Pennsbury Manor, William Penn’s country home on the Delaware River, is now the centerpiece of a state park in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The current Manor House is not the original building. In the 1930s, the house and outbuildings were reconstructed based on archeological diggings and the writings from Penn’s time. The reconstructed Manor House is built on the original foundations and furnished with items Penn might have owned and a few items he was know to have owned. It faces the river, which provided the quickest mode of transportation to Philadelphia.
The Manor House was built to accommodate Penn, his family, and servants in comfort. The house was begun in 1683 and completed in 1686. Brick was used on the front of the house, but Penn had insufficient brick to use on the back.
Since he had to return to England in 1684, Penn did not get to live in the house until he returned in 1699. In the intervening years, his beloved first wife Gulielma died after a long illness, leaving him in charge of three children. Penn married his second wife, Hannah, in 1696, and it was she who returned to Pennsylvania and lived at the Manor with him. Their son John was the only one of Penn’s children born in America.
Penn only lived in the house a couple years. Political and financial difficulties forced him to return to England in 1701, and he never returned to Pennsylvania. Although his son, William Penn, Jr. visited the colony and lived in the house, the place fell into disrepair.
Penn’s heirs sold the property in 1792. In 1932, The Charles Warner Company gave Pennsylvania the ten-acre site. The reconstructed Manor opened to the public in 1939.
In Penn’s time, the first floor of the Manor was considered a place for business, while the upper floors comprised the actual family home. The front door opens to a great hall referred to as the Porch. This was the waiting room for Penn’s visitors. To the left of this waiting room is the Governor’s Parlor, where Penn conducted official business. Behind this is the Main Parlor. At the center rear of the house is the stairway that leads to the upper floors.
To the right of the great hall are two dining rooms, the smaller family dining room at the front of the house, and the main dining hall at the rear, where guests were entertained. In a small wing to the right of these is the original kitchen. After Penn, worried about the danger of fire, had the Bake and Brew House built, this became the place where Hannah dispensed herbal medicines.
To the right of the stairs on the second floor lie two bedrooms, William Penn’s at the front of the house and John’s at the back of the house, where both the baby and his nursemaid slept. To the right of the stairs are two more bedrooms: the Best Room, for important guests, at the front of the house, and Penn’s unmarried daughter Letitia’s room at the rear. Between the two back bedroom’s is Hannah’s closet, a small sitting room for Penn’s wife.
We were not able to see the third floor, which housed servants and is not open to the public.
Other interesting facts we learned during our tour:
- clocks only had an hour hand
- rugs, which were very valuable, were used on tables, not on floors
- candles were very expensive and only used for guests
- Penn served coffee, tea, and hot chocolate — a favorite
- the green tile used around some of the fireplaces was found during the excavations
- the largest number of Quakers in one country are in Kenya
If you have the chance, visit Pennsbury Manor and take a tour. It’s well worth the time!