Skip to main content

Learning about William Penn at Pennsbury Manor


(The front of the house, which faces the Delaware River)

Few will argue that Pennsylvania is rich in history and even the small towns hold gems of information—just consult any local historical society and you’ll discover that to be true.

These past few years, I’ve spent time learning more about Pennsylvania history thanks to various organizations dedicated to keeping the past alive.

A trip to Bucks county took me on an educational journey to Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, where I learned a wealth of information about Pennsylvania’s founder William Penn, who became known as a champion of religious liberty and a promoter of principles that laid the groundwork for the First Amendment.

For those who have yet to visit, Pennsbury Manor is the recreated home of William Penn on the Delaware River. Open to the public since 1939, the 43-acre site is comprised of 20 buildings designed to educate visitors on the life of those who lived during the early days when Pennsylvania was first founded. A woodworker’s shop, a blacksmith shop, barns, stables, a woodshed, a “necessary,” (“outhouse”), a worker’s cottage and a Manor House are just a few of the buildings erected on the property.

Photo 2

Photo 3(The garden at Pennsbury Manor)

An exhibit at the visitor’s center titled, “The Seed of a Nation” provides insight into the how Penn laid the groundwork for religious tolerance and representative government.  A detailed timeline takes visitors on a journey of the life of William Penn, describing periods of his life where he progressed from “Young Aristocrat,” to “Quaker Spokesman,” “Optimistic Proprietor,” and finally, “Disillusioned Leader.”  A large scrolling list enumerates the many religions that were practiced here thanks to Penn. Many are recognizable, others require the assistance of Google.

They say behind every successful man is a strong woman and Penn’s wife Hannah Callowhill Penn is no exception. A timeline takes visitors through the highlights of her life and the role she played as a helpmate to Penn. She resided in the Manor house while Penn spent most of his time in England.

Photo 4(An attractive, tiled fireplace at the manor)

Photo 5
(An eating area at the Manor)

Doug Miller, Pennsbury Manor Director, said that “The Seed of a Nation” earned a national award from the American Association of State and Local History and that the site is significant in that it is the only place in Pennsylvania dedicated to William Penn.

Photo 6(The bedchamber reserved for overnight guests)

A particularly colorful bedroom in bright shades of yellow and red stands in stark contrast to some of the less vibrant colors in most of the other rooms and is a curiosity to many. Miller explains: “You’d set aside the best bedchamber for the overnight guests. The color choice was based on a period example of a home in England called the “Hamn House,” and they were the royal colors at the time,” he said.

In addition to guided and group tours, Pennsbury offers 60 types of educational programming ranging from period cooking, to woodworking and blacksmithing.

Photo 7(A re-enactor cooks on an open hearth)

Photo 8

Matthew Russell, formerly of the Harrisburg area, spent several summers learning about history there at day camp. “The staff is well educated and it’s a good place to gain an understanding about William Penn’s contributions,” said Russell, who benefited from hands-on experiences like baking muffins using flour milled on the property and currants grown onsite. “From a young age I was interested in William Penn and the month-long experience was really immersive; it was a great experience,” he said.

To learn more visit:


Images (8)
  • Photo 1
  • Photo 2
  • Photo 3
  • Photo 4
  • Photo 5
  • Photo 6
  • Photo 7
  • Photo 8


Add Comment

Comments (0)

Link copied to your clipboard.