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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
¹Carlisle Patriot (16 Sep 1887)
²Carlisle Patriot (17 Sep 1897)
³Times and Star (5 Aug 2016)
†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.
Ellenbank Country House Hotel,
Maryport, Cumbria, CA15 6RE