Fonds GB 0210 ORMITE - Ormathwaite Estate Records,

Identity area

Reference code



Ormathwaite Estate Records,


  • 1558-1951 / (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1.666 cubic metres (73 boxes, 7 rolls, 6 volumes)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

John Walsh (1726-95) went to India in 1742 where he was appointed a writer at Fort St George. He left India, however, in 1747 but returned again in 1749 or 1750. During this second sojourn in India he held a number of administrative posts with the East India Co. as well as being engaged in private trade. In 1767 he was appointed private secretary to Lord Clive who was married to his mother's niece, Margaret Maskelyne. He finally left India in 1760 and returned to England 'clearly acting as agent for some of Clive's affairs'. More importantly, he returned with a fortune which he estimated at £140,000. Armed with such a sum he set about acquiring the trappings of a wealthy country gentleman, not least a landed estate and a seat in the House of Commons.

A few months after his arrival in England he purchased the Hockenhall estate in Cheshire. Eleven years later, however, he was trying to sell it for 12,000 guineas. He seems to have succeeded, since there are no further references to this estate in the Ormathwaite papers. Having already purchased a town house in London and a small estate in Warfield, Berkshire in 1764 he began, in 1768, to extend his purchases to Ireland and Radnorshire.

In March of that year he purchased from Sir Henry Hartstonge the manors of Cefnllys and Busmore and a number of farms in Cefnllys and Llanfihangel Nantmellan for £13,450. Two months later there followed the purchase, from the assignees of Goddard Haagen, a bankrupt London merchant, of 2,067 acres, comprising the manor of Coed Swydd and properties in Llanfihangel Rhydieithion, Cefnllys and Llandegleu, at a cost of £12,908. In August he spent a further £27,000 in acquiring a substantial estate in County Cork, Ireland. Two years later he returned to the Irish land market and purchased from the heavily indebted Francis Thomas Maurice, 3rd earl of Kerry, an estate in County Kerry, for £15,230. Three years later, in 1774, he made a further purchase from the earl at a cost of £5,944. In between these two Kerry purchases he also acquired for £2,600 some properties in Cefnllys and Llangynllo, Radnorshire, from the Duke of Chandos.

By his will, proved in 1795, John Walsh devised his estate to his niece Margaret Benn (nee Fowke) until her heir male should reach the age of twenty one, provided she and her husband adopt the name of Walsh, which they duly did in the same year. Francis Fowke, Margaret's only surviving brother, was disinherited by his uncle because of a clash of personalities and because he lived with a 'low, vicious' woman, upon whom he fathered several illegitimate children.

Margaret Fowke was the daughter of Joseph Fowke who made a moderate fortune in India and who, subsequently, gambled it away in London gaming clubs. Brought up by her maternal uncle, John Walsh, she went to join her father in India in 1776. During her ten year stay in India she met her future husband, John Benn of Ormathwaite, Cumbria. His father had died just before he was born and he was, consequently, virtually adopted by his uncle Dr William Brownrigg, the chemist. Through the influence of his friend John Robinson, Lord North's private secretary, Brownrigg obtained a post for his nephew with the East India Co. The nephew arrived in Calcutta in 1778 and remained in India until 1786. After his return to England, together with a fortune estimated at £80,000, he married Margaret Walsh in June 1787.

Unlike John Walsh, John Benn did not invest lavishly in land, though he made several additions to the family estate in Warfield, Ormathwaite (which he had inherited from his uncle) and Radnorshire. Most of his Indian fortune was wisely invested in mortgages and Government stocks. It was this fortune, made initially in India, and carefully nurtured afterwards, which enabled Sir John Benn Walsh, eldest son and heir of John Benn (or Sir John Benn Walsh as he now was) to greatly expand both his Radnorshire and Irish estate. Writing in 1840 he estimated that he had inherited over £119,000 from his father.

In 1819, when Sir John became twenty one years old, he inherited according to the provisions of John Walsh's will, all the latter's estates in Radnorshire Ireland and Warfield. Following his father's death in 1825, he inherited the Cumbria estate, together with all the landed purchases which his father had made from 1787 onwards. In 1829 the combined rental of all his scattered estates amounted to £7,402 per annum, with slightly over half that sum coming from his Irish estates. In 1866 the combined rentals amounted to £21,363 per annum with the Radnorshire estate producing £8,744, the Irish estates £7,933, the Cumberland estate £4,229 and the remainder coming from properties in London. All his personal income from monies invested in mortgages and stocks amounted to only £1,553 a year. The estate rental had almost trebled between 1829 and 1866. Part of this increase can be attributed to rising rents and to the discovery of a very valuable iron ore mine on the Cumbria estate, but the greater part of the increased rental was due to the very substantial landed purchases made by Sir John, especially in Radnorshire. In 1840, however, he calculated that his purchases in that county had cost him £58,550. A rough calculation based upon the title deeds of post-1840 purchases and scattered references in his diaries indicate that he spent another £43,500 on properties in Radnorshire betweeen 1840 and 1877. Overall these landed purchases cost him a minimum of £100,000. The estate which he inherited from John Walsh measured 4,266 acres in 1820. In 1873 the estate apparently measured almost 12,500 acres with an annual rental of over £9,200.

The expansion of the family estates, conducted so successfully by Sir John Benn Walsh, was brought to a crashing halt by his eldest son and heir, Arthur John Walsh, 2nd Lord Ormathwaite. Arthur was in serious financial difficulties well before his father died in 1881. He had been borrowing heavily (using his expected inheritance as security) since at least 1850. Most of his debts were incurred in the pursuit of his abiding passion: shooting. The full extent of his liabilities were not revealed, however, until after his father's death in 1881.

In 1886 the Ormathwaite estates had been mortgaged for £153,755. Ten years later the figure stood at £167,731 whilst unsecured creditors were owed over £22,300. By 1890 estate revenue was unable to meet all its annual charges: interest payments were £3,000 in arrears. In an effort to keep creditors at bay the mid-1890s saw some frantic selling of assets. Furniture, plate and farming implements were sold between 1894 and 1895. All the receipts, roughly £10,000, were paid to unsecured creditors. The inevitable could not be delayed much longer and, in 1895, Arthur, 2nd Lord Ormathwaite, duly presented to the High Court a petition alleging his inability to pay his debts. Following the petition the court appointed a receiver and a scheme of arrangement to pay off the creditors was drawn up. The newly appointed receiver was able, to a substantial degree, to pay off the unsecured creditors, but achieved very little as regards paying off the mortgages. In 1904 it was estimated that the estate still owed the mortgages at least £164,000.

The bulk of the Irish estates were sold off between 1906 and 1912 for about £84,000. The first sales of the Radnorshire estate were delayed until shortly after the death of the 2nd Lord Ormathwaite in 1920. By November of that year at least eighteen properties had been sold for £18,145. In 1921 the outlying portions of both the Radnorshire and Warfield estates, together with the entire Cumbria estate (except for the iron ore mine) were sold for £54,645. All the remainder of the Radnorshire estate, totalling 11,977 acres, was sold in 1945, possibly enforced by the need to pay estate duties following the deaths of Arthur Henry John, 3rd Lord Ormathwaite in 1937 and George Harry, 4th Lord Ormathwaite, in 1943.

Archival history

Most of the title deeds were bundled according to premises purchased by the 1st Lord Ormathwaite. Surviving bundles in the BRA deposit have been retained.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposited by Sir John Arthur Charles Walsh, 6th, and last, Lord Ormathwaite, in 1973

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Estate and family records of the family of Walsh (also Benn, Benn-Walsh), later barons Ormathwaite, of Radnorshire, including rentals and surveys, 1865-1939; deeds relating to premises purchased in Radnorshire, 1558-1912, and deeds relating to mortgages and sales of parts of the same estate, 1875-1947; estate papers, 1844-1943; family papers, [late 1690s]-1920, including diaries of Sir John Benn Walsh, 1st Baron Ormathwaite (1798-1881), politician, 1811-1877, diaries of his mother, Lady Margaret Walsh, 1788-1828, and diaries of Arthur John Walsh, 2nd Baron Ormathwaite, 1848-1917. -- The BRA deposit relates mainly to the marriage settlement, mortgages, bankruptcy, receivership and executorship of Arthur Henry John Walsh (1859-1937), 3rd Baron Ormathwaite, 1841-1951.

A further three boxes of papers relating to the family was received, together with a portrait of Jane Walsh and a collection of photographs. This deposit remains uncatalogued.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Action: All Welsh estate records deposited at NLW have been retained. Deeds and papers relating to the family's Irish and Cumbrian estates have been transferred by NLW to Trinity College Library, Dublin, and the Cumbria Record Office respectively..


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged into Ormathwaite Papers and Ormathwaite (BRA Papers). The Ormathwaite Papers are further arranged into the following sections: estate papers, personal papers, family papers, trusts and miscellaneous papers; and the BRA deposit is arranged by bundle and then chronologically.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • Latin

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Latin.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Further details relating to manorial records within the archive can be accessed online from The National Archives Manorial Documents Register.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

A number of maps and plans are in NLW, Map Collections; photographic albums are in NLW, Special Collections. Further papers relating to the Ormathwaite estate and family are British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections, MSS Eur D 546; Trinity College Dublin, MS 5960-4; and Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle Headquarters, DX/448.

Related descriptions

Notes area


Title supplied from contents of fonds

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

Place access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

May 2002.


  • English



Archivist's note

Compiled by Mair James.

Archivist's note

The following sources was used in the compilation of this description: NLW, Schedule of Ormathwaite Papers;

Accession area