Page images



(10 Miles.)

Lead Mines-Calamine-Downing— Notice of Mr. Thomas Pennant

Vale of ClwydSt. Asaph-History of the Cathedral— View of the Vale of Clwyd from the Tower of the Cathedral.

The road from Holywell to St. Asaph is pleasant.

pleasant. This part of the country abounds in lead mines; the veins of ore run in directions either north and south, or east and west, but of these the latter are by much the richest. Calamine is also found in great quantities in this neighbourhood, and in veins like the lead, sometimes mixed with ore, but frequently alone. Nearly the whole of Flinshire abounds with it; and so entirely ignorant were the inhabitants of its use, as even to have mended their roads with it; but these have since been turned up in many places, and their materials converted to more valuable purposes.

About 3 miles north-west of Holywell is

DOWNING, The seat of David Pennant, Esq. and formerly that of the celebrated Thomas Pennant.

This indefatigable and useful writer was born at Bychton, in the parish of Whitford, on the 14th of June, 1726. He was a lineal descendant from Tudor Trevor, who married Angharad, the daughter of Howel Dda, Prince of North Wales.*

He became possessed of the estate at Downing by the death of his father David Pennant; and having discovered a rich mine of lead ore on it, he was enabled, by means of the emoluments arising from this, to make considerable improvements. Here he principally resided.

“ The house itself,” he informs us, “ has little to boast of. I fortunately found it incapable of being improved into a magnitude exceeding the revenue of the family. It has a hall, which I prefer to the rural impropriety of a paltry vestibule; a library; a parlour capable of containing more guests than I ever wish to see in it at a time, septem convivium ; novem convicium! and a smoaking-room, most antiquely furnished with ancient carvings, and the horns of all the European beasts of chace. This room is now quite out of use as to its original purpose. Above stairs is a good drawing-room, in times of old called the dining-room, and a tea-room, the sum of all that are really wanted. I have Cowley's wish realized, a small house and a large garden !”

In his history of Whitford and Holywell, Mr. Pennant mentions another house called Downing, on the opposite side of the dingle, about 300 yards from this mansion, the property of Thomas Thomas, Esq. Fierce feuds, as usual in days of yore, raged according to his relation, between the two families. “ These Montagues used to take a cruel revenge on their neighbour Capulet, by the advantage of a stream, which ran through their grounds, in its way to our kitchen, where it was applied to the turning of a spit. How often,” says he,“ has that important engine been stopped before it had performed half its evolutions ! our poor Ca

* The name is truly Welsh, derived from pen, the head or end, and nant, a narrow valley ; the house of Bychton, the ancient family mansion, being seated at the head of a very considerable dingle.


66 And

269 pulet swearing, lady crying, cook fuming, and nurse screaming! But

“ To hear the children mutter,
When they lost their bread and butter,

It would move a heart of stone." Till the advancement of Richard Pennant, Esq. in the year 1783, to the title of Penrhyn, the family, according to to his own account, was never distinguished by any honours beyond the most useful one, that of a justice of the peace.

The first sheriff of this house was Pyers Pennant, who discharged that trust in 1612. He had the fortune to marry the daughter of a family not famed for placidity, or the milder virtues. Valdè, valdè, irritabile genus ! from them, Tom," an aunt used often to tell him, “ we got our passion;" and frequently added the wise Welsh caution, Beware of a breed !

The fruits of this marriage soon appeared, for Thomas, the eldest son, in a furor brevis, killed his miller. He was indicted for manslaughter, tried, and convicted, but afterwards pardoned.

When Mr. Pennant was about twelve years old, the father of Mrs. Piozzi presented him with a copy of Willughby's Ornithology. This first gave him a taste for the study of natural history, which he afterwards pursued with so much avidity, and from which the world has derived so much instruction and benefit.

In the year 1755 he began a correspondence with Linnæus, which ended only when the age and informities of that justly celebrated man obliged him to desist. To the talents of Mr. Pennant, Linnæus subscribed in the highest terms; and two years after the commencement of their acquaintance, Mr. Pennant was, at his instance, elected a member of the Royal Society at Upsal.

In 1765 he made a short tour to the continent, during which he became personally acquainted with Le Comte de Buffon. While in Paris he passed much of his time with this naturalist, and afterwards spent some days with him at his seat at Monbard. At Ferney he visited Voltaire,

“ who happened,” says Mr. P., which is nearly the whole account he gives of him, “ to be in good humour, and was very entertaining; and in his attempt to speak English, convinced us that he was a perfect master of our oaths and our curses."

At Bern he commenced an acquaintance with Baron Haller, and at the Hague with Dr. Pallas. His meeting with the latter gave rise to his Synopsis of Quadrupeds ; and afterwards, in a second edition, to his History of Quadrupeds.

In 1769 he made his first tour into Scotland, a country at that time almost as little known to its southern brethren as Kamtschatka. He published an account of this journey, which proved that the northern parts of Great Britain might be visited with safety, and even with pleasure; and from this time Scotland has formed one of the fashionable British tours.

Previously to the year 1778, he made several journies over North Wales, during which he collected ample materials for his work upon this country, which was published at different intervals in two volumes, quarto.

To his regular and temperate mode of life, and his riding exercise, for he performed all his different tours on horseback, with the perfect ease of mind that he enjoyed on these pleasing excursions, he attributes the almost uninterrupted good health that he enjoyed for near seventy years. His general time of retiring to rest was ten o'clock; and he rose both in summer and winter at seven.

His favourite exercise seems to have been on horseback,



and this he continued, as far as he was able, to the latest period of his life," considering the absolute resignation of the person to the luxury of a carriage, to forbode a very short interval betwixt that and the vehicle which is to carry us to our last stage.”

In the year 1792, the sixty-seventh of his age, he says of himself, “ though my body may have somewhat abated its wonted vigour, yet my mind still retains its powers, its longing after improvement, its wish to see new lights through the chinks which time has made.” And speaking of his great attempt, the Outlines of the Globe: “ Happy is the life that could beguile its fleeting hours without injury to any one, and, with addition of years, continue to rise in its pursuits. But more interesting, and still more exalted subjects, must employ my future span.”

Some of these latter observations appear in his “ Literary Life,” which contains his biography, so far as relates, principally, to his literary concerns, to the commencement of the year 1793. This, although published by himself, he whimsically denominates a posthumous work, the name in dotted characters subscribed to the advertisement, indicating it to be sent into the world by his departed literary spirit. From this time he declares himself determined to appear in no new works before the public, yet the activity of his mind would not suffer him, even in his advanced age, entirely to resign himself to private labours and domestic concerns; accordingly he wrote, and in 1796 printed, the

History of Whitford and Holywell,” the word


appropriately occupying the leaf preceding the title. He afterwards published also the two first volumes of the “ Outlines of the Globe."

The loss of an amiable daughter, in the year 1794, had

« PreviousContinue »