Malham Tarn House (also known as Malham Tarn Field Centre)6619

Yorkshire Dales, Craven, North Yorkshire, England

Brief Description

The house was built as a hunting box in the late-18th century. It is now owned by the National Trust and is in use as a Field Studies Centre. Features include a derelict orchid house, rockery, sundial, boathouses, stable block, extensive plantations and a drive around Malham Tarn.

History

The house was probably built in the early-1780s, and young plantations were noted in 1786.

Terrain

The house is on a platform overlooking the tarn.

Detailed Description

To the north of the house in a range of outbuildings cut into the hillside is a first floor orchid house, which is now in a derelict condition. The original glass roof, now boarded up, is supported by iron pillars on stone bases. On both the north and south internal walls of the orchid house are slate shelves with the remains of hot water pipes under them. In a report in June 1995 by Andrew Barber, Assistant Historic Buildings Representative of the National Trust, the Orchid House is described as a Battery House. ‘The upper floor, originally connected to the house central heating system, was a conservatory cum propagating house with elegant slate shelving around the glazed walls supported on slim iron frames.'

To the east of the main house is a rockery which, in the early-20th century, had a reputation for interesting plants. It had been planted by the Field Centre with 16 Lady's Slipper Orchid seedlings but, as two were subsequently stolen, the remainder have been planted elsewhere. The plantations to the east and west of the house have now become very overgrown with quantities of birch and sycamore blocking the views down to the tarn. In the west side plantation are yews, a monkey puzzle, wych elm and ornamental conifers.

The area in front of the house is still open grass with a sundial and views to the tarn. The eastern plantation contains limes and yews closely planted next to cut leafed beech. From the grassy area in front of the house a pathway leads down though fields to the south-east romanesque boathouse. The gothic south-west boathouse is reached by a path from the densely wooded western approach drive to the house off which a track leads up to the early-19th-century stable block. There are today no traces of the kitchen garden formerly close to it.

From the east of the house a drive leads around the tarn. There are carefully sited plantings to block or reveal views of the house to visitors arriving from the south-east. This drive is no longer in general use.

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The present house is largely the work of Thomas Lister (1752-1829), later Lord Ribblesdale, who built a substantial shooting box on the site probably in the early-1780s.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Orchid House
  • Description: To the north of the house in a range of outbuildings cut into the hillside is a first floor orchid house, which is now in a derelict condition.
  • Rockery
  • Description: To the east of the main house is a rockery which, in the early-20th-century, had a reputation for interesting plants.
  • Plantation
  • Description: The plantations to the east and west of the house have now become very overgrown with quantities of birch and sycamore blocking the views down to the tarn
  • Boat House
  • Description: A pathway leads down though fields to the south-east romanesque boathouse.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Boat House
  • Description: The gothic south-west boathouse is reached by a path from the densely wooded western approach drive to the house.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Drive
  • Description: From the east of the house a drive leads around the tarn. There are carefully sited plantings to block or reveal views of the house to visitors arriving from the south-east. This drive is no longer in general use.
  • Stable Block
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Sundial
Access & Directions

Directions

http://www.field-studies-council.org/malhamtarn/location.aspx
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Malham Moor
History

Detailed History

The present house is largely the work of Thomas Lister (1752-1829), later Lord Ribblesdale, who built a substantial shooting box on the site probably in the early-1780s. The National Trust's Vernacular Building Survey (Malham Tarn House 1051) rejects the suggestion by Arthur Raistrick and Oliver Gilbert (Malham Tarn House, Field Studies vol 1 no.5 1963 p.89) that there was an earlier building dating from around 1600 beneath the present house.

Lister's shooting box was built facing south on a level platform overlooking the tarn. The site was created by excavating back into the hillside behind the house and building up the soil in the front. Thomas Hurtley in ‘A Concise Account of some Natural Curiousities in the Environs of Malham' (London, 1786) mentions ‘infant plantations' around the house suggesting that they had been recently planted. In a footnote he comments ‘This will certainly be one of the sweetest spots in Nature, when the Plantations are a little stronger and the design of extending to the Hills and Eminences of the Borders of the Lake is completed.'

John Byng, who visited Malham in 1792, noted that ‘if the plantations made around the house ever grow (which I much doubt) the house and the lake will be much beautified and benefited. There are boat houses at one end of the lake.....' Thomas Hurtley also mentions a boathouse, complete with banqueting room ‘at the southern angle of the tarn.'

A 1760 survey book of maps shows a boathouse on the northern edge of the tarn due south of the ridge of Coney Scarr. A map by George Lang (1785-6) includes Lister's shooting box with a sheltering plantation of trees to the north below Coney Scarr and an open area towards the lake. Lang also marked a boat house on virtually the same site as the 1760 map. However, as the level of the tarn was raised four feet by Lister in 1791 this boathouse would have had to be replaced.

The two boathouses which now exist are both to east and west of the house. That on the west dates from the early-19th-century in the gothic and embattled style, and must have been built by the Listers after the lake was raised. The one to the east dates from the late-19th-century. It is in the Italianate Romanesque Revival mode, and was probably built by Walter Morrison around the 1870s in keeping with his new wing and Italian campanile tower.

The house was mainly used by the Listers and their guests in the summer and autumn for sailing, fishing and shooting. In 1802 the house was extended to provide additional service accommodation under the supervision of Lister's agent, the Reverend Thomas Collins. It was at this time that a new stable block was built to the north-west of the house. A kitchen garden was made further to the north-west on the side of a south-facing slope.

In 1852 the Lister estates at Malham, Kirby Malham and Malham Moor were acquired by James Morrison of Basildon Park, Bedfordshire, who gave them to his fifth son, Walter, in 1857. By 1873 Walter Morrison had extensively re-modelled and extended the house, adding a bow-fronted wing to the east and a new entrance front surmounted by a bell tower with open arcading. This bell tower was demolished around 1963. A veranda was also added to the south front of the 18th-century house.

Walter Morrison made Tarn House his main residence and lived there until his death in 1921. Charles Kingsley visited him and reputedly used the site as his inspiration for ‘The Water Babies'. Morrison continued Lister's policy of tree planting behind and around the house, though according to H. Speight in ‘Craven and North West Yorkshire Highlands' (London, 1892 p.358) he experienced many difficulties with his trees and out of at least half a million of about fifty kinds planted not more than fifty thousand had survived. Two boat houses were also built to the south-west and the south-east of the house in respectively gothic and Romanesque styles. The 1850 estate map shows no boat houses on the tarn.

Walter Morrison died in 1921 leaving Malham Tarn House and its estate to his nephew, Major Morrison. When the estate was sold in 1927 the sale particulars mentioned ‘simple old world gardens, sheltered by natural beech, larch and sycamore.' The estate was later bought by Mrs. Hutton Croft who, in 1947, gave it to the National Trust. Since 1948 Malham Tarn Field Centre has been based in the house.

Period

  • Late 18th Century
Contact

Telephone

01793 445050

Official Website

Click Here

Other websites

Owners

  • The National Trust

    Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon, SN2 2NA
References

Contributors

  • Helen Lazenby

    1

  • Yorkshire Gardens Trust