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The Machell's and the Penny's

James and Margaret baptised eleven children at Colton between 1735 and 1752, but in this generation only two married, six dying earlier in childhood or in their thirties. Two survived into their eighties living in Ulverston. The eldest child, Elizabeth, was married to Richard Jackson of Liverpool but they and their children also back to Ulverston. James Machell, who had become the sole proprietor of the Backbarrow ironworks by 1748 retired to live in Ulverston where he died in 1775, probably in the house in Queen Street which was still in the family in 1841. Hollow Oak became the home of his son John, baptised at Colton in 1736, his wife Isabel and their eight children, Isobel being the daughter of William Penny of Penny Bridge.
John and Isobel were married in 1767 when his father made over the corn mill and half of the fulling mill at Backbarrow, a half share in a brewery in Ulverston, the warehouse known as the Crane on the river Leven where the boats were unloaded in the present Fish House Lane, and other property. Hollow Oak was put in trust at the same time for John and his mother.

A Considerable refurbishment was apparently made at this time judging from the furniture bills which have survived. It looks as though the present drawing room and dining room and the bedrooms above were added to the old house to provide grander accommodation. In 1769 John Machell bought two mahogany beds and twelve walnut chairs "with open banisters of fine wood" from Richard and Robert Gillow of Lancaster. The Gillow's also provided a chest of drawers, two mahogany dining tables, ten mahogany "chair frames strong", and a sofa frame.

Photo of Hollow Oak from the side garden

"Festoon window curtains" made from 23 yards of copper-plate (printed) cotton, 31 yards of white cotton lace and adorned with four tassels were provided by a Myles Pennington who also stuffed and upholstered the sofa. In 1767 James had bought a marble chimneypiece from Robert Webster. This seems to have been for Hollow Oak and not for the Ulverston house, although that was being improved too and it is probably the one still surviving in the drawing room. The iron chimneypiece with the crest and shield of the Machells, in the room to the right of the front door may well also date from this period and was possibly cast at the furnace.
John and Isobel Machell were visited frequently at Hollow Oak by the Reverend Edward Jackson, vicar of Colton, whose diary and accounts for 1775 were printed in 1940. He records dining and sleeping at the house, hunting and fishing with James and Richards, John Machell's unmarried brothers. On 25th May Richard (Dick) Machell had gone to Devoke Water, presumably to fish there and on 5th July Jackson went "a-fishing salmon with Mr James Machell". The principal evening entertainment was evidently playing cards as the vicar recorded his winnings and his losses. Jackson visited James Machell in Ulverston too, dining there and often going to the theatre. On 18th March he went to see James, who had suffered a stroke a few days before, but had recovered enough to be able to go out riding with Jackson in October even in the "trifling rain". However he was very ill again in November and died on 24th while Edward Jackson was away in Ambleside. The vicar buried him at Colton on 27th November "at five in the evening, on a day of fog and small rain – poor old justice"

On 18th December Jackson went to see James's widow in Ulverston and stayed for two nights. John Machell gave him a new wig and a mourning ring. On Christmas Day he dined at Hollow Oak and stayed there until the 27th, recording on Boxing Day "Miss Peggy very poorly". This was John Machell's second but eldest daughter, Margaret, who was buried at Colton in the following January.

At Christmas the butcher, John Burns, had supplied a quarter of mutton, a leg of veal, "2 sheep pluck" and a neck of mutton, and had also slaughtered a cow and a pig. Another bill which survives from this period is that of Dr John Fell who supplied the family with "cathartic draughts", emulsions and emetics as well as powders for the dogs.
Edward Jackson's diary reveals a lively social scene. Fellow guests at dinner at Hollow Oak included John Machell's father-in-law, William Penny, and on a hot day in May, George Knott, newly married to Margaret Machell's niece Catherine Ford and himself an important figure in the Furness iron industry.

photo of Hollow Oak from the front garden

The forge at Backbarrow had prospered under James Machell's management (his account book records a payment to him of 1050 in 1775) and he was able to make very substantial bequests to his daughters and his younger sons. He kept a chaise and horses in Ulverston and life for the family was evidently very comfortable. Both John and his father subscribed to Thomas West's history of Furness Abbey which was published in 1774. In 1825 James's daughter Agnes, who went to live with her brother Richard (Edward Jackson's fishing companion) in Ulverston, left silver, china, and boos to Richard and some treasured furniture including the chest of drawers "which Aunt Gregg left me" and the wardrobe "which was my poor brother William's". In 1830 Richard himself left 400 each to his eight nieces and nephews, silver and shares in the Ulverston theatre. Aunt Gregg's bequest to him, a bookcase, and a red armchair went to his maid Elizabeth Johnson.
John Machell, who inherited the business at Backbarrow eventually left Hollow Oak and went to live at Penny Bridge Hall, the home of his wife's family, where he bought out her co-heiress, her sister Jane who rented his old house from him for a time. The long connection with Colton Church was severed except for baptisms, and John and his wife and their surviving children were all buried at Egton. At some point the painted panel, probably a companion to the hunting scene, still in the hall at Hollow Oak depicting the first partner so the Backbarrow Ironworks inspecting the activities in the furnace there was taken to Penny Bridge Hall. John Machell died in 1820; he was succeeded by his eldest son James Penny Machell (1771-1854).
As a boy "Jim" Machell had been at Hawkshead Grammar School where early in 1783 he took part in a climb up Yewdale Crag to see a raven's nest, but was not present on the second visit to the nest although his school fellow William Wordsworth was. James went to Rugby School where his bill in June 1786 included sums for "Damage in the House" and "Breaking windows", so he was evidently a lively lad. In 1880 he married Ann Penny of Liverpool and they lived at Hollow Oak until his father died and he inherited Penny Bridge Hall. His mother Isobel moved to Hollow Oak where she died an old lady of 90 in 1827. Her unmarried son William lived with her for a time, as did her two youngest daughters Isabel (Tib) and Jane. The only domestic glimpse we have of them is that they used to spin flax, at a time when it was still considered a suitable occupation for ladies. They eventually left Hollow Oak and went to live at Woodcroft in Haverthwaite, dying there in 1866 and 1865 respectively. The family had sold its interests in the Ironworks at Backbarrow and elsewhere in 1818.
In 1838 James Penny Machell bought part of an orchard from a neighbour in order to build a new coach-house and stables and other outbuildings. It is not known where the old stables and barns had been, though some must have existed, perhaps they were felt to be too near the house. The eaves of the new ones were allowed to hang over into the unsold part of the orchard (which must have been acquired at a later date) but spouts were to be put up so that water should not fall into it. The new coach-house has been drastically altered and converted into a house in recent times.
James Penny Machell, who was High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1826, was succeeded by his eldest son John Penny Machell (1801-1884). The second son James became a clergyman and was the first incumbent of the new church at Haverthwaite which was consecrated in 1825 and to which the family were generous benefactors in succeeding years. The land on which the school was built was given by them and both Isabella and Jane of Woodcroft left money to it and to the church. The Reverend James went on to be vicar of Egton, but was living "without cure" at Hollow Oak when he died in 1864.
After Cambridge and a European tour with his brother John Penny Machell married Eliza, the daughter of Sir Robert Dallas, the Lord Chief Justice, who had been counsel for Warren Hastings when charges were brought against him in 1787. Their only child Justina Madeline was born at his house, Quernmore Park, Lancaster in 1838 and they lived at Hollow Oak until John Penny succeeded to Penny Bridge Hall when his mother died in 1861; Justina followed her father there. With her death in 1900 the direct line of Machells descended from John of Grange in the early 17th century came to an end. The heir was a cousin Edward John Machell (1839-1920) the great grandson of Thomas of Aynsome and the estate remains in the possession of his family.
The census returns of the 19th century are disappointing in regard to Hollow Oak. The family was evidently absent in 1841, with only servants being recorded and the house does not appear at all in the Census of 1851. There were servants again in 1861, a housekeeper, and a housemaid, a gardener and a groom.

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