The 18th-century heir who transformed the Penrhyn estate by his agricultural improvements and successfully developed the slate quarries
It is an accepted fact that the wealth inherited by Richard Pennant on the death of his father in 1781 came from the sugar trade in the West Indies. Later combined with a further fortune gained from the slate quarries, this gave rise to the term ‘Sugar and Slate’ for the sources of the Pennant family’s wealth.
However, it is less well known that after inheriting the Penrhyn estate Richard Pennant greatly improved the agricultural practices on what is basically a mountainous area.
The slate industry was to transform the fortunes of the Pennant family once again. Richard Pennant took control of the quarry management by calling in all the previous leases. He improved the road from Nant Ffrancon and developed Port Penrhyn, in order to export the slate quarried at Penrhyn.
Richard Pennant died without children and the estate passed to his cousin, George Hay Dawkins, who adopted the name Pennant. George Hay Dawkins-Pennant employed the architect Thomas Hopper to transform the old hall into the neo-Norman castle that we see today.
George Sholto Douglas-Pennant presided over the estate and Penrhyn Quarry during ‘Streic Fawr Penrhyn’, the Great Strike of 1900–1903. This became the longest industrial conflict in the UK, and the event still resonates today in the heart and minds of people in Bethesda.