The library at Penrhyn
The library at Penrhyn Castle. The billiard table is made of slate from the nearby quarries. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel
Mark Purcell, the National Trust’s libraries curator, has just produced an article in The Book Collector about the library at Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, which has now been fully catalogued. The books at Penrhyn were allocated to the National Trust in lieu of inheritance tax in 2002.
The exterior of the library and the passage to the keep at Penrhyn Castle. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus
Like the rest of the house (some of which has been shown in previous posts), the library was designed by the architect Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) in the neo-Norman style. This particular room was inspired by the Norman architecture of the church of St Peter, Tickencote, Rutland. The library still contains a book by John Carter of 1796, Ancient Architecture of England, which illustrates the church.
One of the neo-Norman bookcases in the library. ©NTPL/Michael Caldwell
The house was built for George Hay Dawkins-Pennant (1764-1840), whose wealth came from slaves, sugar and slate. As Mark has found, however, his taste in books, and that of his immediate family and descendants, was not particularly nouveau riche. It is an attractive nineteenth-century gentleman’s library, with a mixture of grand and ordinary books that reflect the family’s interest at the time.
©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel
The books reflect a number of themes that Mark characterises as: ‘power politics, and high finance; art collecting; geology; a controversial inheritance, based on slaves and slate and on money which some even at the time thought to be tainted; self-sufficiency in reading matter in a remote and mostly Welsh-speaking district.’