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Research project to explore impacts of estates on the communities of the Ogwen Valley

Bangor University’s Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates has received a grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to work with the communities of the Ogwen Valley in Gwynedd to explore the lives and experiences of those generations of people who lived and worked on the Penrhyn estate during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.

What kind of relationship did the gamekeepers of the Penrhyn estate have with the local community?What kind of relationship did the gamekeepers of the Penrhyn estate have with the local community?The Penrhyn estate was a dominant force in the life of north west Wales for centuries, exerting an influence which extended over a massive landholding base and embracing all aspects of society – from industry, politics, culture and religion, through to architecture, farming and land management.  Important parts of this complex and at times contentious story are preserved and interpreted at major heritage sites including Penrhyn Castle and the National Slate Museum.  However the lives and experiences of those thousands of individuals who lived on the estate as tenants and who worked on estate farms, or as woodmen, gamekeepers or in the Castle as domestic servants remain largely untold.  The project aims to redress this balance by drawing upon the memories and memorabilia of people living in the area, and through research of historical records kept at Bangor University Archives and Caernarfon Record Office. 

The three-month heritage project will run between January and March 2018 and will include a range of events and activities across the region to collect and share information.  Members of the public wanting to share their insights or get involved in the research are encouraged to attend one of the memory and memorabilia events.  The project will also include heritage tours, archive workshops, training sessions and a special research showcase.

At the end of the project, the team hope to have collected information to help answer some of the following questions:  How did the priorities and actions of landowners impact on communities across the Ogwen Valley?  What were relations like between landlords and tenants?  What was it like to work in domestic service at Penrhyn Castle?  How did estates influence the style of local architecture?  What were the impacts on the community of the demise and sale of the estates in the 20th century?  These findings will be presented through a touring exhibition and online via the project website.

Commenting on award of the grant, Dr. Shaun Evans, Director of Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates said that:

What was it like to work on the Penrhyn estate?What was it like to work on the Penrhyn estate?‘‘I am delighted that we have been successful in securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for this exciting project which will enable the University to work closely with community groups and heritage organisations from across the region to enhance our collective understanding of a neglected aspect of Welsh history.  I would encourage anyone with a historical connection to the region to get involved with the project by sharing their memories, digging out old family photos, joining the research team or attending the events.  Many thanks to National Lottery players for their support’’.  

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Publication date: 22 January 2018

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