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Picturing Malhamdale's Past

Malham Tarn from Hurtley's "Natural Curiosities of Malham" Published in 1786
It was painted by Anthony Devis (1729-1816) and engraved by William Skelton.

Before the advent of photography in the mid 19th century, recording Malhamdale had been the province of the artist. The natural beauty of the area, particularly the dramatic scenery of Gordale Scar and Malham Cove, has attracted artists since the 18th century. Many, such as Ruskin, Turner and Girtin are well known for their depictions of the area, others not so famous have painted it too. There are many paintings and prints, particularly of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar which have always proved popular subjects. The scenery still draws both professional and amateur artists and photographers to the area, and we have our own resident professional artists; David Cook External Website logo an artist and printmaker influenced by the landscape, and the painter, Katharine Holmes whose landscape work is inspired by the Dales, and can be seen on various gallery websites : 1 - 2 External Website logo. Pictures of Malhamdale appear in all sorts of places.

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William Shackleton (1872-1933) External Website logo : He lived at Hill Top Cottage, Malham in his later years and painted various local subjects. You can see several examples of his work at the Cecil French Bequest Gallery including the Landlord's Funeral painted in 1916. Undertakers load a coffin into a horse-drawn hearse at the door of the Lister's Arms at Malham, while mourners and villagers look on. This probably depicts the funeral of landlord Bernard Swinbank, who died the 5th August 1916 and who was buried at Horton in Ribblesdale. The other picture on the right shows yet another funeral, that of John Chester of Low Trenhouse, buried 7th August 1916. Shackleton is buried in the churchyard at Kirkby Malham.

John Chesters funeral 1910
John Chester's Funeral 1916

Landlords funeral
The Landlord's Funeral 1916
©Image courtesy of The Cecil French Bequest Gallery External Website logo

James Ward (1768-1859) : He painted this very atmospheric vision of Gordale Scar which is in the Tate Britain External Website logo collection titled "Gordale Scar (A View of Gordale, in the Manor of East Malham in Craven, Yorkshire, the Property of Lord Ribblesdale)"  External Website logo It was first exhibited in 1815. You can also view 5 preparatory sketches for this painting, drawn on a visit to Malham in 1811.
 1     2     3     4     5 External Website logo

Gordale Scar 1815
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
External Website logo
Thomas Vivares (1735-1821) : A French Huguenot, Vivares came to London in 1711. He is considered to be one of the founders of the English school of landscape engraving. He mainly engraved the work of other artists and this view of Malham Cove after his own design is an experiment he never seems to have repeated despite the obvious quality. It is titled:
"A view of Amazing Rock in Craven Yorkshire, with a Rivulet flowing from the bottom call'd Malham Cove, in the Lordship of Thomas Lister Esqr."
Francois Vivares published 1753 in London.

Malham Cove 1753
©Image courtesy of Donald Heald Prints, New York
External Website logo

Joseph Mallord William Turner  (1775-1851) : He probably visited Malham more than once and again Tate Britain has the definitive Turner online collection where you will find 18 sketches of Malham, Gordale, Cove and Tarn from his sketch books (search the Collections External Website logo for images). A fine watercolour "Malham Cove" External Website logo painted in 1810 shows the dam and sluice for Malham mill and there is an oil and pencil "Gordale Scar" External Website logo dated 1816.
JMW Turner - Malham Cove
Malham Cove 1810
© Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) : A water colourist and friend of Turner, Girtin visited Malhamdale about 1800 shortly before his untimely death aged only 27. He painted "Kirkby Malham Church" from the bridge, a watercolour which was sold by Sotheby's in 1974. The whereabouts of the original are unknown but there is a copy, though not by Girtin, in Blackburn Art Gallery. The British Museum is the home to his rendering of "Gordale Scar" and also a watercolour titled "Kirkby Priory" the location of which has so far evaded identification.
There are two likely locations for Kirkby Priory; it may have stood where the Malham Youth Hostel is now, in front of the house called Malham Priory; or it may have been where the Church Hall now stands in Kirkby Malham.
His sketchbook version of the scene, which is in the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, is inscribed "near Malham, Kirkby" which makes it seem likely that it may have stood on the site of the Kirkby Malham Church Hall. The general topography shown in the painting would fit either location reasonably well.
His sketch of Gordale doesn't dwell on the grandeur of the whole scene, but a detail of the waterfall.

Kirkby Malham 1801
©Image courtesy of Sotheby's London External Website logo

T Girtin - Kirkby Priory
Kirkby Priory 1801
© Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo

Gordale Scar 1801
© Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo

William Rock & Co Topographical Vignettes External Website logo: In an extensive collection of images from the series of publications England Under Victoria, depicting scenes from around the British Isles, there is an interesting engraving of Malham Tarn External Website logo which appears to be hosting a regatta, and one of Malham Cove,External Website logo both dated 1857.
William Wild (1904-1983) : Bill Wild was the Malham village blacksmith from about 1946 until his death in 1985 and an authority on the natural history of the area. He was also a master craftsman and artist, working in many different mediums, such as wood carving, wrought ironwork; beaten and chased copper work and wood engraving; his work was widely acclaimed not only locally but as far afield as America. He was also a fine watercolour artist and a clever cartoonist and satirist, and famed for his rams' horn walking sticks, the horns usually carved in the form of animals. The local history group archive holds a good collection of his prints and correspondence.
Cove Road, Malham
Moonlit Malham scene
Sydenham Edwards (1768-1819) : Welsh botanical and natural history artist and Fellow of the Linnean Society. He had an enormous output, producing over 1,700 water colour drawings for Curtis's Botanical Magazine alone, during the period 1787-1815, as well as many illustrations for other publications. His work was also the inspiration for ceramic decoration by major 19thC potters such as Spode.
Malham cove
Foot of Malham Cove
William Westall (1781-1850) : Born in Hertford, William was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1799. He is probably better known for his part in recording the Mathew Flinders 1801 expedition to Australia, aboard The Investigator. You can read a short biography of William Westall External Website logo. This depiction of Gordale is included in Views of the Caves in Yorkshire near Ingleton Goredale and Malham Cove published in 1818, which also includes a view of Malham Cove.
Approach to Gordale
Approach to Gordale
Thomas Daniell 1749-1840 : Born at Chertsey he was apprenticed to an heraldic painter, but had a love of the romantic and beautiful in architecture and nature and he went on to paint topographical subjects and flowers. He travelled to India in 1784 where he remained ten years, on his return publishing his largest work, six large volumes entitled Oriental Scenery. Whilst working on that he continued to exhibit paintings of Eastern subjects. He was elected an Academician and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts about 1790.
His jungle like view of the area below Janet's Foss is in the Romantic style.

Below Gordale
Near Gordale (below Janet’s Foss)
© Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo

Paul Sandby Munn 1773-1845 : A member of the Sketching Society in London, later known as Cotman's Drawing Society. Lead by Thomas Girtin, its original aim was to establish a School of Historic Landscape. A group of young artists, which included Paul Sandby Munn, met regularly to draw designs for poetick passages selected by the President for the night. The sketch of Gordale was probably made in the summer of 1803 when he visited the north of England in the company of his friend and fellow watercolourist John Sell Cotman, who shared his London home from 1802-4.
Gordale, Craven 1803
© Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo

Arthur Severn 1842-1931 :
The younger son of the painter Joseph Severn, Arthur exhibited landscape watercolours, and has been described as essentially a water, sun and sky painter. He married Joan Agnew, a cousin of John Ruskin, who had acted as companion to Ruskin's mother. When Ruskin moved from Denmark Hill in London to the Lake District, the Severns accompanied him and remained part of the household until his death.
Gordale Scar
Gordale, Craven 1877
© Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo
Joan Hassall 1906-1988 :
Joan Hassall was the daughter of illustrator John Hassall, famous for his Jolly Fisherman poster, advertising Skegness is SO bracing for the LNER railway. She attended The Royal Academy and became a wood engraver, book illustrator and typographer. Her subject matter ranged from natural history to illustrations for English literary classics and her style similar to that of Thomas Bewick. In 1964 she was elected the first woman master member of the Art Workers Guild and in 1987 was awarded an OBE. She retired to Priory Cottage and studio in Malham, where she died in 1988 and is commemorated in an etched glass window in the parish church.
J Hassall
Scalegill Mill

After the 1850s, the new process of photography became a very popular medium and the area continued to inspire an ever growing range of images, captured by both professional and amateur photographers. Leonard Lister set up his studio in Malham and was responsible for some early images of the area and the delights of Malhamdale have been famously captured in a range of postcards produced by numerous companies including the well known Walter Scott of Bradford.

Bertram Unne (1913 - 1981) : Georg Henry Bertram Unné was born in 1913 of a Swedish family and was an established photographer in Harrogate from around 1940, with studios at 47 Oxford Street and later in Victoria Avenue. He specialised in people and scenes of the Yorkshire Ridings, documenting folk activities and the landscapes of farming and coastal communities. In particular he recorded the way of life in the Dales and the Yorkshire countryside between 1940 to 1979 and his work featured regularly in The Dalesman. He died in May 1981, as a result of a fall at Malham Cove, a favourite spot that he had often photographed.
Shortly before his retirement in March 1979, Unné sold his entire photographic collection to North Yorkshire County Council for £5,000. The Victoria and Albert Museum contributed half of the total purchase price and a supplementary grant was donated by the British Library.
One thousand of the 7,500 images in the collection have been digitised and put online and this selection contains over 100 images of Malhamdale. The Unnetie online archive will eventually hold over 10,000 images by various photographers from collections in the various North Yorkshire libraries.

Ellis House, Airton
Townhead Farm, Malham
Sheep sale - 1964

     These images are © Unnetie Project and North Yorkshire County Council and are reproduced with permission. The images are linked to the Unnetie search page External Website logo where you can enter a query for Malham and find all the Malhamdale images and browse the results.

Flickr The scenery of Malhamdale continues to attract photographers, both amatuer and professional and one of the best showcases for these images is the flickr website. Try a search for Malham or Airton to find a wealth of pictures, many of which can be downloaded for personal use.

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