Volunteers at Pennsbury Manor


Pennsbury Manor | History

Our History

William Penn Timeline

William Penn knew what he wanted: “A country life and estate I like best for my children.” By the spring of 1683, construction was underway on Penn’s home in the country. Today, his recreated 17th century estate sits on 43 picturesque acres along the Delaware River. Come for a visit and experience colonial life as it existed 300 years ago at Penn’s country home. Take a guided tour, explore our award-winning exhibit William Penn: Seed of a Nation, learn more about one of America’s most famous Quakers. Bring the family for a stroll through our garden, visit our friendly farm animals, and enjoy fun family activities. The past is waiting for you!

william ipenn

Gardening at Pennsbury

The English were skilled horticulturalists, participating in the exchange of plants and information throughout Europe and the colonies. Penn encouraged his gardeners to collect plants from the surrounding forests for use in the kitchen garden and shipping back to England. Quakers, like Penn, supported gardening and studying nature as a way of learning about the works of God. The position of an estate gardener was an important one. Gardeners needed to be able to read and write, be physically fit, and intelligent. The position was second only to the steward, and the gardener would assume responsibility if there was no steward.


Colonial Americans at Pennsbury

Daily life in colonial times was dictated by the seasons of the year, far more than our lives are today.
Summer was a time for growing and preserving food. Long days served Pennsbury residents well as they tended gardens and crops, picked fruits and vegetables, and dried, salted, or pickled produce, herbs, or meat for use in the winter. During the summer the Penns might be in residence, with extra workers cooking elaborate meals for the Penn family and their friends, doing laundry, and possibly even serving on the rowing crew of Penn’s personal barge.

Lenape tribal members present on cultural fire preparation

Pennsbury & Colonial Revival

Does it look like the original?

This question can be answered with a firm and resounding shrug of the shoulders. There simply is not enough information available to draw many conclusions about what Pennsbury looked like in 1700.
Archeology confirms a brick front and clapboard back, as reported by Penn in 1685 when he directed “what you can do with bricks, do, what you cant, doe it with good timbers … and we can brick it afterwards.” Unfortunately, Penn was never able to complete the brick work.

small bed red P1000437

The Manor House

Pennsbury was not just a family home. When Penn was in residence, Pennsbury also served as his office and a center of colonial government. The green tiles on this fireplace hearth in the Porch were uncovered by archeologists during the reconstruction of Pennsbury in the 1930s.

pennsbury manor house wig

William Penn and American History

Penn and other Quakers believed that everyone had to seek God in his or her own way. Penn also thought that religious tolerance – or “liberty of conscience” – would create stronger governments and wealthier societies. Other English thinkers in the 1600s shared these ideas. But Penn had the opportunity to act on his beliefs. In Pennsylvania, religious tolerance was the law.

Penn welcomed settlers from all faiths to Pennsylvania. Each of the other American colonies had established an official church, but Penn did not.

Pennsbury Manor | History

The quakers of the middle colonies

William Penn and other Quakers within the Middle Colonies believed that everyone had to seek God in his or her own way. Penn viewed his new colony as a “Holy Experiment” offering religious tolerance and stronger governments. Other English thinkers in the 1600s shared these ideas but in Pennsylvania, religious tolerance became the law. Read more about the Quakers at Pennsbury here.

  • Apprenticeships vs. Indentured Servants

    Some of the servants at Pennsbury were indentured. What that means is that these men and women worked for a pre-determined period of years in exchange for transport to America and “freedom dues” once their indenture was complete. Many of Pennsylvania’s early leading citizens began their American lives as indentured servants. An apprenticeship on the other hand was a contract between the master craftsman and the student. The apprentice agreed to work for the master without pay for the term of the contract. Apprentices worked alongside their master and any journeymen in the shop but were free to travel between families and would eventually start his own shop in a different community after the conclusion of the training, approximately 7 years. Find out more about indentured servitude here.

  • Religious Tolerance of Early Pennsylvania

    Each of the other American colonies had established an official church, but William Penn did not. He sought out religious groups suffering in Europe, and invited them to his colony. Yet religious tolerance did not mean that colonists of all faiths had equal rights. Some of the other sects that made their home in Pennsylvania were the Amish, Mennonites, Catholics, Lutherans and Jews. The most influential religious bodies beside the Quakers were the large congregations of German Reformed and Presbyterians. Find out more about religious tolerance here.

  • Penn’s Treaty with the Lenape Tribe

    William Penn was certainly not the first European to settle in Pennsylvania and make contact with Native Americans already living in the area. The Lenape accepted these first settlers with caution. Trading with the Lenni Lenape tribe began to thrive when William Penn included land as well as goods in their dealings. William Penn’s “memorable treaty with Tamanend” took place just south of Pennsbury in what is the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
    “We meet on the broad pathway of good faith and good-will; no advantage shall be taken on either side, but all shall be openness and love. We are the same as if one man’s body was to be divided into two parts; we are of one flesh and one blood.”
    Support the historical preservation of Pennsbury Manor by becoming a member.

Skip to content