1871 New Homes

Screenshot 2016-05-29 20.13.14
Palé Garden House, Thomas Ruddy, Mary his wife and their first son Thomas Alexander outside.

1871 was the year that in February Thomas and his new family moved into the Garden House:

Feb 10th Friday I took possession of my new house at Palé, got in my furniture and made all comfortable.

The photograph above was probably taken in  1871 or possibly 1872;  the shrubs planted by the house are very immature, and Thomas Alexander is a very small child.  The reverse of the photograph shows the photographer, and annotations,  the upper  (pencil) appearing to be in TR’s handwriting, the lower, (pen) probably by Henry Ruddy, Thomas’ first son of his second marriage.

Garden house reverse

[ I understand that the Garden House is now privately owned, and not part of the Palé estate, and is now known as Rose cottage]

Later the same year the Robertsons moved into Palé:

Sept 18th, Monday This was a great day here, owing to Mr. Robertson and family coming to Palé to live. There was a fine demonstration of welcome. The carriage was drawn up from the Lodge, and that by workmen.

Pale j. ThomasPale reverse

Note three gardeners at work on the lawn – possibly scything.

The Robertson family celebrated their arrival at their long-planned home by planting significant fine trees in the garden.  The choice of the trees and their siting was no doubt Thomas’ suggestion.

Nov 2nd Thursday Mr and Mrs Robertson planted an Auricaria each, the former on the south side of the drive and the latter on the north side. Both trees are a good size.

1872  January 15th Monday   Master Robertson planted a Deodar and a Picea Nordmaniana on lawn, each near the ends of the walls of the fruit garden.

31 Wednesday   Miss Robertson planted a Deodar on lawn in front of the pantry window. Miss Annie planted a Deodar and a Picea grandis, both near the library. Miss Henrietta planted a Deodar and Picea pinsapo, both near the little walk leading to the flower garden.


1870 -Overwork

Throughout the journal until this point Thomas has appeared inexhaustibly energetic and buoyant.  But 18 months into his work at Palé he finds himself exhausted.  His employer and new-found friends combined to address the situation with a holiday by the sea.

During last month I became very ill with debility. I have been very faint and weak. I have brought it on by over-work – I have been so anxious to make Palé nice and satisfactory , both to Mr. Robertson and myself. Dr. Hughes ordered me to the sea side, so that my wife, baby and myself left here for Towyn on 22 August, Monday. Towyn is a quiet, nice watering place, so that we had a pleasant time of it, but I was too weak to enjoy myself much. We lodged at the farmhouse of Tyddyndu with John Roberts, an acquaintance of Mr. Ellis. [ Mr Ellis shown in 1881 Census as farmer of Brynbwlan – where TR lodged before moving into his house in Palé gardens.] During my stay I botanised along the seaside from near Aberdovey to the river Dysini, and a good deal of Towyn Marsh. I found many plants new to me too numerous to mention. We stayed for a week which gave me much strength.

See here  for a contemporary view of Towyn [Tywyn]

Thomas was concerned to get the garden ready for the Robertson family, who had not yet moved from Croggen to Palé.  The hothouses had already been built, as Mr and Mrs Robertson planted vines in January 1870.  As well as the new post – to which Thomas seemed from the outset to be more committed than any he had previously accepted – he had the added new responsibilities of being a new husband and father.

This is the only time I have so far come across the mention of any illness save a trivial passing mention in the journal.

Mr Pamplin (1806-1889)

Portrait said to be of William Pamplin
Portrait of William Pamplin by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Thomas Ruddy seemed able to become acquainted throughout his life with people  who could guide, inform, influence and befriend him.  Many of these shaped the course of his life and interests.  Two examples referred to in the early pages of the journal are Robert Daniel, a friend of Thomas’ father who advised Thomas to become a gardener and Adam Mathieson, curator of the Jedburgh museum, and significant amateur geologist, inspirer of Thomas’ geological interest.

None, however, was as significant as his friendship with William Pamplin was to become.  Drawn together by a shared love of botany, ornithology and horticulture, they were later to become related by marriage, when in 1881 the widowed Thomas would marry William’s niece Frances Harriet.  It was for this reason that some of the Pamplin papers passed down with the Ruddy papers, residing in the trunk which I first opened in 2005, and which has so considerably influenced the course of my own life.

William had a remarkable life, and he was already about 64 when Thomas first refers to him in the journal in 1870.  Born in London and living there for most of his life, it was a matter of chance that both men came to live in what was then a fairly remote area of Wales.  I will try in later posts to trace the history of William’s family as well as that of Thomas’.  Meanwhile this link to the Welsh Archives will begin to sketch the man who was to become Thomas’ greatest friend in Wales.  They are buried close to one another in Llandderfel churchyard, the nearest village to Palé Hall.

I am not an expert on William Pamplin – others are better equipped than I to give an account of his life – and I may draw on their expertise for future posts.  His life story, pieced together by Internet research, items from the collection in my care and the researches of other Pamplin enthusiasts, and not least from online census reports, is fascinating and intriguing.  From now on I shall be interspersing Thomas Ruddy’s journal entries with the story of William’s ancestors, and the lives of other members of the Pamplin family.