Mansion house technologies. Penrhyn Castle revealing its water system

Hidden from view. This mysterious entrance down by the river Ogwen in the Penrhyn castle woodland

Hidden from view. This mysterious entrance down by the river Ogwen deep in the Penrhyn castle woodland

Both Paul and I have been intrigued with technologies employed in mansion-house design and management. Both from a general interest in technology development but also seeing early approaches to dealing with problems we have to deal with today. Water, waste, energy, heat and so on. Quite a bit of survey work has been going on for the last few decades around the country. Water supply and management has involved quite a bit of work. The underground vaulted tanks at Plas Newydd, Chirk Castles rain water harvesting cisterns and the cavernous water tanks at Penrhyn Castle are testament to this and three places I want to visit (some people like paintings we like drains!)

The inside of the Ram Pump building. Pipes in Place, Pumps missing

The inside of the Ram Pump building. Pipes in Place, Pumps missing

Kathy Laws the National Trust archeologist bought to my attention a mysterious building and some associated structures in the woodland at Penrhyn which need surveying and recording (any budding volunteer archeologists out there?) The building from her images said ‘Ram Pump’ to me. I was hooked! (so was Paul after we had a chat) a few aborted walks in the dense and being cleared woodland of the castle and we found what Kathy had been taking about. The Ram pump Building down by the river Ogwen. What i was surprised was the large number of small structures through the woodland (a few dozen… but how they link i don’t know?). The Gardner later told us the site had its pumps right up until the eighties and then they ‘mysteriously’ disappeared. He also mentioned what he called ‘the old ice house’ which we also found. as Penrhyn is now our new office I have a feeling we will be visiting the woods quite a bit in the coming year!

Top left; the unknown water tank or 'old ice house'. Top right; the inside of the ram pump building. Bottom; it was an interesting woodland walk. 16' clay pipes in the gloom of the picture (what were they for?)

Top left; the unknown water tank or ‘old ice house’. Top right; the inside of the ram pump building. Bottom; it was an interesting woodland walk. 16′ clay pipes in the gloom of the picture (what were they for?)

Some links on the country house technologies

http://www.hevac-heritage.org/items_of_interest/heating/national_trust_properties/powis_castle/powis_castle.htm

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/research/centre-for-historical-archaeology/research-1/country-house-technology/about-the-project

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3 Responses to Mansion house technologies. Penrhyn Castle revealing its water system

  1. Fascinating! I think I read about this in Jaggers’ work on local Industrial Archaeology (http://www.jaggers-heritage.com/industrial-archaeology-of-snowdonia–anglesey.php)

    • Keith Jones says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yes i have been in discussions with Keith at Jaggers Heritage. He had not seen the building for a few decades. In discussions with volunteers to see if we can have the system surveyed. The 1million gallon water tank are still full and next to the castle. It is now used for the fire system

  2. David Mills says:

    My friend Dr Keith Jaggers is well acquainted with many industrial archaeological sites in North Wales and has placed his excellent gazetteer ‘Industrial Archaeology of Snowdonia and Anglesey’ on his website. This is a guide to whet the appetite of the enthusiast who will find it of particular help as it is divided into convenient areas of exploration.
    I recently explored parts of a crumbling old mansion near Beaumaris and discovered the remains of a Pelton wheel presumably for electricity generation although the generator was missing. There are also water storage tanks in the grounds fed from a local reservoir. From the comments and interest being shown in the mechanics of country houses it’s apparent that there could be a new and relatively untapped source of artifacts awaiting discovery and in need of recording, conserving or restoring. Private estates must have been at the forefront of some of these emerging technologies that we all benefit from today. Lord Armstrong’s Cragside is the obvious ‘jewel in the crown’ for the National Trust when it comes to such innovations.
    I would certainly be interested in assisting with any ram pump house project at Penrhyn Castle as I live near Bangor.

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