Patterdale Hall

by Tim Taylor

The beautiful Victorian buildings of Patterdale Hall have had a multitude of uses over the years, from private country house to thriving outdoor activity centre.

The history of the Hall is the story of two notable families the Mounseys and the Marshalls.

The Mounseys - Kings of Patterdale (1624 - 1821)

The first record we have of ownership of Patterdale Hall dates back to 1624, when the Lordship of Patterdale was purchased from the Threlkeld Family by Joan Mounsey of Greystoke for her son John, a miner. The Threlkelds were said to have had a house present on the site for many hundreds of years before this, but of this we know nothing.

During the Civil War, John Mounsey led a group of Dalesmen (men from the Dale) to Stybarrow crag to repulse the Scots, who were on their way to fight for Charles 1st at Preston. It appears that after this exploit the great John Mounsey became known as the “King of Patterdale”.

John Mounsey and his wife Dorothy rebuilt their old house in 1677 during a period of greater prosperity. Many houses in the Lake District were rebuilt at this time. A sketch plan by an antiquarian called Machell, drawn about 1680, shows the house with a cross-passage, a communal hall, kitchen, buttery and parlour i.e. a bedroom for the master and the mistress. There were also stables, a walled courtyard, terrace and orchard. The house was probably furnished with finely carved wooden furniture, a feature of the Lake District homes at that time. Certainly a throne for the king was made, bearing his initials, coat of arms and the date 1677. This chair is now in the Tullie House Museum, Carlisle.

Before John’s son, another John, died in 1725, the house had been extended by a single storey addition and the main rooms had been ceiled over to make storage and possibly sleeping accommodation.

A later John Mounsey, probably the grandson of the second John, was said to be a great miser who allowed the property to fall into decay, although a water colour by Joseph Farington in about 1777 shows what appears to be a fine Lake District house.

William Gilpin the travel writer said that the property was inconsiderable, but nonetheless better than that of any of his neighbours. He went on, “I could not help thinking that if I were inclined to envy the situation of any potentate in Europe, it would be that of the King of Patterdale. The pride of many principalities would shrink in a comparison with the magnificence of his dominion. [1]

Ullswater, with Patterdale Old Hall. Turner, Joseph Mallord William (British, 1775-1851). Watercolour over traces of graphite on cream paper, height 258 mm, width 371 mm, 1797. Museum Accession Number 1171 © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.jpg

Another description, however, from around the end of the 18th century, was less complimentary: “The King’s mansion perched on the side of a cliff, damp and green with moss the roof being tufted with growing fern and other herbage: the house appeared shut in from the light and air by a curtain wall. The only ornament this singular habitation appeared to have was one single fir tree, which blocked the entrance: all behind was shut in to the very walls by rocks, covered with wood, and weeping with springs.”[2]

The Travel writer, Joseph Budworth, described “the King” in 1792 as a miser and a glutton who demanded vast meals from his tenants and drank large quantities of tea laced with “an immoderate quantity of sugar”. Dorothy Wordsworth heard about his wife, “The Queen of Patterdale” from her Grasmere neighbour, Peggy Ashworth. Dorothy recorded in her journal: “She had been brought to drinking by her husband’s unkindness and avarice. She was formerly a very nice tidy woman. She has taken to drinking but that was better than something worse (by this I suppose she meant killing herself). She said that her husband used to be out all night with other women and she used to hear him come in in the morning for they never slept together”.

When the King died in 1793, his son John refurbished the house, and added the South Wing in 1796. This John died in 1821 and his considerable estate was divided among his many children. His son and his wife were left only the Hall and the stock at Grisedale Farm, and had to provide two of his sisters with £1,000 each. He sold the Hall to John Marshall, a wealthy linen manufacturer of Headingley, Leeds.


Queen of Patterdale, Elizabeth Mounsey, Print by Joseph Halfpenny, 1794, © The Trustees of the British Museum, registration no, 1851, 0308.438

The Marshalls of Patterdale Hall (1823 - 1929)

Patterdale Hall was sold in December 1823 to John Marshall, resident of Hallsteads, Watermillock, who had made a fortune in flax spinning. The sale included the Manor of Glenridding, the Island of Wall Holm, the 67 acre Grisedale Estate and a half share in the mineral rights at Greenside Mine. John Marshall furnished the house, but gave it to his eldest son, William Marshall, making him Lord of the Manor of Glenridding. William was born in 1796. He studied at St John’s, Cambridge, and then went to the Bar. In 1826, his father gave him his Petersfield seat in the House of Commons and he continued in Parliament as a Liberal MP for many years, eventually being elected for East Cumberland which he held as co-member with Charles Howard until 1868. He was married to Georgina Hibbert of Hertfordshire in 1828 and they had five sons and two daughters.

William took an active interest in the local community, providing land and money towards the new church in Patterdale in 1852-3. He was a school governor, started an infant school and a clothing club, and his wife entertained the children to tea in the grounds of Patterdale Hall. As part-owner of the mineral rights to Greenside, he took an interest in the miners’ lives, trying to control the density of their housing and insisting that they had gardens. He also contributed towards the education of miners’ children. He provided work for those in need in the community by employing them to build pathways.

After his father’s death in 1845, William employed the architect Anthony Salvin to re-model Patterdale Hall. The south wing was kept, but the house was otherwise demolished and extended. The garden was terraced and formal gardens were created. William remained at the Hall until his death in 1872 and the estate went to his three sons in succession, John William, George and then Walter James.

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All images from Patterdale Hall archives

An Outdoor Pursuits Centre


When Walter James Marshall died in 1929, the estate was bought by F.C. Scott, but he did not occupy the house. It was used for evacuees and by the army in the Second World War. In 1950, the estate was sold to Roland Lishman and put in trust to Tynemouth YMCA to provide access to a country stay for the youth of Tynemouth. Over the years since, The Hall has been leased variously to Oxfordshire County Council, Leeds Local Education Authority and in 1995 to Bolton School as an activity centre.

In July 2014, Bolton School, as a sitting tenant, purchased the Hall buildings, Coach House, Dairy and two boathouses, along with over 80 acres of land around Keldas. Bolton School make any spare capacity at The Hall available for other schools, youth groups and adult groups to book.

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Patterdale Hall, 2017

By Tim Taylor

References[1] William Gilpin, Observations, relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, made in the year 1772, on several parts of England; particularly the mountains, and lakes, of Cumberland, and Westmoreland (1786)[2] Source Unknown’s, quoted in William Prosser Morris, The Records of Patterdale: Historical andDescriptive (1903)[3] J. Budworth, A Fortnight's Ramble to the Lakes in Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland. By a Rambler (1792)

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