The Countryside Life column by the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership

One of the Foundation Programme students shows off a finished stone plaque for Lodge. Photo: B Noakes.
One of the Foundation Programme students shows off a finished stone plaque for Lodge. Photo: B Noakes.

In the farthest reaches of Upper Nidderdale, life is being breathed back into a village abandoned nearly a century ago – thanks to students on our Foundation Programme in Heritage Skills.

Using stonemasonry skills learned on the programme, students Tom Carling, James Duffus and Harry Smith have engraved a set of five stone markers which will nestle among the ruins of the deserted settlement of Lodge.

Each one will commemorate a building or the name of a former inhabitant, giving visitors a haunting backward glimpse of what was once a thriving farming community. The village became empty in the 1920s at the behest of the Bradford Corporation Water Committee as Scar House Reservoir was being built.

The Foundation Programme was set up in 2014. It offers vocational training in traditional skills for young people in Nidderdale.

Through study, training and placements with local companies, it helps students make the difficult step from school into the world of work.

Work placements cover areas such as farming, countryside management and tourism. Heritage craft skills are taught at Number 6 Gallery in Pateley Bridge, where Tom, James and Harry learned their stonemasonry from local sculptor Joseph Hayton.

The stone markers they were commissioned to make are part of a wider project. Compared with other deserted villages in Nidderdale, Lodge is quite well preserved.

The footprints of five complexes of buildings survive, rising several courses of stonework above the ground, so the outlines of houses, barns and gardens can be made out. Yet because of its remote location, Lodge has faded into obscurity.

At the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership, we thought it was time that Lodge was brought back into the light of day. Last summer we carried out excavations at the site, aiming to find evidence of its medieval origins.

Although much of the material we recovered was from later centuries, we found clear signs of Lodge’s origins as a grange farm of Byland Abbey.

In later centuries, the village evolved into an assortment of handsome laithe houses, of a typical Pennine design: human inhabitants at one end of the building, four-legged ones at the other.

These are the buildings whose ghostly remnants exist on the site today.

Alongside the stone markers, we will be providing digital resources and an information panel at the site, telling how the village endured over the centuries until its location next to the new reservoir aroused concerns about water contamination.

Our Historic Nidderdale Project Officer, Rob Light, has been overseeing the installation of the stone markers. He’s excited that visitors will soon be able to see tangible signs of the work done at the site.

He said: “It’s a great way of making the historic environment accessible to more people. And it’s good for the Heritage Skills students to see a solid outcome to their work – it’s been a chance for them to produce something which will be a permanent part of the landscape. They’ve done a fantastic job, too.”

Joseph Hayton agrees. He said: “I think it was a great idea to do this job with the three lads. I’m sure they took it more seriously because it was a real job, not just a mock-up. They worked very well together as a team.”