Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pennant, Richard

PENNANT, RICHARD, Baron Penrhyn (1737?–1808), was the second son of John Pennant, a Liverpool merchant, who was descended from Thomas ap Dafydd, abbot of Basingwerk in the fifteenth century, and was thus of kin to the Pennants of Downing [see under Pennant, Thomas]. John married Bonella Hodges. The estate of Penrhyn, Carnarvonshire, had, after the failure of the male line of the Williams family, passed into the hands of two sisters, Anne, wife of Thomas Warburton, and Gwen, wife of Sir Walter Yonge. The moiety held by the Yonge family was purchased by John Pennant, and on 6 Dec. 1765 his son Richard married Susannah Anne, only child and heiress of Hugh Warburton of Winnington, Cheshire, the holder of the other moiety, and thus reunited the property. Richard's public career began in 1761, when he was returned as M.P. for Petersfield; in 1767, on the death of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, he succeeded him as one of the two members for Liverpool. His wife had influential connections in the borough, being granddaughter of the Dr. Edward Norreys who represented it from 1714 to 1722, and her talents as a canvasser in her husband's interest were renowned. Pennant, who was a whig, was re-elected without opposition in 1768 and 1774. In 1780 he stood third on the poll, Henry Rawlinson, who came second, defeating him by 110 votes. In September 1783 he was created Baron Penrhyn of Penrhyn, co. Louth, in the peerage of Ireland. At the general election of 1784 he stood once more for Liverpool, and this time was second on the poll, defeating Colonel Tarleton by thirteen votes. A petition was lodged against his return, but afterwards withdrawn. In 1790 he was less fortunate. At the close of the third day's polling the tide was so manifestly running against him that he withdrew, having spent, as some allege, 30,000l. upon the contest. He did not again seek admittance to the House of Commons.

Lord Penrhyn's most important work was done upon his Carnarvonshire estate. About 1782 he took into his own hands the slate quarry at the entrance to Nant Ffrancon, now well known as the Penrhyn Quarry, and with true business instinct set about its development. A quay was erected at the mouth of the Cegin for the shipping of the slates, and in 1801 this was connected with the quarry by means of a tramroad. In this way a marked impetus was given to the Welsh slate trade, which has since risen to very great proportions. Lord Penrhyn also greatly improved the estate by building and planting on an extensive scale. He was sheriff of Carnarvonshire for 1782. He died at Winnington on 21 Jan. 1808, leaving no issue. The title accordingly became extinct, and the estate passed by his will to his cousin, George Henry Dawkins, who assumed the additional name of Pennant. The latter's daughter and coheiress married, in 1833, Edward Gordon Douglas, who adopted the surname of Pennant in 1841, and was created Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai in 1866.

[Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1883, p. 422; Gent. Mag. for January 1808; Bean's Parl. Representation of the Six Northern Counties of England, Hull, 1890; Roscoe's Memorials of Liverpool, 2nd edit. London, 1875; Yorke's Royal Tribes of Wales, ed. Williams, 1887, pp. 193–4; Cathrall's Hist. of North Wales, 1828, pp. 100–101; Evans's Tour through North Wales, 1802, pp. 232–5; Kalendars of Gwynedd, 1873, p. 62.]

J. E. L.