Richard Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn

Richard Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn (1737 – 21 January 1808), was the owner of Penrhyn estate, on the outskirts of Bangor, North Wales, six sugar plantations in Jamaica, and hundreds of enslaved African workers. He was a staunch anti-abolitionist and sat in the House of Commons between 1761 and 1790. He received an Irish peerage in 1783.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Pennant was the second son of John Pennant, merchant, of Liverpool, and his wife Bonella Hodges, daughter of Joseph Hodges, of Jamaica. He was educated at Newcome's academy in Hackney, and was admitted at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 18 January 1754.[2]

Political careerEdit

Pennant was returned as Member of Parliament for Petersfield at the 1761 general election, by William Jolliffe under an arrangement with William Beckford. He intended to become MP for Liverpool at the next election, but when a vacancy arose in 1767, he was returned unopposed at a by-election on 4 December 1767. He successfully contested Liverpool in 1768, and again in 1774. In the 1780 general election he was defeated at Liverpool. On the recommendation of Fox, he was created 1st Baron Penrhyn of Penrhyn in the county of Lough, Ireland, in 1783, even though he was not Irish.[3] Holding an Irish peerage did not disqualify him from standing for elections to the Westminster House of Commons as, both before and after the Union, Irish peerages were used to create peers who could not sit in the English House of Lords but who could do so in the House of Commons.

In the 1784 general election, Penrhyn, as he now was, again contested Liverpool and was returned as MP. In the ensuing parliament he is said to have made over thirty speeches, relating to the West Indies and Liverpool trade. There was a debate on the slave trade in May 1788, and it was reported that the only two Members who spoke in extenuation or even in justification of the African trade were Penrhyn and Bamber Gascoyne jr. He stood again for Liverpool at the 1790 general election and was ahead in the poll, but withdrew in favour of Sir Banastre Tarleton who continued his anti-abolitionist activities.[3]


Penrhyn owned vast properties in Caernarfonshire, half of which he inherited from his wife, Ann Susannah Pennant née Warburton, the daughter of General Hugh Warburton, and half he inherited from his father who was Warburton's business partner. As owner of Penrhyn slate quarry, he was prominent in the development of the Welsh slate industry.[4]


Penrhyn owned six sugar plantations in Jamaica, which were worked by over six hundred slaves. He was however an absentee land-owner and slave-owner, and never visited Jamaica. The wealth Pennant generated from sugar and slavery in Jamaica was invested in road and dock building and the slate industry in Wales, in particular his Penrhyn slate quarry.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

On his death on 21 January 1808, Penrhyn's entire estate went to his second cousin, George Hay Dawkins (1763–1840), who subsequently adopted the surname of Dawkins-Pennant. Dawkins' daughter Juliana and her husband were named as co-heirs of the estate on the condition that they also took the surname Pennant, which condition they duly accepted. Dawkins' son-in-law, Edward Gordon Douglas, was later created 1st Baron Penrhyn of Llandygai.[6]


  • Lee, Sidney, ed. (1895). "Pennant, Richard" . Dictionary of National Biography. 44. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]


  1. ^ Penrhyn Castle. London: National Trust. 1997. pp. 11–18. ISBN 0 7078 0115 X.
  2. ^ "Pennant, Richard (PNNT754R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ a b "PENNANT, Richard (?1736–1808), of Penrhyn Hall, Carnarvon, and Winnington, Cheshire". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  4. ^ Penrhyn Castle. London: National Trust. 1997. p. 12. ISBN 0 7078 0115 X.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Penrhyn Castle. London: National Trust. 1997. p. 31. ISBN 0 7078 0115 X.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir John Philipps, Bt
William Gerard Hamilton
Member of Parliament for Petersfield
With: John Jolliffe
Succeeded by
John Jolliffe
Richard Croftes
Preceded by
Ellis Cunliffe
William Meredith
Member of Parliament for Liverpool
With: Bamber Gascoyne
Succeeded by
Bamber Gascoyne
Henry Rawlinson
Preceded by
Bamber Gascoyne
Henry Rawlinson
Member of Parliament for Liverpool
With: Bamber Gascoyne
Succeeded by
Bamber Gascoyne
Sir Banastre Tarleton
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Penrhyn