The Pennington Family
Muncaster Castle, complete with all its beauties and liabilities, was handed over to my late wife Phyllida by her father, Sir William Pennington-Ramsden in 1983 when we left Scotland and made it our permanent home. Now run by our daughter Iona and her husband Peter Frost-Pennington, it lives entirely through the warmth and understanding which visitors bring to it during the summer months. It is important to our family and the house that it should be regarded as an integral part of the life of West Cumberland, and not as an isolated enclave within less privileged surroundings.
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. Today there are only 1,800 acres left, but within that land still lies the Castle of Muncaster and we hope that those of you who come into that magic circle will feel warmed by the atmosphere which surrounds it. Those who come are all important to the family, for without your understanding we could not continue. There is a place in Argyll where they have written over the door "The ornaments of a house are the friends who frequent it". To those who visit Muncaster we hope you will realise that all of us feel exactly the same about you.