The History of the house, Airedale House, Sparth House, all names that River House have been over the year, it’s been welcoming guest to stay since the 1950s
Part of the building is very old with a datestone over the back door of 1664 although it also records MH and 1879 as well. The MH and 1879 were added when the Victorian frontage was added by Margaret Harrison. In 1896 the property was owned by Henry Harrison. He made a will leaving his estate to his widow Jane Harrison and his two sons, John of Cromwell Cottage and Richard of Friar’s Garth, but in 1911 they had to give up the right to the house to pay a debt to Mary Ann Hayhurst, wife of George Hayhurst, who made the property into an hotel, the Airedale Private Hotel. It may have been a temperance hotel because a guide book of 1912 states that Malham had two temperance hotels, Clark’s and Hayhurst’s.
George Hayhurst was a blacksmith and used the large barn at the rear as a workplace. He also built the corrugated hut at the rear which was known as St George’s Hall and was used for village dances and later became a cafe and restaurant. The hall was also used for wedding receptions and many of the local girls worked as waitresses. George Hayhurst also planted the chestnut tree outside the present Smithy in 1915.
During WWII it was lived in by a family called Wildman and became a private dwelling. It was used as a phone centre for ARP duties. In 1948 it was bought by Bessie Smithson and her mother and was once again used for guests with three letting bedrooms at the front. It was Bessie Smithson who changed the name to Sparth House. The small dining room at the front was also a cafe and the hall was used for parties, receptions and meetings. (WI held their meetings in the hall) Ramblers and cyclists could buy pots of tea for one shilling per person to have with their own food.
In 1966 Alan and Gillian Cooper bought the property and still used it as a guest house although they needed to expand as they had three children of their own to accommodate. In 1974/5 St George’s Hall was rebuilt making the house and hall on one level and making five new bedrooms with bathrooms above.
In 1987 the property was sold to David and Lesley Oates. They converted the front dining room into a disabled bedroom and created some en-suite facilities.
In 1998 Mark and Susan Bailey bought the hotel and renamed it River House Hotel. It was then owned by the Stirks family. Since 2004 it is has been run by Alex and Ann Roe.
River house hotel is built around a very old original building dating from 1664 and has undergone several changes of name. The datestone above the back door shows ‘MH 1664 1879’. The MH and 1879 were added to the original datestone when the Victorian frontage was built by Margaret Harrlson.
The two rear rooms which were obviously the original building were large with stone flagged floors. Facing the front and looking towards the river, the kitchen and pantry walls were three feet thick and would have been the original front of the house.
Both River House and Holme Farm next door, were built on a slope and had many different levels. Through the back door with the datestone was another stone flagged room with a shallow stone sink, obviously an earlier kitchen. There is also a round headed window.
In 1896, Henry Harrison the owner of the property, then called Aireview, made a will leaving his estate to his widow, Jane Harrison, and his two sons John Harrison of Cromwell Cottage and Richard Harrison of Friars Garth. In 1911 they had to give up the right to the house to pay debt to Mary Ann Hayhurst, wife of George, who made the property into a hotel, the Aireview private hotel.
He was a blacksmith and used the large barn at the rear as a workplace. He also built the corrugated hut at the rear which was known as St. George’s hall. This was used for village dances and later became a cafe and restaurant. Wedding receptions were also held in the hall including the reception of Willie Hudson and Mary Bolland in 1932. Many of the older ladies in Malham today, used to work as waitresses for George Hayhurst, including Mary Hudson (Bolland). At sometime during this period it changed its name again to the Airedale Private Hotel.
During the Second World War, a family called Wiseman with four or five children, changed the name to Sparth House and it became a private dwelling.
In 1948 Bessie Smithson and her mother bought the house which once again was used for guests with three letting bedrooms at the front. The small dining room at the front was also a cafe and the hall was used for parties, receptions and meetings. (the W.I. used to meet there). Ramblers and cyclists could also buy pots of tea to have with their own food at one shilling per person.
In 1966 Alan and Gillian Cooper, with three small children, bought the property, still using it as a guest house but needing to expand to keep a family of five. In 1970, the old barn dating back to the 1600swas converted into a private dwelling with four bedrooms, by Norman Eastwood, with the Coopers as labourers. In 1974/5 St. George’s hall was re-built making the house and hall on one level and making four new bedrooms, with bathrooms above.
A group of Morris Dancers used the hall every year for forty years on Whit Saturday. On Whit Saturday 1975(June 2nd) the coopers had 96 for tea and it snowed! this preceded one of the hottest summers.
In February 1987 the property was sold to David and Lesley Oates with their three children. They converted the front dining room into a disabled bedroom and created some en-suite facilities. They did not cater for parties.
In 1998 Mark and Susan Bailey and family bought Sparth House Hotel and once more catered for parties. They re-named the property River House Hotel.
Since 2004 River House has been owned and run by Alex and Ann Roe