirits.

Morris, 1923, 172-3, mentions crosses cut in the western piers, for example, on the first pier from the W in the N arcade. One may be shown on the view of S arcade, pier base 5; its position, so low down, again suggests an earlier arcade has been rebuilt. Leach and Pevsner consider the three bays of the W end of the church are probably early 13thc. Even if some of their fabric survives from a church contemporary with the north doorway, it has been reused.


  • D. Boulton, A Thousand Ages: the Story of the Church in Dentdale, Dent 1995.

  • P. Leach and N. Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North, Yale 2009.

  • J. E. Morris,Yorkshire: the West Riding, London 1911, 1923.

  • N. Pevsner, Yorkshire: West Riding. The Buildings of England, 2nd ed., Harmondsworth 1967.   

  • R. Wood, 'Geometric Patterns in English Romanesque Sculpture,' JBAA (154) 2001, 1-39.

The church from SW.
View up the dale from churchyard.
The church from the S.
View up Dentdale from near the bridge.
The tower from SW.
Village from churchyard.
Interior looking E.
The church from near bridge.
Dent marble floor-tile in chancel.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SD 705 870 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: Cumbria
medieval: York
formerly: Bradford
now: Carlisle
now: St Andrew
medieval: St Andrew (pre-Reformation )
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Rita Wood 
Visit Date
10 Oct 2009