DAWKINS PENNANT, George Hay (1764-1840), of Penrhyn Castle, Caern. and 56 Portland Place, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 20 Feb. 1764, 2nd surv. s. of Henry Dawkins† (d.1814) of Over Norton, Oxon. and Standlynch, Wilts. and Lady Juliana Colyear, da. of Charles Colyear†, 2nd earl of Portmore [S]; bro. of Henry† and James Dawkins*. m. (1) 25 June 1807, Hon. Sophia Maria Maude (d. 23 Jan. 1812),1 da. of Cornwallis, 1st Visct. Hawarden [I], 2da.; (2) 4 May 1814, Elizabeth, da. of Hon. William Henry Bouverie† of Betchworth House, Surr., s.p. suc. to estates of cos. Richard Pennant†, 1st Bar. Penrhyn [I], 1808 and took additional name of Pennant by royal lic. 2 Apr. 1808. d. 17 Dec. 1840.
Bailiff, Hundred of Uchef 1784.
Sheriff, Caern. 1819-20.
Lt. Wilts. supp. militia 1797, capt. 1803, maj. 1804.
Dawkins Pennant was immensely wealthy, having inherited from his father’s cousin Lord Penrhyn extensive estates in North Wales, which contained lucrative slate quarries, and plantations in Jamaica. His father, himself a rich man, acknowledged in his will that George had thus been ‘most handsomely provided for’ and on his death in 1814 left him merely an annuity of £600, subject to his mother’s life interest, which expired in 1821.2 He re-entered Parliament in 1820 for New Romney on the Dering interest. As before, he supported the Liverpool ministry when present.3 He was in their majorities on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., and against economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821, 21 Feb., 13 Mar., 28 June 1822. He divided against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., 2 June, and inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1823, and in defence of the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He voted against Catholic relief, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He voted with government on the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., and the president of the board of trade’s salary, 10 Apr. 1826. On 25 May and 21 June 1821, and again, 8 July 1823, he replied to accusations of ‘gross favouritism’ levelled against the commissioners of woods and forests for granting him a crown lease to exploit slate deposits at Llanlechyd, near Penrhyn. In answer to the charge that he had deliberately not worked the site in order to preserve his local monopoly, he ‘admitted that the quarry was certainly not yet worked’, but claimed that he ‘had made great exertions to accomplish that object’.4 The radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet* had no doubt that it was ‘a clear job’.5
Dawkins Pennant, who had a significant electoral interest in Caernarvonshire, came in again for New Romney in 1826.6 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He presented a Romney petition against the alehouses licensing bill, 19 June, and was in the Wellington ministry’s majority on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. He presented a Romney petition against Catholic emancipation, 16 Mar. 1829, and, as expected, voted steadily against the measure that month. His only known votes in 1830, when he took a month’s leave to attend to urgent business, 3 Mar., were against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and the abolition of capital punishment for forgery, 7 June. He retired from the House at the dissolution.
He developed the Penrhyn estates and during the 1830s replaced the house inherited from his cousin with a massive castle, designed by Thomas Hopper in pseudo-Norman style.7 On his visit in 1841 Greville described it as
a vast pile of building, and certainly very grand, but altogether, though there are fine things and some good rooms in the house, the most gloomy place I ever saw, and I would not live there if they would make me a present of the castle. It is built of a sort of grey stone polishable into a kind of black marble, of which there are several specimens within. It is blocked up with trees, and pitch dark, so that it never can be otherwise than gloomy.8
Dawkins Pennant died at his London home in December 1840, having suffered for some time from ‘a calculus in the bladder’ which ‘occasionally gave him excruciating anguish’. He bequeathed legacies amounting to about £20,000 and provided his wife with an annuity of £4,000. He had already settled £70,000 on his younger daughter Emma on her marriage to Thomas Charles Leigh*, afterwards Lord Sudeley, in 1831. His personalty was sworn under £600,000.9 He was succeeded in the Welsh and Jamaican estates, worth £80,000 a year, by his elder daughter Juliana and her husband Edward Gordon Douglas, who took the additional name of Pennant in 1841 and was created Lord Penrhyn in 1866. An enthusiastic obituarist wrote that Dawkins Pennant
possessed inviolable rectitude, scrupulous adherence to what he believed to be his duty, singleness of purpose, unobtrusive manners, and a benevolent heart. He was placed upon a commanding eminence, and entrusted to a more than common degree with the means of doing good, and it was his delight to be the almoner of heaven, to furnish employment to the poor, to encourage the industrious and the frugal, and, under the impulse of Christian generosity, to relieve the distresses of the sick, the aged, and the destitute, and to diffuse contentment and happiness everywhere around him.10
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. According to standard authorities; but Bathampton M.I. printed in Caribbeana, ii. 310 gives 16 Jan.
- 2. PROB 11/1558/402.
- 3. Black Bk. (1823), 184; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 480.
- 4. The Times, 26 May, 22 June 1821, 9 July 1823.
- 5. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 104.
- 6. UCNW, Plas Newydd mss ser. i, 227.
- 7. Penryhn Castle (1953), 3-9.