Tarn Hows: The popular Lake District beauty spot which will be forever Yorkshire

The popular Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows is a corner of England that will be forever Yorkshire.

It was largely the idea and creation of James Garth Marshall, son of the 19th century Leeds textiles multi-millionaire John Marshall.

Marshall senior had begun life working in his father’s linen drapery business in Briggate, Leeds, but by seeing the potential in new machinery for flax spinning he turned the city into the world’s biggest centre for mass-produced linen. His factories in the Holbeck area of Leeds employed over 1,000 workers.

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In 1836 his third son, James, purchased the large Monk Coniston Estate at the head of Coniston Water in what was then part of the county of Lancashire.

Tarn Hows Copyright © Roger RatcliffeTarn Hows Copyright © Roger Ratcliffe
Tarn Hows Copyright © Roger Ratcliffe

He greatly enlarged the estate and initiated the transformation of a group of three tarns on moorland immediately above the village.

These were remodelled to make one small lake for the purpose of providing water for the estate’s sawmill, but after seeing the potential for creating a scenic landscape Marshall paid for clumps of trees to be planted in a carefully considered way to enhance the view over the lake to the rocky knolls and dramatic fells beyond.

To protect from harsh winter weather his new broadleaf trees such as sycamore, beach, alder, cherry and willow, he also planted temporary ‘nurse’ crops of conifers including larch and spruce.

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However, James Marshall died before his vision was realised and the larch and spruce trees grew to dominate the Tarn Hows panorama that is seen today.

In 1930 the National Trust bought a large part of the estate from the Marshall family. Another part of the estate was bought by the author and illustrator of children’s books, Beatrix Potter and her husband.

The NT is currently working to restore the Tarn Hows landscape to how it was originally designed by Marshall.