Ormesby Hall & St.Cuthberts Church March 2019 – part 1

Ormesby Hall is one of the National Trusts smaller properties. Barely a Stately Home, more of an historic house really, but Sophie and I don’t mind small, and the place was surprisingly interesting.

Shall we commence with the history bit? (Rhetoric question, gotta be done 🙂 )

*Long post alert ~ get the kettle on*

The History Bit

The Estate of Ormesby has been around since before the Norman conquest, and possibly takes its name from Orme who was a tenant thereabouts registered in the Domesday Book.  The Hall has a long history with the Pennyman family and was acquired back in the days of yore, by James Pennyman in 1599, when he bought the whole estate and the village of Ormesby too.  James was the nephew of Robert Pennyman who had been hanged in York in 1569 for his part in the rebellion against Henry VIII known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. The Hall we see today didn’t exist when James bought it, just a large farmhouse, which James adapted and was later enlarged by his son.

We’re skipping forward now to 1722 when the next James Pennyman (there were many James Pennymans in the family!) married the daughter of the Archbishop of York, Dorothy, and came to live at Ormesby Hall. Dot was not enamored of the place and decided to have a new mansion built next door to the Old Hall. She employed the best architects, craftsmen, and artists in the region, and the Hall is now known for being one of the best examples of Palladian architecture in the north. The old hall became the service wing for the new, and the servants had to carry food and laundry outside from one to the other come rain or shine.  Dorothy sadly died in the year the house was completed in 1754, her hubby James having already shuffled off the mortal coil in 1743.

They hadn’t had any kids, so the house stood empty for the next 16 years until the advent of ‘Wicked’ Sir James, the 6th Baronet of Ormesby.  The Baronetcy had been conferred on another James back in 1664 by Charles II and continued through the family. By the time Wicked James got to Ormesby, the Pennymans had garnered a lot of land, estates, and money, owning several properties and estates in the North East. Although Wicked James refurbished the house and built the stables for his racehorses, he was fond of spending money on politics, – he was MP for Scarborough 1770-1774 and for Beverley 1774-1796, and gambling, and consequently squandered the family fortune. He ended up selling most of the house lands and furnishings to pay off his gambling debts and moved out of the house to live in Richmond.  He had married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Grey and had 10 children, 6 of whom were males, but only one of the boys survived, William Henry Pennyman who became the 7th and last Baronet, as he had no children. He lived frugally, so the house stayed in the family, but after he died a distant relative, James White Worsley had to change his name to Pennyman in order to inherit. James W managed to buy back several items of furniture for the Hall. He also leased land for housing associated with the new town of Middlesbrough, to make the estate a more viable proposition. Along with his son, another James, they made the final alterations to the Hall,  adding the front porch, the Dining Room extension and the corridors connecting the service wing and main building.

Nothing much more interesting happened until we get to first World War when the house was lived in by Mary Pennyman. She had married into the family, and her husband, guess what his name was!! (clue- begins with J) was a machine gunner in the war who was listed as missing in action, and Mary was the secretary of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Widows and Orphans Fund and was just 26 years old when she began writing to the wives and mothers of men who were missing or killed during the First World War. 120 of the letters she got in return from the ladies she wrote to were recently found stashed away in the hall, by three National Trust volunteers, and there is now a project ongoing to digitalise the letters and track down the families of the women who wrote them. The letters are so poignant, and you can visit the website at http://www.dearmrspennyman.com.

James, or Jim as he was known, had been severely wounded in the war, but made a full recovery,and returned home to Mary. She got pregnant but died in childbirth, along with the child in 1924. Jims Dad also died a few months later, so Jim wasn’t in a happy place at all. But in 1926 he met and married Ruth Knight and they were very happy together inspite of him being a right winger, and she a dyed in the wool lefty. In the 1930’s unemployment in the area was at 90%, and Jim and Ruth along with other local landowners created land schemes and a way for miners to learn new skills. Jim rented land in Cleveland, and gave it to the miners to grow crops and raise livestock. He also started workshops to train the miners in carpentry and formed Boosbeck Industries for the miners, and rented a showroom in North Ormesby to sell the furniture they made. He provided everything for them and made a personal financial loss in doing so. Ruth meanwhile paid for sewing and knitting workshops for the miners wives. She  promoted the arts in the area and set up local drama groups, making Ormesby known for its theatrical productions. 

In the second World War Jim commanded a battalion of the National Defence Corps as Lieutenant Colonel, giving him the title Colonel James Pennyman, as he is now known. Jim and Ruth were the last of the Pennymans, as he and Ruth never had any children, and when Jim died in 1961 he bequeathed Ormesby Hall and gardens to the National Trust.  Ruth contined to live there until. her death in 1983.

On with the pictures! Today we’ll have a walk around the grounds.

Ormesby Hall

Would love to see this wisteria in bloom!






Stable block

There wasn’t much in bloom when we went, but thing were springing up

and we found bits of colour here and there

Grape Hyacinths

Not sure what this will turn out to be..

Tree of Life

So that’s it for this time, next week we’ll visit inside the house so stay tooned!


All picture by moi, and embiggenable with a click!

32 thoughts on “Ormesby Hall & St.Cuthberts Church March 2019 – part 1

  1. Enjoyed that, Fraggle, and loved the pics – as usual – especially the black and white ones. It wasn’t that long a read – certainly not compared to some of my pieces! Particularly lovely stories of Mary-Jim-Ruth – and Dorothy sounds like a character!

    Liked by 2 people

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