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Malham Tarn & House

Malham Tarn
This is a natural upland lake created with a dam formed by a moraine from the retreat of the ice-sheet from the last ice age and is a fairly unique environment, being one of only eight upland alkaline lakes in Europe. It lies on an impervious silurian slate bed, covered with thick glacial drift and marl deposits. Originally the tarn was twice it's present size but has been reduced by silting and the development of the raised bog areas. It is fed by water brought to the surface by the North Craven fault. The tarn was granted to the monks of Fountains Abbey by William de Percy in the 12th century, along with the fishing rights and the tarn still provides excellent trout. The survey of Fountains lands in 1539 shows:

Parcell of the same manore of Malham and of the same parishe etc.
The Fishing within a Tern there callid Malhomwater Tern late in the handes of
the said Monastery, and is worth by the yere vjs. viijd.

Malham Tarn 1786
Malham Tarn from Hurtley's "Natural Curiosities of Malham" published 1786

In 1791 the level of the tarn was raised by approximately four feet by the construction of the dam and weir at tarn foot by Lord Ribblesdale. Its level was further raised in the 19th century by Walter Morrison who added to the small dam at the outflow to the Water Sinks. The tarn now covers area of around 150 acres and is fairly shallow, with average depth of 8 feet and maximum depth of about 14 feet.
The inflow waters originate on Fountains Fell and rise in the Tarn Moss area to the north west of the tarn. There is only a single outflow stream, flowing for a short distance before reaching the line of the North Craven fault and sinking into the carboniferous limestone at Water Sinks. This stream re-emerges further down the Dale, just below Malham at the Airehead springs, where it joins both the Malham Beck, flowing from the base of the Cove, and Gordale Beck, to form the river Aire.
The Tarn and Tarn Moss now form a nature reserve protecting many species of animals and plants. Deer can usually be seen on the Moss and a public bird watching hide on the western shore just north of the house, allows visitors to view a variety of water birds including the great crested grebe which breed there.

House 1860s

Tarn House pictured about 1860-65, although extended by James Morrison, it's much as Thomas Lister had built it.

House after 1870

After the Ruskin influenced East wing and belvedere were added by Walter Morrison in the early 1870s.

Tarn House

The House and an extensive estate on Malham Moor is currently owned by the National Trust, with the main buildings let to the Field Studies Council. It is situated on the north shore of Malham Tarn with the impressive back drop of woodland and the limestone crag called Highfolds Scar.
The house has a history of occupation dating back at least 350 years, originally being built as a hunting lodge by the Listers. There have been several significant architectural stages in the development of the present building, mainly the works of Thomas Lister of Gisburn around 1780, and James and Walter Morrison in the 1850s and 70s. More recently there have been further changes associated with The Field Studies Council and National Trust to adapt it to its present use.

History of the House
The survey made at the Dissolution of Fountains Abbey in 1539 refers to a farmstead which is presumed to be the earlier building occupying this site.

Parcell of the said Manore of Malham and of the same parishe of Kirkby-in-Malhamdale.
Mathew Toller and Thomas Toller holdeth a Tenement or Lodge ther, callid Mallwaterhouse with edificez landes etc. therunto belonging, and renteth by yere at Marten and Pentecost liijs. iiijd.
Item, ther is a Shepegate upon the common morez in somer for a wether flok
and a yow flok, whiche is worth by yere, late in the hands of the Monastery afforesaid, Ixiijs. iiijd.

After the Dissolution the Fountains estates on Malham Moor changed hands many times. In 1540 the monastic lands were acquired by Sir Richard Gresham, passing to James Altham in 1552 and then to Robert Brandon, who in turn passed it on to Richard Assheton of Walley and John Robinson of London. Robinson sold his share to John Lambert of Calton and Bryan Parker, who then assigned his part to Richard Assheton. Asheton's lands eventually passed to the Listers. In 1785 Thomas Lister acquired the rest of the estate from the Lamberts of Calton.

Around 1780 Thomas Lister, later to become Lord Ribblesdale, planned his new hunting lodge on the tarn side and it is suggested that he created an extended platform to accommodate it by digging up the scree from behind the older house on the site and piling it in front and around the building, creating a sharp slope which can still be seen in the present lawn. Arthur Raistrick and Oliver Gilbert suggested that the cellars under the west wing of the present house represent the ground floor of this earlier house and are probably of the period 1570-1630, however the more recent National Trust Vernacular Building Survey rejects this idea.

A new house was then built above the now buried first floor level of the old house. The elegant Georgian building was built facing the lake across the lawn and used dressed sandstone, with well proportioned sash windows and a symmetrical front. Thomas Hurtley in his book "A Concise Account of some Natural Curiosities in the Environs of Malham, in Craven, Yorkshire" published in 1786 says this of Lister's building:

Malhamwater House - intended for a Shooting Box, and the luxurious enjoyment of every species of rural Amusement or contemplative Recreation. The House is most delightfully situated on a natural and magnificent amphitheatrical Parapet at the North end of the Lake, from which it rises by a bold but irregular ascent; a very handsome and substantial Stone Edifice, the design it is said of its hospitable Possessor.

It was an important part of Thomas Lister's estate and he had ambitions to be able to ride over his own lands, all the way from Gisburn Park to the Tarn. The Ribblesdale family papers, many of which are in the Bradfer-Lawrence collection at the YAS include many documents cataloguing his ownership of the estate, and these even include a design for a folly External Website logo proposed in 1789 for the top of Hawke Scar on Malham Moor, which was never built.

Lister's Malham Moor estate was offered for sale in 1831 and an advertisement published in The Times reads:

DELIGHTFUL SPORTING RESIDENCE, extensive Manors, Lake, Mines, and valuable Estates, in Yorkshire, the property of a Nobleman. - To be SOLD, by Private Contract, the beautiful summer MANSION, called Malham-water-house, with the adjoining lake, called Malham-water, the pleasure grounds and plantations, and the surrounding manors of East and West Malham, Darnbrook, Malham Moors, the forest of Knoupe and Kirkby Malhamdale: also about 10,000 acres of meadow, pasture, and moor land, in the same vicinity, divided into farms of various extent, with suitable farm-houses and buildings, the calamine works, and two inns, in the village of Malham, and several other houses there and at Kirkby Malhamdale: together with a considerable number of beastgaits and sheepgaits upon the several stinted pastures in that neighbourhood: the whole producing a rental of about £3.000 a-year, exclusive of the mines. The lake is nearly 4 miles in circumfrence, and with the mansion-house, woods, and rocks, which surround it, forms a scene perfectly unique, and it is well stocked with trout and perch of large size and superior excellence. The manors comprise a circuit of more than 50 miles, and the moor lands abound with grouse and other wild fowl. The estate also contains valuable mines of coal, lead, and calamine, now open, which there is reason to believe would make an ample return for a much larger capital than has hitherto been employed upon them, and there is an abundance of limestone, by means of which improvements might be made to any extent. The estate is situate in townships where no manufactures are carried on, and where the parochial assessments are very moderate. It consists entirely of grazing and moor land, not a single acre being under the plough, and, in addition to all its substantial recommendations, it comprises the picturesque scenery of Gordale and Malham Cove. In short, to the sportsman, the large capitalist, and the admirer of the beauties of nature, the extended domain of Malham holds out such an opportunity of making an eligible investment as has very rarely been presented to their notice. This magnificent property is situate in the district of Yorkshire called Craven, and is from 4 to 10 or 12 miles distant from the market towns of Settle and Skipton. The mansion-house, lake, and manors are at present let to Richard Oliver Gascoigne, Esq., by whose permission they may be viewed, and the tenants in general will show their respective farms. Particulars more minutely descriptive of this truly noble estate are in course of preparation, and when completed may be obtained from Mr. William Robinson, solicitor, Settle: Mr R. Armstrong, solicitor, 11. Staple-inn, London: of Mr James Crowdale, Gisburne, near Skipton; and Mr Robinson will answer any enquiries which may be made on the subject.

THE TIMES : Wednesday, July 6, 1831

The estate must have remained unsold, because it was again offered for Sale by auction in 1850. You can examine the 1850 Malham Tarn Estate sales brochure External Website logo held by the YAS in the Bradfer-Lawrence collection ref. MD335/1/4/7/40. View a rather idealised view of the Tarn External Website logo dating from 1857.

By Mr T.G. Lister, at the Devonshire Hotel, in Skipton, in the County of York, on Thursday the 22nd day of August 1850, at two o'clock in the afternoon, either together or in several lots, and subject to such conditions as will then and there produced:

The Valuable and Extensive ESTATES of the Right Honourable Lord Ribblesdale, situate in the parishes of Kirkby-Malhamdale and Arncliffe, in the picturesque and interesting district of Craven, comprising the beautiful summer residence called Malhamwater House, with the adjoining lake, and the several manors of East and West Malham, Darnebrooke, Malham Moors, the Forest of Knoupe, and Kirkby Malham, which extend to a circuit of more than fifty miles, and include the magnificent scenery of Gordale and Malham Cove; together with upwards of 10,000 acres of Land, chiefly meadow and pasture, and tithe-free, containing mines of coal, lead, and calamine, and abounding with grouse, hares, wildfowl, &c. The Lake has long been celebrated for excellent trout. It covers an area of 153 acres; and, with the mansion house, wood, and rocks which surround it, form a landscape perfectly unique. This truly noble domain is situate from four to twelve miles from the market towns of Settle and Skipton; and the village of Malham is about 5 miles from a station on the North-Western Railway.
Mr William Harrison, of the Buck Inn, at Malham, will show the estate; and printed particulars, with lithographed plan, may be had on or after the 18th day of July instant, on application to Mr. Crossdale, land agent, Gisburne; Mr. Bentley, No. 1, Black Court, Temple, London: Mr Dixon Robinson, Clitheroe Castle: or Messrs. Robinson and Perfect, solicitors, Blackburn.

The Manchester Guardian July 1850

By 1852 the estate had passed from the hands of Lord Ribblesdale to James Morrison MP of Basildon Park, a rich Victorian merchant who paid £90,250 for the extensive 10,400 acre estate. His son Walter, then aged 21, inherited the estate on his death, only a few years later, in 1857. Walter enjoyed the estate and lived much of his time there up until his death in 1921. The Morrison's extended the house, firstly James added an extra kitchen-scullary block, extending backwards from the west wing, then a couple of years later, moving the north wall about eight feet into the yard. The last major additions to the house were a new East Wing and tower built by Walter Morrison in the early 1860s. It too was built in fine grained dressed sandstone, in a style which may well have been influenced by Ruskin who was a frequent guest of Morrison. The remodeling included an Italian style belvedere tower and a wrought iron and glass veranda across the front of the original Georgian section.

The house was damaged by fire in 1873, soon after all the alterations were completed, and "The Annals of Yorkshire" edited by John Mayall, pub. 1874 includes this entry:

23rd. April 1873
The country seat of Mr. Walter Morrison, M.P., Malham Tarn, was burnt down this afternoon. The books and pictures were rescued from the flames. The roof of the new part of the hall was so damaged that it would have to be replaced. The bed-rooms, bath-rooms, grand entrance hall, and classic staircase in the new part of the house were greatly injured, and the graceful Italian tower was completely gutted. The external shell of the house only remained.

After Walter Morrison died in 1921 the estate passed to his nephew, Major James Archibald Morrison who sold the Malham portion of the estate in 1922 and then in 1927 he advertised the house and the Malham Moor estates for sale:

By direction of Major J.A. Morrison, D.S.O.
The Well-known
situate about 6 miles from Settle and 12 miles from Hellifield, including the
delightfully placed on the edge of the
of 153 ACRES,
and containing 3 Reception-rooms, 13 bed and dressing rooms, 3 bathrooms. Complete Staff Quarters. Garages and Stabling. Simple Old-world Gardens.

is very fine, the famous Malham Moors being included. The average Grouse Bag has been over 2,000 in a season.
is exceptional, the lakes and streams being fully stocked.
MANORIAL RIGHTS are included.
The whole estate extends to
12,717 ACRES

by Messrs.
at the Devonshire Hotel, Skipton, on Thursday, 11th August, 1927, at 2 p.m.

The Manchester Guardian Aug 1927

The main estate was sold in 18 lots and raised £44,500 including £3,050 paid for the Buck Inn and the Lister's Arms by a Howarth brewery. The report of the sale in 1928 The Craven Almanack read:

11 Aug : Sale of the Malham Tarn estate, the residence of the late Mr. Walter Morrison, at the Devonshire Hotel, Skipton, by direction of Major Morrison, the auctioneers being Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley, of London.
Malham Tarn, the residence and the lake, the Home Farm of 409 acres ; two cottages and the School and School House, including the whole of the sporting rights in perpetuity over this noted grouse moor, were bought for £28,000 by Mr. E. W. Fisher, of Oakfield Lodge, Huddersfield, a wellknown business man in the Heavy Woollen district.
Other purchases were :-Low Trenhouse Farm, 367 acres, sold to Mr. J. Coates, Darnbrook, Malham Moor, for £2,425 ; part of Townhead Farm, 69 acres, sold to Messrs. Dugdale and Chapman, Giggleswick, for £500; part of Cherries Farm, 305 acres, sold to Mr. John Blackell, Bell Busk, for £1,600 ; Tenant Gill Farm, 809 acres, sold to Mr. J. Coates, for £2,750 ; High Mark Farm, 336 acres, sold to Messrs. Dugdale and Chapman for £775 ; Rainscar Farm, Malham Moor, 1,744 acres, sold to Messrs. Dugdale and Chapman for £2,925 ; Rough Close Farm, 359 acres, to the same buyers for £1,200 ; an area of rough pasture let with the listers Arms Hotel, to the same buyers for £400 ; three closes of accommodation land, adjoining Malham village on the west, 5a, 2r. 27p., to the same buyers for £300 ; enclosure of accommodation pasture land, west of the village, the same buyers for £90 ; accommodation pasture land west of the village, 3a. 2r. 12p., the same buyers for £100 ; do., south-west of the village, adjoining Tranlands Beck, 6a. lr. 31 p., to the same buyers for £375.
The Buck Hotel, Malham, occupied by Mr. F. Wiggins on a yearly tenancy, fully licensed, sold to Messrs. F. Parker and Co., Clarendon Brewery, Haworth, for £1,550; the Listers Arms, Malham, occupied by Messrs. Swinbank, fully licensed, sold to the same firm for £1,500.
Lots withdrawn :-Higher Trenhouse Farm at £4,800 ; Darnbrook and Thoragill Beck Farms at £7,000 ; and Pen-y-ghent Farm - no offer.

The contents of the house were then sold in late 1927 and realised £3,000 with top prices of 550 guineas for a Jacobean Oak court cupboard, eight Queen Anne walnut dining chairs at 220 guineas and nine Chippendale mahogany chairs fetching 95 guineas. The top lot from Walter Morrison's library was a 1st edition (1624) of Virginia, New England and the Summer Islands by Captain John Smith, which fetched £170. In August 1928 Major Morrison disposed of the rest of the estate, including Darnbrook and Thoragill Beck farms, consisting of around 2,850 acres. They raised £7,200, bringing the total amount raised for the entire Malham Moor estate to £65,000 which seems a rather paltry sum today.

By direction of Major J.A. Morrison, D.S.O.
Following the Sale of the Mansion


A JACKOBEAN OAK BUFFET, WITH CANOPY TOP, finely carved with panels of leafage, scrolls, &c; 8 QUEEN ANNE WALNUT CHAIRS, with cabriole club legs; a Georgian Bow-front Sideboard, on square tapering legs; a set of 9 CHIPPENDALE MAHOGANY CHAIRS, with carved fan splats; JACOBEAN and CROMWELLIAN Side Tables and Chairs; Carved Oak Bookcases; Writing, Card and Occasional Tables; Chairs, Mirrors, Chesterfield Settees, Mantel Clocks, an upright 7-octave Pianoforte, by Taubert, in inlaid mahogany case; Decorative China and Ornamental Items , Indian, Turkey, and other Carpets and Rugs; Silk Brocade and Velvet Curtains and Cushions, a Library of General Literature, including Calf, Morocco, Vellum Bindings, &c., on Voyages, Travels, History, Egyptology, English Standard Authors, Yorkshire Topography, &c., comprising- Smith (Captain John) "General Historie of Virginia, New England", 1624 (a choice copy); Elliot (George) "Adam Bede" first edition, cloth; "Illuminations to Froissart Chronicles"; Surtees' "Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour" first edition, cloth; Walpole's Letters, 9 volumes, calf; Owen Jones's "Grammar of Ornament" folio, half morocco; Surtees' "Society to 1921" 134 volumes, &c.: Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Prints, Plated Ware, Linen, Oak and Mahogany Bedroom Furniture in wardrobes, dressing chests, toilet mirrors, wash-stands, bedsteads, bedding and miscellanea, which

will SELL BY AUCTION, on the premises as above on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8th, 9th, and 10th November, 1927, at 11a.m. precisely each day.

The Manchester Guardian Oct 1927

The major purchaser of the house and surrounding estate with its sporting rights was Mr E W Fisher, a wealthy wool merchant of Oakfield Lodge, Huddersfield. He paid £28,000 for the house, lake and parts of the original estate including the shooting rights. Unfortunately his ownership of the estate was brief, as he was found dead in bed after a day's shooting, in October 1928. This meant that the estate was again auctioned and on the 30 Jan 1929 it was purchased by a client of Messrs. John D Wood & Co. Within 48 hours of the completed sale The Times announced that negotiations were taking place for the re-sale of the estate, the original purchaser to retain the sporting rights over 2,280 acres, with the keeper's house and shooting huts, the balance being sold on to Captain and Mrs Hutton-Croft of Aldborough Hall, a great niece of Walter Morrison.

Mrs Hutton-Croft presented an area of woodland, near the river to the village in 1935. In March 1939 The Times announced that Mrs Hutton-Croft was offering the house and estate for sale again, or alternatively the house may be offered for rent. In June 1944 Captain Hutton-Croft again put the estate up for sale and it was withdrawn at auction, the bidding having started at £10,000 and raised to £20,000. The Times reported in August 1946 that Mrs Hutton-Croft of Steventon Old Rectory, Basingstoke had gifted the house and 800 acre estate to the National Trust.

By direction of Captain Hutton Croft
Six Miles from Settle, 12 miles from Hellifield

ONE of the MOST RENOWNED SPORTING and RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES of the North, the FAMOUS ESTATE of MALHAM TARN with MALHAM TARN HOUSE, in a delightful position on the banks of the Tarn and containing hall, 4 reception-rooms, 8 bedrooms, 2 dressing-rooms, 5 bathrooms, 5 servants' bedrooms, domestic offices, stables, garages, &c. Central heating and electric light. (The purchaser will be given the option to take over a certain quantity of Furniture at valuation)
Waterhouses Farm let at £140 per annum, Five Cottages, Malham Tarn Lake (153 acres), the second largest inland water in Yorkshire and possessing according to Charles Kingsley " the best fishing in the whole earth."


Together with the Proprietorship in Perpetuity of the Valuable Shooting Rights over the adjoining well-known Malham grouse moors (average bag 1,000 brace), extending to 9,785 Acres, and extensive fishing in the burns.

unless sold by previously by private treaty, by

Manchester Guardian July 1944

The National Trust offered to lease the building to the Council for the Promotion of Field Studies in 1947. With the assistance of a £6,000 grant from the Goldsmiths Company they set up their filed study and research centre at the Tarn. The main building remains much as Walter Morrison left it except for the tower which was partly demolished in 1963 as it had become unsafe. The Field Studies Council have made minor changes over the years, to make the buildings more suitable for use as a study centre, but essentially it is unchanged. The two stable blocks in the wood above the house, now referred to as the North Wing and High Stables have been converted into accommodation, and the Archway converted into a small laboratory and a new double garage made behind the North Wing.

The house is not open to the public, although you can walk past and view it from the public footpath which follows the Eastern shore of the Tarn or sign up for one of the FSC External Website logo courses to see the building.

Bibliography :
"The Parish of Kirkby Malhamdale" by JW Morkill, 2nd edition published by KM PCC 2005
"Malham Tarn House: Its Building materials, their weathering and colonisation by plants"
by A. Raistrick and O. L. Gilbert, Field Studies Vol.1, No.5 (1963) Introduction
The Times and The Manchester Guardian newspaper archives
The National Trust Vernacular Building Survey - Malham Tarn House 1051

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