Cowside, a largely unaltered 17th century farmhouse in Langstrothdale, has been restored to its former glory. The building had been uninhabited for decades and had fallen into dereliction before it was taken on by The Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity that rescues historic buildings at risk and gives them a new life as places to stay in and experience. Here, with the help of the Landmark Trust, deputy editor Lindsey Moore looks at Cowside’s history.

Generations of hardy Dales folk have stomped across the threshold of Cowside, banging the door against the elements, to warm themselves at the monumental inglenook fireplace in the hall.

Uninhabited for decades, it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1989 by David and Graham Watson.

The Landmark Trust agreed to take a long lease and began its painstaking work to restore the building.

Its efforts were soon rewarded with the discovery of original monochrome wall paintings beneath the flaking layers of later limewash in the boarded-up parlour.

The survival of such paintings in rural Yorkshire is almost unheard of.

The paintings – two rectangular panels of text with flamboyant borders – help to date the house as the texts are from the King James Bible, which was first published in 1611.

On the west wall is “Whether ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do do all to the glory of God” and “For of him and through him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”. On the east wall is “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred”.

There has been much debate about the exact date of when the farmstead was constructed.

Documentary references suggest there was a farm called Cowside in Hubberholme parish by 1682, occupied by Jane and Francis Slinger, but a datestone above the front door reads “I S 1707”. However, it may have been re-set from a porch (since lost), a common feature on houses at that time.

Even dendrochronology (dating by tree sing analysis) has proved inconclusive.

It is known that a William Slinger, of Langstrothdale, went to Sedbergh School in the 1670s before going on to Cambridge University and becoming a clergyman, Master of Colchester and chaplain to the Bishop of London. It is possible that he was Francis and Jane Slinger’s son, growing up at Cowside, and the wall paintings were to celebrate his achievements.

But whatever the date, the building is evidence of a past way of life.

The standard of workmanship in the timber ceilings and in the masonry of the stone window is high and there are no fewer than three hearths.

The house also boasts a dairy, wash house, storage rooms, two cowsheds and a pigsty, all of which have been repaired.

The farmstead is set on the fellside above the young River Wharfe and faces south up the slope and away from the river, so it is likely that there was once a packhorse trail running along the contour line above it. The dale was an important through route from Lancaster to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The front elevation has a set of fine stone mullioned windows with an echo of earlier centuries, but the rear elevation has an unusual twin gable, with windows “cobbled together” from pieces of salvaged stonework. It is not known whether they came from an earlier building on the same site or elsewhere.

The farmhouse is built of the local, highly durable limestone with freestone quoins and dressings.

As originally built, the entrance led straight into a hall/housebody (today’s kitchen) with a massive inglenook fireplace under a stone arch and a fine six-light stone mullioned window with window seat beneath. In the early 19th century a partition was erected to create a passageway.

But the finest room in the house is the parlour, with another good stone fireplace and the rare wall paintings to either side of the window.

Upstairs, the hall chamber was warmed by heat radiated from the massive chimneybreast and the parlour chamber by a third well-made fireplace. It is thought both rooms were originally open to the rafters, perhaps until as late as the mid-19th century.

The restoration of Cowside began in spring, 2009 – thanks to a generous bequest from Sylvia Chapman.

The building was re-roofed in autumn 2009 as a preliminary phase, as the trust feared the leaking roof might collapse under its own weight in the snows of another winter. Work began in earnest in 2010.

All the external masonry was repointed and the house replastered throughout. Those flagstones that could be salvaged were relaid in the cross passage and today’s kitchen and the opportunity was taken to lay underfloor heating beneath new stone floors elsewhere on the ground floor. The first-floor floorboards were all so rotten that they had to be replaced.

Later infilling was removed from each of the fireplaces and new doors were made to match an original that survived in the parlour.

As Cowside is off the national grid, its electricity is supplied by a micro combined heat and power plant fuelled by liquid propane gas. The electricity is stored in a set of batteries. “Waste” heat is captured from the generator and used to help heat water for the underfloor heating and domestic use. Water is provided from a specially-drilled borehole.

Another indication of its remote setting is that guests staying in the property have a 250-yard uphill trek from the parking place – just off the Dales Way footpath – to the front door!

For more information about Cowside or other Landmark Trust properties visit