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Jonathan Ostle of Moorhouse

Jonathan was born at Newtown in 1675, the fifth child of Thomas Ostle and Frances Langcake. He was the first Ostle to settle in Moorhouse and moved there in October 1705 when he married Ruth Stordy.

Moorhouse Meeting House
The Meeting House at Moorhouse
In use as a farm store prior to conversion into a private home

Ruth was the daughter of Thomas Stordy who had died while imprisoned at Carlisle Jail in 1684. When her brother, Thomas, died at the age of twenty-one in 1701, she inherited a considerable amount of property including The Stonehouse where she and Jonathan lived.1 The marriage contract for Jonathan and Ruth2 confirmed her uncle, Jacob Stordy, and her step-father, George Mark, as her heirs and trustees. Jonathan was to hold the property for his lifetime but, in the event of the couple having no children, which proved to be the case, the property would revert to the Stordys. Ruth was given the right to sell provided some compensation was paid to her family but she lived for only two years after the marriage and never exercised this right.

After Ruth's death, an agreement was drawn up between her heirs and Jonathan under which he bought from them all the property he and George Mark occupied in Moorhouse for the sum of five hundred pounds. He also purchased for only five shillings (25p., about 40 US cents) "All that their messuages, lands, tenements and hereditaments of arable land and meadow and waste ground situate .. in Moorhouse containing by estimation seventy acres, be the land more or less, and also all the messuages and tenements of mosses and turbary [the right to dig peat] within the parish of Orton all which now are in the tenure and occupation of the said Jonathan Ostell and George Mark or their assignees"2

Sketch Map of Moorhouse
A sketch map of Moorhouse
Jonathan's properties are highlighted

It is difficult to identify the property involved in this deal but it presumably included The Stonehouse and the range of buildings at the eastern end of the village on the corner of the Orton road, opposite the Meeting House, which was to form the core of the very large estate of the Ostell family in Moorhouse.

Jonathan became a prominent member of the Quaker movement, his friends included David Hodgson, also a 'Ministering Friend' who was often delegated by the Carlisle Monthly Meeting to attend The Yearly Meeting of Friends in London along with Jonathan.3 Another Friend who visited was Thomas Story of Justice Town, a prominent lawyer in Carlisle who later became William Penn's deputy in Philadelphia. In his journal, he mentions both Jonathan and David Hodgson and staying as their guest when he visited the meeting at Moorhouse. Jonathan travelled widely to Friends' Meetings. He visited Aberdeen in 1698, Cork in Ireland in 1704 and was back in Scotland in 17094.

Benjamin West: Penn's Treaty with the Indians
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Thomas Story is supposedly one of the figures to the left of Penn.

A few years after Ruth's death Jonathan remarried. No details on their marriage have yet been found, apart from this curious entry in the Carlisle Monthly Meeting Records:-

"Whereas Jonathan Ostel and Friends in this meeting formally differing in their judgement touching the degrees of affinity in relation to marriage, as – in taking his second wife and for the further ease and satisfaction of friends, Jonathan has given the following – under his hand.

Whereas there is a – order among Friends that no Friend shall marry within the 4th degree of consanguinity or the 3rd degree of affinity of which I am of the same minded yet notwithstanding I have been in another mind about working degrees of kindred then – Friends in general was of and by marrying my Friend Wife, made Friends uneasy for which I am sorry and desire no Friends to do so by my example as witness my hand, 7th day of the IV month, 1716.

Jonathan Ostell, Christopher Stordy, John Unwen."

Without a marriage record it is impossible to determine exactly who Mary, Jonathan’s second wife, was. There are two possible theories. She could be Mary Stordy, the aunt of Jonathan's first wife, Ruth. There was little difference in the pair's ages and Mary was a spinster. If they were married in 1715, she would have been forty-one and Jonathan forty-six.

A more likely explanation is that Mary was the widow of his elder brother, John who had died at Dublin 1711. She had also been born a Stordy. It is curious that John’s will makes no mention of a wife but, even among seventeenth century Quakers, marriages must have broken down from time to time. Perhaps John had left her at some point and gone to Ireland. Mary might then have moved in with the widowed Jonathan as housekeeper, and one thing led to another! John knew about this and determined to cut her out of his will. Mary could, of course, have contested this but, apparently, she did not do so. Obviously the Meeting would have disapproved strongly of the relationship.

Jonathan was an astute businessman; numerous bonds and documents exist giving details of various property transactions and loans. In 1741 he purchased a shop and its contents in Baxter's Row, Carlisle from a Richard Jackson. In 1748 he was appointed as a member of an arbitration panel to settle a dispute between Samuel Wilson of Great Orton and James Ward of Orton Rigg and, in 1749, he was granted a power of attorney to handle the affairs of Catherine James, a widow of St. Ann Blackfriars in London, who owned property in Scotch Street, Carlisle.2

The Stonehouse by Bushby

In the autumn of 1745, Jonathan and Mary must have heard some frightening news. Bonnie Prince Charlie had set out from Edinburgh to march, with his rebel army, to London and claim the throne for his father. On 9th November, the rebels had crossed the Eden at Peatwath and Rockcliffe, only a couple of miles away from their home5.

The Jacobite Army surrounded Carlisle and demanded the surrender of the city. Their leader, however, seeking comfortable quarters, made a detour and entered Moorhouse looking for lodgings.6 The Friends were so alarmed that they buried the deeds to their Meeting House!7

He could have stayed at Moorhouse Hall with the Liddel family, but it seems that this house was still under construction at the time7 so he went across the road to The Stonehouse, the only other substantial building in the village. It seems almost certain that at this time Jonathan still held its freehold. It is not possible to say if he and Mary lived there at the time or whether the Stordy family had moved back there but, according to the main history of the period,8 it was here that His Royal Highness Prince Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart spent the night of 9th November, 1745.

Bonnie Prince CharlieIt is fascinating to imagine the meeting. Jonathan, who was nearly seventy and almost blind, a crusty old Quaker, entertaining a sophisticated twenty-five year old Catholic who usually spoke Italian! Charlie stayed only the one night; leaving behind him a flint pistol and a sporran which became family heirlooms of the Stordys.8 He then moved on to Blackwell Hall, near Carlisle9 and entered the city on 16th November, when the Duke of Perth proclaimed his father as King James III of England from the steps of the Market Cross.

By December, Bonnie Prince Charlie's army was again in the area, this time in retreat. The event was described by John Rebanks, a Kendal Quaker who says "…all in the road were badly used. A worthy Friend near Carlisle, Jonathan Ostell, who is an able minister, was in great danger of his life which was begg'd might not be put in execution by a Gentlewoman amongst them, in that she believed him to be a different person to what he was represented."10

Duke of CumberlandOn New Year's Eve, H.R.H. The "Butcher" Duke of Cumberland, George III's third son and the brutal victor of Culloden, recaptured Carlisle. Perhaps it was then that he requested to meet Jonathan, who is reputed to have greeted him "Well, I've come to see thee friend William, according to promise."11

This last meeting must have been much more to Jonathan's taste; the Quakers had always supported the Hanoverian King George against the Stuarts' claim to the throne. From their Yearly Meeting in 1746, at which Jonathan was probably present, they sent an address to the King acknowledging his "parental care for the safety of his people . . . In permitting one of his Royal offspring [ Cumberland] to expose himself to the greatest of dangers for their security."

Sadly, Jonathan had no children by either of his wives. He died, a very rich man, in 1752, leaving most of his freehold property to his nephew, Thomas of Newtown, for his lifetime and giving him authority to raise the sum of £200 which Thomas later divided between three of his sons. The shop in Carlisle was left to Thomas's youngest son, Jonathan who died only a few years later at the age of six so, presumably, this substantial property also came to Thomas. After Thomas's lifetime, the property was to be divided among Jonathan's "heirs general". He left £1 to Moorhouse Meeting and devised the tithes he held to the owners of the properties.

Low Moorhouse Farm
The former Ostell property in Moorhouse today

His nephew, Thomas, also inherited Jonathan's considerable personal estate. It is clear from his inventory that Jonathan had long since ceased farming, he owned only four cows and one young heifer. He had entered the "Financial Services" area and had a sum of £922.15.0d. owing to him in mortgages, bonds and notes. The total value of his non-property estate was £1,098.1s.0d. a sum which today would have a purchasing power of well over £100,000. It is not possible to estimate the current value of his property holdings but this must have been very substantial.

After his death, the Monthly Meeting of Friends at Carlisle prepared a testimonial for him; this is reproduced in full, together with his will and inventory in the appendix to this page.

Jonathan's legacy, much of which must have been Stordy money inherited from his first wife, was to provide the finance for his nephew Thomas and his wife, another Mary Stordy, to embark on a building programme and was to ensure a reasonably comfortable life style for all his family and particularly for those who continued to live at Moorhouse – the only Ostles always referred to as Gentlemen.

© J P Ostle, Joan Palmer, MMVI

The original research concerning Bonnie Prince Charlie's visit was carried out by Joan Palmer (neé Ostle) of Silloth. Joan is continuing her research into her ancestors, the Ostles of Moorhouse.

1. Burial record of Ruth Ostell
2. County Record Office, Carlisle; BOX DX 46 BRA (68,69)
3. Ferguson: Early Cumberland and Westmorland Friends, 1871
4. Journal of the Friends' Historical Society, various issues
5. Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Cumbria Record Office
6. Diary of George Williamson, curate of Arthuret (CRO, Carlisle)
7. Nina Jennings: The Buildings of Moorhouse (C&WA&AS)
8. J A Wheatley: Bonnie Prince Charlie in Cumberland
9. W B Blaikie: Itinerary of Prince Charles Edward Stuart
10. Journal of the Friends' Historical Society, Vol. XXI p16 (Letter from Thomas Rebanks to Richard Hingston of Penryn)
11. Bulmer's Story and Directory of Cumberland, 1901

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