By the early years of the 20th century, both the lead and the coal industries were nearing their end along with nearly all the textile mills. Farming continued as the backbone of the Dales’ economy, but the early 1900s saw the beginnings of a rival, tourism. Back then, rambling became a popular leisure activity. Urban workers yearned for the peace and quiet of the hills and far sighted people saw to it that they could get there cheaply.
The Yorkshire Dales was an obvious destination for workers in Leeds and Bradford and new organisations set up holiday destinations for them. One such was the Co-operative Holidays’ Association who built a timber guest house in Hebden in 1909. The Youth Hostel Association was founded in 1930 and offered similarly spartan but welcoming accommodation. The John Dower Memorial Youth Hostel in Malham is named after one of the prime movers in the foundation of the National Park movement in England and Wales. National parks were intended for the use of all, whatever their background.
Those with more leisure and wealth built their own peaceful havens. The Dales has two special gardens both begun in the early years of the 20th century. Aysgarth Rockery, an original Backhouse design created in 1906 has recently been restored. Parcevall Hall Gardens are on a grander scale and were begun in 1927 by Sir William Milner, one of the founders of Harlow Carr Gardens at Harrogate.
The Dales were seen as an ideal place for the ill to recover their health. Grassington Hospital (now demolished) was built in 1919 and children and adults came from all over the country to recover from diseases like tuberculosis.
Those who came for spiritual healing founded the Christian retreat at Scargill House, near Kettlewell. Here in 1958, George Pace, one of the leading ecclesiastical architects of the century, was commissioned to design a spectacular chapel (Scargill Chapel, built 1958-61).
Two other notable churches have been built in the Dales during the 20th century. St Matthew’s Church, Stalling Busk is in the Arts and Crafts style while St Margaret Clitherow, Threshfield is a radical 1970’s structure, inspired by African churches built from poles, wattle and palm leaves.
The area was finally designated a national park in 1954. The National Park Authority has control over development in the park. New housing has to be in keeping with its surroundings, but this has unfortunately led to conservatism in architectural designs.