Austwick Hall: A history of the gardens

Eric Culley and Michael Pearson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 


When we moved to Austwick in 1999 we found a well-maintained garden with some impressive specimen trees. The following Spring the glories of the woodland were revealed: extensive drifts of snowdrops, followed by wild daffodils and bluebells in abundance. Exploring the gardens and woodland we found evidence of an earlier garden and landscape. Using a wide range of documentary evidence, as well as an archaeological survey, this is an attempt to summarise what is known about the history of the gardens and their development.

Although Austwick Hall dates from the late 16th century, a house may have occupied the site much earlier. The Yorke and related Ingleby families owned Austwick Hall and estate from the 16th to the 18th centuries. William King purchased the property and refurbished the Hall which was then sold, in 1829, on the bankruptcy of his son, John. Purchased by Thomas Clapham of Stackhouse, the estate passed in 1846 to Richard Clapham of Feizor, whose son (Thomas Richard Clapham) inherited ten years later.

Structure and Features

When the house was sold at auction in August 1829 the sales brochure provided details of the acreage of the farmland but simply referred to the Mansion-house, garden, orchard and pleasure grounds. An estate map of 1847 provides few clues about the gardens but does show a narrow wood, now known as the Avenue, which runs from the house towards the village. The first edition of the Ordnance Survey and the Tithe Map of 1852 are broadly similar and show the following features: two semicircular borders to the front of the Hall, rectangular beds with paths to the west, two buildings on the perimeter of the gardens to the west, a path that runs south-west from the Hall to the boundary, an orchard to the north-west, mixed woodland to the west, and a pond in the woodland above the gardens. With the lack of contours it is not apparent from these plans that the gardens are terraced due to the steepness of the site.

Other later maps and plans have survived in Thomas Richard Clapham’s diary, his notebook on the drainage system and his son Noel’s plan of the water supply, but none sheds any further light on the structure of the gardens. In 1871, T R Clapham purchased a copy of Augustus Mongredien’s Trees & Shrubs for English Plantations. His copy still survives and, interestingly, contains notes and measurements of the trees he planted as well as two plans - an initial one showing when and where trees were planted and a revised one of 1902. Both show the route of paths in what was known as the Austwick Hall Plantation. The latter plan also shows the site of an astronomical observatory in the garden.

On the ground not all has survived. The observatory and two garden structures, possibly summer houses, have been demolished; the kitchen garden and orchard have been built upon; and the paths marked on the woodland plan do not correspond with the current paths. However, there is evidence of terracing in the woodland to form part of the Victorian paths and the terrace walling remains in the garden. There are also additional features which do not appear on the maps. The first is a large sundial set on a stone plinth, located on the edge of the upper lawn. It is inscribed ‘Horas non numero nisi serena MS Ass9124 GMT’ and ‘Austwick Latitude 51o 7’’ ‘ with ‘Richard Clapham 1854’ on the gnomon. There is also a square slate tank that once held a fountain. Similar tanks, built as water troughs, can still be found in the locality.

Located at the highest part of the wood is a trig point created for the original OS survey. ‘750 feet’ has been carved into the side of the natural rock outcrop. On the flat top of this is a pile of stones that probably represents the actual trig point. This would have given the greatest visibility of the surrounding landscape and provided a level surface upon which to set up the equipment.

Ten metres to the south-west is a small stone hut, built of randomly coursed undressed stone. The southern elevation has a single doorway. On the eastern side is a single window which was originally glazed. The hut had been roofed with local slate and capped with stone ridge pieces. Along three of the internal walls there are the remains of a simple wooden bench, supported by wrought iron stanchions. Originally the hut had a slate floor, as at least two fragments have been re-used as steps in the nearby stile in the drystone wall. The hut was first shown on the late 19th century OS map but may have been built prior to this. It may relate to the nearby trig point or, alternatively, may have provided shelter for those walking or shooting in the woodland.

In the late Spring of 2013 an archaeological survey was undertaken in the woodland with features recorded using a Leica 1200 series GPS. Two areas of quarrying were identified with associated haul-ways and it was concluded that the most recent phase of activity dated from the 17th and 18th centuries. Paths were readily identifiable where they crossed areas of sloping ground: the down-slope side had often been built up to produce a level surface. In some cases, where the ground was particularly uneven, short sections of causeway had been created. Two sets of steps were identified which had been created from the underlying geology. Trial excavations of sections of path failed to find any foundations or surfacing materials. In other words, there was no evidence that the paths had been surfaced with stone, gravel or sand. Probably the paths were simply constructed of beaten earth. Also, the paths were not of uniform width. For example, they ranged from 1.1m to 1.65m and 1.7m to 2.05m.

The survey located seven of the eleven paths shown in the Clapham plans. It was apparent that the Clapham paths did not match the positions located during the survey and it was concluded that his plans were sketches rather than accurately drawn maps. The paths which were not found during the survey were those on flatter ground and would not have required any levelling. If they were constructed of beaten earth this would explain the difficulty in finding them.

At the top of the woodland is a prominent rock with the remains of an iron rail, which once formed a viewing platform overlooking the Forest of Bowland. There are two lead-filled holes set vertically below the rail which may once have secured a flag pole. Carved in the rock face are the inscriptions ‘Tutochahnulah 1870’ and ‘Planted Nov 1847 - Nov 1848 RC’. Tutochahnulah is the name of a mountain feature and native legend in Yosemite that T R Clapham probably encountered when he visited California. The latter inscription confirms the planting of the woodland by Richard Clapham. The wood also contains a pet cemetery with a gravestone inscribed ‘Fanny 28, Ap 1858, Ap 1882’. Fanny was a grey mare bought for £28 in April 1858 at the age of four years and destroyed in April 1882. Nearby are the remains of a reservoir and the bath house, which are described below.

The most significant source of evidence for the gardens is T R Clapham’s diary. Comprising 392 pages, it has entries dating from 1854 to the end of his life, with some further additions by his son, Noel. The contents provide fascinating details of his life - from weather records, to lists of his weight over the course of his life. Among these records are over one hundred entries regarding the garden, dating from 1873 to 1908. Rather than list all these entries an attempt has been made to summarize them:
(1) The vinery: built in April 1873, 26 by 14 feet, and then moved in 1887 to the kitchen garden.
(2) Kitchen garden: the orchard to the east of the Hall was felled in 1878 and a wall built enclosing part of the site to make a new kitchen garden (880 square yards). In 1884 espalier fruit trees were transplanted to the kitchen garden. In 1907 a greenhouse was built at a cost of £6-8s-3d. There is an entry for 1908 as follows: ‘I went over to Backhouses at Cattal near York and got a lot of beautifully trained trees from this well-known firm. I ought to have done this 30 years ago, when I made the new kitchen garden, instead of removing the old trees. I do not expect to reap much good from the new trees, but hope they will benefit my successor.’
(3) The water closet at the back of the west garden wall was pulled down in 1880. Water was channelled from a source on Norber to a reservoir in the garden and then piped to the Hall, fountain and water closet.
(4) Laburnum arch at the top of the Avenue.
(5) The old garden house was removed in 1873; the top summer house was painted in 1898.
(6) Conservatory: ‘Built my wife a conservatory west side of Austwick Hall’ (1878).
(7) Fernery: a lot of Norway ferns was received from the editor of Field News; they were planted in the fernery in 1877.
(8) Ebbing and flowing well: this was removed from its original position near the long walk to make way for the vinery in October 1873. ‘Put down father’s model ebbing & flowing well between fountain and fernery’ (1880). ‘Tom Holmes plumber came to overhaul my father’s ebbing and flowing well which had not been working well for some 3 months’ (1908). ‘Robert Kitchen, my gardener, and I had a trial to find out where the error lay, but failed to do so. Holmes found the error was that the siphon was air bound. The whole thing only took about half an hour to put it right. Have never experienced any trouble since my father put down the well in 1851 or since it was removed to its present position in Jan 1880’.
(9) Reservoir: a new reservoir (no. 2) was under the waterfall at the Hall. William Pritchard began getting stone for this in Horse pasture (1904). Its dimensions were 15 feet 6 inches long, 7 feet 4 inches wide, and 3 feet 11 inches in depth to the overflow. Its content was 2774 gallons.
(10) Observatory: built the Romsey observatory in May 1880 for £10. A new observatory was built in December 1884 for £26-2s. Clapham took up astronomy in 1878 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1891.
(11) Bath house: originally built as a cistern in 1852 by Richard Clapham. In 1870 it was tiled inside and used as a swimming bath, but was found to be too cold! In 1874 it was boarded over and used as a potato cellar. In 1895 it was opened up again for use as a bath house. It was converted into a back-up reservoir in 1902.

The Plants

Before he inherited the Austwick Hall estate in 1846, Richard Clapham lived in the nearby hamlet of Feizor. There he created a botanic or apothecary’s garden and supplied John Tatham, of Settle, with a number of rare plants for his herbarium. When Clapham planted the woodland at Austwick Hall it is possible that he was responsible for planting the Martagon lilies, snowdrops, and Asarum europium, which thrive in the woods to this day.

An inventory of Richard Clapham’s possessions at the time of his death has survived. All of his furniture, bed linen and so on were listed down to the silver tea-spoons. The inventory of his library is of particular interest. Although he owned numerous botanical volumes, he possessed just five gardening titles: John Claudius Loudon’s An encyclopaedia of gardening and Encyclopaedia of trees and shrubs, Cottage gardeners’ dictionary, Cottage gardener, and Don’s Gardening.

There is no record of which trees were planted to form the woodland. When T R Clapham inherited the estate he was responsible for planting limes, Sequoia gigantea, Pinus lambertiana, Pinus ponderosa, Abies douglasii, spruces, purple beech, oaks, acacias, sugar maples, birch, white poplar, mountain ash, Thuja gigantean, black Austrian pines, Indian cypresses, Cupressus lawsonii and Scots firs. Of these the redwoods had been grown from seed collected by Clapham when in California in 1870, and some of the oaks and acacias had been raised from seed collected from Germany in 1883 and from Norway in 1896 and 1990. Other specimens were purchased from Halstead of Lancaster and from Lawson & Sons of Edinburgh. T R Clapham’s Tree Notes also record measurements of trees on the estate, including those of mature specimens of chestnuts and walnuts. There are also details of storm damage and the use of timber to make furniture by Gillows of Lancaster. Of all the specimen trees planted only four of the redwoods and the Douglas fir have survived.

A wide range of fruit and vegetables was grown for the household. In his diary there are records of yields as well as first and final harvests. The crops included potatoes, peas (Sutton’s Emerald Green and Early), tomatoes, French beans, kidney beans, marrows, spring onions and cucumbers. There were yellow gooseberries, strawberries, grapes (Black Hambro and Muscat Hambro), Orleans plums, pears, apples (King Blenheim Orange), rhubarb and cherries.

The diary also contains an extensive list of over 70 other plants in the garden, some of which are still grown at the Hall. The list includes aconites (yellow), anemonies, Chinese asters, auriculas, berberis, broom, Clematis jackmanii, cowslips, Convolvulus minor, cotoneaster, crocus, daffodils and Jonquilla narcissi, dahlias, large daisies, Daphne mezereum, Erica carnea, fuchsias, Gentiana acaulis, geraniums, white and blue hepaticas, hyacinths, lily of the valley, lobelia, London Pride, montbretia, pansies, peonies, tree peonies, phlox, poker plant, polyanthus, poppy, Portugal laurels, primroses, scarlet ribes, seringa, snowdrops, spirea, stocks, sweet peas, yellow tulips, thujopsis, Russian and dog tooth violets, Virginia creeper, and weigela. Among the rhododendrons grown were R. fulgens Crimson lake, R. dauricum, R. ponticum and R. Thompsonii, as well as yellow and Indian azaleas. The roses included the cultivars Baronne Rothschild, Beauty of Waltham, Charles Lefebvre, Eclipse, Gloire de Dijon, Marechal Niel, Marie Beaumann, Marie Louise, President and Princess Alice. Other roses listed do not appear to be available today and include British Omen, Duchess Nassau, Eleanor, Glen of Waltham, Lord Derby and Reliston. Finally, the ferns listed included Cystopteris fragilis (brittle bladder), Lastrea cristata (crested buckler), Lastrea rigida (rigid buckler), Lastrea spinulosa (?), Norway holly fern (?) and polypodium. This list of ferns is disappointingly short, particularly as there was a fernery in the garden.

In recent years, six lead plant labels have been found in the woodland. Hand-punched and of varying sizes they range in date from 1870 to 1889. Four record the dates of tree planting. Only two have actual plant names: Kerria japonica single and Escallonia montevidense (?).

The first flower show in Austwick was held in August 1898. The Craven Herald listed the first and second prize winners, which included T R Clapham. The list of categories does not add any more plants to those listed above. The show was followed by dancing in the marquee, which is no longer a feature of the annual competition. In the same year a letter from Clapham was printed in the Lancaster Guardian:

’As an instance of the mildness of the season, I venture to send you a list of flowers blooming in the middle of November in my garden here over 550 feet above the sea: clematis, rhododendrons, snap-dragon, Japanese anemone, roses, dahlias, godetia, Canterbury bells, chrysanthemums, stocks, fuchsias, sunflowers, marigolds (African and French), pansies, primroses, larkspur, nasturtiums, lobelias, scabious, oxeye daisy, geraniums, rose of Sharon, phlox, Auricular citisus, malopium, gentionella, mignonette, sweet violets, and candy tuft. ‘

The Gardeners

The Diary records the arrival of Henry Shephard on 5 June 1871, aged 29 years 7 months, to work as a gardener. He married the following year, and in 1891 Clapham presented him with a new silver lever watch and chain by Russell of Liverpool in token of his twenty years of service. In May 1905 there is a lengthy entry in the Diary:
My old servant, Henry Shephard, asked me for a few days holiday at Whitsuntide. I told him ‘to take as much as you want, don’t pinch it but have a good holiday’. It appears that on Thursday 1 June my old servant was taken ill with bronchitis and confined to his bed, and did not get up until 18 June when he came down stairs for the first time. I gave him all the necessary nourishment, but found the old man failing in health. On July 1 we had a long talk together, the old man broke down in tears and said he would have to give up work. We talked matters over and he continued to work for a time. On Friday 7 July Henry had a talk with my wife and intimated that his nephew would take his place subject to my approval, which was conveyed to me.

Robert Kitchen, Henry’s nephew, came home from Bradford and at 5pm called at my house, and we had a long talk over the situation. It was finally decided that Robert Kitchen comes here in a fortnight and takes his uncle’s place on the same terms viz. £1 a week. Henry to keep the cottage in his own hands, and the nephew and family to live with him. I said to Robert we will try it for twelve months, and see how things work. It will rest with yourself if you care to have the position.

Henry was given £5 for his holiday, which was spent in Morecambe. He had worked for 34 years as gardener at the Hall. He died in his 77th year in 1917, having outlived his master by seven years.

The Diary records few details of the work carried out by the gardener. In February 1876 there was a reference to stoning the Ley walk with riddled stone from the workhouse and Giggleswick limeworks. In 1888 the same path was sanded and was 4 feet wide. In 1897 further work required twelve loads of limestone at a cost of £3-12s. In 1894 all the walks in the plantation were trimmed back; in October 1897 this was repeated so that they were 9 feet wide. In 1905 a new lawnmower was purchased from Sims & Jefferies for £5-14s. The previous machine had come from Jas. Capstick in June 1873 for £3-10s. None of our mowers has seen such good service!


This description of the garden is based on many different sources of evidence. Much of this is fragmentary and without T R Clapham’s Diary and Tree Notes all but the barest outline of the garden and its development would be possible. It highlights the ephemeral nature of gardening and how little evidence survives. There are still gaps and it is difficult to reconstruct the layout of the gardens with any certainty. No plan of borders or planting plans have survived, if they ever existed. What is also clear is that the gardens did not remain static but continued to develop throughout the 19th century.

Dating is also problematic. The basic structure of the garden with the terracing and stone retaining walls probably dates to before the Claphams inherited the property. William King was responsible for the major re-modelling of the Hall in the first decade of the 19th century so it is possible that he also designed the structure of the gardens. Or the terracing may be even older.

It has been established that the woodland was planted by Richard Clapham between 1847 and 1848, and it seems probable that the paths and viewing platform were constructed at the same time. It is possible that they may have been created by his son when he inherited the estate in 1856. However, this seems unlikely as there are no references to this in Clapham’s Diary. The few entries regarding the wood mostly relate to cutting back vegetation from existing paths, rather than their creation. The same Diary also records that in April 1876 a circular ring of yews was planted in the middle walk in the plantation. As there are several such groups of yews it may be concluded that all but one had been planted by his father, Richard Clapham.

In planting the woodland Richard Clapham selected an area which consisted of limestone pavement and disused quarries. One possibility was that, in planting the woodland, he was trying to conceal a scarred landscape. Alternatively, he may have been planning to create a picturesque landscape incorporating the dramatic rockwork on the hillside above the Hall. As a surveyor, Clapham would have been capable of designing and laying out the paths.

Did Clapham’s gardening books provide the inspiration for the design of the woodland landscape? Loudon, in his volumes, clearly differentiated between the ‘picturesque’ and the ‘gardenesque’ styles and provided the general principles for arranging and planting the walks. He also provided advice on the construction of the paths with their substrata and surface covering of gravel, sand or grass. ‘Walks should never be narrower than is sufficient to allow two persons to walk abreast, the minimum breadth of which is 4ft 6in.’ (Loudon, 1822). While Clapham was no doubt influenced by the ‘picturesque’ style the advice on the construction of the paths was ignored. His paths were pragmatic solutions to the terrain and probably achieved at a fraction of the cost of Loudon’s ideal.

Loudon in another of his works wrote ‘In modern gardening the yew is chiefly valued as undergrowth, and for single trees and small groups in particular situations’. He also quoted Gilpin ‘As to its picturesque perfections I profess myself a great admirer of its form and foliage’ (Loudon, 1838). If his books did not provide the inspiration for the woodland planting and design there were a number of landscape gardens in the vicinity. There was Hackfall near Ripon and St Ives near Bingley, though W B Ferrand did not start work on the latter gardens until 1851 (Sheeran, 1990). Even closer was Bolton Abbey. Covering some 30,000 acres the estate included the priory ruins and a medieval hunting lodge as well as extensive stretches of the River Wharfe. The 6th duke (1790 - 1858) was a keen horticulturalist and Paxton’s patron at Chatsworth. In 1810 the duke started work at Bolton by laying out paths and by constructing a waterfall opposite the priory. There was also an extensive amount of rockwork within the park (Symes, 2012).

Other sources of inspiration could also be found at Brimham Rocks, Brandrith Crags and Almscliff Crag as well as Plumpton Rocks - all picturesque tourist attractions within Yorkshire. Eshton Hall, near Gargrave, was altered and modernised in the 1820s and 1830s with new gardens and pleasure grounds designed by William Saurey Gilpin. He was employed from 1827, for 5 guineas per day, for his advice on the new designs. By about 1842, with the completion of all the improvements at Eshton, the estate was opened to visitors who, with an appointment, could explore the 30 acres of gardens created for the new mansion (Robinson, 2012). Although there were woodland walks, the terrain was a little tame compared with Austwick and so may not have been much of an influence on Clapham.

Even nearer was the Farrer estate in Clapham. In 1828 James (1785-1863) and his brother, Oliver Farrer (1786-1866), had the beck dammed to create the lake. A carriage drive to the Grotto and Ingleborough Cave was constructed and to complete the landscape 10,000 trees were planted around the lake. Other features included a boat house, rustic bathing hut and picturesque stone bridge as well as a cascade of three waterfalls (Mason, 1991). Reginald Farrer, some years later, described one scene: ‘Now, over the eastern side of the Lake there hangs a great limestone precipice of 60 feet or so, from whose face, here and there, sprout and squat, like huge black bats, a quantity of very ancient autochthonous yew-trees that must have been here when Loidis and Elmet were kingdoms’ (Farrer, 1909) . It is tempting to speculate that this feature was the inspiration for the planting of the yews in Austwick Hall woods.

The design of the woodland at Austwick Hall can only be fully appreciated by experiencing it, by wandering along the paths. On leaving the formal gardens the walk starts with extensive views over to Oxenber, with its ancient woodland and exposed limestone. The paths meander along the contours, past clumps of yews and along rocky outcrops. These provide an element of discovery created by the changing vistas. On reaching the top of the wood the viewing platform provides extensive views over the surrounding countryside, with its intricate pattern of drystone walls, and the moorland landscape of the Forest of Bowland in the distance. On turning for the return circuit the first view is of Robin Proctor’s Scar and then the eye is drawn down Crummack Dale towards Moughton. Within the wood the paths take the walker past clumps of Martagon lilies, wild daffodils, bluebells and snowdrops according to the season.

So how does the garden compare with other Victorian gardens in the Yorkshire Dales? To our knowledge there is only one other garden where similar evidence has survived: that at Ingleborough Hall. As the home of plant-collector and author Reginald Farrer (1880-1920), it provides an interesting comparison. He spent his formative years at Ingleborough and was educated at home. After university Farrer travelled widely, in both Europe and Asia, and became a prolific author of fiction, travel and gardening books. In 1909 he published In a Yorkshire Garden, in which over some 312 pages he described the gardens at Ingleborough Hall. It is a discursive narrative with lengthy descriptions of plant collecting in Devon, Cornwall and Europe as well as his collection of plants in his parents’ garden. As he wrote, the book ‘is so devised as to cover a multitude of ramblings’. With no plan of the garden included it is often difficult to reconstruct from the narrative the location of features such as the peach house, orchid house, vinery and bog garden. The picture that emerges is a garden devoid of annual bedding, with an interesting assortment of structures and features. As might be expected, the book is devoted to the plants Farrer collected and a comparison of their individual merits, with extensive lists of plants, mostly grown in his Craven Nursery.

Although the 19th century is said to have been the heyday of bedding it was not universally admired. The absence of bedding at Austwick and Ingleborough Halls may have been a matter of taste or one of practicality: cool, wet summers are not ideal conditions for such planting schemes. Instead, both gardens appear to have been more influenced by Loudon’s ‘gardenesque’ style. Both contained diverse elements set within a few acres; neatness and immaculate maintenance were considered important, but above all the design was to display the individual beauty of the plants.


The gardens of Austwick Hall are set in the dramatic limestone scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. In designing the woodland landscape Richard Clapham appears to have been influenced, in spirit if not in detail, by the ‘picturesque’ style of Loudon. The woodland paths make use of the limestone outcrops from the disused quarry as well as providing vistas of the wider landscape. His son’s gardens were both functional, in supplying the family with fruit and vegetables, and decorative, as reflected in Loudon’s ‘gardenesque’ style. He also re-created a small part of Yosemite in his own corner of the Yorkshire Dales.


  • Farrer R. In a Yorkshire Garden (London, Arnold 1909) pp267-8
  • Loudon J C. An encyclopaedia of gardening (London, Longmans 1822-35) p 665
  • Ibid. Arboretum & fruiticetum Britannicum (London, Longmans 1838) p2088
  • Mason S. ‘The Ingleborough estate’ in Illingworth & Routh Reginald Farrer (University of Lancaster, 1991) p83
  • Robinson P. Eshton Hall. The history of a Yorkshire mansion (Berks, Witton 2012) pp35-8
  • Sheeran G. Landscape gardens in West Yorkshire 1680 - 1880 (Wakefield Historical Publications 1990) p141
  • Symes M. The picturesque and the later Georgian garden (Bristol, Redcliffe 2012) p149


Brenda Clapham for lending us T R Clapham’s diary. John Buglass and Jim Fraser for undertaking the archaeological survey, supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority through the Sustainable Development Fund.