The Ramsdens

The Ramsden family shaped all aspects of Huddersfield’s development for 400 years. From 1531 they expanded their wealth and influence through the acquisition of land and advantageous marriages.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Ramsdens established Huddersfield as a key trading centre. In 1671 the family acquired the town’s market rights and by 1776 they had built the Cloth Hall (providing local textile merchants with a thriving trading facility) and Huddersfield’s first canal (now Huddersfield Broad Canal).

View of Huddersfield from Longley Hall (the home of the Ramsden family in Huddersfield), print of oil painting by William Cowen, 1850.

In the 19th century the Ramsdens made the land available that brought the railway to Huddersfield and they invested huge sums in the development of many of the town’s finest buildings, such as The George Hotel and Byram Arcade.

Portrait of Isabella Ramsden mid-19th century
By kind permission @MuncasterCastle

Meet Isabella Ramdsen (1790-1887)
After the death of her husband (1836) and father-in-law (1839), Isabella became a key figure in managing the Ramsden estate. Isabella’s tenure, which included the introduction of the railway, triggered Huddersfield’s most rapid period of commercial growth. Many of Isabella’s letters survive within the archives and offer a personal insight into her thoughts, feelings and daily life.

By the early 20th century the Ramsden estate covered 4,300 acres, including almost the entire town centre. By this time, however, the estate was increasingly in debt due to widespread changes affecting land use and ownership throughout UK society.

Then in 1917 Sir John Frecheville Ramsden moved the family seat from Yorkshire to Muncaster, Cumbria, where he had inherited the Pennington family estate. With business interests elsewhere across the British Empire (including a Malayan rubber plantation), Sir John looked to sell the 400 year old Huddersfield estate, if a buyer could be found.

Photograph of the Cloth Hall before it was demolished in 1930. The Sainsbury’s near the bus station is now located on the former Cloth Hall site.

All images* copyright West Yorkshire Archive Service, please contact us for more information about these archives and the reuse of these images.

* Except portrait of Isabella Ramsden, which is held by Muncaster Castle. For more information about the Pennington-Ramsdens and Muncaster Castle visit