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The History of Pennants

Pennants is an isolated community in the North of Clarendon, Jamaica.

In 2007 the BBC produced 2 documentaries telling the stories of the historical links between the Pennant family from North Wales. These programmes are still online CLICK HERE (only available in the UK) but the trailer is open to all CLICK HERE

The Mayor of Clarendon, Cllr Milton Brown, was interviewed, and Edmund Douglas Pennant was also interviewed:

Marking the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade

Cash call for 'slavery's legacy'.    22 03 2007  BBC 

A mayor in Jamaica has called on Wales to compensate his country for the legacy of poverty he says has been left by the slave trade.

Clarendon mayor Milton Brown told a BBC Wales documentary that countries involved in the trade had a "moral responsibility" to help those affected.

Clarendon was once dominated by a Welsh slave-owning family.

A descendant of the family - originally from Flintshire - has now offered to make a contribution to the community.

The mayor argues that slavery has left a lasting legacy in the Caribbean, whereas Wales made long-term gains in the growth of industries like copper and iron, which were boosted by slavery.

Mr Brown said: "All those countries that were involved in slavery have a moral responsibility to have some form of restoration [compensation].

"Wales being one of those countries, I would expect them to take the necessary measures to have some form of restoration done."

He added that he thought education would be the "best avenue for restitution".

The Pennant family owned large slave-run sugar plantations in the Clarendon area of Jamaica.

They used the money they made to buy the Penrhyn Estate in Gwynedd and develop the north Wales slate industry.

Edmund Douglas Pennant, a descendant of the family, said his admiration for his ancestor Richard Pennant, the father of the north Wales slate industry, was tainted by his involvement in slavery.

Moral debt

He said: "What he did by today's standards was appalling, but you have got to remember he was a man of his time.

"Slavery was one of the greatest crimes that ever happened in history. It was far worse than what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s."

Mr Pennant said there was a moral duty to make reparations.

He said: "Morally there is a debt, but practically on economic lines, you can't do it because so many generations have gone by."

But Mr Pennant has suggested funding a project in Clarendon though a charitable trust and has been put in touch with Mayor Brown by the programme makers.

As well as boosting the wealth of a number of Welsh families, researchers believe the slave trade was important in the industrial development of Wales.

Chris Evans, from the University of Glamorgan, said: "There are very clear links between the Swansea copper industry and slavery because it's a good that was in demand on the African coast among African slave traders.

"In north Wales, the development of the Parys mountain mine is closely connected to the whole issue of Atlantic shipping and the slave trade because so much of the copper that is being made there is destined for the sheathing of naval vessels.

"The iron industry has very clear roots in slave enterprise.

"If we think of Merthyr Tydfil, the great starting point of the modern Iron industry in Wales, the key figure is Anthony Bacon who made his money in Atlantic commerce shipping slaves among other things."

Wales and Slavery: The Untold Story is on BBC2 Wales and BBC 2W on Thursday, 22 March at 1900 GMT.


The area now called the Pennants District, is the land of the indigenous people who inhabited these islands for centuries before the Spanish captured the island.

At present we do not know much about this early time, but in 1654 the British forces captured the island now called Jamaica from the Spanish. Some historians know lots about this time, but lots of other folks don't, so we hope to engage the local community in some research.

The invading forces were under orders from Oliver Cromwell who had successfully led the Parliamentarian forces in the English Civil War. Soldiers were dispatched to take Haiti, but when that failed they sailed on to Jamiaca, which was still a prize for Britain. 

The 'Master of Horse' of the invading forces was a Welsh soldier called Gifford Pennant,  and he was given duties to protect the island from a Spanish backlash. However then power changed and the Monarchy was reinstated. This meant it was unwise for Parlimentarian, Gifford Pennant, to return to Wales. Times in Britian (which was England and its Welsh colony, Wales) were volatile. King Charles I had been executed by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarians after seven years of fighting between the two sides had claimed the lives of thousands, and ultimately, took the life of the King himself. 

Giffard Pennant was a Parliamentarian, so when Oliver Cromwell died from natural causes in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, he was left on the wrong side, as quickly the Royalists returned to power along with King Charles II in 1660. Wikipedea says that and they dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded the body of Oliver Cromwell.  These were not nice times!

Giffard Pennant was fortunate to be given / granted some land grants in Clarendon, in recognition for his efforts, but as returning to Britain was not a possibility, he married and had a family and developed plantations in the areas that became know as Pennants, where a great house was built and where Gifford Pennant, his family and descendants are buried, and Denbigh, where the current Denbigh Showground is today, Cupuis (now Kupis) and Cote's. 

Several generations of the Pennant family lived in Jamaica, probably in the Great House in Pennants, and developed their plantations to create a great deal of wealth. 

Then in 1737, John Pennant and his wife Bonella decided to travel to Wales to return to their family roots in North Wales. Their first son, Richard Pennant, was either born during the journey or soon after. He became the 1st Baron Penrhyn, a wealthy entrepeneur and an anti Abolitionist MP in Hampshire and then Liverpool. 

The following information below is taken from The Legacies of the British Slave Trade data base  CLICK HERE  This site has all the records of the compensation payments made in 1835 to slave owners.

We can edit this and will present it more clearly: 


Richard was the son of John Pennant and his wife Bonella nee Hodges. He married Anne Susannah Warburton in Bath Abbey, 06/12/1765 and through her acquired a half share of Penrhyn estate in North Wales (where he developed the slate quarry). He bought the remaining half in 1785.

He became MP for Petersfield in Hampshire from 1761-1767 and then an MP in Liverpool from 1767-1780 and 1784-1790.

He spoke repeatedly in the House of Commons in defence of the slave trade.

He reportedly left debts of £150,000 on his death in 1808 which was paid off by the sale of Winnington Hall and a mortgage on the Penrhyn Estate.

He was Chairman of the Standing Committee of 'West India Planters and Merchants in London' from 1785-1808 where he "represented the merchant group politically and the planter group personally." (Franklin, p. 81)

Penrhyn became ‘the model of West India absentee plantership: a successful landlord in the colonies and at home, with enough money to rise to the top of society, or at least to an Irish peerage.’ (p. 81)

Richard Pennant died in 21st Jan 1808 and is buried ??

George Hay Dawkins Pennant 


Penrhyn Castle, Bangor, Caernarfonshire, North Wales, Wales


Jamaica Clarendon 3 (Pennant's) £4509 7S 3D [225 Enslaved]


Jamaica Clarendon 351 (Denbigh) £3904 17S 8D [215 Enslaved]


Jamaica Clarendon 362 (Cote's) £3204 3S 1D [167 Enslaved]


Jamaica Clarendon 4 (Kupuis) £3065 9S 2D [157 Enslaved]


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