The Marton Family
Capernwray Hall was originally home to the Marton family. The family also owned a lot of the surrounding land in the area and George Marton was Lord Lieutenant of the County of Lancaster in the early part of the 19th century — a position of some importance as his coat of arms in the Lancaster Castle might indicate. For anyone visiting the centre of Lancaster, three parallel streets at right angles to the Town Hall may have little significance but they are in fact named after George and his wife – George Street, Lucy Street, and Marton Street.
The Stately Home – Servants, Silver, Snooker
Edward Sharpe was the architect, and in about 1820, Capernwray Hall became the stately home of the Marton family, built at that time for a family of 5 with 30 servants. The whole estate was much larger than just Capernwray Hall, comprising some 27 or so farms in the area, plus Borwick Hall just down the road.
In those days what is now the lounge was the library, with floor-to-ceiling books; the library was their lounge; rooms 19, 20, and 21 were servants’ quarters, the laundry area was a game kitchen where pheasant and hare were hung up high over stone sinks, and part of what is now room 32 and the cleaning store was where butter was churned.
What is now the Quiet Lounge was a billiard room (you can make out the outline of the square stone slabs on the floor where the billiard table stood) and the gentlemen who played snooker would retire through the oak-panelled door at the far end to the smoking room which is now a study.
The Bookshop served well as the servants’ dining room as the butler could not only keep all the silver in the safe in what is now the inner office, but could see when the guests arrived at the front door with their coach and horses. Horses that were owned by the family were kept in what is now the Beehive and of course in the Stable (hence the name). The hay loft was immediately above, behind the circular windows in the courtyard.
One medium-sized family residence for auction
During World War II, the Marton family was reduced to just Mrs. Marton who lived alone at Capernwray, along with a few servants. Into the Town Hall at Lancaster on the day of the auction in 1946 came a reluctant Mrs Joan Thomas, little knowing or realising the full significance that day was going to have for her, her family, and for thousands of people from every corner of the world. Her Bible reading that morning had been Psalm 31 (note v.8).
A new purpose
Having engaged in many evangelistic campaigns with men like Tom Rees and Alan Redpath in the years before the war, Major Ian Thomas was at that time serving with the British Army in Germany. Longing for a place where young people could come for not only a good holiday, but somewhere they could hear clearly the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives, he sent a telegram to his wife, asking her to go and bid for Capernwray Hall at the auction. Being, as Mrs. Thomas said, an obedient wife, she attended the auction with a friend of the family who would bid on her behalf. Together they scraped together a few war savings and when the bidding reached the limit they had previously agreed, for just a minimal additional amount, Capernwray Hall became the property of the Thomas family. Psalm 31 was read again that evening with particular emphasis on the last verse, “Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your hearts all ye that hope in the Lord.”
The story goes on…
Since then, the feeding of the five thousand has been lived out. Many, many people have been fed by the Bread of Life ministered through Torchbearers. Through Capernwray’s doors have come thousands of people including helicopter pilots, ex-nuns, jockeys, future diplomats, nurses, computer programmers, plumbers, teachers, carpet layers — people from every land, background, and tongue… and the story goes on…