The youth hostel at Malham is a lasting testament to one man and the history of his wider family’s long association with youth hostels.
John Dower, a local architect, designed the hostel in 1937. He also designed the youth hostels at Eskdale in Cumbria and at Bellingham in Northumberland. He achieved a wider reputation when he wrote the report that led to national parks in England and Wales, published in 1945. He was also a president of the Ramblers’ Association.
Born at Ilkley in Yorkshire in 1900, he studied at Cambridge and qualified as an architect by self tuition. His marriage to Pauline in 1929, linked him to the Trevelyan family. Pauline’s uncle was YHA’s first president, the popular historian and academic G.M. Trevelyan.
Dower’s brother, Arthur, joined YHA’s West Riding regional group in 1933 and was its chairman from 1935 to the outbreak of war. In 1951, after he had been YHA’s treasurer, he became YHA’s national chairman.
The two brothers loved the countryside. John was a keen fly fisherman and both were keen ramblers. Arthur regarded walking as the natural state of man and the Lake District as next to paradise.
John Dower died of tuberculosis in 1947 but Pauline carried on his work with national parks. She served on the National Parks commission for 16 years, latterly as deputy chair, and as a member of Northumberland National Park Committee for ten years. She was YHA President 1981 – 2, the only woman to take that role.
Their son, Michael, was a town and country planner. He was the national park officer of the Peak District (1985–92) and was then director-general of the Countryside Commission (the successor body to the National Parks Commission) from 1992 to 1996. He was a YHA Vice President from 1996.
G.M. Trevelyan and Arthur Dower joined Pauline and Michael to dedicate the hostel at Malham to John’s memory in 1948.
John Dower designed the hostel to echo the style of surrounding cottages and homes in the village and it was popular from the very beginning. The impact of his design has been lost as over the years as YHA expanded the hostel, in the 1950s and again in 1967, with an annexe which included field study facilities. Arthur Dower opened the new facility.
YHA made further improvements in subsequent years to keep pace with demand from guests.
You can read about the hostel and its history, by clicking on the link below, in another of John Martin’s excellent youth hostel profiles Y950001-Malham YH Profile 2018-01-01 2 copy 1 The pdf has been compressed – the YHA archive at Cadbury Research Library has an uncompressed version.
Hostels are great for anyone interested in social history. You can visit hostels that played a part in a big social movement, discover another part of the hostel story or get a feel for what people valued most almost a century ago. This article is one of a series linking individual hostels with a wider history of YHA.