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Pumpkins make way for pineapples at Penrhyn Castle this October half term

Pineapples arrive at Penrhyn Castle © National Trust Sioned Griffiths

Forget the pumpkins, gourds and apples, this autumn, visitors are invited to Penrhyn Castle and Garden to learn more about pineapples, how they symbolised wealth and were a delicacy in the gardens at Penrhyn in the early 19th century. 

During the 19th and 20th centuries pineapples were an exotic novelty in Victorian Britain and were loved both for their sweet taste and unique appearance. They were symbols of wealth and luxury in Europe because they were expensive to transport or grow.

During this time, Richard Pennant, the first Baron of Penrhyn, invested profits made from Jamaican sugar plantations into his Caernarfonshire agricultural estates and set up the Penrhyn Slate Quarry. His cousin, George Hay Dawkins-Pennant inherited the means to build the impressive neo-Norman castle and cultivate the beautiful formal garden and lucrative kitchen gardens.

Historical records show that pineapples were grown at Penrhyn Castle from the 19th  century into the early 20th century, and a testimony given by Norman Thomas, gardener at Penrhyn between 1924 and 1926, reveals that ‘growing fruit was a speciality at the Penrhyn estate’.

Richard Pennington, Senior House and Collections Manager at Penrhyn Castle said

“Built to impress, Penrhyn Castle is a display of nineteenth century extravagance and the decision to grow pineapples in their kitchen garden was no exception. Having the facilities and staff skilled enough to grow pineapples in Britain was a demonstration of the Pennant family’s wealth.”

“Grown in specially built pineapple pits in hot houses, the pineapples were monitored daily, and meticulous records were kept of when they were watered. When ready, they would be packed and put on trains to London, where they were sold.”

From 22 October and 6 November, National Trust Cymru are inviting visitors to follow the new family trail around the ‘Victorian globe’ where they can immerse themselves in a world of sail ships and steam trains as they follow the pineapple from its origins in South America all the way to this neo-Norman castle in North Wales.

While visiting, don’t miss the last chance to see the thought-provoking What a World exhibition inside the castle. Featuring the creative responses of local school children, this exhibition highlights items in the Penrhyn Castle collections that link the site to its colonial past, the transatlantic slave trade, and the culture of colonialism.