THE life and times of philanthropist and local MP Walter Morrison, who lived at Malham Tarn House and who died 100 years ago, is currently being celebrated in a festival organised by The Folly Museum at Settle, with the help of local history groups.

Known as the ‘Grand Old Man of Craven’ Mr Morrison was twice elected MP for the Skipton division. He paid for the building of Giggleswick School Chapel and for the publication of ‘Craven’s Part in the Great War’ - thousands of copies of which were given to the survivors of the First World War and their families.

Mr Morrison lived at Malham Tarn House until his death in 1921, and 75 years ago this month, the house and estate - with the exception of the shooting rights - was handed over to the National Trust.

Following his death, the house and estate was sold to a Mr Fisher; and after he died, Mr Morrison’s great niece bought it. It was her who gave it to the nation in the summer of 1946, shortly after it failed to sell at auction.

On August 9, 1946, the Craven Herald reported how the estate, which it described as one of ‘Craven’s beauty spots’ was to be transferred to the National Trust.

The estate included Malham Tarn House, the home Farm, woodlands and grass, and the 153 acre Tarn - the second largest lake in Yorkshire.

It was given by Mrs Hutton Croft, wife of Capt Bernard Hutton Croft, who formerly lived at Aldborough Hall, Boroughbridge.

The total area of the property in the gift was over 800 acres and the revenue from the farm was to go to the upkeep.

Capt and Mrs Hutton Croft had moved to Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Capt Hutton Croft said his wife was making the gift because she wished it to be preserved to the nation. Only the sporting rights over the Moors were retained by the Hutton Crofts.

Asked by the Crave n Herald what the house could be used for, Capt Hutton Croft said;”We have left that to the National Trust. All we have asked is that the estate should be preserved for the public and that its natural beauty should remain unspoilt. ‘

The estate was formerly owned by Mrs Hutton Crofts great uncle, Walter Morrison on upon whose death in 1921, it was sold to a Mr Fisher. Mrs Hutton Croft bought it from Mr Fisher’s executors sometime in the 1930s and she and her husband lived there until shortly before the war.

The Tarn, said the Herald at the time ‘ is surrounded on three sides by high peaks of the Craven hills. Gordale Scar and Malham Cove to the south of the estate. Malham Tarn House, built in the screen of the luxurious plantation that rises from the North shore of the Tarn, is 1,200 ft above sea level.’

The report continued: “The late Walter Morrison, who lived at Tarn House until his death in 1921, had among his guests Charles Kingsley, and it was there that the first chapter of The Water Babies was written. John Ruskin was also a frequent visitor to the house and so was Judge Hughes, author of ‘Tom Brown’ s Schooldays’ and the blind Professor Fawcett.

The estate was offered for sale by auction in June, 1946, but no bids were offered for the whole estate.

In the 1930s, Malhamdale was among areas mentioned in a report of a government Committee as being suitable for a national park.

In 1935 as a Jubilee year gift, Mrs Hutton Croft presented a picturesque stretch of woodland alongside the river in Malhamdale to the village of Malham.

“It seems fairly certain that Tarn House will become a field centre of the council for the promotion of field studies,” said the report.

The then secretary of the council, a Mr F Butler told the Craven Herald that the prospects were very good.

He said the house was in a unique position for their work and that professional biologists went as far as to say there was ‘nowhere better.’.

An appeal was to be launched exclusively in Yorkshire to cover the cost of the proposed centre.

The cost was thought to be around £4,000, and would include a laboratory and accommodation for 50 students.

A Professor W H Pearsall of London University said if Malham Tarn was to become the site of a field centre, it would ‘possess a place of unique value where both young and old could acquire and develop first hand knowledge and interests.

In its leader column, the Herald said it had been hoped that a private buyer would have taken over the estate and restored the house to its former glory of when Walter Morrison lived there.

The Grand Old Man of Craven had done much for the area, said the paper, and he described the Malham house as his ‘mountain home’.