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Legacy in Wales

The Pennants had been reaping the profits from their Jamaican estates for over 100 years before they invested in North Wales. When Richard Pennant, 1st Lord Penrhyn, inherited Penrhyn estate on his father's death in 1781, he became one of the largest landowners in Wales. 

Richard's heirs added further to the estate, purchasing land in the Conwy valley and in Northamptonshire, along with a prestigious house in London.

The Pennants brought with them from Jamaica not only huge amounts of capital, but the knowledge of decades in managing large enterprises dependent on industrial and estate management, export, credit and commercial expertise. This experience enabled them to turn Penrhyn into the one of the most successful landed estates in Wales by the end of the 19th century. 

Penrhyn estate

At their height, the Pennants owned aound 70,000 acres of land (28,300 ha), of which around 45,000 (18,200 ha) were in Caernarfonshire (now part of the county of Gwynedd). Their Caernarfonshire estate included nearly 700 tenanted farms and just under 900 workers' houses.

The Pennants invested widely in developing Penrhyn estate, building roads, hotels, schools, villages and churches. They were major employers in the area, providing jobs for local people as estate workers, tradesmen, foresters, and gamekeepers. The castle itself employed around 50 domestic staff, 10 stable boys and 50 gardeners. Thousands more were employed at the family's industrial sites of Penrhyn slate quarry and Port Penrhyn. 

Penrhyn quarry

Richard Pennant developed Penrhyn slate quarry from the 1780s. The quarry quickly grew into a massive enterprise, supplying slates that roofed the growing towns of industrial Britain and prestigious buildings around the globe. The quarry employed 3,000 men at its height at the end of the 19th century.

penrhyn slate quarry

Port Penrhyn

The port is located on the Menai Strait at the mouth of the river Cegin. It is 6 miles from Penrhyn quarry. Slates were originally transported to the port by horse and cart. From 1801, horse-drawn wagons were used on an iron narrow gauge railway. Steam engines were brought in for use on a new narrow gauge line during the 1870s. 

The port was an active site. It had several administrative offices, a foundry, a number of lime kilns and a writing slate factory.

port penrhyn lithograph



The family's wealth, initially from slavery and latterly from slate, enabled the Pennants to live at the highest level of British society. Adding to their properties, they bought a large house in Belgravia, London, along with another landed estate, Wicken Park in Northamptonshire. By the time it was built, Penrhyn Castle stood at the centre of a large, well-established international operation founded on Jamaican sugar and slavery. 

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