School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology

Research on the Penrhyn Family and Penrhyn Estate

Biographical note

Dr Wil Griffith, Professor Duncan Tanner, funded by the Laspen Trust with support from Edmund Douglas-Pennant

The Second Lord Penrhyn

The archives of Bangor University holds a huge collection of papers relating to the history of the Penrhyn family and the Penrhyn Estate, which dominated Bangor and the surrounding area for several centuries. The second Baron Penrhyn, George Sholto Douglas Pennant, has become famous for his role in the Penrhyn lock-out of 1900-1903, an industrial conflict that attracted attention across the UK at the turn of the last century. His quarries once supplied slate to much of the western world.

Modern historians at Bangor have been to the fore in discussing this major event in labour history (1), and its implications for local politics.(2) However, the papers have also been used for a variety of other projects, from estate management and family history to the role of slave profits in funding the Pennants industrial ventures.(3) Yet there is still a great more deal to be found in a collection that extends to hundreds of boxs and which covers the period from the 14th to the 20th centuries.(4)

At the moment, Dr Griffith, Professor Tanner and Dr Thomas are exploring some aspects of the Pennants political activities in the later 19th century, whilst Dr Thomas produces a brief guide to an important but as yet uncatalogued section of the archive. The Pennants reputation rests almost entirely on their activities during the lock-out. We intend to ask whether the family's political power rested on their economic might alone, or whether it reflected a degree of positive support within the local community. In doing so, we will explore part of the neglected history of Conservatism within Wales and ask whether traditional ideas about the radicalism of Wales and its people are myth or reality. We intend to build on this and examine the impact of the family and the estate on the area, across a period stretching from before the Industrial Revolution to the present day.

We hope to post primary information from the archive on this site, along with information about the estate, its relations with the local community and about research in progress.


  1. R Merfyn Jones, The North Wales Quarrymen 1874-1922 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1981)
  2. Cyril Parry, The Radical Tradition in Welsh Politics (Hull: University of Hull, 1970)
  3. Kaeko Ishikawa, Land management and land sales on the Penrhyn Estate during the 1920s, University of Wales (Bangor) MA thesis 2000; E H Douglas-Pennant, The second Lord Penrhyn (1836-1907): a study of the political career of the Rt Hon. George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant, second Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai, University of Wales (Bangor) M.Phil thesis 1994
  4. For some examples of this material, J Rowland Jones, The development of the Penrhyn Estate up to 1431', University of Wales (Bangor) MA thesis 1955; A D Carr, Gwilym ap Gruffydd and the rise of the Penrhyn estate, Welsh History Review, 15 (1990)


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