Featured image of Penrhyn Castle

A 19th Century Fantasy – Penrhyn Castle

Across the UK, there are very many haunted, spooky, and chilling places, but no other is like Penrhyn Castle in Wales. While little of its very early history is known, that is most likely a good thing, because the part of its history we do know involves tales of ghosts and terror, so who really knows what other chilling details would have remained in the past for this castle. It is said to have originally been a medieval fortified manor house that was founded by Ednyfed Fychan.

It was in 1438 that Loan ap Gruffudd was granted a licence and soon after gaining it he founded the stone castle and added a tower house. However, the rehabilitated castle we see today is thanks to Samuel Wyatt who reconstructed the property in the 1780s. It is a site of specific interest for many people, maybe it’s because of the architecture, or perhaps its spooky past comes into play. Let’s find out, shall we?

The exterior of Penrhyn Castle in wales with  plant life growing up the side of the walls
The exterior of Penrhyn Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Penrhyn Castle

The present building named Penrhyn Castle was built between the years of about 1822 and 1837. It was built alongside the designs done by Thomas Hopper on behalf of its owner who expanded and transformed the building beyond recognition in only a small amount of time. The owner of the castle at this time had many slaves, and when slavery was abolished, he was compensated for it with an amount that was similar to the amount it took to initially build Penrhyn Castle. However, there was a short history (that we know about) before this all happened which we will take a look at right now.

History of Penrhyn Castle

It was in 1808 that George Hay Dawkins-Pennant had inherited the beautiful Penrhyn Estate after hearing about the terrible passing of his second cousin who was the 1st Baron Penrhyn. He had made his fortune and way of loving from sugar plantations and the use of slaves back in Jamaica and local slate quarries. George had two daughters and the eldest of the two, Juliana, married an aristocrat Grenadier Guard known as Edward Gordon Douglas.

When George passed in 1840, he inherited the estate and soon after adopted the hyphenated surname of Douglas-Pennant. Edward, the grandson of the 14th Earl of Morton was then made the 1st Baron Penrhyn in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1866. After the stunning spiral staircase which remains from the original structure was rebuilt from 1822 to 1837, a vaulted basement and some other masonry were incorporated into the new, strengthened structure of Penrhyn Castle.

The cost to construct the castle will forever be unknown as it remains a heavily disputed topic up until this current day. It is incredibly difficult to work out the cost accurately considering how much of the timber came from the family’s own forestry as well as much of the labour being acquired within their workforce at the slate quarry. While an accurate cost cannot be determined, it is said that the Pennant family spent an estimated £150,000 on the castle’s construction which would equate to around £49,500,000 in the current day.

The exterior of Penrhyn Castle standing proudly on a hilltop
The exterior of Penrhyn Castle. Source: Flickr

Penrhyn Castle gardens

The Penrhyn Castle and gardens are absolutely stunning and certainly a sight worth seeing if you are able to visit. Much like the castle itself, the gardens surrounding the castle are dramatic, beautiful, and very intriguing. When you walk over the vast grassy grounds, you will be able to see some incredible views over Conwy Bay and Snowdonia and the lawns are a great place to sit down for a sweet picnic either by yourself or with your loved ones, everyone is welcome.

The young ones are able to roll, run, jump, play, and yell as much as they want to with endless pastures to explore. There are also intriguing nature trails throughout the dark woods as well as a beautiful adventure playground to keep all of the active minds enthralled. If you are looking for a day out with your whole family, even your furry pooches can come along on the castle grounds for a sniff and play.

 Penrhyn Castle gardens
Penrhyn Castle gardens. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Penrhyn Castles Interior

Out of all of the mock castles built in the UK in the 19th century, Penrhyn is definitely one of the most admired. Christopher Hussey even went as far as to call it “the outstanding instance of Norman revival.” It is a wonderful, picturesque, and very grand composition that stretches for over 600 feet from a tall donjon that contains many family rooms near a block from an earlier house and some stables. It is fitted out with some amazing carved stonework that finished the castle off perfectly.

It has all been designed in a rich but restrained Norman style with a whole lot of fine plasterwork as well as wood and stone carvings to compliment everything. It is also fitted out with some simply amazing Norman-style furniture that includes a one-ton slate bed which had been made for Queen Victoria when she visited back in 1859.

The Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum

Yet another great feature and place to visit within the castle is the Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum. It is a great museum that is full of industrial railway equipment that is located at the castle. The Pennant family were the owners of the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda and the quarry was very closely associated with the development of industrial narrow-gauge railways or more predominantly, the Penrhyn Quarry Railway which is one of the earliest industrial railways in the world.

a locomotive at The Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum.
The Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Penrhyn Castle Ghosts

There have been over 100 sightings of ghosts within Penrhyn Castle and there will no doubt be many more to come if the castle is as haunted as people think it is. Here are some of the most seen ghosts within the castle.

  • Lady Alice Douglas-Pennant- Just a few years ago, there was strange writing found on the wall in Alice’s bedroom that read ‘essere amato amando’ which in Italian means ‘to be loved, whilst loving’. Soon after, rumours that Alice had once been in love with one of the castle’s staff had been uncovered which would have been bad under social conventions in those times, hence the writing.
  • Lord Penrhyn’s Ghost- This ghost is said to be one of the most popular and seen within the castle and is said to often be seen outside on the grounds, in his old sitting room, or the keep bedrooms. 

The Present Day

After the 4th Baron Penrhyn died back in June of 1949, the castle and its adjoining estate passed onto his niece, Lady Janet Pelham who adopted the surname of Douglas-Pennant when she inherited the castle. In lieu of death duties from Lady Janet, in 1951, the castle and all of its 40,000 acres of land were accepted by the treasury. Now, it belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public for tours.

You may be interested in other Welsh castles such as Raglan Castle.

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