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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HALL

Longley Old Hall is a timber framed Grade II* listed house. It was owned by the Ramsden family, the Lords of the Manors of Almondbury and Huddersfield, from about 1540 until 1976.

Medieval

The original owners of the Hall were the de Bosco or del Wode family (with a variety of spellings) who are first recorded living in Longley in 1338, although mention of a family of the same name goes back to the 1290s. Tax returns of 1379 and 1524 show the Woods' as the richest family in Almondbury. We believe our branch of the Wode family came from Normandy at the time of the Conquest and moved to Scotland and then to Yorkshire.

16th Century

The Wood family inter-married with the Beaumonts' of Whitley over many generations. John Wood, the last of the male line at the Hall, married a Beaumont, had a Beaumont grandmother, and we think his mistress was a Beaumont. He disinherited his son at the beginning of the Reformation and was left with three eligible daughters. Elizabeth married Thomas Kay of Newsome; Cecily married Thomas Savile of Eckesley (Exley), and Jennet (or Joanna) married John Savile of New Hall, Elland. By these marriages the Woods established connections with the major land owners in the region.

The Ramsdens’ of Crawstone Hall, Greetland, had similar ambitions and in the early 16th C Robert married a Beaumont. Elizabeth, his daughter, married Henry Savile of Bradley Hall, Greetland and had three sons. Sir John was Baron of the Exchequer in 1598. Sir Henry was tutor to Queen Elizabeth, Provost of Eton College, and Warden of Merton College, Oxford where he was responsible for building the Fellows' Quad and inspiring work at the Bodleian Library. He was knighted by James I for his work in producing the Authorised version of the Bible. The third son, Thomas was a Proctor of Oxford University in 1592.

Fate brought the Ramsden, Wood and Savile dynasties closer together. John Savile died young and in 1531 his widow, Jennet Wood of Longley, married her cousin, William Ramsden, the brother of Elizabeth. William founded the fortune of the family, mainly by speculating in monastic lands, whilst living at Longley Old Hall. He had the reputation as a "Jack the Lad", spending much time away from Longley and liking life at Court. He suffered at least terms in the Fleet Prison for non-payment of debts. He had no legitimate heir and the property passed to his brother, John, who consolidated the family wealth and built  New Hall. William, his son, purchased the Manor of Huddersfield from the Crown in 1599 and was the last Ramsden to live in the Hall.

17th Century

William's son, Sir John Ramsden, bought the Manor of Almondbury from the Duchy of Lancaster, was Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1626 and Member of Parliament for Pontefract. During the Civil War he raised a regiment for the King and was taken prisoner at Selby in 1644. He was committed to the Tower for high treason, but was exchanged later in the year and went to Pontefract Castle where he was Colonel of the Third Division. He survived the first two sieges and helped negotiate the surrender in July 1645, even though he was "in the gout". Parliament allowed the garrison to leave the castle with "their arms, drums beating and colours flying, and a bullet in mouth with 6 shot of powder & bullet proportionable". Sir John went to Newark Castle where he died during the siege in 1646 and is buried in the Parish Church.

Sir John must have been as astute as his great uncle, William, as we have not found the Ramsden name amongst those fined by Parliament for supporting the King.

Following the Restoration, King Charles II did not recognise the sacrifice of Sir John Ramsden and it was left to William and Mary to honour his grandson, another John, by making him a baronet on 30th November 1689.

19th Century

From his childhood Sir John William Ramsden, the fifth baronet, lived with the reputation of being a dislikeable person. His disgruntled Huddersfield tenants subjected him to a number of legal actions over lease terms, which he lost in the House of Lords. He purchased an estate at Ardverikie in Inverness that features in the television series Monarch of the Glen; the family still own the property. John William married Guendolyn Seymour, a daughter of the Duke of Somerset, hence Somerset Road and the Somerset Hotel.

20th Century

After inheriting the Pennington estates at Muncaster Castle, the family Sir John Frechville Ramsden, the sixth baronet, found a opportunity to rid the family of its turbulent tenantry and sold the Manors of Huddersfield and Almondbury, and their estate of some 4,300 acres, to the Corporation in 1920. No doubt the tenants of Huddersfield shed few tears over the change of ownership. The only properties excluded from the sale were the Old Hall ("because it was the foundation of the family wealth") and an adjoining cottage. In 1977 Sir Geoffrey Pennington Ramsden, the seventh baronet, sold these properties and broke the last connection between the family and the town.

The title and the estates have separated. The present baronet, the 9th., is Sir John Charles Josslyn Ramsden, who was born in 1950 and succeeded to the title in 1987. What was the Ramsden Estate is now part of the Pennington Estate at Muncaster Castle, Cumbria. The present owner is a daughter of Sir Geoffrey Pennington Ramsden.

21st Century

In 2009, following a request from the University, we had the pleasure of showing the present Duke of Somerset around the house. Later in the day we met the ninth baronet, another Sir John, and Lady Ramsden.