Home from France


Adam Matheson window



Window in Jedburgh Parish Church dedicated to Adam Matheson


 (I can no longer find a reference to this window on line, and would be glad of any information)

After his return in June 1866 from horticultural study in Angers, France , Thomas immediately returned to his home in Jedburgh.  His father had died, but his mother and brother James ( and perhaps his sister Annie, who is hard to trace) still lived there.  He remained in the Jedburgh area until the 28th February, when he traveled to his first post as Head Gardener, secured for him through the Nurserymen Downie, Laird and Laing, who had branches both in Edinburgh and London.

Thomas spent his time revisiting old friends including his apprenticeship companion, Oliver Taylor, by now gardener at Sunlaws, [Now the Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Club].  While at home Thomas visited many local sites of interest.  A major part of the time was spent with his friend Adam Mathieson, curator of the Jedburgh Museum, whom he had first met in 1861 while an apprentice at Minto.  Read more about Matheson here

It does not seem that Thomas had any work during the more than seven months after his return from study.  Always cautious, he must have kept savings either from France or from his previous posts in Scotland and England or both.  No doubt he kept abreast of the many and rapid developments in horticulture at the time, perhaps from the pages of The Gardeners’ Chronicle.  The most significant aspect of this time in Scotland is his time ‘geologising’ with Adam Matheson.  Once again Thomas found himself in the right place at the right time, with a mentor who was to shape a significant aspect of his later life.


To Study Horticulture in France

Pale glasshouses 1961

Above: glasshouses erected at Palé Hall by Thomas Ruddy about 1870, in decline in the early 1960’s.  The foundations can still be seen in the car park at Palé.

Thomas Ruddy, aged 23 in 1865, and already qualified to call himself a Head Gardener, rejected the offer of a position at Titley Court in Herefordshire, and after a short stay in London, working at the nursery of Downie, Laird and Laing, opted to go to France to study horticulture in the nursery of M. Leroy in Angers.  It would seem that Thomas had already earned and saved enough money to fund this venture – he had no other source of income.

I am researching this decision – why France, did other young ambitious gardeners study there?  was Angers a particularly noted venue for such study?  I would be glad of any information relating to these questions.

Here is a brief collection of thoughts so far…