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Thomas Pennant 1726 - 1798



Naturalist - Antiquary – Traveller

pennant coat of arms

Thomas Pennant was born on the 14th June 1726, the son of David and Arabella Pennant. He lived all his life at Downing Hall, Whitford. Sadly, the house was burnt down in 1922 and remained a ruined shell until being finally demolished some years ago. Previously, the family had lived at Bychton, Whitford.

Pennant Coat of Arms

Most of the information that is known of Thomas Pennant is derived from his Literary Life published in 1793. He tells us that he first acquired a taste for ornithology and natural history at the age of 12, after being given a book about birds by his relative, John Salusbury of Bachygraig, Tremeirchion.

Apparently he received some early education at a school in Wrexham and after further tuition in London, entered Queen College, Oxford, at the age of 18. Although he was at Oxford for some years, he left without taking his degree. However, during this period he acquired an interest in Geology. In subsequent years he travelled, visiting Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Continent, Scotland, the Hebrides and various parts of England and Wales.

Thomas Pennant was a prolific writer. The first volume of his Tours in Wales was published in 1778 and the second in 1791 but, strangely, his account of his journey on the Continent was not published until 1948. His principle work on zoology British Zoology appeared in four volumes between 1761 and 1777. He also wrote on the zoology of India and the Arctic Region.

His most ambitious literary undertaking was Outlines of the Globe in twenty two volumes (manuscript). Only four of these have ever been published. The twenty two volumes of the Outlines are now in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

Thomas Pennant
Thomas Pennant

Two years before his death, Pennant completed The History of the Parishes of Whitford and Holywell. At the instigation of the Pennant scholar, Dr. R. Paul Evans ( a native of Holywell), a facsimile edition of the book was published by Clwyd County Council in 1988. The facsimile edition contains an excellent introductory article by Dr. Evans.

During his lifetime, Pennant received many honours and marks of distinction, foreign as well as British. In 1754 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.- Honours came to him from Norway, Sweden and America. In 1771 he received the honorary degree of Ll.D from Oxford University. Scotland conferred on him several honours, including the freedom of Edinburgh.

Moses Griffith

Pennant always acknowledged his debt to two great friends - John Lloyd (1733 - 93) the Rector of Caerwys, who accompanied him on all his Welsh travels. ("To his great skill in the language and antiquities of our country I am myself much indebted"); and
Moses Griffith, a native of Bryncroes, Llŷn, his faithful servant who travelled with him almost everywhere and illustrated his works.

Moses Griffith


Pennant’s health began to fail in 1793. He died on 16th December 1798, at the age of 72 and was buried near the altar in Whitford Church.

memorial to Thomas Pennant in Whitford Church


There is a memorial to Thomas Pennant in the Church of St Mary and St Beuno, Whitford

Thomas Pennant – Major Works


British Zoology


Indian Zoology


Synopsis of the Quadrupeds


A Tour in Scotland (1769)


Genera of Birds


A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides (1772)



A Tour in Wales


History of the Quadrupeds (Revised ed. of ‘Synopsis’)


The Journey from Chester to London


polar bear

Arctic Zoology


Of London


The Literary Life of the late Thos. Pennant, by Himself


The History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell

1798 - 1800

Outlines of the Globe (4 vols.)


A Tour from Downing to Alston Moor


A Journey from London to the Isle of Wight


A tour from Alston Moor to Harrowgate and Brimham Crags


White Quarries in winter

Teithiau yng Nghymru (ed. John Rhys)


A Tour on the Continent (1765)


Provided by Norman Closs-Parry
Photos: Norman Closs-Parry or from '1800 Woodcuts by Thomas Bewick and his School'

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the squirrel


the short eared bat


the hare

the long tailed field mouse

the common cart horse

the stoat

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