All-round hero celebrations in Craven

A new festival celebrating the life of the Grand Old Man of Craven launches this month.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 3:46 pm
Walter Morrison portrait painted as a thank you from Giggleswick School and still on display today. Image courtesy of Giggleswick School.
Walter Morrison portrait painted as a thank you from Giggleswick School and still on display today. Image courtesy of Giggleswick School.

new festival celebrating the life of the Grand Old Man of Craven launches this month. The Walter Morrison Festival marks a century since the death of the local MP, businessman, social reformer and philanthropist who lived at Malham Tarn House and loved the Dales landscape.

He paid for Giggleswick School Chapel and fought for primary school education for all children in Britain and although well known in Malhamdale during his life, now he is all but forgotten.

The Walter Morrison Festival aims to change all that with a series of exhibitions, talks, a schools programme and a new walking route.

Giggleswick School chapel which Walter Morrison funded. Image courtesy of Giggleswick School.

Caitlin Greenwood, The Folly’s heritage development officer, who’s co-ordinating the festival, said: “If you think you know Walter Morrison - think again. Far from the stuffy Victorian stereotype, he was a radical social reformer, campaigner and all-round hero for Craven, who truly deserves to be celebrated.”

The festival begins on May 21 with a free lecture about his life broadcast live from the Memorial Library at Giggleswick School where Morrison was a governor for almost 60 years.

To book for the online lecture by Robin Bundy, Malhamdale Local History Group archivist, visit Further talks are planned for the autumn.

From May 22-September 30, a series of five exhibitions about Morrison take place at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kirkby Malham Church, Kirkby Malham Parish Hall, Malham Chapel and Skipton Library.

The Folly, home to The Museum of North Craven Life, Settle.

Each exhibition features an introduction to Morrison and then explores a different aspect of his life. They are all free and can be visited in any order. From October, all the exhibitions will come together at The Folly in Settle. For information on venue opening dates, visit:

As part of the festival, the Walter Morrison Way has been created. This 18-mile route from Bell Busk to Malham, Settle and Giggleswick, retraces some of Walter Morrison’s favourite paths and connects some of the landmarks in Malhamdale and Craven. Shorter loops explore Kirkby Malham and Malham, the Malham Tarn Estate, Settle and Giggleswick. A booklet on the route will be available in the summer and there will be downloadable information on the festival website.

The younger generation will also have chance to learn more about Walter Morrison and his achievements during a new school programme due to be launched in the autumn.

The festival is led by The Folly and involves organisations including Giggleswick School, Malhamdale Local History Group, Skipton Library (North Yorkshire Libraries Service), Kirkby Malham Church and Kirkby Malham Parish Hall. It is funded by Arts Council England, the Coulthust Trust and the Craven Trust.

Malhamdale Local History Group chair, Linda Hodson, said: “Malhamdale Local History Group is delighted to be able to support the Walter Morrison Festival. It is a wonderful opportunity to share the research of some of the group’s members into the life of this important local benefactor.”

“If it were not for Walter Morrison there would likely have been no school at Kirkby Malham,” said Richard Wright, Kirkby Malham and Settle Primary Schools headteacher.

“His contribution to education and community life has been significant and life changing.” The Walter Morrison Festival has been organised by the Museum of North Craven Life at The Folly, Malhamdale Local History Group, Kirkby Malham Parish Church, Kirkby Malham Parish Hall, Craven Museum, Malham Chapel, Giggleswick School, North Yorkshire County Council Policy, Partnerships and Communities (Libraries and Record Office), and Kirkby Malham School.

The Folly in Settle, built in 1679, is the Yorkshire Dales’ only Grade I listed historic house regularly open to the public. It is home to the Museum of North Craven Life, which tells fascinating tales of the people and landscape of the local area.

The building, and the neighbouring Grade II Zion Chapel, are owned and run by the North Craven Building Preservation Trust, the volunteer-led registered charity dedicated to preserving the historical, agricultural and architectural heritage of the district and sharing information via its museum service.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture.They have set out their strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 they want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences.

Arts Council England invests public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. Visit Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council developed a £160 million Emergency Response Package, with nearly 90 per cent coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support. The Craven Trust is a grant-making charity supporting community projects in the Craven area.