Penrhyn Castle Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 222 PENR
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      latin, english french
  • Physical Description
      21 linear metres Manuscripts 59-61, 205, 1410-1452, 1633, 1637, 2209, 2702 and 2768 are in poor condition.

Scope and Content

A collection of 3040 items relating to the Penrhyn estate and its successive owners: the Griffith, Williams, Pennant and Douglas-Pennant families. It comprises, family papers of the Griffiths, 1340-1627, represented by Gruffydd ap Gwilym ap Griffith, William ap Griffith ap William, Sir William Griffith, first Chamberlain of North Wales; William Griffith, Sir Rees Griffith and Piers Griffith; the Williams family together with the Warburtons and Yonges, 1647-1675, represented by Archbishop John Williams, Sir Griffith Williams, Sir Robert Williams, Thomas Warburton and Anne (nee Williams), his wife and Sir Walter Yonge and Gwen (nee Williams), his wife; Pennant family and Douglas-Pennant family, 1785-1852, represented by Richard, first Baron Penrhyn, G. H. Dawkins Pennant and E. G. Douglas-Pennant; deeds relating to properties in Aber, Abercain, Bangor, Bodfaen, Bodfaeo, Bodidda, Bodfaon, Bryncelyn, Caernarfon, Caernechan, Cororion, Cwnllannerch, Dinorwig, Dwygyfylchi, Dyffryn Mymbyr, Elernion, Gogarth, Gweredros, Llandygai, Llanfair-is-gaer, Llanllechid, Llanrhychwyn, Llechan, Maenol Bangor, Maenol Padric, Mellteyrn, Nefyn, Peniarth Isa, Penmachno, Pennant Wernogion, Rhiwledin, Trebodrydd, Trecastell, Tre-faes, Tregwyr-rhyddion, Tremorfa, Trewarth and Uwch-heli, co. Caernarfon; Amlwch, Beaumaris, Bodfa, Bodylgadw, Buarth Brech, Castell Bwlch-gwyn, Cefnburwyn, Cerriggwyddyl, Clorach, Conysiog-Lys, Crymlyn Heilin, Dinsylwy Frenin, Gwredog, Heneglwys, Hirdre-faig, Llanddyfnan, Llangoed, Llansadwrn, Lledwigan-Llys, Llwydiarth Esgob, Mathafarn Eithaf, Mathafarn Wion, Newborough, Penhesgyn, Penmynydd, Pentraeth, Penhwnllys, Perthgyr, Porthaethwy, Porthaml, Tirgarw, Trefdraeth, Trefelyas, Treforion, Trysglwyn, Trysglwyn Ednyfed, Ynyslwyd and Ysgeifiog, co. Anglesey; and in Bala and Erethlyn, co. Merioneth and Gwylgre, co. Flint, 1288-1879; papers in a controversy over crown rights in the parish of Llandygai, 1811-1816 and over boundaries in the parishes of Llandygai, Llanddeiniolen and Bangor, 1819-1845; a group of 416 papers, including correspondence, reports and accounts relating to the extensive sugar plantations owned by the Pennant family in Jamaica, 1709-1880; rentals, surveys and valuations of the Penrhyn estate, 1413-1860; maps and plans, 1823-1868; letter-books, 1848-1900; accounts, estate and household, 1830-1877; and papers concerning the early stages and later development of the Penrhyn slate quarry, including agreements, leases, accounts and reports, 1738-1883. The additional group of manuscripts includes deeds relating to properties in Cerrigceinwen and Llangristiolus, co. Anglesey; Llaniestyn, Aber-erch, Conwy, Dolwyddelan, Eglwys-Rhos, Gyffin, Llanberis, Llangelynnin, Llangystennin, Llanllyfni, Llysfaen, Penmachno, co. Caernarfon; Cerrigydrudion, Corwen, Eglwysbach, Gwytherin, Llanefydd, Llanrwst, Llansanffraid, Ysbyty Ifan, co. Denbigh; Beddgelert, Dolgellau, Ffestiniog, Llandecwyn, Llanelltud, Llanfachreth, Llanfawr, Llanfihangel, Llanfrothen, Llangower, Llanuwchllyn, Mallwyd, Mawddwy, Talyllyn, Towyn, Trawsfynydd, co. Merioneth; Darowen, co. Montgomery; Ocle Pitchard, co. Hereford; the counties of Surrey and Worcester and the City of London; rentals, 1756-1890; accounts, 1735-1878; maps and plans, ca.1760-1932; and miscellaneous papers, which include papers regarding sporting rights. The further additional papers, include surveys and plans, 1768; rentals, 1791-1848; and letter books, 1900-1945.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Griffith family of Penrhyn Castle, was perhaps the first in North Wales to emerge as the owners of a modern landed estate. They claimed descent from Ednyfed Fychan through his son Tudur. Documentary evidence supports the testimony of the pedigrees that the descendants of Tudur ab Ednyfed Fychan were settled at Nant in Englefield, and Llangynhafal, in the vale of Clwyd. Far from being settled at Penrhyn early in the fourteenth century, the Griffith family continued to live in north-east Wales until the close of the century. However, the three marriage alliances during that century brought them substantial property in Caernarvonshire and Anglesey.

Gwilym ap Griffith Heilyn, third in descent from Tudur ab Ednyfed, who died ca.1370, married Eva, ca.1340, daughter of Griffith ap Tudur ap Madog ap Iarddur. Her father and brother Gwilym ap Griffith of Llaniestyn, Anglesey were landowners of some note in Englefield and in various townships in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire. She was probably one of the co-heirs of her brother in 'Gafael Iarddur' in Bodfaeo, co. Caernarvon in 1352, and it was almost certainly this marriage which brought Cochwillan to her husband's family, together with the share of her family's lands in Anglesey. By her brother, Gwilym ap Griffith's will, dated 1375, her son, Griffith ap Gwilym inherited further lands in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire.

Griffith ap Gwilym (d.1405), married Generys, ca.1360, daughter and heiress of Madog ap Goronwy Fychan who was third in descent from Ednyfed Fychan through his son, Goronwy, ancestor of the Tudors. She brought to her husband lands at Gwredog in Anglesey, together with her share of the family lands at 'Gafael Goronwy ab Ednyfed', in the township of Cororion in Caernarvonshire. 'Gafael Goronwy ab Ednyfed' was the nucleus of the Penrhyn estate and the whole 'Gafael' corresponds roughly to the present Penrhyn demesne, or park. This marriage marks the first link between the Griffith family and Penrhyn, but Griffith ap Gwilym lived throughout his life in north-east Wales.

The personal connection of the family with Anglesey and Caernarvonshire began with the eldest and second son of Griffith ap Gwilym. The eldest son of Griffith and Generys, Gwilym ap Griffith (d.1431), married his kinswoman, Morfydd, ca.1390. She was the daughter of Goronwy ap Tudur of Penmynydd. Gwilym thereby gained a further share in 'Gafael Goronwy ab Ednyfed' (Penrhyn) as well as lands in Anglesey. In 1389, Gwilym and his younger brother, Robin ap Griffith, were granted by their father his lands in Caernarvonshire and Anglesey and it was probably this step which led to their firm establishment in the area. Lands in Bodfaeo were given to Robin, but Gwilym was the real founder of the Penrhyn family. His wife's dowry had strengthened his hold on 'Gafael Goronwy ab Ednyfed' (Penrhyn) but his main possessions were in the commotes of Menai and Dindaethwy in Anglesey. From 1391 to 1397 he held various crown offices in Anglesey, and was Sheriff in 1396-1397. His wife's uncles were supporters of their cousin Owain Glyndwr, and although Gwilym himself was more cautious, he was forced by family and other circumstances to throw in his lot with the rebels in about 1402. However, Gwilym made his peace with the King before November 1407, when he was restored to his forfeited possessions. Additionally, he was granted the lands of twenty-seven Anglesey supporters of Glyndwr, who had probably died in the rebellion. By 1410, he had also been granted the forfeited lands of his wife's uncles, Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudur. The will of Gwilym ap Griffith, dated 1430, refers to lands which he had obtained from his Tudor kinsmen. The land of his brother in law, Tudur ap Goronwy, also appears to have come into his hands. Gwilym ap Griffith succeeded thanks to his father's marriage, as well as his own and also profited from the effects of the Glyndwr rebellion, to gain control of most of the patrimony of the Tudors. Some time after 1405, Gwilym married for a second time, Joan, daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton, Cheshire. His son by his first wife only inherited his mother's property at Penmynydd. When Gwilym ap Griffith died in 1431, he left his great possessions in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire to his son by his second wife.

Between 1431 and 1531, the son, grandson and great-grandson of Gwilym ap Griffith held the Penrhyn estate and added to it. They succeeded in allying themselves with prominent English houses, especially the Stanleys, which began with the marriage of Gwilym ap Griffith with Joan Stanley of Hooton. Gwilym Fychan, the son of that marriage, married before 1447, Ales daughter and heiress of Sir Richard Dalton of Althorp, Northants. The marriage reflects the Stanley connection, as Ales Dalton was the granddaughter of Isabel de Pilkington by her second marriage, whose daughter by Thomas de Lathom, her first husband, brought Lathom and Knowsley to the Stanleys. Gwilym Fychan married secondly, Gwenllian, daughter of Iorwerth ap David. Robert, his eldest son by this marriage, was the ancestor of the family of Griffith of Plas Newydd, Anglesey, and Llanfair-is-gaer, Caernarvonshire. Edmund the second son founded the estate of Carreg-lwyd, Anglesey. His son and heir from his first marriage was William Griffith (ca.1445-1505/6). He is not always easy to distinguish in the documents from his father. He married firstly Joan Troutbeck, widow of Sir William Butler of Bewsey, Cheshire, whose mother was Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Stanley, first Baron Stanley. William Griffith was therefore a nephew by marriage to Thomas, first Earl of Derby, which was another confirmation of the Stanley connection. However, he had other influential connections also. His second wife was Elizabeth Grey, grand-daughter of Reginald, 3rd Baron Grey of Ruthin and first cousin to John Grey, Lord Ferrers of Groby. This marriage would have brought him into personal contact with the powerful Greys and Woodvilles. His son William Griffith (ca.1480-1531) married firstly Jane, daughter of Sir Thomas Stradling of St. Donats, Glamorgan and his wife, Joan, daughter of Thomas Mathew of Radyr, Glamorgan. His second wife was Jane, daughter of John Puleston 'Hen' (the Old) of Bersham. William, the eldest son by this marriage, founded the family of Griffith in Trefarthen. William Griffith's (ca.1480-1531) eldest son William, died young. He was therefore succeeded by his second son, Edward Griffith (b.18 May 1511). Edward Griffith had married Jane, daughter of Sir John Puleston of Bersham, but died of 'the flux' in Dublin, 11 March 1540. His death precipitated a long dispute between Rhys Griffith, his younger brother, who claimed the estates as heir male, and John Puleston, brother of Jane Puleston, acting for his sister and her three children. Puleston asked Cromwell for the wardship of the children, and offered him D40 for his good offices. Rhys Griffith complained that while he was in Ireland 'on the king's service', his sister in law and her father had ransacked Penrhyn, leaving 'nothing but the bare walls'. The Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Court of Wards made an arbitration in 1542, however, the problems involved were still unsettled in 1559. Even after Rhys Griffith had died, in 1580, Sir Edward Bagnal, who had married one of Edward Griffith's daughters, was still pursuing his wife's claims in the court of wards. Rhys Griffith had married firstly, in ca.1526, Margaret, daughter of Morris ap John of Clenennau. By this marriage, there were five sons and two daughters. Secondly, he married, ca.1551, Jane, daughter of Dafydd ap William ap Griffith of Cochwillan. He married for a third time in ca.1566, Catherine, daughter of Piers Mostyn of Talacre. By this marriage there were two sons, Piers and William. Rhys was knighted at the coronation of Edward VI. He died 30 July 1580 and was succeeded by Piers Griffith, his eldest son by the third marriage. During Piers Griffith's lifetime the estate passed by purchase into the possession of John Williams of the kindred house of Williams of Cochwillan.

The Williams family of Cochwillan descended from the same stock as Griffith of Penrhyn, and the founder of the family was Robin ap Griffith, brother of the Gwilym ap Griffith, who established the Penrhyn fortunes. Cochwillan and the Caernarvonshire property was purchased ca.1620, by the cousin of Henry Williams of Cochwillan, Archbishop John Williams (1582-1650), and he acquired the Penrhyn estate about the same time. On the death of Archbishop John Williams in 1650, the joint estates passed to his nephew, Griffith Williams (d.1663), son of Robert Williams of Conway. He married Gwen, daughter of Hugh (Gwyn) Bodwrda, an alliance, which was strengthened in the next generation by the marriage of their daughter to her cousin, John, grandson of Hugh Gwyn of Bodwrda. Griffith Williams was created a baronet in 1658 by Cromwell and by Charles II in 1661. He died in 1663 and was succeeded by his son Sir Robert Williams (ca.1627-1680), 2nd Bart. He married firstly, Jane, daughter of Sir John Glynne of Hawarden in 1652. Secondly, he married Frances, in 1671, widow of Colonel Whyte of Friars (Beaumaris), daughter of Sir Edward Barkham, Bart. Sir Robert Williams was succeeded by his two sons, Sir John Williams (d.1682), 3rd Bart., and Sir Griffith Williams (d.1684), 4th Bart., who died without heirs. The baronetcy passed to Hugh Williams of Marl, third son of Sir Griffith Williams, 1st Baronet. Penrhyn and Cochwillan went to Frances, eldest daughter of Sir Robert Williams, who in turn, left them jointly to her two sisters : Anne, who married Thomas Warburton of Winnington, Cheshire; and Gwen, who married Sir Walter Yonge of Escot, Devon. Between 1765 and 1785 a Richard Pennant succeeded through marriage and purchase in reuniting the moieties of the estate.

The Pennant family fortunes were founded on the wealth of the West Indies. Giffard Pennant migrated west and bought extensive lands in Jamaica before his death in 1677. His son, John Pennant married Bonella Hodges in 1734 which resulted in the merger of two estates raising sugar in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. John Pennant reaped further blessings from the will of his brother Samuel in 1749. It was John's son Richard, born around 1737, who married Ann Susannah, daughter and heiress of General Hugh Warburton, owner of Winnington Hall, Cheshire, and the Warburton moiety of the Penrhyn Estate, on 6 December 1765. On the death of his father in law in 1771, he succeeded to Winnington Hall and the Warburton moiety of the Penrhyn Estate. It was ten years after this that he succeeded his father to all of the Jamaica property. He also continued with his father's negotiations for the purchase of the Yonge moiety of Penrhyn Castle and succeeded in completing the purchase in 1785. In the same year he started as a co-operative, the Penrhyn Slate Quarry. In 1790 at Pen-y-bryn he built Port Penrhyn, in order to export the slate to distant places. Between 1800 and 1801, he built the Penrhyn Tramway, the first private horse drawn rail-road in North Wales, and amongst the earliest in the whole of Britain, to transport the slate from the quarry to the port. In the 1790's also, he built a road down to Port Penrhyn and nine miles towards Capel Curig. At Capel Curig in 1803 he built a hotel called the Royal Hotel. Also, in 1797 he had the Penrhyn mansion at Llandygai modernised. In 1808 he died, aged 70 and with his death the male line came to an end. Richard Pennant was undoubtedly a powerful personality with great achievements to his credit.

George Hay Dawkins, cousin of Richard Pennant succeeded to the estate. Winnington went to the widow of Richard Pennant. George Hay Dawkins in the same year as he succeeded to the estate, assumed, by Royal Licence, the surname and arms of Pennant and added them to his own. On July 25 1807, he married the Honourable Sophia Mary, daughter of the Rt Hon Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden. George Hay Dawkins-Pennant died without male issue in 1840 and was succeeded by his eldest daughter and co-heiress, Juliana Isabella Mary Dawkins-Pennant. In August 1833 she had married Colonel Edward Gordon Douglas. He in 1841 assumed by Royal Licence also, the surname and arms of Pennant. In 1866, after being appointed Lord Lieutenant of Caernarvonshire, he was created first baron of Penrhyn of Llandygai, by Queen Victoria. In 1867-1868, he replaced the 1800-1801 Penrhyn Tramway with the new Penrhyn Railway. He died March 31, 1886 aged 85. He was succeeded to the estate and title by his eldest son, George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant, 2nd Baron Penrhyn of Llandygai. It was during his lifetime that the great strike at Penrhyn Quarry occurred from 1900-1903. He died March 10, 1907, and was succeeded by his eldest and only son from his first marriage, Edward Sholto Douglas-Pennant.

In 1952, Penrhyn Castle and a substantial portion of the Penrhyn Estate were accepted by the Treasury in lieu of death duties, and vested in the National Trust.


According to subject then chronologically. The Penrhyn Castle Additional Manuscripts have been left, as far as possible, in the order in which they were received.

Access Information


Open to all users

Acquisition Information

Deposited March 1939, by Lord Penrhyn and in February and September 1966 by Lady Janet Douglas-Pennant.

Other Finding Aids

Two catalogues at item or series level

Separated Material

See index of National Library of Wales Handlist of Manuscripts, volumes I and II under Pennant, Penrhyn Quarry, Griffith and Williams; volume III, under Pennant and Penrhyn Slate Quarry; and volume IV, under Pennant, Penrhyn Castle and Penrhyn Quarry.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright conditions apply. Reprographics made at the discretion of the archivist.


A further deposit has already been made but is uncatalogued.

Related Material

Bangor Manuscripts, 3861-3862, 5868, 7368, 10411, 11556, 13510, 14695-14699, 14857, 22871, 26524, 27565, 28482-28483, 28790, 29355, 32284, 32690-32695, 34672, 36356A-36357A, 37055-37123. Penrhyn B.R.A.


Lindsey, Jean, 'The Pennants and Jamaica 1665-1808; Part I: The Growth and Organisation of the Pennant Estates', Caernarvonshire Historical Society Transactions, Volume 43, 1982, pp. 37-82. Lindsey, Jean, 'The Pennants and Jamaica 1665-1808; Part II: The Economic and Social Development of the Pennant Estates in Jamaica', Caernarvonshire Historical Society Transactions, Volume 44, 1983, pp. 59-96. Hague, Douglas B., 'Penrhyn Castle', Caernarvonshire Historical Society Transactions, Volume 20, 1959, pp. 27-45. Douglas Pennant, Edmond Hugh, The Welsh families of Penrhyn: a genealogical history of the Griffith family ... and the Williams family ... (Bangor, 1985). Douglas Pennant, Edmond Hugh, The Pennants of Penrhyn: A Genealogical History of the Pennant Family of Clarendon, Jamaica, and Penrhyn Castle (Gwasg Ffrancon, Bethesda, 1982). Douglas Pennant, Edmond Hugh, The second Lord Penrhyn (1836-1907): a study of the political career the Rt. Hon. George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant, second Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai, Thesis (M.Phil.), University of Wales, Bangor: Welsh History, 1994. The Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940, under the Auspices of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, (London, 1959). Burke, Sir Bernard, The Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, the Privy Council, Knightage and Companionage, (Pall Mall, London, 1913). J. E. Griffith, Pedigrees of Anglesey and Carnarvonshire Families; with their Collateral Branches in Denbighshire, Merionethshire and other parts, (Horncastle, 1914), pp. 184-185. Access Points