Penybont and District History Group Notes 7th May 2018 Meeting Main Topic: “The Ormathwaite Family History” – Shirley Morgan


 Derek opened the meeting with an apology from Geraint and Rosemary. Rosemary is in Hospital having tests done and Geraint is visiting her each day. A lot of concern and best wishes for Rosemary and Geraint was expressed.


Derek mentioned that BBC Bargain Hunt had filmed in the shop last week-end and he would let members know when this would be on the TV.


Caroline Phillips was a new member to the group but not new to the village. Neil remembered Caroline from his school days, and vis versa.


Derek welcomed Shirley back to centre stage and Shirley reintroduced Alice, her technical helper and granddaughter, who had come with her mother Abigail.


In preparation for this talk Shirley remembered fondly an inspiring History Teacher, RCB Oliver. At the time she did not appreciate that he was also an Historian of some repute. He wrote a book, much referenced in these History Group Notes, “The Squires of Penybont Hall” that covered the time of the John Price, the marriage of his daughter Mary Ann to John Cheesement Severn, the developments of Percy Severn and his sister’s, Sarah, Emily Augusta, and Julia, and finishing with the Whitehead’s who inherited the estate following the deaths of the Severn’s who produced no children. Major General  RC Whitehead inherited through his mother, Sarah Augusta, who was the step sister of John Cheesement Severn.

RCB Oliver indicated that he intended to write a book on the Ormathwaite family who purchased Penybont Hall Estate in 1919. The book was never written which, as Shirley pointed out, would have saved her doing all the research! Initially she thought there might be very little to say but as she dug deeper and deeper there proved to be more than enough material.


The Baronetcy is Ormathwaite, (the name taken from the village of this name in Cumbria, where the family originated) but the family name associated with this is Walsh. There were 6 Barons between the years 1868, when the title was awarded, to 1984, when it died out. As a starting point Shirley chose to start with:


John Walsh  (1726 – 1795)


John Walsh is remembered for 3 reasons:-


  1. East India Company

John was secretary to Lord Robert Clive of India. The East India Company had originated in 1600, when it was granted a Charter by Elizabeth 1st , as the “Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies”. It started with a group of Merchants in quite a small way and quite late to trading in this area. It did however capitalise on its trading opportunities and by the 18th century it dominated the global markets in tea, textiles and opium. To protect its growing interests in land management and trade it developed an enormous army, bigger than the British Army, of about a quarter of a million troops. The army was largely based at Madras, Bombay, and Bengal. In 1757 Robert Clive’s army defeated an army of insurgents leading to the East India Company taking over full administrative powers over its territories, including the right to levy taxes. The East India Company increased its interests in India and ruled over most of the sub-continent until 1857 when there was an Indian uprising. In 1858 the British Government took over from the Company which was replaced by the British Raj until 1947.

Walsh was related to Clive through marriage and worked very closely with him as the paymaster in Bengal, but he was trusted by Clive to return to England to lay Clive’s plans, for the administration of Bengal, before the Prime Minister.

  1. Land Acquisition

After making a vast fortune of about £140,000, as a result of his work alongside Lord Clive, he returned to England and set about acquiring land and securing a seat of influence in Parliament. Among his purchases were Warfield Park near Bracknell and about 4300 acres in Radnorshire. This latter acquisition  included Cefn Llys, and the Coed Swydd Estate in Llanfiangell, and quite a few properties in Llanddewi, including Llanddewi Hall. Land and Parliamentary power gave Walsh influence but it was also a way of buying into British aristocracy.



  1. Science

Walsh was something of a polymath. He was particularly interested in the birth of electricity, and is reputedly the first person to carry out serious experiments with electric eels. As a result of this work he was made a Fellow of The Royal Society. He received many honours in this capacity before he died, unmarried and childless.

John Walsh’s estate was left to his niece, Margaret Fowke, but there were important conditions. Margaret, and her husband, Sir John Benn, were required to change their name to Walsh. The other significant condition was that the Estate should pass to Sir John and Margaret’s eldest son in his coming of age.



Sir John Benn/Walsh (1759 – 1825) and

Margaret Fowke/Benn/Walsh (1758 – 1836)

Margaret’s mother, Elisabeth Walsh married Joseph Fowke in India. Sir John and Margaret had no difficulty with the terms of John Walsh’s will and duly changed their name to Walsh, by Royal Licence. Sir John also served in India and made £80,000 from trading in just a few years. Textile trade had declined due to the industrial revolution, but trading was still strong in tea, spices, and opium.

He was made a Baronet in 1804, having been High Sheriff of Radnorshire in 1798, and an MP for Bletchingley between 1802 and 1804.

Sir John did not invest in land, like John Walsh, but he invested in mortgages and Government stocks.

Margaret was the dominant person in the marriage and her diaries, which are in the Welsh Archives, show her to be an intellectual who travelled widely. She had a particular interest in astronomy that had been cultivated by her uncle, who brought her up. She in turn shared this interest with her son.

Having changed her name she distanced herself further from the Fowke family. She was embarrassed by the activities of her brother Frank, and her father, Joseph. Frank was ‘disinherited’ by his uncle because of his “indulgence and irregular pleasures’ in India that he also tried to continue on his return to England. Her father, like other, made a fortune in India, but then proceeded to lose it all at the gambling tables in London. Joseph also fathered and illegitimate daughter, Sophie, who was introduced to society. In order to avoid contact with Sophie, Margaret stayed in France for the season in 1789.

The Fowke family downfall was chronicled by Margaret’s son, John in a handwritten memoir that was meant to be private. It is now available online!

John Benn Walsh 2nd Baronet and 1st Lord Ormathwaite 1798 – 1881 married Lady Jane Grey 1803 – 1877

John was born at Warfield Park in Berkshire, which he regarded as home for the whole of his life. Hi was the only son of his parents, as above. He had estates in Ireland and Radnorshire where he took a keen interest in their management. He inherited the Baronet from his father in 1825, becoming Sir John and got married in the same year to Lady Jane, the youngest daughter of George Harry Grey, sixth earl of Stamford and Warrington. Also in 1825, John was High Sheriff of Radnorshire – a busy year.

John was described as an ardent politician and wrote significant political papers including: 1. ‘The Poor Laws in Ireland,’ 1830. 2. ‘Observations on the Ministerial Plan of Reform,’ 1831. 3. ‘On the Present Balance of Parties in the State,’

He became an MP for THE Borough of Sudbury in 1830 and was the MP for Radnorshire for 28 years from 1840.

On 11th August 1842, John was sworn in as Lord-Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum (Master of the Rolls) of Radnorshire. On 16th April 1868, he was raised to the peerage as the first Baron Ormathwaite.

It was his writing and intellectual capacity that marked John out. He wrote a book entitled “Astronomy and Geology compared” in 1872 that is still in print today.

He remained close to his mother all his life and Warfield Park always remained dear to him because of her links with it. He said of his mother, “The word reserve is unknown between us”.

John died in 1881at Warfield Park and was succeeded by his eldest son Arthur.

Arthur John Walsh 1827 – 1920 2nd Lord Ormathwaite

Lady Katherine Emily Mary Somerset (1834–1914)

Arthur was very different from his father and grandfather! He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, and married Lady Katherine Somerset, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. They had 7 sons and 3 daughters. Arthur’s interests did not lie in intellectualism, but in hunting and shooting. He kept a hunting lodge in Scotland and thought nothing of going off there leaving his wife and the children in Radnorshire.

The expansion of the family estates over the last 3 generations also came to a crashing halt when gambling debts accumulated and he had difficulty in maintaining his large hunting lodge. Since 1850 he had been borrowing against his expected inheritance as security, but, by 1881, this was beginning to catch up with him. His diaries were very different to those of his father; they covered his domestic and military duties, the London season, and shooting parties. The Ormathwaite papers include a letter about leasing a Shooting Lodge in Scotland, and an invitation to become President of the Llandrindod and Central Wales Hare Coursing Society. In 1880 he bought Eyewood at Titley, but from 1881 onwards the papers refer to sales rather than acquisitions.

Despite this, he was very prominent in public life. He was in the Lifeguards and an Honorary Colonel of the Third Battalion South Wales Borderers. He was MP for Leomonster 1865 – 68 and then for Radnorshire 1868 -80. He was Lord Lieutenant  of Radnorshire 1875 – 95, a JP, and Chair of Radnorshire County Council.

Newspaper reports show him to be interested in local affairs in Radnorshire. In 1889 he was among the welcoming party for the visit of Lord Randolph Churchill, who was visiting Newtown. In February 1894 he gave an interview to the Cambrian News regarding the condition of Cefn LLys Church. Tithes were being paid to Archdeacon de Winton but so services were being held. He was concerned, but did not want to be drawn into the argument. It is notable that even though he was so prominent in public life, he and his wife were regular visitors to Llanddewi School, where Lady Ormathwaite listened to readers and examined needlework.

The mid 90’s saw frantic efforts to keep the creditors at bay. Furniture, plate and farming implements were sold, but the inevitable could not be delayed and in September 1895 he was declared bankrupt. At the Hearing in London he was described as being late of Eyewood, Hereford, and Llanddewi in Radnorshire. Gross debts were £200,876, assets £932. In 1895 Warfield was sold and he was given a lease of seven years in the Keeper’s Cottage at Eyewood. His solicitor said in his defence that his debts were due to heavy expenditure on his property at Eyewood. However, the Gwyer family, who bought Eyewood, said that it was in a very run down state when they bought it.

As a result of this it would appear sadly that Lord Ormathwaite withdrew from public life. He resigned his post as Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire in the same year, 1895, a post that he had held for 8 years; and in the same year he stepped down as Chairman of the Quarter Sessions; and then in 1896 he resigned as Chairman of Radnorshire County Council.

On a brighter note, Arthur’s contribution to Public Life in Radnorshire was celebrated at a luncheon given in his honour at the Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne, when a portrait of Lord Ormathwaite was presented to the County of Radnorshire. Sir P.C. Milbank MP presided, supported by Lord and Lady Ormathwaite and most of the County Gentlemen. The portrait was hung behind the chairman and bore the inscription – “Arthur Walsh, Second Baron Ormathwaite, Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire 1873 – 1897, Chairman of the Quarter Sessions from 1887 – 1895, Chairman of the County Council 1889 – 1896”.

The portrait was painted for the County of Radnorshire by Herman G. Herkomer a celebrated portrait painter. The picture is an excellent one and was included in an exhibition in London before being hung in Shire Hall.

Lord Ormathwaite was cheered on rising and said that he had always devoted his poor abilities to the good of the County. Cheers were given for Lord and Lady Ormathwaite and by all accounts he was a popular figure in the County.

Arthur lived to a ripe old age and saw his estate reduced by stages. The Radnorshire estates were not saleable in 1920 so they were retained until 1945 when 5,222 acres in Llanddewi were sold at the Severn Arms. It included The Hall, Old Mill and cottages, and Dolwen Wood. The bulk of the estate was bought by NSK Pugh.

Arthur Henry John Walsh, 3rd Lord Ormathwaite 1860 – 1937

Lady Clementine Frances Anne Pratt 1870 – 1921

We know more about the 3rd Lord Ormathwaite than any of the others because he wrote his autobiography: – “When I Was In Court”.

His book gives us a glimpse into the world of the aristocracy at a point in history when their power was in decline. We see a man who is frantically trying to hold on to the standards and values of the past. He begins the book with the words:- “I was born a snob”!

He goes to great length to explain his pedigree on the Walsh and Somerset side. He was the oldest of 10 children and he describes his childhood as happy, despite being short of money.

From an early age he showed a desire to make contacts and to progress socially and to his benefit, and providence was on his side as he progressed through life.

He was at Eton for only a term when he caught a cold that turned into bronchitis, so it was decided that he and his mother should go to Cannes for his recuperation. They had only been in Cannes a week when his mother put a candle too near the mosquito net and set the hotel on fire. The proprieter was too pleased and when his mother was presented with a large bill, she was until to pay. It was particularly providential that Edward, Prince of Wales, was also in Cannes and heard of their misfortune and offered his services to get them off the hook. Arthur as a consequence met the Prince of Wales, and future King, and this would serve him well in future years.

In 1877 he spent 8 months living with a family in Germany where he became fluent in German. He already had learned French from  French Governess, and was now ready for a future role at Court.

In 1878 he joined the lifeguards and was chosen to lead a parade in honour of the Prince of Wales. After attending the social celebrations, Srthur records that Edward gave him an invitation to Sandringham. “Thus began – if I might venture to say, a friendship that survived over many years”. However, he admits that life on the Guards was rather expensive and that he was constantly up to his eyes in debt.

In 1881 we have seen how the family fortunes began to decline after the death of Arthur’s grandfather. While they were settling on the Hereford Radnor border near Titley, Arthur was progressing well on the social scene of the 1880s. He says he was living with his friends, the Rothschild’s, and he describes the famous musical gatherings of the Prince and Princess of Wales. He namedrops constantly in his descriptions of the people who were present: – Gilbert and Sullivan; Nellie Melba; Madame Patti; and Tosti. Life for Arthur seemed to be a constant round of house parties, visits to the opera; and racing and shooting parties.

In 1885 he was asked to stand as an MP for Radnorshire. He was elected, but regretted not taking enough interest in the proceedings of the House of Commons. He only made one speech during the whole time he was there, but he enjoyed the importance it gave him in Radnorshire. He seems to have been more interested in the acquaintances that he made amongst the MPs across all parties, rather than political business. Home Rule for Ireland was at the forefront of political  debate and Arthur complained bitterly about the long sittings. He dies say that Lloyd George was one of the most agreeable of men, apart from his politics. His political career came to an end in 1886, and he said he was glad it was all over.

During the 1890’s he bcame more involved in the Royal circle after helping to organise Queen Victoria’s visit to Llangollen. In 1889 he became engaged to Lady Clementine Pratt, but he states that there were difficulties due to ‘financial complications’. His appointment as Equerry to the Duke of Clarence was cut short due to the untimely death of the Duke. He did continue to develop his relationship to the family of Princess May of Teck, but admits that his connection with Court was ‘dormant’, and he had no post to go to, and did not belong to any household.

After the death of Queen Victoria, things began to look up for Arthur. The new King, his friend now Edward V11, and Alexandra ran a very different Court. Arthur was appointed as a Gentleman Usher and then Master of Ceremonies, and thus began a long period of service at Court. Life was now full of organising State visits by foreign dignitaries, State dinners, and accompanying Edward and Alexandra on their tours around Britain. Another perk, that came with the job, was a visit to Marienbad on the Czech Border, a magnet to the rich and famous. Rules were strict – early nights, no alcohol, frugal meals, etc.

In 1910 Edward died and Alexandra invited Arthur to the death chamber, and invited him to kneel and pray with her by the Kong’s body. She told him how fond the King had been of him, and they wept together. He played an important role in the funeral arrangements and in particular the arrangements for the Royal Heads of State from across Europe. It is well known that Edward’s lifestyle had not been morally upright, but Arthur made no allusion to this, and the Royal Court was described as a happy one.

The Coronation of King George V was the next big State event. It would prove to be the last gathering of the crowned heads of Europe. Princess May had been married off to George and was crowned as Queen Mary. It was Queen Mary who had such a profound effect on the child who was to become our present Queen. The Coronation involved much pomp and ceremony, and the organising of Balls and State visits around Britain. After the Coronation, Arthur records that he and his wife took a small house in Llandrindod where they joined shooting parties and visited the families of tenants who are “the most delightfully warm hearted people I have ever met, and they have always shown a loyal hearted devotion to my family.”

1914 was memorable because his much loved mother died, and he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Radnor, as were his Father and Grandfather.

During July, that year, Arthur had a chance to visit Marienbad. On 25th June the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by a Serb terrorist. Arthur did not think that this was anything to worry about so he carried on. The view in London was however very different and he was advised by the Foreign Office to return immediately. As an escapee he met up with Mrs Rothschild and Lady Wolverton and their entourage. Arthur became the unappointed leader of rather unusual group of escapees.  The journey was chaotic and confusing, their luggage was left on the platform, despite the payment of a large tip. There was a great amount of officialdom at every border. Stations were crowed with soldiers who were going to join their regiments; there were no refreshments available; and they were even obliged to carry their own hand luggage! The ultimate indignity was having to travel 3rd Class – totally unheard of in their privileged lives. When they arrived at Ostend there were huge queues waiting to try and catch the boat to Dover. Arthur had an idea to beat the queues – “the idea of a little bribery occurred to me” – he said “While talking to the official in charge, I cracked some £5 notes, and it paid off”.

During the War his role changed greatly and he described life as a nightmare. The Zeppelin raids were horrendous and Arthur states: “One can only pray that calm and common sense may prevail and that we shall never again experience those awful years 1914-18. (Arthur died in 1937)

Arthur gave an insight into the lives of the King and Queen during these dark days:- “King George and Queen Mary earned the everlasting admiration of their people by their unstinted service during the War”. He paints a picture of a happy and contented Court – a picture of the Royal Children that did not include Prince John, the Lost Prince.

1920 was a momentous year in Arthur’s life. His father died at the age of 90, so he now became the 3rd Baron Ormathwaite. His father’s death caused great upheaval

As the Will had been made 40 years earlier, and before Death Duties had been introduced. As a consequence he had to oversee the sale of the Cumbrian and the Irish Estates. The Radnorshire estates were considered unsaleable so they were not sold until 1945. Arthur resigned his Royal Post, and in recognition of his service he was awarded a Knight Grand Cross of the Victoria Order.

At Christmas/New Year 1920/1, he and his wife decided to host a Christmas Party. Sadly, Clementine became ill and was unable to enjoy the celebrations. She died of Encephalitis on 13th January. At this point Arthur finishes his autobiography and says: “Virtually I died when my wife died.” He resigned as Lord Lieutenant in 1922, and died in 1937. There were no children of the marriage.

George Harry William Walsh (1863 – 1943)  4th Baron Ormathwaite

As Arthur’s younger brother, George Harry William Walsh succeeded to the title in 1937 and became the 4th Baron. From 1890 -93 he had assisted the Governor General of Canada. His career also included biting a captain in the Imperial Yeomanry, later the Grenadier Guards, and he served in the Southern African     War 1899 – 1901. He settled in Radnorshire and served as a councillor on Radnorshire County Council. He had no family to succeed him when he died in 1943.

Reginald Walsh 1868 – 1944  5th Baron Ormathwaite

Lady Margaret Jane Douglas-Home (1908 – 1940)

Reginald, as the youngest of the brothers, had not expected to inherit the title and become the 5th Baron, in 1943, to die in 1944. He had served in several diplomatic posts – Secretary to the Governor of Mauritius, Her Majesty’s Consul to Greece 1899 – 1906, and to New York 1908 – 11. He served as a Captain during World War 1. It was a few years after the War that he and his wife bought Penybont Hall following the death of Mrs Whitehead in 1926. The couple had 3 children. Reginald died in 1944.

John Arthur Charles Walsh (1912 – 1984) 6th Baron Ormathwaite

John Arthur succeeded his father Reginald in 1944, and was a familiar figure in Penybont as he came to live here as a bachelor, with his two sisters, in Penybont Hall from 1950. Betty Morris’s husband was the Estate Manager and worked closely with John Arthur. He admitted straight away that he did not have a clue about farming. His approach on a day to day basis was to turn up for work on the farm and ask:” Well, what are we to do today?”

John’s younger sister, Jane Emily, also did not marry, but the youngest of the three children, Anne Elizabeth did. Neil remembered that she married Peter Edward Bromley-Martin and that there were step-sons. As step sons they did not succeed to the title and the Ormathwaite lineage died out with John when he died in 1984.

The family are remembered in the area: There is a  family grave at Cefn Llys, the Walsh Arms, former public house at Llanddewi Ystradenni, is a dominant building in the village, and there is reference to the Walsh family on the clock-tower in Rhayader.

Elizabeth, in discussion, said that John Walsh was reported to have said that the Rev. Pugh should be ‘defrocked’ after he was caught poaching.

By contrast the Vicar of Cascob, WJ Reece, published a series of sermons that were dedicated to John Walsh.

He was also said to have given the land to build the vicarage in Dolau.

Derek thanked Shirley for a most excellent talk that not only gave the history of the Ormathwaite family but a large chunck of history around Europe and beyond.

Marion is to give the next talk on the history of Friendly Societies.




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