By James Walvin
Last updated 2011-02-17
The mock-medieval castle at Penrhyn is another reminder of the ubiquity of Britain's links with slavery. The castle belonged to the Pennant family, famous for its slate quarries in North Wales, but whose major fortunes came from the Caribbean. The Pennants turned to Caribbean sugar and trade in the 17th century.
The family acquired plantations in Jamaica and held high office on that island, before a new generation returned to Britain and started trading from Liverpool. With the money the family made from these varied slavery-based enterprises, the Pennants acquired substantial holdings in Wales and also developed slate quarries. Penrhyn Castle was developed on the site of an ancient property, but it is a 19th-century version of a Norman castle. Alongside Harewood House, it provides an example of the levels of material wealth that was accumulated by those engaged in the slave trade, which was then invested into British property and land.