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Penrhyn Castle plans to share more about its industrial history in new experience

New experience, titled ‘Industrial Penrhyn’ will bring to the forefront items in the collection that haven’t been shared before and shine a light on key items such as Charles, a locomotive which ran on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway.

Penrhyn Castle and Garden ©National Trust / Paul Harris

Penrhyn Castle and Garden are working to develop a new experience in the Stable Block to share stories of Penrhyn’s industrial history and bring to the forefront items in the collection that haven’t been shared before.

Built in the early 19th century, Penrhyn Castle’s formidable architecture, opulent interiors and fine art collection lean on a long history of sugar and slate fortunes, social unrest and the longest-running industrial dispute in British history.

The Penrhyn Slate Quarry and Port Penrhyn, established by the Pennant family, dominated the Welsh slate industry for almost 150 years which ripped apart a community and changed this part of North Wales forever.

National Trust Cymru have shared parts of this history through a series of exhibitions and displays over the last decade at Penrhyn Castle and are now working on plans to share more stories of Penrhyn’s industrial history and bring to the forefront items in the collection that haven’t been shared before, titled ‘Industrial Penrhyn’.

Ceri Williams, General Manager at Penrhyn Castle and Garden, National Trust Cymru said;

“With the development of the Penrhyn Quarry Railway in 1798 the slate industry in North Wales was catapulted to a global scale and changed the face of North Wales forever. As part of our new experience in the Stable Block, ‘Industrial Penrhyn’ will share this remarkable development of technology and entrepreneurship.

“The new experience will also go hand-in-hand in highlighting Penrhyn Castle’s role in this globally significant history alongside our partners and communities as part of the World Heritage Site; Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales.”

Fire Queen leaving Penrhyn Castle ©National Trust / Paul Harris

The Stable Block, which was previously home to the Railway Museum will change into ‘Industrial Penrhyn’, sharing Penrhyn Castle’s industrial heritage story.

A number of locomotives and wagons that are linked to the Penrhyn Quarry will remain on display, including Charles, a locomotive which ran on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway until the 1950’s and will take centre stage in telling this remarkable story, accompanied by the Penrhyn saloon coach and quarrymen’s open coach which will continue to provide an engaging experience for visitors.

Richard Pennington, Senior Collections and House Manager at Penrhyn Castle and Garden, National Trust Cymru said;

“We have been reviewing the way we display our collection as we look at how history is presented at Penrhyn Castle, and part of this process was to look at our locomotive collection in terms of relevance to Penrhyn Castle’s industrial heritage story.

“In order to bring this pivotal part of the Penrhyn’s story to the forefront we have returned or rehomed some of the locomotives that are unconnected to the property’s story to other museums, where their stories can be better explained and interpreted.

“We’re looking forward to the locomotives being given new opportunities, some of which will be going back into operation and others will provide new and engaging experiences for visitors where they will be cared for by skilful and passionate staff, apprentices and volunteers.”

Ceri Williams continues;

“Penrhyn Castle’s history is deep-rooted in the local community and we’re committed to sharing this history.

“As part of our new programming, we’re excited to share that we will have a photography exhibition coming to the Stable Block by renowned photographer Carwyn Rhys Jones in 2024. ‘Chwarelwyr – Quarrymen’ consists of five large portraits, each of a Welshman who spent his life working in the quarries of Wales, including the Penrhyn Quarry. First shown in the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, the exhibition has gone on to Swansea, Pembrokeshire, New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, and we’re looking forward to showcase it next at Penrhyn Castle.

“As well as developing Industrial Penrhyn, we have some exciting work happening in the castle this year to re-frame The Penrhyn Slate Quarry painting by Henry Hawkins [2]. As part of the reframing work, we’ll be working with four local groups to bring their voices into the castle and we’ll also have a new exhibition as if you’ve stepped into the frame.

“We’re looking forward to the year ahead and there will still be plenty to see and do at Penrhyn Castle and Garden.”

The Stable Block will be closed temporarily while conservation work is carried out to the building following the removal of the locomotives and their tracks. While the work is being carried out, Penrhyn Castle will be working on developing the new experience and look forward to welcoming people to ‘Industrial Penrhyn’ and the new exhibition in the castle later in 2024.

The garden is open on weekends up to 11 February, and every day from 11 February. The castle reopens on 1 March.