A life at High Trenhouse on Malham Moor

Kathleen Slinger (née Coates)
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

I was born in 1927 at Pen-y-ghent Farm on the Silverdale road east of Pen-y-ghent summit. Reminiscences of my childhood there may strike a chord with contemporaries and be of interest to later generations. My great grandmother on my father’s side was born in Ecclefechan in Scotland but was brought up in Carlisle. She told that she saw the last public hanging in Carlisle (in 1862) when a little girl, taken by her mother! She then travelled to Darnbrook House in a carrier cart to take up employment as a servant girl at the age of 13. Darnbrook is the very isolated farmstead north of Malham Tarn. There she stayed until she married the shepherd at Darnbrook, Mr John(?) Lund and they then went to live in Bentham. From Bentham a visit was made every week with two pannier baskets to Lancaster market with garden produce. The youngest son had the first taxi in Bentham, in the early 1930s, taking the ladies of the town to the regular tea parties. She lived to the age of 101. My grandparents would walk from Darnbrook to Kirkby Malham for a dance and back to work next morning. There is a cave underneath the Darnbrook House with Walter Morrison’s signature there; there was also a cockfighting pit away on the fell.

Great grandfather on my mother’s side, Robert Walker, was a policeman based at Horton at the time of the building of the Settle-Carlisle railway (1869-76). He, a 6ft 6in man, with another policeman was in charge of all the navvies working on the line living in the camp at Ribblehead. He was much respected and used to give any miscreant a good hiding instead of walking them the 12 miles to Ingleton Gaol. He later became a river bailiff at Horton in Ribblesdale; his gravestone in the Horton Churchyard was erected by the Manchester Anglers Association ‘as a mark of respect’. Grandmother Harriet Walker said she went on the first engine on the Settle-Carlisle line as a child of about four. She went on to Ripon College to become a teacher and came back to Horton School, later marrying William Jackson.

My father and mother, Bessie Jackson and John Coates, married in 1924, were at Pen-y-ghent Farm when I was born and I was christened at Halton Gill. My father made the journey to Settle to fetch the doctor who presumably arrived in time to be of use. I was an only child but had cousins galore. Gamekeeper and mole catcher ‘Mowdy’ Billy Lund lived next door and he had lots of children, to the extent that he wanted my mother and father to adopt some of them. All these children did well in wartime service. My grandparents Coates lived at High Trenhouse and when I was 4 years old, in 1931, we moved to High Trenhouse, my grandparents then moving to Home Farm. We kept Dalesbred sheep, and indeed my father was a founder member of the Dalesbred sheep association. There were also Dairy Shorthorn cows, goats, pigs and poultry.

High Trenhouse Farm had three men employed and living permanently there, with four others brought in at haytime. One disabled fellow who did the mowing was from the workhouse in Settle. Young men usually worked at the farm until married. There was a large acreage available but in the hard times of the 1930s buying animals was not an option. Heifers were brought up from the lowlands around Preston (where mastitis was a problem in days before antibiotics) and grazed on the high ground around Malham Tarn, before being returned to Preston in autumn. Sheep were raised at the farm and the lambs sold at the autumn sales in Malham, having been walked there, not transported in trucks as nowadays. Extra income was derived from cheese-making by grandparents, overnight visitors (one of whom made the drawing of High Trenhouse reproduced here), cart and barrow making. Rent was paid once a year at the rent dinner held at Low Trenhouse where the land agent lived. For two years in the 1930s there was not enough money to pay the annual rent (by cheque) and my mother’s savings in shares in Settle and District Farmers’ Trading Society had to be sold. Father knew Walter Morrison who was a chatty, eccentric and wealthy man, having made his fortune on Argentine railway business. He would walk up to Malham Tarn catching his staff unawares. The holes in his shoes needed repairing, but he remarked that “what lets it in, lets it out again”.

I went to school every day, to Malham Tarn School near Home Farm, about a mile away from High Trenhouse. Between 5 and 8 children from the surrounding farms attended, 5 to 13 years of age. Doris Carr was the teacher, (although not qualified), who used to come on horseback from Lee Gate. Sometimes lessons took place by the lake. My mother’s sister taught at the school previously when there were 40 children - she was well-respected and never smacked a child. The children were allowed to use ink at school from the age of 6; paper and pencils rather than slates were the norm, with chalk and boards used at home. In bad winters we took our sledges to school. The playground was the rocky area behind the building. We played outside all the time. I might be allowed to leave at 3 pm to get home to help mother at busy times. I also fed our chickens and collected the eggs. Once per year the eggs were taken with other things to the Bradford Eye Hospital.

My mother always made time for me, 5 to 6 pm, to read a book while the men were milking and when I could read I read to my mother. Books probably came from Skipton, on a rare trip there on a Saturday night with father, and were then passed around the moor. We were all very big readers. I could read and write at the age of 5 when I started school. I wrote letters to my grandmother in Horton (who had been a teacher there before her marriage) once a week and she would correct them. I remember the sports day at Kirkby Malham in 1935 when I won 2/6d, a small fortune. It was a lovely May day; the men were washing sheep in the dub, but next day it snowed heavily and we feared for the cattle who could not be kept under cover. It lasted three days. An old man at nearby Capon Hall, Mr Banks, who did contract drain clearing by spade for us, told my father of a great storm in the 1850s. I remember the meadows at Malham Tarn full of flowers and butterflies, before the use of fertilizers changed agricultural practice. A book of flowers given to me as a present by my mother led to a life-long interest. People even came from London to see the flowers.

It was a busy life at home at Trenhouse. On baking day mother would have dough rising in several bowls by the time I came down for breakfast. She made 60 lb (27 kg) of butter every Monday (wash-day), packed in greaseproof paper (I cut the paper) then in boxes covered with white cloth ready to go to the grocer in Settle, which was next to present-day Garnett’s shop, and the Tuesday market. Dried fruit, sugar, rice for home baking, yeast for bread-making, and a large joint of beef, were brought back on Tuesday night. Chickens, eggs (stored in slaked lime), vegetables and salads from the garden - all helped to feed us - no food was bought. Pigs (four a year) were killed when it was frosty; hams were home-cured and sold. Nothing was wasted on a pig. Cheese was not made by mother because it was so time-consuming. Large sacks of potatoes, oatmeal and flour and apples in barrels were bought so we always had a big stack of everything at the beginning of winter. There were no antibiotics and animals were lost giving birth. Women’s hands were cleaner than those of the men and were preferred for lambing. Orphan lambs were suckled by the few goats kept for that purpose - the kids were sent to the butcher. I was brought up on goat’s milk.

Various tramps called at the farmhouse to have their billy cans brewed and to ask for bread. They slept in the barns and had eggs and milk from us; their pennies were kept in red and white spotted handkerchiefs left each night for mother to look after. Several very respectable tramps were regular visitors.

Coal delivered once a year from Settle was used for the stove and heating; paraffin lamps were used for lighting and candles for bed. For amusement the men would play cards and the women got together and did mending or made quilts or rugs. That’s how the news got around. On a rare Saturday night Mum, Dad and myself might go down to Settle in the car for fish and chips. In the 1930s granddad, my father and the estate agent each had a car. Ours was a Rover with a rear dickey seat - which my mother used because of the fumes in the front! Father said to me “Now you wait me lass, you will see a time when everybody has got a car”. The horse and trap was the usual mode of transport. I had a few toys for Christmas - a farmyard, a pram, a dolls house, a game shooting corks at animals, cardigans, socks - but no stocking to put them in.

Snow caused problems some years. One Christmas Day at High Trenhouse my mother had 60 people in to brew up for, after shovelling snow. When snow was on the ground shopping was done by horse and sleigh for the Malham Moor community; the sleigh went over the walls of Henside rather than on the road.

I cried when we left High Trenhouse to move to Brennand Farm in the Trough of Bowland when I was 13, in 1939. I went to school at Dunsop Bridge, a three mile walk each way, but left when I was 14 years old. The Landgirls there introduced much needed new blood. The farm was very isolated. In the early days when we were there the lambs were walked to White Well where the local lamb sale was held. The old ewes were walked over the fells in the ‘back end’ to be sold at Bentham. Floods cut us off for months. The farm was cut off for 12 weeks in the harsh winter of 1947 when much stock was lost. However, most of the lambs produced the following spring were females, helping to increase the flock in due course. One dog was only good at sniffing out sheep under snow but otherwise lazy. Two or three dogs were kept. My father never hit a dog in his life but bit the dog’s ears to show who was boss. They were most useful from 18 to 24 months old but worked for 5 or 6 years.

From Brennand I went to evening classes in Clitheroe, 12 miles away by bus, to study embroidery and I got my City and Guilds diploma after 6 months of the 3 year course. My father, at the time of his retirement and when I was 22, bought me a needlework and wool shop in Clitheroe which I ran for 10 years. (I have been a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild for 57 years). When at Brennand we had a Catholic priest come to visit to enquire about a possible site of a resting place in monastic times for travelling monks. We found a slab covering a well at the back door which also had been used for milk processing (it had a hole to separate the milk from the cream) - and it had the initials IHS on one corner and five crosses (representing the five wounds of Christ). That proved there was probably a chapel there; the stone slab was removed to Whalley Abbey and is currently built into the altar in the Chapel in the Abbey Conference House. It is thought to be a portable altar stone.

Farm practice has changed much over the years. No fertilizer was used - only muck. At Trenhouse lads from poor homes in Nelson and Burnley were employed to help and lived with us over winter - they were well-fed, unlike at home. One lad made wonderful animals from Glitterwax. We reared 100 calves a year. Rabbits were caught and sold (to Mr Cox of Nelson) or eaten.

My family had association with Dough Ghyll where the father of ‘Perk’ (George Moseley Perfect) known as the Squire lived in Horton. My mother’s brother Robert Jackson lived at Dubcote and then moved to Dough Ghyll after the Perfects. There was also a connection with Langcliffe Hall - a family diary dated 1875 records a few thoughts of a young lady in service there who died of TB at the age of 17.

I have had a very happy life. “I cannot believe the things I’ve done in my life”.

  • This account is based on an interview in 2007 with EMS and MJS and supported by information from several other sources:
  • Bowland Advertiser and Times, 1947. An ancient Christian relic in Bowland Census data 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901
  • Craven Herald, September 1971. Tender memories of Mrs Brown of Malham.
  • Craven Herald, February and March, 1947.
  • Edith Carr - Life on Malham Moor, W.R.Mitchell, publ. Castleberg 1999
  • Farmers Weekly, May 14, 1982. New horizons.
  • Perk’s Book Memories and thoughts of a countryman, George Perfect. Perk Publications, 2004.
  • Whalley Abbey, Acting General Manager, Mrs E. Hargreaves.
  • www.carlislehistory.co.uk
  • YorkshireLife, Brennand-in-Bowland. H.C.Collins.

High Trenhouse, Malham Moor, drawn about 1939 before the National Trust altered it in later years.

High Trenhouse, Malham Moor, drawn about 1939 before the National Trust altered it in later years.