Grisedale is one of the lesser visited Dales, so much so it doesn’t even have it’s own Wikipedia page – the narrow, tarmacked single-track road that leads into it, recedes at the last habitable house, devolving into an incredibly marshy trail which serves to allow access to the higher fields and is fit only for hardy 4x4s. The lack of through traffic, coupled with it’s relative remoteness and lack of any dramatic natural spectacle, result in low visitor numbers, and a low population to match. In 1975, Yorkshire Television produced a documentary entitled ‘The Dale That Died’, following the 2 sole residents of Grisedale at the time: A former miner making the transition from the pits to a farming lifestyle, along with his wife. The entire documentary is available for free on the BFI website, and I recommend watching it if you want to get a feel for how isolated the area once was. Nowadays, things are much improved – as more residents have moved to the area, many of the abandoned farmhouses have been restored to life into homes and holiday cottages – East & West Scale, however, are certainly not among them.
These farmhouses are the dale’s most remote dwellings, situated far from the valley entrance, and date from around the 17th century. Although separated by 50m of open land, they form a cohesive unit as a result of their walled enclosure, so it’s possible both were occupied by members of the same family at one point in their early history – probably Quakers judging by the adjacent wooded burial ground, and also the fact that a few Quaker families resided in this area around the turn of the 18th century.
These buildings have been abandoned for so long (around 70 years by my estimates), that their insides have been effectively anonymised by time and the elements, so, barring the two fireplaces still present in East Scale, everything left is pretty much structural at this point. Given this, and the lack of any real history I can find for them, I wouldn’t normally make them the subject of a detailed post, however, there is a little bit of unlikely ‘Star Power’ surrounding these ruins that’s worth looking into.
In around 2000/2001, both East & West Scale, along with a sizeable amount of land surrounding them, were purchased by musician Vince Clarke, probably best known as one of the founders of synth-pop band Depeche Mode, and more recently, Erasure – an act in a similar vein. His slightly unusual plan, was to renovate East Scale into recording studios, and West Scale back to a residential dwelling, along with one of the ruined outhouses to function as an office and archival storage for master recordings. According to the original owner of the land, there was also talk about installing a helipad, although I found no evidence of this in the planning application, so I find it more likely it was just a fanciful rumour, given credence by playing to people’s expectations of typical pop-star extravagances.
Because both Scale buildings are ‘Listed’ as sites of historical and architectural significance, this presents extra difficulties in terms of restoration – the National Park Authority are keen to preserve such sites, along with the character of the area, so any building work must first have it’s plans submitted for intense scrutiny by the Authority, and anything not up to scratch will result in immediate refusal for work to be carried out. This seems like a reasonable system at first – it prevents those with mountains of cash, but little taste, from littering the landscape with architectural eyesores, and also prevents historically significant structures from being demolished. The Park Authority however, are often rather draconian in their practice of doing this, and often preservation is ruthlessly enforced to a fault, with structures that could be rejuvenated left to further wrack and ruin, due to the number of hoops applicants need to jump through to get them approved.
The plans for East & West Scale were actually given the go-ahead, subject to a list of 44 conditions to be met – you can read them here to get an idea of how in-depth the specifications are for this kind of building, and how the expenses can rapidly mount up when restoring one. You can see from my photos that preliminary work was actually started – some walls have been rendered, and breeze blocks lie in piles ready for construction, but the render is failing, and the blocks are covered with years of moss growth, so evidently something went wrong.
I’m making an educated guess that a mixture of cost, hassle, and possibly lack of time is to blame – the amount of work that needs doing on site is staggering – roofs have collapsed, upper floors are non-existent, there’s no water connection, and electricity would have to be routed from some distance away, all underground, as per one of the conditions for approval – it’s a herculean task, and the remoteness of the site and unsuitability of the existing track to it, would make transporting materials a logistical nightmare. Possibly when Vince bought the land he had no idea of what he was letting himself in for, and interestingly, in 2007 the site was put back up for sale at the ludicrous (even by 2007 standards, a year before the financial recession) price of £475,000 – a sum that would net you a large, fully in-tact property, with all the usual amenities elsewhere in the dale. This sale was seemingly unsuccessful, as in 2011, further plans were submitted, this time drastically scaled back, only relating to East Scale, and a proposed plan to bring it back to residential use. The minutes of a planning committee meeting mention the site’s “current owner, who lives in New York” – where Clarke resides, so I’m putting two and two together here so to speak. These plans were rejected for various reasons you can read about here if you’re interested, possibly leaving him in the dilemma of having to either keep submitting proposals at considerable time and expense, or selling the land for (most likely) a significant financial loss.
No plans have been submitted since the 2011 proposal, and as far as I can tell, the land hasn’t been sold on, so the future looks fairly bleak for this remote ruin, which now seems to serve a new purpose as a final resting place for sheep that have wandered in, looking for somewhere sheltered and quiet so that they can lay down and die, and join the Quakers just next door.
I kind of wanted to end this article on a nice poetic note, so I’ll do that now, rather unsubtly, with a poignantly relevant song title, here goes: