Category Archives: CUMBRIA

EWANRIGG HALL

Ewanrigg Hall was once lived in by the Christian family, whose most famous member was Fletcher Christian leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty. Pictured before demolition in 1903.


Built: Probably 1753

Architect; Unknown
Owner: Home Group
Remains of country house
Grade II listed

“Formerly a late C18 mansion, now reduced to provide a farmhouse and buildings. Only intact portion is present farmhouse to the right, of 2 storeys in red sandstone ashlar with slated roof. 3 windows above triple-arcaded ground floor with 2 windows with later hung sashes with glazing bars and centre door of 6 fielded panels with 3-light rectangular fanlight.” (Historic England)

When fire destroyed an empty farmhouse at Maryport in August 2015 there were few tears shed. Its previous owner John Dixon had died in 2012 and the farm had been allowed to deteriorate. The cause of the fire was never determined but suspicion pointed to the work of a grubby arsonist.

Whoever started the fire probably didn’t realise that the farmhouse, rather grandly called Ewanrigg Hall, held long forgotten secrets. The flames would eventually consume the first floor and deprive the building of its roof. Only an exposed lintel with the date 1753 offered any clue to its previous existence.

Firefighters dampen down the smouldering remains of Ewanrigg Hall, Maryport, which was gutted by fire in August 2015 (Paul Johnston)

Here was the last remnant of a grand house that once stood proudly on the site. For this was once the west wing of Ewanrigg Hall, a late 18th century country house and seat of the Christian family of Cumberland for many generations.

The fire might not have meant a tragic end to Ewanrigg but it certainly reflected its circumstances over the past centuries. The house appears not to have been a particularly happy one. Whilst the Christians were Lord of the Manor there were several occasions when the house was unsuccessfully offered for sale and numerous times it was occupied by live-in tenants. In the end it proved to be a millstone for the family who were eventually rid of it by the end of the 19th century.

The Christian family had originally settled in the Isle of Man and held chief public offices in the little principality for generations. Their connection with the Ewanrigg estate came about in the late 17th century through circumstances which afford a curious illustration of the manners of the period. The Bishop of Sodor and Man liked to ease the burden of his duties by gambling and, on one unfortunate night, lost a small fortune to Ewan Christian. From his winnings Christian was able to buy the estate and manor of Ewanrigg in Cumberland. Writing in 1688 Mr. Thomas Denton, the County Historian, said “Mr Ewan Christian hath built a good house out of the shell of an old tower,” which suggests it may originally have been an old pele tower.

A hand-tinted image of the impressive Ewanrigg Hall from the times of the Christian family.

Ewan was blessed with five sons and ten daughters. His successor, John, married a Senhouse of Netherhall, and their eldest daughter, Mary, married Dr. Law, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle, and became the mother of the first Lord Ellenborough, who chose that title in consequence of having been born at Ewanrigg Hall, close to the village of Ellenborough. John Christian’s second son, also John, became his successor and married a Curwen of Workington Hall, and their son, John, marrying his cousin – the heiress of the Curwens – took his wife’s name, and as John Christian Carwen, M.P. for Cumberland, acquired fame as a politician and as an agriculturalist.

John Christian’s sixth son, Charles, was an attorney at Cockermouth, and married the granddaughter of Jacob Fletcher, who was descended from William Fletcher who built Cockermouth Hall. Their sixth son was Fletcher Christian, the ill-fated and infamous ‘Mutineer of the Bounty’.

Ewanrigg Hall was rebuilt as a spectacular stone-built house in the late 18th century (probably 1753) with views of the Solway Firth and the Scottish mountains beyond. Within there was a large drawing room, a breakfast room, library and eight good-sized bedrooms. The walls of the tower were reputed to be over 5 feet thick. It was also the setting for  Limmeridge House in Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Woman in White’, chosen by him when he was travelling through Cumberland with Charles Dickens.

The abandoned Ewanrigg Hall was the subject of numerous ghost stories by Maryport locals.

For many years it was occupied by Henry Taubmen Christian who died in 1859. Unfortunately, his widow soon descended into madness and ended her years at Dunston Lodge Lunatic Asylum in Gateshead. The house was left unoccupied, ‘a deserted and decaying mansion’, where ghosts were said to haunt its corridors and where ‘no tenant could be found with enough temerity to take it’. In 1895 the house and its 600 acre estate was offered for auction by order of the Court of Chancery. No purchaser was forthcoming but in 1897 it was sold to Mr. J.R. Twentyman, a wealthy tea trader who lived in Shanghai, and who had previously bid for Dalston Hall.

Twentyman spent most of his time in China with seemingly little intention of living at Ewanrigg Hall. It was offered to rent but remained empty falling into further disrepair.

It might be suggested that the condition of the house worried Twentyman. Without doubt he was looking for an impressive property in which to display his massive collection of oriental furniture and relics. He pondered on the large amount of money needed to restore Ewanrigg and considered turning his back on it.

In 1903 Twentyman made one of his frequent journeys to China but not before making an important decision. He had set his heart on another property and had decided to buy Kirby Misperton Hall near Malton in Yorkshire. He realised the disposal of Ewanrigg might not be so easy and looked for ways in which the estate might pay for itself. In the end he saw agriculture as the most likely way to achieve it. This meant demolishing the bulk of the house with two-storeys pulled down in the central block – the ground floor now used for cowsheds for the adjacent hall farm. A new farmhouse was created at the west end of the house which was the only part not disturbed and still known today as Ewanrigg Hall. Eight years later the farm was sold for £12,000.

The majority of the house was demolished with two-storeys removed from central block.

And this is how Ewanrigg Hall survived for the next 100 years; its unique identity slowly forgotten until someone tried to destroy it completely. There is almost a happy end to the story. In 2016 the then owner of the farm, Kevin Thompson, announced plans to demolish part of the historic hall as part of a major homes plan. Allerdale Council approved plans for the Grade II listed building and convert it into two houses and four flats. Outline planning permission was also granted to build 124 homes nearby.

Unfortunately the project never started and in 2017 Ewanrigg Hall was sold to the Home Group who plan to convert it into five homes and build a further 125 homes on surrounding land.

The fire destroyed the first floor and roof section of Ewanrigg Hall, Maryport. (Paul Johnson)

Ewanrigg Hall,
Ewanrigg, Maryport, Cumbria, CA15 8SD

Advertisements

ELLEN BANK

EllenBank (Rightmove)
Ellen Bank, near Maryport, Cumbria. Built looking towards the River Ellen (Rightmove)

Built: 1852
Architect: Unknown
Owner: The Mitchell family
Country house hotel

Ellen Bank was built about 1852, probably by Mr Robert Ritson (1811-1887), the head of Messrs Ritson and Co, a long-established firm of shipbuilders, timber merchants and sailmakers of Maryport, Cumbria.†

It was typical of many Victorian manor houses and stood within 3 acres overlooking the rolling countryside to the west of Maryport. It was built with stone mullioned windows, decorative fireplaces, a cellar and elaborate wood-workings. An entrance portico leads into the entrance hall and various reception rooms.

The house was originally known as Ellen Bank but became known as Ellenbank in more recent years.

EllenbankC
The house was always known as Ellen Bank but has been abbreviated to Ellenbank

In addition to Ellen Bank Ritson owned land and cottages at Allerby, Aspatria, Byerstead Southerfield and Bromfield as well as land at Toxteth Park in Liverpool.

He married Mary Anne Smith in 1842 and lived at 122 High Street, in Maryport. They had four sons, the oldest being John Ritson (1848-1897), and four daughters.

Ellen Bank 1863 (Old Maps)
A Cumberland map of 1863, showing Ellen Bank in reduced grounds with smaller outbuildings to the rear and different access (Old maps)

By 1852 the Ritson family had moved to Ellen Bank and employed a cook and two housemaids. However, with increasing wealth, they had obtained the services of a groom, John Bainbridge, by 1871.

Front door taken from hallway (Tripadvisor)
Original stained glass in the front door (Tripadvisor)

Robert Ritson died in 1887. On his death he left £89,343 and all his shares in ships and shipping companies to his sons John and William. His prized collection of silver plate and china was shared amongst the rest of his family.¹

John Ritson (1848-1897) inherited the mansion house at Ellen Bank as well as the farmland and cottages at Allerby and Aspatria. He also acquired the land at Toxteth Park which was under contract for sale to Mr Hugh Jones.

EllenBank Driveway from lodge to house (Tripadvisor)
The original driveway and gates looking from the lodge to the house (Tripadvisor)

In early life John Ritson was an officer in the Cumberland Militia. He then took an active part in the management of the family business and gained a reputation as ‘a man of sterling character’. He was also a director of the Maryport and Carlisle Railway, the West Cumberland Iron and Steel Company and the Cumberland Union Bank. He was also a J.P. for Cumberland.

In 1865 John Ritson married Mary Jane Logan, the daughter of Captain John Logan, of Maryport, at St Luke’s Parish Church in Chelsea.

Between them they had two sons, Robert and John, and two daughters, Marjory and Kathleen. In 1891 they employed three servants as well as a governess to take charge of the children.

aJohn Ritson’s first iron ship Ellenbank being launched broadside at high tide in 1885. (Cumbrianblues.com)
John Ritson’s first iron ship ‘Ellenbank’ being launched broadside in 1885 (Cumbrian Blues)

John Ritson died suddenly in 1897 aged 50.

He had suffered heart problems for a while but this didn’t deter him from being an enthusiastic cyclist, one of his greatest passions.

On Monday 13 September 1897 he had spent the day shooting partridges with his two sons at Allonby. In the evening he took the train from Bullgill to Cockermouth and cycled with Mr W.B. Mathias to Keswick, where his wife and family had been staying.  He then cycled back to Maryport the same night.

The next day, while attending business at his office, he complained of feeling faint, and asked for a glass of water. His brother, Thomas Smith Ritson, took him outside for a breath of fresh air but he suffered complete collapse. John was taken home by stretcher but never rallied and died on Wednesday 15 September 1897. He was later interred at Maryport Cemetery.²

Ellen Bank Maryport 1897 (Ordnance Survey of England)
An Ordnance Survey Map from 1897 showing larger grounds, a new driveway and gatehouse at the entrance. Small outbuildings had been replaced with a much larger extension to the rear

At the time of his death his eldest son, Robert, was just 9-years-old. His widow remained at Ellen Bank until her death in 1939 and the house remained in the family until the 1980s.

ellenbank-hotel
Ellen Bank is now a country house hotel with modern accommodation behind (Ellenbank Hotel)

The house was purchased by the Mitchell family in 1985 who turned the house into a country house hotel. It was subsequently converted and extended resulting in 26 en-suite guest bedrooms and a function room.

It became popular as a country hotel and became a meeting place for organists from all over Cumbria who played there on a regular basis.

When the Mitchell’s decided to retire the property was placed on the open market. However, like similar size Victorian properties, the cost of renovation looks to have discouraged potential purchasers.

In August 2016 the Mitchell family asked for permission to turn the hotel into 16 flats and create eight townhouses in the grounds.³

EllenbankA
The entrance hall with a view of the grand staircase
EllenbankD (Booking.com)
The staircase gets natural light from a ceiling window (Booking.com)
Original fireplace in main dining room (Maryport through the ages)
An original fireplace in the dining room (Maryport through the ages)


References:-
¹Carlisle Patriot (16 Sep 1887)

²Carlisle Patriot (17 Sep 1897)
³Times and Star (5 Aug 2016)

Notes:-
†There is a possibility that the house may have been built by Joseph Ritson, his father, who died in 1865.  In March 1866 the Carlisle Patriot carried an advertisement for ‘ a desirable dwelling house, known as Ellen Bank, near Aspatria’. It contained 4 sitting rooms, 6 bedrooms, dressing room, pantry, cellar, good kitchen, carriage house and two-stalled stable. With views over the River Ellen it was described as being ‘very substantial, well-fitted, having been built about 10 years ago by the late proprietor for his own occupation’. This may be Ellen Bank of this article and may refer to Joseph Ritson who died the previous year. However, we must regard this with caution as there might well have been a similar dwelling called Ellen Bank at Aspatria. The subject of this article is much nearer Maryport.

Maryport quickly developed as an industrial centre throughout the 19th century. An iron foundry opened and the port developed as did shipyards, such as Wood’s yard and Ritson’s yard, which was famous for launching ships broadside into the River Ellen because it was not wide enough to allow ships to be launched the usual way. Ritson’s operated until 1914.

RitsonsShipyard (Heritage Explorer)
Ritson’s Shipyard, Maryport, in early days. It eventually closed in 1914 (Heritage Explorer)


Ellenbank Country House Hotel
,
Maryport, Cumbria, CA15 6RE