West Gill House

Winter in the UK is a time I’d all-too-happily hibernate through given half a chance – it sets in around early November and lingers around for a further 5 months making things cold, dark, and generally un-fun, with only a meagre 7 hours of daylight punctuating the abyss of time that constitutes the 24 hour cycle. If you can call it daylight of course – In actuality, the sky usually ends up paved over in a rather pessimistic shade of Grey that saps all notion of productivity, and that even Pantone probably recognises as likely to induce thoughts of regret and abject hopelessness.

Suffice it to say – I don’t like it.

Occasionally though you catch a chink in the dour facade – some small ray of hope that stops you from writing off the entire period as a chunk of totally lost time, lifting the spirits – even if only for a fleeting moment. In this instance Christmas Eve was that moment when I pulled myself somewhat reluctantly back over to Garsdale to investigate a couple of properties to add to my little portfolio of historic Dales ruins – an ongoing collection that I’m almost confident enough to term a ‘project’ now that I seem to have accrued documentative imagery of more than I can find time to blog about. Without a cloud in the sky, the Winter sun’s low arc effectively resulted in a golden hour that lasted all day – it’s not something that conditions often conspire in favour of, but I like to think I made the most of it. Sometimes you just get lucky.

The farmhouses I’d elected to investigate lay at the boundary where the well-tended fields of the Dale cede to the wilder moorland on the valley’s South side. Their exposed position and the disrepair that was evident even on low-resolution satellite imagery didn’t inspire hopes of finding much in the way of artefacts – it was obvious the dwellings been abandoned for many decades – probably close to a century given neither ever had electrical/water connections installed1.

West Gill was the first I scouted out, although it’s only a mere 2 minutes walk to its equally dilapidated neighbour that’ll be destined for a shorter post sometime in the future2. I was right to set my expectations somewhat low – The fittings had all been stripped long ago, and the building been repurposed as a barn in the intervening years given the foot or so of muck I sank into when I stepped foot inside.

The wide angle makes the platforms look ridiculously tall - in actuality they're only raised around 4ft from the floor.
The wide angle makes the platforms look ridiculously tall - in actuality they're only raised around 4ft from the floor.
Poking my head above the sileage platform.
Poking my head above the sileage platform.

A platform forms a kind of ‘upper-floor’ in the main living area – so low you have to duck lest you smash your head against its underside. This would have been used for the storage of animal fodder through the Winter period at one point, although it’s obviously been out of use for years. A large fireplace graces the far wall, and honestly, there’s really not much else of note inside. These dwellings were constructed for function rather than form, so there’s no real ornamentation or architectural flourishes to marvel at here.

The last information I can find on any former occupants is in the 1901 census, during which it was home to A 27-year-old farmer and his wife,2 children, and a lodger working as a quarryman, probably at the nearby limestone quarry that I also made a point of investigating during the day’s adventures.

All-in-all, though not exactly an earth-shattering discovery, it’s yet another location to tick off on my big treasure map of stuff, and from what I can tell, these could well be the first images of it ever published online – I like to think there’s value in that.

  1. This is usually a somewhat reasonable gauge on determining when somewhere was last lived in, although it’s not always that simple – Sarthwaite for example, was without electricity until the late 80s when it was vacated, and famed local farmer Hannah Hauxwell famously lived without a water or electrical connection at her farm in the 1970s – it’s a likelihood, but never a guarantee.
  2. I did debate whether to include them both in this one post, but I rather like having separate entries for each location – makes it feel like a little bit more of an organised database I guess. Maybe one day I can become the de-facto authority on mouldy old farmhouses? A man can surely dream.