Penrhyn Monument, St Tegai’s Church

Westmacott's monument to the first Lord and Lady Penrhyn


29 February 2012

Llandygai, Gwynedd

SH 60079 70986; 53.21744°N, 4.09701°W


In 1820, Sir Richard Westmacott (1775 – 1856) — at the time Britain’s foremost sculptor of public statues — created this memorial in St Tegai’s Church to the first Baron Penrhyn. The romanticised neoclassical tableau, with idealised life-sized figures, depicts a quarryman and peasant woman mourning over a sarcophagus. Above the inscription can be seen four bucolic scenes with cherubs: playing pan pipes whilst tending goats; working slate; learning to read; and dancing and harvesting.

Richard Pennant (1737 – 1808) married Anne Susannah Warburton, heiress to the Penrhyn estate, in 1765 and in 1783 was granted an Irish peerage (an honour which did not disqualify the recipient from sitting in the House of Commons in London), becoming the first Baron Penrhyn. He served as an MP for Liverpool and, owning 8,000 acres of sugar plantations and over 600 slaves in Jamaica, was an outspoken supporter of slavery and fervent campaigner against the abolition movement.

Pennant used the great wealth derived from the plantations to invest in the Penrhyn estate and to industrialise the slate quarries of Bethesda. He developed the transport infrastructure to distribute the slate products, building Port Penrhyn and establishing a rail link from Penrhyn Quarry to the port.

Richard Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn (Wikipedia)

Peasant girl

Heroic quarryman

Slate knife detail

In a vault beneath lies the body of The Right-Honourable Richard Pennant, Baron Penrhyn. He married Anne Susannah, sole heiress of Lieutenant-General Warburton; and died at Winnington, in Cheshire, 21st January 1808, aged 70.

He was for many years an intelligent and active representative in Parliament for Liverpool and was created Baron Penrhyn in 1783.

He opened the first carriage-road through the valley of Nant Ffrancon, formed the quay at Port Penrhyn; enriched and adorned the demesne and the country around it, with buildings, agriculture and plantations, improved the conditions of the peasantry, exciting them to habits of industry by employment and laid the foundation for the more important blessing of an advancement in religion and morality by the erection and endowment of St Anne’s Chapel.

His domestic life was distinguished by order, temperance and regularity, an habitual chearfulness and complacency of temper and a polite and uniform urbanity of manners to persons of every description.

In the same vault are deposited the remains of the Right-Honourable Anne Susannah, Baroness Penrhyn, who was born at Chester, 8th February 1745, and died at Penrhyn, 1st January 1816. In her daily devotions she was regular. In her various occupations systematically exact. A kind, candid, and conciliating neighbour, and a sincere friend: nothing would have induced her to say what she did not believe was true or do what she did not think was just.

She extended the improvements of her deceased Lord, erected the adjoining school-house and bequeathed various sums to her executors for an organ and organist at St Anne’s Chapel; for an augmentation to the stipend of the minister; for the repairs and decoration of this church; and for the erection of the monument on which this memorial is preserved of public and private virtue.

Cherubic goatherd playing pan pipes

Cherubic slate workers

Cherubs learning

Dancing cherubs at harvest time

19 thoughts on “Penrhyn Monument, St Tegai’s Church

  1. Pingback: St Tegai’s Church, Llandygai « GeoTopoi

  2. I don’t know how I would approach this subject with a camera…such a creepy and waxen-looking thing, this monument. You have achieved something which somehow brings out the hubris and self-regard of these folk yet in the dust-rimed images, there is another story. My goodness, cherubs splitting A great set of photos, Graham!


  3. I appreciate the photographs as much as the detailed description of what their importance is. It doesn’t seem strange or ironic that Sir Richard both built up the slate quarry industry and was also an outspoken supporter of slavery. Quarrymen may as well have been slaves themselves considering those photographs you’ve shown of their barracks. I suppose I’d have been inclined to provide the man with a less grand sarcophagus–but then he was a product of his times, I suppose. Stunning sculptures and beautiful photos.


    • Yes, by today’s standards it seems utterly hypocritical on the one hand to claim to have ‘advanced religion and morality’ whilst on the other to fiercely oppose abolition on the grounds that it would damage the economy. Their patrician sense of entitlement would also, I presume, have allowed them to easily justify the vast gulf between their life of luxury and the sorry living and working conditions of the quarrymen in their employ.


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  11. Hi Graham. I would like to use the great main photo for a presentation I am giving on the commemoration of heroism and valour in the 19thC. I’m not getting paid and will give full credit and link so hope that’s OK with you. The monument has been noted as a very early representation of the noble everyman see…

    ‘Amor Publicus Posuit’: Monuments for the People and of the People
    Author(s): Nicholas Penny
    Source: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 129, No. 1017, Special Issue on European Sculpture(Dec., 1987), pp. 793-800
    Published by: Burlington


    Andrew Walmsley

    Liked by 1 person

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