Pennant and the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell (1796)

Thomas Pennant’s History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell


The ancient and esteemed Pennant family of Bychton (and later also of Downing) had been one of Whitford’s most prominent powers for centuries, second only to the Mostyns. Thomas Pennant (1726-98) the multitalented naturalist, antiquity, traveller and writer was unquestionably the most eminent member of this family. Apart from being a neighbour and kinsmen to the Mostyns, in 1777 he married for his second wife Ann (d.1802), sister to Sir Roger Mostyn the fifth baronet (1758-96).

In 1796 Pennant published his History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell, celebrating the history, landscape, architecture, traditions and industry of his native locality. Given the prevalent and longstanding influence of the Mostyn family in the two parishes, much of the work essentially represents an account of the Mostyns – the first written ‘history’ of the family. Indeed, his detailed description of Mostyn hall takes up no fewer than 50 pages. Whereas the Mostyn family undoubtedly provided him with much of his information, he and his illustrator Moses Griffiths (1747-1819) are responsible for preserving some of the family’s greatest legends, achievements and moments of history, ranging from Henry Tudor’s escape from Mostyn hall to the contents of the Mostyn library. Some of his entries are particularly memorable: in describing the life-size portrait of Mary Mostyn dated 1634 he applauds her elegant appearance, adding that he wished the ladies of his own time would better resemble her figure – his contemporary ladies he said, ‘seem to emulate in fashion the form of a sack of wool, bulging out on every side’.

The work has done much to ensure that the Mostyn family’s historic influence on the area surrounding Whitford and Holywell will be forever engrained.

Thomas Pennant’s History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell

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