There is some archaeological evidence that the Romans passed through Dentdale and even lingered awhile. The village existed in Norman times, as the Norman doorway over the North side of the Church reveals. In the Middle Ages, a market cross stood near to the present day fountain, which marks the centre of the village. It is probable that Dent Fair originated at this time. Held in early June, it was an important occasion, bringing back to the village people who had gone elsewhere to live. Stall s cluttered the streets, selling all kinds of merchandise and a Sports day rounded off this annual event During the reign of James I, the Grammar School was built in the churchyard and was in use until the building of a New School, now serving as the Village Hall.
The Grammar School's most eminent pupil was Adam Sedgwick, who brought fame on his birthplace as the first great geologist How appropriate that his memorial should be the great block of granite enclosing the fountain, which was once Dent's only drinking water supply.
Adam, the vicar's son, was born at the Old Parsonage in Vicarage Lane, and lovingly recalled the Dent of his childhood and youth in his book 'A Memorial by the Trustees of Cowgill Chapel' (1868). Here he vividly presents the life style of the hand knitter, The output of hand knitted gloves and knee-length socks was enormous and a very important supplementary income to Dales farming in the 18th century. Both men and women knitted, often while walking to their fields, using 'sticks' tucked into the belt, holding one needle. Often these intricately carved sticks replaced the engagement ring! In Adam's day, the narrow cobbled streets seemed even narrower, because wooden galleries jutted out from the houses. Up there in good weather, knitters sat and talked while their needles flew so fast the eye could not distinguish the movement.
Until the 1930's, there were many shops along this Main Street of 'Dent Town'. All the needs of everyday life were locally produced. Altogether there were 47 businesses, including 20 shops on the Main Streets of Dent There were 3 Banks, 5 Public Houses are remembered, but the exact location of the 5th is forgotten! "You could buy your food, your clothes, your tools, have your furniture made and learn to play the piano." In the 18th century Dent even had its own wig maker! There were two blacksmiths. Road widening at Barth Bridge has removed all traces of the smithy, where the Church gates were made. The other, near to the Church, closed and has now re-opened. Some old buildings have been demolished to be replaced by parking spaces. Beech Hill up from Church Bridge had a row of houses backing on to the churchyard. The parking space opposite to the Sun Inn was originally the site of a lodge for the drivers of pony trains. Next to it was the White Hart Inn, The mounting beside it served as a stand for any orator wishing to address the crowd. Here Adam Sedgwick stood to announce the victory at Waterloo.
Dentdale's other historic monument is the Settle-Carlisle railway with its magnificent viaducts at Artengill and Dent Head. They represent the great and heroic effort which brought steam transport to Dent in 1875. Dentdale in common with other hill villages had a number of water mills. The coming of steam power concentrated milling in the larger urban areas. A few millstones indicate the sites of the old wheels. e.g. Mill Bridge, where Deepdale corn mill was built in 1587 and another corn mill was working in the mid 16th century in Gawthorp. Dentdale had ancient mining and quarrying industries. Bell pits on the hill sides reveal the sites of small open cast coal mines and the road from Dent Station over to Garsdale is known as the Coal Road. There are still the remains of a primitive copper mine in the dale. The main mineral industry however, was 'black marble' known as Dent Marble, quarried and processed at Stonehouse in upper Dentdale, where the remains of the workings can still be seen. This marble was much prized in Victorian England for its unusual colour and wealth of fossils:
Dentdale, although only 10 miles in length, has a long history of religious fervour. In the reign of Henry VII, then devout Catholics, the people of Dentdale took an active part in the religious rebellion of the Pilgrimage of Grace. The dominant building in Dent Town, as it was called from earliest time, is the mediaeval Church. Scattered around the dale however, are Quaker Meeting Houses, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist chapels, Congregational chapels and a chapel built by the Inghamites, on the remnants of which was built the church of St. John at Cowgill. This is a delightful small church, built in 1838, with the encouragement of Adam Sedgwick.
|The church of St. Andrews is a Norman foundation, though largely rebuilt in 1417 and restored in 1590. The top storey of the 1614 three-decker Jacobean pulpit is still in use. The chancel is paved with fossil-rich marble, quarried in Dentdale. The box pews were removed in 1889, much of the wood being used to panel the walls of village cottages. On the south side of the aisle are the famous pews of the 24 sidesmen. Originally yeomen farmers, today landowners of Dent, they have shared with the Bishop (now of Bradford) the patronage of the living since 1429.|
Dent has an interest in the history of Quakerism, lying as it does, in the heart of the area where the movement began. There were radical, sectarian yeomen in the dale even before George Fox arrived there via Hawes. He stayed in Cowgill in 1652 and the same year a Society of Friends was formed in Dentdale. Until 1701, meetings were held in farms and then a Quaker Meeting house with burial ground was built at Cowgill and a second in Dent This latter no longer remains, but the one at Cowgill can be seen by the river at the road junction leading to Dent Station. Methodism has been established in Dentdale for over 200 years and at one time there were five chapels, serving each corner of the Dale at Dent Head, Deepdale, Dent Foot and two in Dent Three of these remain open and flourishing. Dent chapel dates from 1834.
|The Independents or Congregationalists were established in Dent from the 17th century, though much harassed by over-zealous Churchmen. Their first chapel adjoined St. Andrew's churchyard (now seating area and flower gardens).
The former U.R.C. chapel in Flintergill was built in 1835 and is now the Meditation Centre.
One present-day resident of Dent has very happy childhood memories of hay-timing in Deepdale. Some farmers got up as early as 3 a.m. to start mowing before the day became too hot and the horses wearied in the heat. Horses had to be considered; they were an essential part of farming. At hay-timing, they pulled the deering (mowing) machines and the carts or sledges, which were better suited to the steeper fields The other essential at haytiming was the labour of the entire family, down to the youngest child, all having their own rake. Two men were needed to 'cast in', that is to make the hay into a thick row, convenient for loading onto a cart or sledge. One pulled the hay down and one raked it up, with the children raking the ends. The steep slopes, which the horse could not reach, were scythed grass was too valuable to waste. The field was raked clean and even before mowing, the horses were not allowed to graze this rich pasture. From the Middle Ages to the 20th century, grass for hay and pasture has been improved by liming and disused lime kilns are a feature of the Dentdale landscape. There were thin seams of coal in the area sufficient to burn the local limestone in the kilns for use on the land. The existence of limestone is responsible for another important feature of Dentdale: its underground caves. Limestone is soluble in rainwater and, over millions of years, a complex system of caverns and underground passages has evolved. There are many skilled and experienced cavers resident in the dale; some enjoy international reputations. Observant visitors and walkers will notice that the scenery and flora towards the eastern end of the dale differs from that to the west This difference is determined by the line of the 'Dent Fault', one of the many geological phenomena of the area which fascinated Adam Sedgwick and drew him towards establishing the new science of Geology.