History of the Castle
The Castle, believed to be standing on Roman remains, is a key part of the regions history. Whilst the Pennington family have recorded evidence of it being their home since 1208, some records go back further suggesting that the family have been here since at least 1026.
The Roman foundations would date back to 79AD and so the site itself is of historic significance. As with many great buildings, it has been built, extended and refurbished with almost every era in history. The last of these was by the fourth Lord Muncaster in 1885 by the famous architect, Salvin.
The lands were granted to Alan de Penitone in 1208, and fifty years later a castle was built by Gamel de Mulcastre. This was enlarged in the next century when a pele tower was erected on Roman foundations, part of its fabric being incorporated in the south-west tower. A coin from the time of Emperor Theodosius (AD380) has been found, and there is also a Victor ring.
In 1464 Sir John Pennington gave shelter to Henry VI, wandering after the Battle of Hexham. Many years later, in 1783, John, Lord Muncaster erected the tower known as Chapels to commemorate the place where the fugitive King was supposed to have been found by the shepherds. The legend tells how Holy King Harry on his departure left his drinking bowl behind in gratitude, saying that as long as it should remain quite whole and unbroken the Penningtons would live and thrive in the place. Today the bowl is still intact and is known as the 'Luck of Muncaster'.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the family married well. In 1783 there was a vacancy in the Irish Peerage and the fifth Baronet was created first Baron Muncaster. He was a friend of Pitt and long a Member of Parliament. He carried out extensive renovations, planting most of the large hardwood trees. It was he who started the present library. He was succeeded by his brother, General Lowther Pennington, who in his youth was a hot head. While serving in America he killed a man in a duel called for a "foolish quarrel about humming a tune".
Shortly before his death in 1862, his grandson Gamel Augustus, fourth Lord Muncaster instructed Anthony Salvin, whose main interest was military architecture, and who was very fashionable, to update the house. Salvin covered the courtyard, built by first Lord Muncaster, converting it into the present Drawing Room, with its much-admired barrel ceiling which was the work of two Italian plasterers. It was redecorated in 1958 by Lady Pennington-Ramsden.
In 1917, Gamel's brother, the fifth and last Lord Muncaster died and the estate reverted to his mother's family, the Ramsdens, who had played a notable part in the history of Yorkshire. With them they brought many of their possessions, including the Ramsden family portraits. In those days the estate still extended to 23,000 acres.