Ormesby Hall is a fine example of a Palladian mansion house. The home of the Pennyman family, originally dating from c.1600, the property has been much modernised (by modernised, we mean relative to the 18th century). Now described as a "classic Georgian mansion", it comprises a main residential block and an adjacent stable block. The stable block housed the horses of Cleveland Police Mounted Section until their disbandment in December 2013. The Pennyman family, which began acquiring land in Ormesby in the 16th century, bought the Manor of Ormesby in about 1600 from the Conyers/Strangeways family. The Pennyman family then acquired a Baronetcy granted by Charles II for fighting on the side of the royalists in the English Civil War. There was the 'Wicked' Sir James Pennyman - so named because of his extravagant lifestyle and his gambling with the family fortune. The Pennyman baronetcy became extinct in 1852 with the death of Sir William Pennyman. The Pennyman family continued to live in the house until 1983 when the National Trust opened the property and its 110 hectares (270 acres) of land to the public.
** – Pennyman Family – **
In the early 18th century Ormesby Hall and its surrounding parkland were at the centre of a large farming estate stretching up to the banks of the River Tees. Today, they stand alone, as a rural enclave in the suburbs of Middlesbrough. For nearly 400 years, Ormesby was the home of the Pennyman family, who acquired the estate in the early 17th century. The present house was built for James and Dorothy Pennyman in the 1740s, but incorporates parts of the earlier house within its service wing.
Most of the men in the Pennyman family were called James and so when the National Trust refer to them they add their middle name, such as James Worlsey, James Stovin or wicked Sir James! Inside the hall you’ll find fine plasterwork and carved woodwork interiors from two periods of the 18th century: the bold Palladian decoration of the 1740s contrasts with more delicate Neo-classical plasterwork ceilings in the Drawing and Dining Rooms, commissioned by Sir James Pennyman, 6th Baronet, in the 1770s. The 6th Baronet also built the imposing stable block and laid out the park, with its plantations and main entrance lodge.
The 6th Baronet, often known as wicked Sir James had a rich inheritance, with estates in Stainton, Tunstall, Maltby and Sadberge, and houses at Thornton and Beverley, as well as at Ormesby. However, he spent large amounts of money on politics and gambling and went bankrupt in 1792. All the contents of Ormesby Hall were auctioned to pay off his creditors, and the house was shut up for sixteen years. The family fortunes never fully recovered from his recklessness, and his successors had limited resources to invest in their home.
His son, Sir William Pennyman, 7th Bt, reclaimed the Hall and built East Lodge in the 1820s, but made few other improvements to the property. He left most of his personal possessions to his sister’s family, but his heir, James White (Worsley) Pennyman, bought back several items of furniture for the hall. James White started to lease land at the northern end of the estate for housing associated with the new town of Middlesbrough, to make the estate a more viable proposition. He and his son, James Stovin, made the final alterations to Ormesby Hall, adding the front porch, the Dining Room extension and the corridors connecting the service wing and main building.
Though the estate shrank from the mid-19th century, the Victorian Pennymans were dedicated landowners, living on the Ormesby estate all year round and immersing themselves in the life of the local community. This pattern continued into the 20th century, even though most of the people on Teesside now depended on industry rather than the land.
Colonel James (Jim) Pennyman, last owner, joined other landowners to set up schemes to help unemployed miners in the 1930s. His wife, Ruth, promoted the arts in the area and set up local drama groups, making Ormesby known for its theatrical productions. Their projects attracted the composer Michael Tippett and the innovative theatre director Joan Littlewood to Ormesby.
Jim had to sell land in the 1920s to pay death-duties for his father and first wife Mary who died in childbirth, then the remainder of the Ormesby estate was compulsory purchased after the Second World War. When the Colonel died without children in 1961, he left Ormesby Hall, its parkland and home farm to the National Trust. His widow, Ruth, lived on at Ormesby and continued to pursue her theatrical activities until her death in 1983.
** – Walking the Estate – **
A good walk is the perfect way to enjoy the changing seasons through the woodlands, across the farmers’ fields and amongst the flowers in the garden. Put on your walking shoes and get exploring the different parts of Ormesby Hall you have never ventured to before. The Ormesby estate has over 200 acres of woodlands, crop fields, running streams and open fields. The walks will take you past the tenant farmers fields, some with sheep and horses grazing, depending on the time of year.
There is a mile walk around the perimeter of the house and garden, which gives you some great views as you pass by St Cuthberts Church and the stable block (currently not open). For longer walks you can head to nearby Stewart Park, council owned, or up to the top fields. Please ask for directions or a map on arrival. Enjoy your walk through the Ormesby Hall estate.
Download the welcome map to follow the estate walk here: Ormesby Hall estate walk map (PDF / 0.2MB). They have lots of dog walkers using the estate every day, they ask please keep your dog on a lead and under control, especially near the livestock. There are dog bins at the entrances to the walk so please help them keep the estate clean by picking up.
** – Model Railways – **
Don't miss the surprise attraction of model railway layouts in this historic house. When you visit Ormesby Hall and venture into the servant’s wing you will come across the familiar noise of trains. Following the sound you will be surprised to find there are three permanent model railway layouts in the house, Corfe Castle, Pilmoor Station and the interactive Thomas the Tank Engine.
The model railways journey at Ormesby Hall began over twenty years ago, when Ron Rising was looking for a home for his large scenic railway layout which he had built in his loft. It was his donation to the National Trust which started the model railways. Corfe Castle became the first permanent display in the old wing and is amazingly detailed taking Ron 35 years as a hobby to construct. The model is set in the early 1920’s depicting Corfe Castle Station and an imaginary village made from scale card models of various buildings in the surrounding area, with some models also detailed inside. There are many scenes across the layout and the more you look the more fascinating the scenery becomes, from wildlife to people going about their daily business.
Ormesby Hall model railway layouts are maintained, run and conserved by a group of volunteers who have built two further layouts.
The second is a famous train called Thomas. This was built as an interactive layout to entertain the younger audience and certainly keeps them occupied as they watch Thomas and his friends go round the track. Thomas has a dedicated room with four circuits of track each with push button timers for children and adults to operate.
Pilmoor Station is the third addition built by the railway volunteers and is a replica of the station as it was in the late 1930s, just before the Second World War. This station was on the east coast main line, south of Thirsk, and a junction with Knaresborough branch line, with Brafferton Station also modelled. The trains running on this track are typical of the era it depicts with the scenery showing traditional farming practices in the 1930’s.
** – Facilities – **
Location : Ormesby Hall, Ladgate Lane, Ormesby, Middlesbrough, TS3 0SR
Transport: Middlesborough (National Rail) then bus (63 or 28) OR Marton (National Rail) 15 minutes. Bus routes :Sapphire 5, Sapphire 5A, and 805 stop nearby as well as 63 and 28.
Opening Times: March to October, Saturday to Thursday 10:30 to 17:00
Tickets : Adult £5.70. – Child £3.00.
Tel: 01642 324188