Reader – he married her!

London Metropolitan Archives

On July 14th 1881 Frances Harriet Williams arrived in Llanderfel where she stayed for over a month with her uncle and aunt William and Margaret Pamplin.  Her mother, Frances Williams, had been in Llanderfel the previous month.  Nothing is said in Thomas’ journal about the events of these two visits, beyond descriptions of walks taken, but since Thomas was to marry Frances Harriet in October 1881, one can conjecture that Mrs. Williams was asked permission to marry her daughter in June and that a proposal was made to Frances Harriet in July or August.

The July/August visit must have been an important one, since a marriage proposal to Frances H. would involve her becoming stepmother to three youngsters – Thomas Alexander aged 13, William P. aged 9 and Mary Emily aged 7.  Frances Harriet Williams was herself already aged 35 and must have been considered by her family as perhaps unlikely to marry.

Thomas reveals nothing as Frances H. leaves Lllanderfel in August 1881.  the next time she returns she will be Mrs. Ruddy. ‘August 19th I went to Ruabon to see Miss Williams off to London. Afterwards I rambled about and walked back to Llangollen. I got a few shells on the way and also plants, but nothing new to me. ‘

Thomas records in detail a walk ascending Cader Idris with companions from the Chester Society on August 23rd (see future post) and the same walk with Master Robertson’s current tutor and former tutor on September 3rd, his description including a very competent geological sketch:

Thomas Ruddy: diary page for 3rd September 1881

Then on Friday October 7th 1881 Thomas departs for London by train, and at last there is confirmation of the forthcoming marriage:  Mr. Williams and his dear sister (my intended wife) met me at the train. I was delighted to see them, and they were no less so to see me, so that our meeting was as happy as it was enthusiastic. Our faces beamed with joy, and we were all excitement. We got a cab, which took us to 25 Kennington Park Road SE about a quarter past 8 o’clock. Mrs. Williams was waiting to welcome me to her home. I was soon at home and most comfortable. We all spent a happy evening together.

The next two days are spent meeting close family friends of the Williams’ and going to church three times:  Sunday was very fine. We went to Newington Church in the morning, and Frances and I went to the afternoon service in the Abbey. After service we looked through it to see the monuments. Got introduced to Miss Neate in the evening. All had tea together and went to St. Thomas’s Church Lambeth. Mr. Starey the vicar preached. 

So far, so good.  But Thomas was Thomas, and how could he resist visiting two Museums in the capital devoted to his enduring passions, natural history and geology.  Miss Williams can have been in no doubt about the abiding interests of her future husband.  Fortunately, she seems to have shared his interest:  Monday 10th Frances and I went by the District or Underground Railway from Westminster Bridge to South Kensington. Visited the Geological Museum there. I was highly interested with what I saw in the way of fossils. Saw the skeleton of a mastodon 18 feet in length, a Dinotherium with tusks 4 or 5 yards in length and a mammoth with tusks 4 yards in length. I also saw a fine male and female Irish Elk, Ground Sloth, and a cast of monster armadillo.

 Among the Saurians I saw fine specimens of the following: Plesiosaurus, Ichthyosaurus and Pterodactyl, with many others. I saw a fine collection of bones from caves. I had a letter of introduction from Mr. Palin to young Mr. Etheridge, whom I found to be very courteous and willing to show me the Silurian Collection. I can say that Mr. Etheridge is quite an enthusiastic geologist. The British Caradoc or Bala collection is very poor. Frances and I stayed 2 and a half hours in the Museum. We went from S.K. station to Kew Gardens. We had but a little over a couple of hours. The palm house is very good. The collection being well-grown and clean. The Lily House is also very nice and interesting with its lilies, valisneria [aquatic foliage plant] and other rare plants. The Fern House has a good and clean collection.

Tuesday 11th Frances and I went to the Geological Museum, Jermyn Street [Established 1853, transferred to Exhibition Rd. S. Kensington 1935, taken over by the Natural History Museum 1985  see here ]  I can say that there is a magnificent collection of minerals and fossils, and all beautifully arranged. The collection of Bala fossils is very good, and the Irish specimens are very good, but many of the British specimens are poor. Indeed, I could only see very miserable representatives of many of our Welsh species.   Mr. Newton kindly opened the cases for me, so that I might examine them critically.

Internal and external pictures of the Geological Museum, Jermyn Street

At some time Thomas must have set about rectifying the poor collection of Brutish Bala fossils, as I have established that there are over 1,000 specimens collected by Thomas held at present by the Natural History Museum.

By Wednesday Thomas and Frances Harriet had re-focussed on their marriage, and by mid-day on Thursday they were husband and wife:  Wednesday 12th Mr. Williams and I went to Doctor’s Commons, near St. Paul’s to get the marriage license. After getting it we went as far as the Bank of England, the Mansion House, Royal Exchange, down Cornhill; and afterwards got back to Queen Victoria Street, and saw the Civil Service Stores, then home over Blackfriars Bridge.

Thursday the 13th  at 11 o’clock I was married to Frances Harriett Williams at St. Mary’s Church, Newington S.E.   Mr. Palmer the rector officiated, and also delivered a very beautiful address. Miss Neate acted as bridesmaid, and Mr. Irvine as best man. Her brother Mr. Williams gave her away, and her mother was present. All of us signed the Marriage Register. We had a very beautiful day with the sun shining, so that we wished the old saying to be true, ‘happy is the bride the sun shines on’. We all enjoyed ourselves up till 4 o’clock, when Frances and I took our departure for London Bridge Station amidst a shower of rice.

Newington Church and Mr. Palmer, Rector in 1881

 

 

 

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Walking and waiting 1881

The White Lion Hotel, Bala
The White Lion Hotel, Bala

Thomas had lost his first wife Mary in June 1879, and by 1881 he was drawing nearer to the Pamplin family, and in particular, to Frances Harriet Williams, niece of his friend William Pamplin.  In particular he refers to a significant visit from Frances H and her mother Frances Williams, nee Pamplin, in February 1881.

Walking was always central to Thomas’ life, and several walks are recorded in the journal of the first half of 1881.  His friends, made mainly via the Chester Society and further acquaintances recommended by  friends from the Society seem to have been central in his rehabilitation following Mary’s death.

A Bank holiday walk on April 18th with Mr. Jebb, whom he met on the highest summit of the Berwyns, took him on a 20 mile round trip, ending with a meal at the ‘smartest’ hotel in Bala, the White Lion. Thomas’ friends were usually from a ‘higher’ echelon of society, as discerned by the scrupulous social order of Victorian Society, but his geological and botanical knowledge gave him the edge in any expedition into the hills.

On May 4th the Vicar of Runcorn, the Revd. William Preston arrived, introduced by a letter from Mr. Shrubsole of the Chester Society, to view Thomas’ fossil collection, and be taken on a fossil hunting expedition.

The full text of these walks here.

On May 10th Thomas walked with Mr. Dean, the brother of Mrs. Robertson, wife of his employer.  Thomas quite frequently spent time in the company of John Dean, who seems to have shared his interest in the countryside, and who no doubt relied on Thomas as guide and interpreter of the environment.

Text of this walk here

On Tuesday 4th June  Thomas set out from William and Margaret Pamplin’s house with Mrs. Williams, mother of Thomas’ future second wife, for a lengthy walk to Pont y Glyn.  William was at this time 75 years old, and Frances Williams 73.  It is interesting that Frances, who had been a widow since 1866, was visiting alone, since the friendship between Thomas and her daughter had become so close.  Was she perhaps visiting to enable Thomas to ask her permission to propose marriage to Frances Harriet?

The walk was about 7 miles, over testing mountainous country, to a height of 430 metres (400 ft)  Thomas comments on the sprightly nature of his companions (Margaret Pamplin was younger – only 43 at the time.)  From Pont y Glyn they returned by ‘a conveyance’.  Would it be necessary to book this in advance, I wonder, or could one find a conveyance in the village, or stop one passing on the road?

To end an exciting day, Thomas records feeling a sizeable earthquake in the evening.  his own world was certainly in the process of change.  I wonder whether he regarded it as an omen?

Text of the walk here