The previous post on Emma Dolben is a reminder of the major role played by the Penrhos Estate as landlords in Holyhead. Twice a year, on the Feast Day of St Michael and All Angels and on the Feast Day of All Souls, the Agent for the Penrhos Estate would set up a table near the Market Cross in Holyhead and all the tenants of the estate were required to be present and to pay their rents. In that year of 1823 the total annual rent collected in Holyhead was £3,391 (equivalent to between £142,000 and £235,000 in today’s currency) and the total number of tenants in the town was 271. The Penrhos Estate, in the same year, collected £4,851 from its tenants in other parts of Anglesey.
These were substantial sums of money from a town and an area that had always been impoverished – poor soil and constant winds blowing affected agriculture; houses were, in the main, small and lacked amenities and only a limited number of well-off people resided in the parishes. Some of the money collected remained in the area and was used for house repairs and drainage schemes but most of it was transferred to the Stanley of Alderley account at Gosling’s Bank because, by 1823, a significant proportion of the income from Penrhos was used to pay endowments (called ‘settlements’) to various members of the Stanley family.
Who were these rent payers? Mary Pritchard paid 6d a year (2.5p) for a ‘Shed’ in Turkey Shore and Owen Edwards paid £1-6-6d for his house in Cross St. James Browne was paying £17-11-6d for Ty’n Lantarn (Ship captains had to pay him for keeping a navigation light going near the house) and James Johnstone had a rent of £21-0-0d per year to pay for the Customs House. Ffynnon Gorlas cost Captain Skinner an annual sum of £40-15-0d whilst William Jones had to find £35-0-0d rent for Ty’n Pwll farm. Poor Mary Morris had to scrape together One Shilling for Ty Bach whilst Thomas Spencer, landlord of the Eagle and Child Hotel (soon to be re-named the Royal Hotel) had to find an eye-watering sum of £521-0-0d rent every twelve months – but his hotel was on the verge of being designated the terminal for Telford’s ‘Great Holyhead Road’ and would prove to be a lucrative enterprise. The Penrhos Estate was quite rigorous in collecting all the rents and its end-of-year accounts show very few defaulters.
The construction of the new road meant that this rental of 1823 saw an ending of the era whereby the Penrhos estate’s income was derived almost exclusively from agriculture. After this, the Stanley family started gaining a higher and higher percentage of its income from leasing land to various Government bodies – the Admiralty, the Customs and Excise office, the Board of Trade are just three examples.
The coming of the road (and later the railway) changed the fortunes of Holyhead not only in terms of communication and shoreline developments but also in the nature of the houses available to the inhabitants of the town. This would eventually result in urban growth as new houses would be built and recognisable streets would be laid out. But in 1823 all these developments were yet to come and the life of the people of Holyhead followed a regular, slow-paced pattern. They were not to know that their children and grandchildren would be living in a very different town to the one which they themselves knew and, although the paying of the rent to Penrhos would continue, many of the houses would be in terraces, and the population itself, by 1851 would have trebled.
Contributed by Dr. Gareth Huws
The Tithe map is from the National Library of Wales – https://places.library.wales/home
* Sales Catalogue: The Penrhos estate, Holyhead, 1948 Jun. 23. Miscellaneous Sales Catalogues: Anglesey. Archifau Ynys Môn/Anglesey Archives. GB 221 WF/206