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History & Culture

High Trenhouse is a residential venue splendidly situated in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, overlooking Malham Tarn. The present owner bought High Trenhouse as a dilapidated farmstead in 1976. It has since been transformed to provide creative space for both business and leisure.

Earliest days

Because Malham Tarn was an attractor of wildlife, the area has been a hunting ground since earliest times. Middle stoneage & early neolithic people made their settlements, followed by megalithic and, later, bronze and iron age peoples. Place names reveal that Angles colonised the river valleys from the East. On the other hand the uplands began to be settled by people of Norse origin arriving from the West.

The central uplands became the land of the Brigantes. This tribe co-existed with the Romans who, apart from their marching camp on Mastiles Lane, left little trace. As Christianity spread, churches were built for the farming communities. Traces remain of old routes through the hills to the monastic houses. Mastiles Lane is a good example of a route that linked Fountains Fell with Fountains Abbey. High Trenhouse was probably established by Fountains Abbey as a lodge for shepherds.

Post Dissolution

After the Dissolution of the monasteries, new owners of their lands established much of the present pattern of settlements. In the nineteenth century drovers brought great flocks and herds to be sold at Great Close, on their way to feed the towns of the Industrial revolution. Industry also came to the uplands, primarily mining for lead, coal and minerals, smelting and lime burning. The proximity of the Leeds-Liverpool canal and later the Midland Railway contributed to the spread of industrialisation, as textiles manufactories crept up the river valleys.

Walter Morrison

In the mid 1700s, Thomas Lister, the first Lord Ribblesdale acquired ownership of Malham Tarn estate. He invested considerably, raised the water level of the tarn and established the house as a hunting lodge. In 1852 it was sold to businessman James Morrison.  Later it was inherited by his son, Walter, whose money derived from Argentinian railways. Walter Morrison was very fond of his Malham Tarn home. Here he entertained guests including Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Judge Hughes (author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays) and Charles Kingsley. Kingsley used Malham Tarn as the inspiration for his novel “The Water-Babies”.  As a philanthropist Morrison was revered in the local community.

When he died in 1921, High Trenhouse and other farms entered independent ownership. Malham Tarn House was eventually bequeathed to the National Trust and since WW2 has been run as a study centre by the Fields Studies Council, http://www.kirkbymalham.info. High Trenhouse was a thousand acre sheep farm until 1976, when the house was acquired by the present owner to establish a residential venue.

St Michael the Archangel

The old church of St Michael the Archangel in nearby Kirkby Malham was rebuilt in the 15th century by the wealthy monks of Dereham Abbey in Norfolk www.kirkbymalhamchurch.org.  In the late 19th century the vicarage and the church were extensively restored largely at Walter Morrisons expense. Listen here to the new bells of St Michael.

Settle-Carlisle Railway

The last great railway to be constructed between Scotland and England was the Settle-Carlisle line, which made droving redundant. The line was saved from closure 35 years ago and is now a thriving link for goods, locals and tourists. Many make excursions by bike or on foot and return by train.www.settle-carlisle.co.uk.

Changing Times

Local culture was, until recently, dominated by the needs of agriculture. This produced a fabric of isolated farms with small villages at walking distance and market towns at key points. Because modern mobility and communications have shattered this old pattern, driving away many young people and attracting ‘offcumdens’.  As a result the price of houses is beyond the reach of local people which has created new socio-economic problems. Life is change – in spite of illusions of stability. All these changes are aspects of the living landscape and the changing place we humans have within it.

Read the landscape

One effect of the historical pattern of land use has been the stripping away of ancient tree cover. As a result we have become accustomed to the bald grassy uplands, criss-crossed by dry stone walls and the pattern of farmsteads and field barns (now redundant).  All the features of the landscape tell their stories, from pre-history to the latest shift in agricultural fortunes, to those who can read them.

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