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Great Close House
The ruins of this house may be found situated on Malham
Moor on the Southeast side, and at the foot of Great Close Scar at SE905666,
just to the left of the road to Middle House after leaving Street Gate.
Known to locals as the old pub, the ruins were more extensive in the
mid 20th century but have been "quarried" for stone. In 1710
it was home to the Tempest family, perhaps related to James Tempest
of Kirkby Malham and was a part of the original Lister estates on Malham
View of the ruins of Great Close House from the
two of the three cells can just be identified.
The house was built alongside an ancient packhorse and monastic
way running north and east to Arncliffe, west to Settle and south
to Malham. It was also connected to a track extending north and
west, via the northern bank of the Tarn, towards Fountains Fell,
Langcliffe and beyond. Arthur Raistrick refers to the house in his
book "Malham and Malham Moor" published in 1947,
where on page 99 he states :
"On the left of the road at the foot of Great Close Scar
are the ruins of a fairly large house which was occupied until
about a hundred years ago. At the time of the Malham moor cattle
fairs this was a house of refreshment for the cattle drovers who
came to the fair from Scotland and the north. The fair was held
on Great Close, the pasture in which the house stands, which is
said to be one of the largest walled pastures in the north."
Thomas Hurtley in his book "The Natural Curiosities in the
Environs of Malham in Craven" published in 1768 says that a
Mr Birtwhistle of Skipton, a celebrated Craven grazier, persuaded
the Scots that there was a market for their cattle in Craven, when
he was travelling there in 1745. He rented the 700+ acres of Great
Close as pasture and a place to hold the fair. Hurtley says:
.....you might often see 5,000 head of Scotch
cattle in the pasture at one time. As soon as these were a little
freshened, notice was dispersed among the neighbouring markets and
villages that a Fair would be held on a particular day ; and lots
being separated by guess as nearly as could in such a manner be
done to the -wants or wishes of any purchaser, so much was fixed
immediately by the eye upon that lot or so much per head taking
them as they accidentally were intermixed upon an average. As soon
as these were disposed of,' continues Hurtley, ' a fresh drove succeeded
and besides sheep and horses frequently in great numbers, Mr Birtwhistle
has had 20,000 head of cattle on this field in one summer.
Morkill says the sales of Scotch cattle on Great Close is believed
to have carried on into the early 19th century, but was gradually
replaced by sheep. However once the railways were established in
the mid 19th century the shepherds and drovers no longer brought
their animals to Malham and the fair became the much smaller Malham
sheep sales, which continued through the 20th century.
Today, to a casual observer, it is perhaps hard to appreciate that
this expansive solitude would have been shattered by the noise and
bustle, of a cattle fair. The shouts of commands in thick ‘foreign’
accents, the constant arrival and departures of man and beasts and
perhaps the sounds of merriment at the refreshment house. Examination
of the scant remains reveal, to the layman’s eye, the following
The house was built into the slightly rising ground of Great Scar
Hill above the mire.
Probably around 16-17th Century and contemporary with Shepherds
It would have been a fairly substantial house of the period.
A three-celled construction, as found at Shepherds Cottage, possibly
of ‘slobbered’ uncoursed limestone rubble construction, with a stone
slate roof, See the floor plan.
Internal and external walls of approx. 1 metre (3’) thickness.
Evidence of some roughly squared limestone blocks employed at
The property was some 21.3m long by 6.4m in depth. (With possibly
an extension to right, front elevation)
The right-hand side of the house seems to incorporate an irregular
shaped structure, possible a dairy or storehouse.
Layout may have incorporated a central hall or firehouse with
service area to one side with dairy in the outshot.
May well have had gritstone window and door surrounds, similar
to those at Middle House
the nearby late 16th Century former home of the Brown and Knowles
The house probably had a limestone-cobbled apron to the front
elevation, and connecting to track from Southwest. See O’Hagan’s 1850 map
O’Hagan’s map also seems to suggest a right-hand projection to
the front elevation.
Could well have been of two storey construction, "Typical
of the norm" - Harrison and Hutton (See Notes below).
Looking at Henry O’Hagan's map of 1850 which shows part of Thomas Lord Ribblesdale’s Estate
in Kirkby Malhamdale (which was part of the1850 prospectus for the
sale of the estate (YAS), the house location, although not originally
named, can been clearly identified together with the linking track
to the Southwest. Also the drawing seems to show an extension out
from the right hand front elevation, but this isn't confirmed by the
first edition of the 6 inch OS map of a similar date.
The survey of the Fountains Abbey estates made at the surrender of
the monastery in 1539 doesn't mention a tenancy on Great Close, so
it can reasonably be assumed that the remains are later than this
date, probably when the land was in the possession of the Lamberts.
Shepherds Cottage, Waterhouses,
Malham Moor, similar
to the buildings envisaged at Great Close.
The Parish Registers for Kirkby Malham (1597-1690) were
published by Yorkshire Parish Register Society and record some of the
families living at Great Close House:
Peter Verley of the great close & Margaret
Fyshe of the same, was married xviiij of July in ano pdco, 1614 (p.
75) Peter Varley sepult 20 November 1626 John son of Jo. Hartley of Great Close was buried
10th day of January 1682 (p. 182)Alice daughtr. Of John Hartley of Great Close buried
22 day of December 1685 (p. 174)
The Bishop's Transcripts in the Borthwick Institute provide:
Nanny Tempest daughter of John Tempest of Great Close House Bapt
Aug 12 1770
NB. How this fits within my Tempest Family, if indeed
they do, remains to be determined - Barrie Sharples
Further site photographs taken June
1. Quoin to right hand rear corner
2. Left hand cell, looking towards Mire.
3. Looking south, Great. Close Plantation on horizon.
4. Looking north, Great Close Hill to left.
5. Pan left of hill, Malham Tarn and Tarn House
All photographs © Barrie K. Sharples 2003
Notes: Findings of the North Yorkshire and
Cleveland Vernacular Buildings Study Group, summarised by Barry Harrison
and Barbara Hutton. They found that based on surveys of 107 houses:
That by national standards, Craven was at this period, relatively advanced,
and evidenced by:
- The relative frequency of houses with more than one hearth.
- Establishment of two-storey buildings as the norm.
- The use of upper rooms as bedrooms, rather than storage chamber.
Photographs and information on this page have been
whose family history research includes the Tempests of Kirkby Malhamdale.
You can find further details of his research on The
Sharples Family website.
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