One day down, one document done. Not the most auspicious start, but hopefully when I get to grips with 19th Century handwriting things’ll quicken up.
What a adocument to start with though. A letter from a Mr Wright to John Pennant, the first Pennant to purchase part of the estate, dated 3 October 1772.
I’m guessing Mr Wright was John Pennant’s solicitor or agent because he details arrangements for vacating Penrhyn ‘Hall’ so that John Pennant can take occupancy. He also discusses the management of the estate and detail areas which could be profitable.
He discusses the planting of woods and nurseries, mentioning the types of tree planted as well as those that may be suitable for the climate and states that some of the trees “stand very much too thick” and explains how they need to be transplanted over a period of two years. This is a timely bit of reading for me because I’m just in the process of reading A.H Dodd’s “The Industrial Revolution in North Wales” which discusses how, towards the latter part of the 18th Century, landowners in Wales begand to adopt modern agricultural practices to increase profitability from their estates, stating that “Draining and afforestation had permanently improved the value of lands that formerly lay idle” p.46).
The letter also makes reference to the fact that Mr Wright has visited copper mines in Dinas and Dolowen and has made enquiries at Tregarth. Scouring the lands for minerals or ore was also an increasing concern for landowners in Wales according to A.H. Dodd, and it looks as though John Pennant had bought the estate and with a view to increasing its profitability significantly. Reference is also made a couple of times to John Pennant’s son, who needs to approve arrangements, so it is clear that Richard Pennant was involved with his father in the running of the estate, given that he had inherited part of it from his wife’s father, General Hugh Warburton on his passing in 1771.
The letter also refers to the profits that could be made from the gathering of “sea weeds on the Penrhyn Coast” and burning for kelp. I had never heard of kelp burning before, but a quick google shows that kelp burning was widely practiced on the shores of Ireland and Scotland, and that the sea weed would be burnt to provide ‘kelp’, ashes rich in sodium carbonate used to make ointments and bleach.
My next document is a bundle of papers, and I nearly cried on opening the first letter. I can make out the signature G.H. Dawkins-Pennant, builder of Penrhyn Castle, but not much more. I believe there’s a lot of corresspondence from Mr Dawkins-Pennant in the collection; I think I may have met my handwriting nemesis!