So what did Morrison do with all the wealth he accumulated? He lived a simple life, his house at Malham Tarn was modest for a man of his means, compared with Fonthill and Basildon and he did not have eleven children to provide for as his father had. He was indeed an incredibly generous man, giving money to an enormous variety of causes. He hated publicity and many of his gifts were made anonymously and only came to light after his death. True to his integrity, he would never use his money to buy political advantage and certainly not to buy honours.
We have already seen how generous he was to all war related charities especially during the Great War, and his lifelong support of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Kirkby Malham Church benefited enormously from his gifts. He was Patron of the Church and in 1866 he restored the building we now know as the Vicarage for the incumbent at a very nominal rent. By 1879 it was necessary to undertake a huge restoration of the Church as some sections of the walls were nearing collapse. The total cost was around £4300 of which he paid half, but in addition he provided a new organ, reredos and tower screens to complete the project. The old Jacobean pews were kept but the chancel was shortened, the choir stalls were fitted and three new pews were added at the front of the Church. The front one on the south side was Walter Morrison’s pew and bears his initials.
St Michael the Archangel, Kirkby Malham
after the restoration of 1880
Another area of life about which he felt passionately was education, at all levels. In Malhamdale he was totally responsible for building two schools, Kirkby Malham United School and the small one at Malham Tarn. The United School was opened in 1874 to replace Kirkby Malham Grammar School or the Lambert School, and Malham Grammar School, both of which were inadequately funded and below standard. He provided the site and paid the costs of building the new school and a schoolhouse at a cost of £2874 3s 10 1/2d. But his interest did not stop there. He was Chairman of the Governors for nearly 50 years and took an enormous interest in all school affairs. He fought very hard for the school to keep control of its endowments when in later years it looked as though they would loose control to the education authorities.
The second school, also built in 1874, was the small one at Malham Tarn to serve the children from Malham Moor. Again he was always active in its management and provided Christmas parties and other events for the children.
He was always at the forefront of the list of benefactors for Eton and Oxford, but one example of his generosity to his old college caused rather a stir. The old Chapel at Balliol had been replaced in 1858 with a building designed by Butterfield. Morrison, along with some of his contemporaries, did not like the design and most people greatly disliked the east window, so when it was suggested in 1911 that the window should be replaced with one made from glass saved from the original chapel, Morrison suggested they should be much bolder and scrap the whole building and replace it with a replica of the 16th century chapel. He offered £20,000 for the project which looked set to go ahead. However there was a group of old members and Fellows who thought that this was a huge waste of resources and after opinions were sought from interested parties, the idea was rejected and the money returned. It was said that ‘Morrison did not hide his irritation’.
But this experience did not stop his generosity as he subsequently gave £30,000 to the university, £10,000 for a Readership of Egyptology, £10,000 for a professorial pension scheme and £10,000 for the study of agriculture. This was followed in 1920 by a huge donation of £50,000 to the Bodleian library, one of the three largest donations to that establishment. Nearer to home he gave £10,000 to a new Agricultural School at Leeds. He had a close relationship with Leeds, being a member of the Court of the University and it was the Vice Chancellor, Sir Walter Sadler, who gave the address at his funeral. He also gave sums to other northern universities.
The other educational establishment with which he had a connection for sixty years was Giggleswick School. He was a Governor for all that time and Chairman of the Governors twice, taking a detailed interest in all its affairs. Even when he was unable to attend meetings because of his political or other commitments, he wrote detailed letters expressing his views on items on the agenda, as he did with other organisations. He was never just a figurehead.
At the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the Governors and Headmaster were debating how they could commemorate the event and Morrison came up with the offer to build a chapel totally at his own expense, the one which is now such a well known landmark. It was to be something of an architectural experiment. He wanted a gothic building but it was to incorporate a copper dome to give it an eastern influence. It had, however to appear natural in its surroundings. The architect T G Jackson rose to the challenge, the site was chosen on the rocky outcrop above the school, and work commenced that year being completed four years later. (There was no interference from planning authorities in those days).
No expense was spared. The very best craftsmen and materials were used from around the world. All the wood was cedar and was imported from the Argentine and different marbles came from Greece, Italy, Ireland and Belgium. Not only was the building to his specifications, but the whole of the internal fittings, the decoration, the furniture and all the ornamentation were his choice. It was said to be so that no-one at a future date would need to add anything of which he might not have approved. In total the cost was around £70,000. (By comparison the restoration of 1994 and 2001 cost something over £800,000). This is not the place to go into the details of the building, but a look at the window in the south transept shows one of his few memorials, a figure of himself holding a model of the chapel. At the same time as the chapel was built, the architect also designed a gatehouse with lodge and a cricket pavilion, all paid for by Morrison.
There is a permanent memorial to him at the school in the form of a portrait which hangs above the stairs. The artist was Professor von Herkomer RA. The cost, £643 10s was paid for by subscription and the painting was unveiled on the 28th July 1903.
Portrait in Giggleswick School
These then are just a few of his significant gifts to a variety of causes, but there were literally hundreds of others, some small by comparison, but just as important to the beneficiaries, such as gifts of books for the Reading Room, £50 for this cause, £10 for another, which over the years must have amounted to a very significant sum. He did refuse requests for help, but would go into great details to explain why he did not feel the cause justified his support. It was said that if he was refusing a request for money, he would write his reply on a postcard so that others would perhaps read his reasons for turning the request down! Whether that was true or not, it is certain that he preferred the ideas for benefactions to be his own.