Malham was one of seven townships within the large medieval parish of Kirkby Malhamdale; surviving documentary evidence discloses there were chapels in Hanlith, Airton and Malham. In an extensive Pennine parish, like Kirkby Malhamdale, access to the parish church would sometimes prove difficult; chapels served the outlying districts and hamlets. It was only after the Edwardian reformation that the church of St Michael the Archangel became the main focus of religious worship in the parish. To date only the location of Malham chapel has been discovered, which was described by the Malham inhabitants as a chapel of ease. Hanlith chapel was a chantry chapel and was probably located near the bridge or route over Calton Moor so it was accessible to travellers. Unlike Malham chapel, which had a lead roof, the roof of Hanlith chapel was flagged. It too was concealed from the chantry commisioners until it was also dissolved in 1549.
After the upheaval of the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII all monastic land in Malham was surrendered to the Crown, then sold and resold. The tithes were leased to numerous individuals, including some tenants. By the late sixteenth century the Lamberts of Calton were the major landowners, controlling the manors of Malham, Kirkby Malham, Hanlith and Airton. Traditional religion came further under attack during the reign of Henry’s son, Edward VI. Chantries, which offered prayers for the souls of the dead, were suppressed when the Edwardian Chantries Act of 1547 was implemented.