The Pennymans of Ormesby Hall

WhereGreat Broughton Village HallType of EventTalk
WhenWednesday 7th October at 2.00pmTutorPhil Burton

On Wednesday 7th October 2015, Phil Burton, retired Visitor Services Manager at Ormesby Hall, talked about its history since 1599 when the Pennyman family arrived in Ormesby. The Pennymans were first recorded in the Stokesley area in the 15th century and had mixed fortunes until the first of many James Pennymans bought the Ormesby estate, including the village of Ormesby, in 1599-1600. He built or adapted the original main building, not much more than a large farmhouse, and his son later enlarged it, but the present main hall or “mansion” wasn’t built until 1740. After that, the two houses remained separate for many years, with the servants in the original house having to carry everything, including meals, across to the “mansion”. The communicating section wasn’t built until 1870! 

In the late 17th century, the Pennymans acquired other estates and mansions in the area and lived for a while from 1708 in Thornton Hall (eventually demolished) on the Stainton Estate. They owned Normanby Hall (also demolished) and Marske Hall (still in existence). Lairgate Hall, Beverley, was acquired by the marriage of Sir James Pennyman, the third baronet, to Mary Warton of Beverley and the family socialised and lived there at one time. In the early 18th century, the Pennyman estates were vast and extended from Ormesby to the Tees and eastwards to Guisborough and the coast.

In 1722, one of the many James Pennymans married Dorothy Wake, a daughter of the Archbishop of York, and the couple moved into Ormesby Old Hall. Dorothy didn’t think much of the Old Hall and built the Mansion next to it in 1740, which she loved and continued to live in until her death in 1754. The next couple of Pennyman heirs lived elsewhere and Ormesby Hall was empty until the coming of “Wicked” Sir James Pennyman, the 6th Baronet, who made improvements, including building the stables – he was very fond of race-horses – and refurbishing the house. Unfortunately, he managed to squander most of the vast Pennyman fortune on gambling and ended by selling much of his land and all the furniture from the mansion. He moved to Richmond, Surrey, but on his death his body was brought back at great expense to be buried back at Thornton. The family fortune never fully recovered, but the 7thand last Baronet, Sir William Pennyman, lived a modest life and Ormesby Hall survived. The next owner was a distant relation who was James White Worsley who had to change his name to Worsley Pennyman. He was an engineer involved in railways and he and his son, James Stovin Pennyman, managed to keep the house and estate going. The latter‘s grandson was Colonel Jim Pennyman, whose first wife died in childbirth, together with the child, but he later married Ruth Knight, which was a happy marriage of opposites – she was very left wing and he was a staunch Tory. Both Jim and Ruth had social consciences; he set up Boosbeck Industries, a woodworking business, to create employment during the Depression and she went to Spain during the civil war and brought back Spanish refugees whose descendants still live in the area. Both seemed to have been sociable and hospitable and Ruth hosted Conservative conferences as well having her Socialist/Communist friends to stay. These included Joan Littlewood and her actors who staged many plays in the Hall and grounds, so Ormesby Hall nurtured the start of Modern British theatre. 

They were childless and when Jim died in 1961 he bequeathed the Hall, park and farm to the National Trust, though Ruth continued to live there for many years.

The talk was well illustrated with photos of the Hall, grounds and family portraits.    

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