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Penrhyn: Sugar & Slate Project

[These pages will provide updates on the progress of the Sugar and Slate Project by Sarah Vaughan and will highlight any interesting items or topics that arise whilst processing the material.]

[The recent update for the Project is now available! It can be accessed by clicking the tab ‘Recent Updates’ above.]

The Project Archivist – Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan working on documents from the Penrhyn estate collection“I have been working as an archivist for two years following the completion of my diploma at Aberystwyth University in 2013. I've graduated this Summer, having gained a Masters of Science degree in Archive Administration.

I started work as the project archivist on the Sugar and Slate Project in March 2015 and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. It is a privilege to be working on the Penrhyn papers, which is such an important and highly esteemed estate collection.”

Getting to know the Penrhyn Estate Collection

The Sugar and Slate Project at Bangor University is funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme. Sarah Vaughan is the Archivist who has been appointed Project Cataloguer and she will be responsible for the creation of a multi-level catalogue for the remaining unprocessed Penrhyn Papers held at the Archives and Special Collections.

It is estimated that there are 47 linear metres of uncatalogued Penrhyn material and over the next 20 months every item within every box will be studied in detail and provided with an item level description.

Once all the material has been catalogued, it will be necessary to look at the collection as a whole, to evaluate it, and review the collection arrangement. The final list will be inputted onto our online catalogue, CALMView, making the collection accessible to researchers far and wide.

During the latter stages of the project it is hoped that volunteers will become involved in the cleaning, repackaging and numbering of Penrhyn material.

Sarah Vaughan during a visit to the Penrhyn CastleCurrently the project is in its infancy. Sarah Vaughan has undertaken much research and background reading into the history of the family and the estate and has recently had the opportunity to visit the impressive Penrhyn Castle.

Sarah said : “The time that I have spent researching the rich history of the estate and the family has been invaluable and will be a sound basis for the cataloguing work that I will be doing over the next months. I have already identified a number of items which are quite special and every month I hope to showcase some of them via this website”.

Thus far, 34 boxes worth of archival material have been listed and a great range of interesting material has been unearthed. Many ledgers and legal papers reveal the vast extent of the estate and how it was administered. Letters and photographs have also been uncovered which reflect life at Penrhyn Castle on a more personal level.

Sarah’s August Update is now available on the website, by clicking the ‘Recent Updates’ tab above. Also you can contact Sarah directly at




The Latest News

APRIL 2017

The Sugar and Slate Project is now complete.

Over 3,500 items have been catalogued, numbered, re-packaged and boxed with some items having been cleaned. The catalogue for the Penrhyn Further Additional Collection is now available online and paper catalogues will be produced for use in the reading room very soon.


The Sugar and Slate Project is slowly drawing to a close, with Sarah Vaughan, our Project Archivist having worked her last day on the collection in November 2016.

Whilst all the cataloguing work is complete, our volunteers are busy re-numbering every single item and ensuring that they are packaged correctly.

                          Claudia and Louise re-numbering

Currently, the following series of the Penrhyn Castle Further Additional Papers (PFA) are available :


1.         Early deeds

2.         Deeds post 1800

3.         Bundles of deeds

4.         Rentals

5.         Jamaica

6.         Maps and plans

7.         Surveys and valuations

8.         Post 1800 Correspondence

9.         Post 1800 Printer Material (including translations of printed items)

10.       Post 1800 Financial Papers (including accounts, vouchers, cash books etc.

11.       Post 1800 Legal Documents

12.       Post 1800 Mixed Bundles

13.       Post 1800 Miscellaneous


Series PFA/14-21, listed below, will be open to the public soon.


14.         Estate administration

15.         Penrhyn Quarry

16.         Politics and electioneering

17.         Personal

18.         Patronage

19.         Events

20.         Printed Material


Adela Douglas Pennant (1858-1955)


Recently I have come across a very interesting scrap book containing various newspaper cuttings relating to musical concerts.


Also included in the box are a few remarkable images of members of the Penrhyn family. The star of the album, no doubt, is Adela Pennant, the daughter of Edward Gordon Douglas Pennant (1st Baron Penrhyn), 1800-1886, and Lady Maria Louisa Fitzroy (1818-1912). The image on the left shows her with two young ladies of the de Grey family and a small puppy!





Within the album I came across a small card that comprises of a handwritten Welsh poem dedicated to Adela Pennant. The poem by H. Jones (Glanvor), conveys the warmth felt towards Adela in the community as she is described as the “people’s favourite, worthy, kind and sincere”. It also appears that she could speak Welsh as well as sing in Welsh!


[May-June 2016 Update]

Jamaica Papers Now Available!

It’s a pleasure to inform you that the Jamaica papers are now available for consultation in the archives reading room.

In order to arrive at this stage, all 372 items in the collection needed re-numbering and re-boxing so that they correspond with the new catalogue. As you can see from the picture (on left)  , the work involved going through many boxes to find the items stored under their temporary catalogue number and then writing the final, permanent number on every individual document.

I must thank Elen Simpson who has helped me in the re-numbering process and Callum Parry our volunteer who has also helped to finish off re-numbering the last few boxes.

The Jamaica catalogue is now available online and forms part of the Penrhyn Castle Further Additional Catalogue. The series of Jamaica papers in highlighted in the image to the right and starts with the reference number PFA/5/1. The series is then divided into 6 categories:

  1. Deeds and Documents
  2. Correspondence
  3. Accounts
  4. Reports and Surveys
  5. Maps and Plans
  6. Printed Material


It is possible to view this catalogue on our website by clicking on the link below:

I am delighted that the Jamaica papers have been processed efficiently and that the re-numbering process went very smoothly. Now that the collection is available I hope the papers will be put to great use as they contain invaluable items for research.


[April Update]

April has been quite an intensive month. Specifically, I have been arranging the list of Jamaica papers on Excel and making it ready to be imported into our CALM database. This will be the first group of papers that will be available for researchers and should hopefully be a taster of things to come.

A lovely highlight of this month was to be invited to attend an open evening at Penrhyn Castle showcasing the work of three artists from the National Trust Arts Council Wales artist in residence programme. The three artists have spent a period of 6 months researching the history of the castle and the family.


Lisa Heledd Jones produced sound recordings with snippets of various stories relating to the Penrhyn strike. She also created a sign with a striking quote she constantly had come across during her research-

‘Mi gewch chi’ch crogi

Am ddwyn dafad oddi ar y mynydd

 Ond am ddwyn y mynydd

Mi gewch chi’ch gwneud yn Arglwydd’


‘You will be hanged

For stealing a sheep

From the mountain


But for stealing

The mountain you

Will be made a Lord’


Joanne Wardrop had created a video containing various clips relating to the concept of Penrhyn castle as a casino. She will also be creating a “casino-inspired” carpet to be placed in the grand hall next month. Her experience of working on the project is documented in her blog:

The third artist, Robyn Woolston, has created a video relating to the Penrhyn strike with interviews from members of the community and former quarryman.

This video can also be watched at:

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and of particular interest were the stories relating to the Penrhyn Quarry strike presented from the perspective of the local community. This was in stark contract with my work over the last year, since I have been seeing the strike through the eyes of Lord Penrhyn – by reading his correspondence on the subject and cataloguing the masses of press cuttings collated and annotated by him.

Two of the artists in residence have based their work on research conducted at the Archives and Special Collections of Bangor University. This experience has again highlighted the importance of the “Sugar and Slate Project” – the Penrhyn collection is a fascinating resource that can be used by all and interpreted in a variety of ways.

Lisa Heledd Jones wrote about her experience of visiting the archives on her project blog.

Robyn Woolston has also created a blog about her research, which includes her experience of looking at the Penrhyn Papers.


[March Update 2016]

The Penrhyn Estate Leases

Lately, I’ve been working my way through a large box, full to the brim with various leases belonging to the Penrhyn Estate.

The box contained 82 items and cataloguing each individual lease proved to be a lengthy process.


The leases range in date between 1872 and 1935 and relate to various properties in the parishes of Bangor, Caernarfon, Aber, Llandegai and Llanllechid. 


This image below shows the far-reaching boundary of the Penrhyn estate in 1890.

Leases are a great resource for anyone researching the history of a particular property and can even be of use to genealogists. Some leases contain the previous address of a tenant, which can be useful to track individuals and their families. Also, they will, in some cases, reveal the name of the previous tenant.

Some leases are endorsed with fantastic plans of the houses which were rented out by the Penrhyn estate. These plans can provide useful information regarding the boundaries of properties and any changes that have occurred over the years.











[January-February Update]

Caribbean Cataloguing: Progress on the Jamaica papers

January has proved to be a very busy month. Thus far, the Jamaica papers have all been processed and given a temporary catalogue description.

Included amongst these papers are correspondence, inventories and legal documents relating to the sugar plantations owned by the Pennants in Jamaica.

The involvement of the Pennants in the sugar trade in Jamaica began in 1658 when Gifford Pennant emigrated to Jamaica and established sugar plantations in the parish of Clarendon. The sugar plantations increased in size and wealth for the following centuries and this is seen in the Jamaica papers as they include documentation for various estates and properties owned by the Pennant family. For instance, Pennants estate, Denbigh estate, Kupius, Thomas River, Cotes Penn and Broom Hall.  Plans included in this update show the Denbigh estate above and the Pennants estate below.

The next stage in cataloguing the Jamaica papers is to review the descriptions created and arrange the items into relevant categories, such as, correspondence, documents, deeds, plans and inventories in order to ensure they are arranged to best suit the need of our researchers and to make searching for information as easy as possible.

Finally, the items themselves will be re-numbered and re-boxed to correspond with the new catalogue and the data created will be transferred onto our online catalogue, CALM, enabling the Jamaica catalogue to be viewed remotely throughout the world.

When this process is complete, the Jamaica papers can be easily accessed by users visiting the Archives and Special Collections reading room.

Remember to look out for my monthly updates which will share with you any new developments regarding the project. The next few months will, I hope, prove to be exciting ones, with certain sections of the Penrhyn collection being made available to our researchers.

Volunteers at the Archives


As an Archivist, there is a need for me to be aware of the conservation needs of the documents that I come across.

Since I began working on the “Sugar and Slate Project” I have been keeping a record of the items that require some care and attention. In some cases, there are documents that require cleaning and in many other instances there are many unique manuscripts that need to be repackaged.

Fortunately, I have been able to turn to one of our regular volunteers for some assistance. Louise, seen here at work, has been very busy lately creating bespoke files and packages for bundles of receipts and various accounts such as the Penrhyn forestry department wages accounts.

I’m certain that there is a long way to go, but we have started on the work of securing the long term preservation of the Penrhyn Further Additional Papers.

In the next update I will be looking at various leases that I have come across lately. These relate to a   variety of 20th century properties and some include fantastic plans of the houses which were rented out by the Penrhyn estate.



[December Update 2015]

  Seasons Greetings

With Christmas approaching I would like to draw your attention to a selection of Christmas cards that I have discovered whilst processing the Penrhyn papers. I have come across some beautiful hand-drawn cards as well as Russian cards addressed to the Pennant family in the 1960s.


After Christmas, I will continue to work my way through the papers relating to Jamaica amongst the Penrhyn collection. I will be writing about my Caribbean findings in my next update, but in the meantime I would like to wish you all a

 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!




[October Update 2015]

A glimpse into the lives of the Penrhyn Estate tenants : The Penrhyn Survey Books of 1927

This month I have discovered a box full of survey books of the Penrhyn Estate. The books have been labelled in detail, with the tenements divided under certain headings such as ground rents and farms and cottages. The survey was carried out in 1927 by the chartered surveyor, Roland T. Jones F.S.I, Bangor.


The image to the left reveals the type of information gathered by the surveyor. This example, in particular, refers to property in the parish of Abergwyngregyn, called ‘Crwmlyn and Nantheulyn’, and in this case, a sketch of the farm house is included (see above)

Some entries contain detailed descriptions of the property. The example below shows such notes for ‘Crwmlyn and Nantheulyn’.











“Large Farm situate on the Aber Road. about 4 miles of Bangor – severed by Railway.

Good well built Farm House – nicely set back from road – Accomodation : - GF [Ground Floor]. Porch, Hall, Dining Room, Drawing Room, Pantry. Morning Room. A disused Office…..”


Amidst the descriptions and figures included in these books there are some entries that contain sketches. These little sketches provide us with great detail and show the characteristics and extent of the cottages and farm houses. The sketches may be the only visual record of a property for the late 1920s, since many houses may have been altered beyond recognition or may not even exist today.

The sketches and descriptions together can provide an insight into the lifestyle of the tenants who were resident there.

The property shown to the right of this text is the cottage ‘Waenwen No.1’ in the parish of Bangor.



The survey books are undoubtedly a valuable source of information for researchers into local history as well as family history in the parishes of Bangor, Llandegai, Llanllechid, Abergwyngregyn, Llanddeiniolen in particular.


The information regarding the properties, the extent of land and the rent paid is of great interest.

A similar survey for another north Wales estate, the Baron Hill (Beaumaris) estate, was conducted in 1942 by the same surveyor. See Baron Hill Ms 7590.



[September Update 2015]

“Weight of Everybody” : An intriguing 19th century notebook

Lately, I have come across a mysterious item whilst going through the Penrhyn Castle Papers. On first sight, the item in question, seems to be an unremarkable, run-of the mill, small, black notebook. It contains various random figures dated between 1850 and 1902, which on closer inspection reveal themselves to be data regarding the height and weight of different individuals.

It appears that many entries relate to members of the Pennant family, however, the names of quite a few important figures in society are also recorded. For example, in the very first few pages the weight and height of the Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Mary and Prince Adolphus are noted for the year 1850.


The reason for creating such a record, simply entitled “Weight of everybody”, remains a mystery, as doesthe identity of the author.

It could possibly be something written by one of the Penrhyn children or an experiment conducted by Lord Penrhyn himself!

Considering the range of personal names noted in this book, it is easy to conclude that most of the visitors to the castle had their measurements recorded. In fact, it would be a useful exercise to compare this notebook with a visitors book for the same period!

The research potential of such a document, remains to be explored. It undoubtedly contains information that could possibly only be gleaned from medical records and provides a valuable insight into the physical makeup of the upper class in the 19th century.  

This notebook could prove of interest to anyone studying the history of the human height and weight. Economic historians have used the physical stature of people to measure their wellbeing throughout the ages.

Perhaps, whilst looking through the remainder of the uncatalogued Penrhyn Castle Papers, I will be able to shed more light on the reason behind the creation of this notebook. I hope, at least, to be able to identify the author by comparing the handwriting with other documents.


[July Update 2015]

The Royal Welsh Show at Bangor, 1958

Summer would simply not be the same without the array of various agricultural shows being held throughout the Welsh countryside.

This month, I have been fortunate to come across a very timely collection of items relating to the father of all agricultural shows - The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show. In 1958, it appears that Bangor was the host of this show and that the up until 1963 the Royal Welsh was held on various sites across Wales, alternating between the North and South of the country every year, similar to the National Eisteddfod today. From 1963 onward the show has of course had a permanent site at Llanelwedd.

Amongst the Penrhyn papers I have discovered minutes, journals and programmes relating to the 1958 Bangor Royal Welsh. In addition, there is a great collection of correspondence between various individuals that were involved in the planning of the event, including Lord Penrhyn himself ! These letters cover the financial details relating to the event such as compensation for land used, as well as arrangements in the Grandstand for the Royal Visit by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Also to be found are items relating to an exhibition of products from the Penrhyn Quarry that formed part of the show. This can be seen below this text.

The Penrhyn Quarry Exhibition in the Royal Welsh Show Bangor 1958

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show continues to be a f undamental factor in the longevity of Welsh agriculture. The Royal Welsh Society was set up in 1904 in order to improve the breeding of stock and to encourage agriculture throughout Wales.

Once again, this estate collection has provided valuable documentation relating to Bangor in the not so distant past. Next month, I will be featuring a 19th century notebook that provides an intriguing glimpse into the life of those living within the walls of Penrhyn Castle.


[June Update 2015]

Buried in the Basement

This month I’ve been buried in the basement storeroom of the archives rifling through shelves of ledgers. It’s proving to be a filthy and physical job but quite rewarding since I feel that I’m able to pick up a good pace with the cataloguing.

Llandegai Saw Mills Fire Watch

Amongst the great collection of ledgers I came across this little gem. It’s a small notebook that contains entries made by the watchers of Llandegai Saw Mills during the Second World War.

Between the 5th of January 1941 and the 12th of November 1942 a record is made of the sirens heard during the night and any other activity. Some evenings, the watcher makes a note of the weather conditions and even signs his entry.

This valuable document is of great historical interest since it provides an insight into the importance of the role of the fire watchers in the Llandegai area during the Second World War. The watcher would have to look after the premises throughout the night and then quite often go to work a long shift the following day.

In this extract dated the 30th of May 1941 E.A.O. Davies states “Red 12.30am, heard one bomb drop 2.10am not very far away. Raiders passed. Siren 3.45am….”

Llandegai Saw Mills Fire Watch

The Fire Watchmen provided an invaluable service as they were essential in the defence against the enemy’s attempts to destroy the country’s industries and winning the war by fire. Air raids caused catastrophic fires during the war. In a matter of minutes thousands of bombs could be showered over a town making it impossible for a fire service to deal with all of them. Thus the watchmen were called upon to put out these incendiary bombs and to call for help.

However, as this document reveals, many evening were quiet and on those evenings the job was a tedious one.

On the 1st of March 1941, the Warden, W. P. Thomas states that there were, “No Air Raid Warnings” and then goes on to write a small verse that sums up the long night these watchers had to endure.

‘The night was long and dreary
No message red or white.
I felt so sad and weary
I longed for eight alight.
At last the dawn awakened
I longed to get away
My weary limbs to rest awhile
To bed to dream of better days.’

This July I’ll be continuing with my cataloguing work in the basement. Remember to keep an eye out for my monthly updates regarding my progress through the Penrhyn Collection. Let’s hope I uncover some more treasures.