Thomas Machell (1726-1802)

Thomas Machell

Written by Tim Cockerill

Occupation: Ironmaster

Background and early life

Thomas Machell was born in 1726, the fifth and youngest son of John Machell (1678-1750) (qv), the noted ironmaster of Backbarrow, near Ulverston, who lived at Hollow Oak, Haverthwaite, in the parish of Colton. This property his father had inherited from William Walker, the father of his wife Elizabeth. On his own father's death in 1750, young Thomas inherited the house at Aynsome, near Cartmel, now known as the Aynsome Manor Hotel.

Thomas's eldest brother James Machell (1708-1775) succeeded his father at Hollow Oak, Colton and his descendants were later seated at The Hall, Penny Bridge, near Greenodd, which they inherited by marriage from the Penny family, his son John having married Isabel Penny.  This large house, built beside the river Crake, was described by the Revd Henry Kett as ‘plain, commodious and elegant, built of white stone and roofed with sea-green slate’. Of the next three sons, John, William and Miles, no trace has been found.  Perhaps they died young, which would explain how Thomas, the fifth son, inherited Aynsome.

Several members of the family attended Hawkshead Grammar School in later years but there is no mention of Thomas being there, although the records are sparse for this period.  He probably went to school locally, perhaps at Town Bank Grammar School in Ulverston, founded in the 1660s


On the death of his father John Machell in 1750, Thomas Machell became an ironmaster, succeeding to his share of the partnership in the Backbarrow works. However, before that, in 1747, jointly with his eldest brother James and the Backbarrow Company, Thomas had taken over the assignment of a lease of the iron mines at Lindal, Marton and Short Whitriggs. This had been granted the previous year to John Law of Ulverston and William Shaw of Lindal. In 1749 their father John Machell, by then the sole proprietor of the Company, having just purchased the interests of William Rawlinson and his sons William and Gouldney, was joined by ten new partners, as well as his two sons James and Thomas.  (Fell calls them ‘James Machell of Hollow Oak and John Machell of Aynsome’, but this seems to be a mistake for Thomas). Thereafter, the two sons played a prominent part in the Backbarrow Company for at least the next two decades. The Company was finally dissolved in 1818.


Thomas lived at Aynsome , near Cartmel for the rest of his life, from 1750 until 1802. The house was described by James Stockdale in his Annals of Cartmel as ‘always one of the ancient residences of the gentry of the parish  .....  and always a much admired place’. It was certainly a house with at least three building periods, with an old three storied part at the back, a plain five bay Georgian front and some Tudorbethan additions by the Websters in 1842. It may well have been Thomas Machell who aggrandised the house by the addition of the Georgian facade, which has not been more accurately dated. 


In 1752, at Cartmel, Thomas Machell married Ellen, daughter of Thomas Michaelson of Greenbank, Cartmel, and also of the Isle of Barrow, who had been seated at Greenbank since at least the early 17th Century. Their portraits by Christopher Steele, George Romney's master, are now at Abbot Hall Art Gallery , Kendal.

Of their three children, the only son, Thomas Michaelson Machell (1759-1826) married but had no children. Their elder daughter Elizabeth (1761-1822) married her cousin James Machell of Newby Bridge and had issue, but her younger sister Catherine (1774-1857), always known as 'Kitty', who married in 1796, Reginald Remington of The Crow Trees, Melling, in Lunesdale , was chosen by her father to succeed him at Aynsome. Thus, in 1802, the Remingtons succeeded the Machells at Aynsome, where they remained until the early 20th century.

Henry Remington (1797-1866), the prominent Ulverston solicitor and elder son of Reginald and Kitty, eventually succeeded his younger brother, The Revd Thomas Remington (1801-1855), vicar of Cartmel. Both of the brothers spent lavish sums on Aynsome and its beautiful grounds and Thomas erected the Hampsfell Hospice on a nearby eminence, where he is said to have climbed daily to see the sunrise and panorama.


  • Burke, Sir Bernard, a Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 11, Harrison and Sons, London, 1894, under Machell of Pennybridge, p.129
  • Cockerill, Timothy, The Machell and Remington Families of Aynsome, Cartmel, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaelogical Society, Vol. LXXXIX , 1989, pp. 263-268
  • Fell, Alfred, The early Iron Industry of Furness and District, Frank Cass and Co. Ltd, new impression, 1968, p. 36
  • Kett, Henry, A Tour of the Lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland, 1798
  • Remington, John Stewart, A Peep into the Past, Titus Wilson, Kendal, 1935
  • Robinson, John Martin, A Guide to the Country Houses of the North-West (under Lancashire), Constable, London, 1991, p.155
  • Stockdale, James, Annals of Cartmel, Michael Moon, Beckermet, 1978, pp. 511-516