Monday, 17 October 2016

The Symbolism of Penrhyn Castle


The current castle dates back to 1822 and was designed by the renowned architect Thomas Hopper in a style that reflected the castles of the medieval period, Hopper creating an imposing Gothic structure that dominated the area and can be seen from the other side of the Menai Straits on Anglesey. Hopper was hired by George Day Hawkins-Pennant, who inherited the estate after the death of his second cousin Richard Pennant, who had made his wealth from Jamaican sugar and his North Wales slate quarries.  Indeed it has been recently noted how the Pennant family made their fortune from 'varied slavery-based enterprises'.1 The castle became a prominent architectural feature of the landscape, and Queen Victoria visited in 1859. The estate now belongs to the National Trust, and was given accepted by the Treasury in lieu of death duties after the death of the 4th Lord Penrhyn in 1949.2

The symbolism of the castle as an imposing mock-Norman structure, certainly reflects the link to the medieval Welsh castles that still dominate much of Wales today, and it also reflects the might of those troubled times, forming a visual link with the traditions of the Welsh Princes. Indeed, there was an earlier building on the site that dates to the early thirteenth century when Ednyfed Fychan – the Welsh warrior and seneschal to the Kingdom of Gwyneddd, serving Llywelyn the Great – built a medieval fortified manor house there. Ednyfed Fychan was an ancestor to the Tudor Dynasty, and hence had a link to the Royal family. Later in 1438, Ioan ap Gruffudd built a castle on the site. Mock-medieval imagery dominates the castle, with a coat of arms being seen on the gate house and Celtic symbolism found within the castle itself.






All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison

References

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/building_britain_gallery_04.shtml

2. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/penrhyn-castle



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