1885: Scenes from Victorian life


The death of General Gordon at Khartoum by J.L.G. Ferris      (public domain)

I will quote the first thee months of Thomas’ journal in full, giving as they do a broad insight into his various interests and activities, ranging from the success of his crops to the international news of the year:

January 1st 1885  The last year has been a warm and fruitful one; every crop did well in the garden. Our government have sent troops at the Nile to get General Gordon out of Khartoum who is shut up there with Egyptian troops and defending themselves against the Mahdi or False Prophet as he is called at the head of his Sudanese.  An American dynamite party has given some trouble in London by attempting to blow up London Bridge and other buildings.

Trade in general is very slack all over the country. France is at war with China . https://www.britannica.com/event/Sino-French-War

From events on the world stage, Thomas turns to local and more personal news:

Tuesday January 6th Today Mrs Owen of the White Lion Bala died suddenly. She was a very kind friend.

His brother-in-law comes to stay in the Llandderfel cottage rented by the London Pamplin family:

Monday January 19th Mr. Williams came here from London for a weeks shooting over Henblas. We were very pleased to see him, but I could not get to the station to meet him as I had an influenza cold.

Saturday the 24th Mr Williams returned to London. We were very sorry to see him go. I went to the station with him. This day the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower of London were much damaged by dynamite. The dastardly and cowardly explosions have caused great consternation in London and all over the country. Fortunately none were killed but sorry to say five or six were injured. It will take about £20,000 to restore the buildings again as they were.

Geology remains an abiding interest, and his employer Henry Robertson shows an interest and brings his guest to visit the collection

Friday 6th February Mr. Robertson brought his guest Mr Frank Archer to see my collection of Bala fossils. Both gentlemen were here for nearly 2 hours, and both are like were highly pleased with the collection.

Saturday   Mr. Robertson and Mr Archer came again for nearly a couple of hours to see the remainder of the collection and my antiquities. Mr Archer is a very good geologist and antiquary. Mr Haywood told me about him some time ago. He is an honorary member of our Chester Society.

Events abroad cause alarm:

Saturday the 7th News arrived today to say the Mahdi captured Khartoum by treachery on the 26th of last month and that General Gordon was killed. Our troops only two days late in reaching Khatoum at least a small party by river. Great sorrow and indignation in the country about it. Gladstone in Office.

Family events are chronicled with pride, and old friends visited:

March 1st   This was Henry’s first Sunday at church. He walked nicely and kept very quiet all the time and was much pleased with going.

Saturday the 7th   Frances, the little ones, and myself had tea with Mr Pamplin. He and I went for our first 1885 walk as far as Tyrsa (?) It was very pleasant at the lanes and in the fields.

Thomas continued to be in demand for landscaping and horticultural advice.  He was friendly with the Principal, a fellow antiquarian.

Friday 13th  I went to Bala to look over the C.M. College grounds with the trustees so as to see what could be done in the way of improvements. I was there for two hours. As it was so fine I got Francis to go to Bala with me and she took the two little ones with her. They spent most of their time with Mrs. Evan Jones of Mount Place while I was on duty.

Bala Calvinistic Methodist College


After I got done, Dr. Hughes took me for a drive to Llanwchllyn. Our principal object in going that way was to see a newly discovered inscribed Roman stone.  For a description of Thomas’ visit to the stone, just 8 days after it had been found, see here: https://wp.me/P5UaiG-kG

Roman inscription from Caer Gai

Pamplin family stories 1884

During their extensive visit to London in autumn 1884, Thomas and Frances Harriett Ruddy visited the Pamplin family graves in Newington and Walthamstow, where Thomas copied the inscriptions on various tombstones and rehearsed the stories of his wife’s near relatives and ancestors.

Thursday 4th November Before dinner we went up the Causeway, saw new Kent Road, Walworth Road, we went into the churchyard where the church of St Mary Newington stood before it was pulled down. It was gay with chrysanthemums and it is a pretty bit of pleasure ground for the people of the district. I examined the marble tablet which some of the parishioners elected as a token of their esteem to the memory of the Father of Frances.
The inscription on it is:
  “In memory of William Williams,
  25 years Clerk of this Parish.
  Who died on 9 November 1866
  aged 59 years.
  This tablet is erected by several Parishioners
  in testimony of their esteem and respect. “ I also saw the tombstones and graves of the father of the above and other relatives.

After dinner Thomas, Frances and baby and Mr Williams went to Walthamstow.  They looked at the gravestones of the Pamplin and Dench family and Thomas copied the inscriptions.  Among them were William Pamplin 1740-1805 (see above) Frances Pampin nee Wildsmith 1744-1830, Mary Rawson nee Pamplin 1773-1805, her sister Susanna who died in 1857, William Pamplin 1768-1844 and his wife Harriott nee Dench 1774-1832.  Of this William, Thomas says:

He was for some years gardener to Mr. Crawshay the iron master in South Wales, and afterwards had nurseries, first at Chelsea and afterwards at Lavender Hill, Wandsworth.  He was a man of no ordinary intelligence, for various of his writings in manuscript show that he read much, studied hard, and made good use of his time.  I have seen a letter of Mr. Crawshay in which he begs of him to return to his old master after he left him.

William Pamplin’s card for his Chelsea nursery, now in the Garden Museum

More can be found about this William Pamplin at  http://williampamplin.co.uk/wm-pamplin-elder/

The first Pamplin (his father) had a nursery garden in Walthamstow, this nursery was carried on after his death by a son named James who died on the 31st December 1865.  The nursery (Whipps Cross) is now carried on by his son William.

The acquisition of a wife whose family history could be traced back over several generations would have been in great contrast to his own family.  He had turned his back in his Irish ancestors with his decision to account himself as Scottish on census forms from 1871 onwards, his mother had died in 1883, and although his brother James lived on in Jedburgh as an agricultural labourer, there is no record I have yet discovered of any ongoing relationship with him.  Indeed, from evidence of death registrations, James may not have been able to write.  I understand that it was the eldest daughters of Thomas and Frances Harriett who discovered and traced the Ruddy family’s origins in Murrisk, Ireland.