The Bryn-y-Pys estate in the parishes of Overton, Bangor, Erbistock, Marchwiel and Ellesmere had been held by the Price family for several generations, but was sold by Francis Richard Price c.1850 to Edmund Ethelston. He was the eldest son of Rev. Charles Wickstead Ethelston of Uplyme Rectory, Devon, and Wickstead Hall, Cheshire, and Anne Peel, daughter of Robert Peel of Wallington Hall, Norfolk. In 1851 he adopted the surname Peel instead of that of Ethelston and was granted a royal licence to bear their arms quartered with his own. The Ethelstons had also acquired another estate in Llandrinio in Montgomeryshire, but it was Bryn-y-Pys which Edmund Peel made his main residence, employing John Douglas, the Chester architect, to re-model the house extensively in the first few years of his ownership. He eventually inherited both the family's Norfolk and Montgomeryshire estates, but by that time the Peels of Bryn-y-Pys had become well established as one of the leading families of the Maelor area, and continued to make their home there. The Ethelston family also owned properties in Cheshire, Devon, Shropshire and Montgomeryshire. According to the 1873 return of owners of land, Edmund Peel of Bryn-y-Pys owned an estimated 5,779 acres in Wales (all in Flintshire, Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire), with an estimated rental of £11,187. During the 20th Century, first the Norfolk estate, and later the Llandrinio properties, were sold. After the death of Major Hugh Peel in 1950, it was also decided that Bryn-y-Pys mansion could not be maintained. A large proportion of the contents were sold and the house was at first let, but quickly became so run down, that in 1955 it was finally agreed to demolish it. The nucleus of the estate continued to be run as an agricultural company.
No records of the estate prior to 1950 have survived in this collection and there are very few dating from before 1890, apart from a number of plans relating to alterations to the house, and a rental for the years 1851-3. However, from the mid-1890s to the 1930s, the records are more or less complete and reflect all aspects of life on the estate during that period. They are supplemented by a large amount of material concerned with local community activities. The Peel family or their agents were involved in almost every aspect of Overton village life, from running a cinema in the village hall and supporting local sports teams, to providing a district nurse and commanding the local Observer post. The collection includes a wealth of printed ephemera, tickets, programmes etc. relating to events throughour the Maelor and a large number of reports and accounts of various local charities supported by the Peels.
Apart from their interests in agricultural matters generally, which were natural to the owners of a fertile and productive landed estate, the Peel family were particularly involved in coursing and horse-breeding, the latter with some notable successes. Mrs. Peel's racehorse, Poethlyn, won the Grand National in both 1918 and 1919. The Bryn-y-Pys stud was well known and respected in racing circles and served owners from all over the country, particularly in its heyday in the first quarter of this century. Unfortunately, however, the estate was not rich enough to sustain expenditure on the upkeep of greyhounds, racehorses and expensive cars, the maintenance of Bryn-y-Pys mansion and the style of life to which the family had become accustomed in those years. Financial advisers' advice to drastically reduce expenditure on some of these items and sell off parts of the estate was disregarded. Immediately after the death of Major Hugh Peel, his great grand-daughter's trustees decided that the only way to safeguard her inheritance was to leave Bryn-y-pys mansion, sell the contents and concentrate resources on the land's agricultural potential.
As well as the main body of Bryn-y-pys estate material and Peel family papers which reflect all the interests and development mentioned above, the collection includes some records of other Ethelston family properties in Cheshire, Devon, Shropshire and Montgomeryshire and a few items relating to the Llanerch Panna estate, Penley, and the Rose Hill estate, Erbistock, for which the agent of the Bryn-y-pys estate also acted. Records relating to the Wallington Hall estate have been transferred to the Norfolk Record Office.
Listed as an appendix to the main schedule are a number of volumes and letters, chiefly those of Lady Charlotte Florentia Clive (1787-1866), second daughter of the 1st Earl of Powis and from 1817 the wife of Hugh, 3rd Duke of Northumberland. In 1830 she was appointed governess to Princess Victoria and there are a number of letters to her from the Princess (later Queen) covering the period 1828-66, from the Princess' mother, the Duchess of Kent, from other members of the royal family and from the Duke of Wellington. Also included are some copies of papers relating to Princess Victoria's education and a few letters of Lady Clive's sister, Lady Henrietta Williams Wynn. This connection accounts for the presence of these items at Bryn-y-pys as Lady Henrietta Williams Wynn's grand-daughter, Henrietta Margaret Williams of Bodelwyddan was the second wife of Edmund Peel (1826-1903).