1884 A Visit to a Neighbouring Estate – Plas Power

Screenshot 2017-12-13 16.34.35
Plas Power before its demolition

As mentioned in my last post, Thomas Ruddy was frequently invited to look at, or sometimes advise on neighbouring estate gardens.  At a time of great interest and expenditure on gardens by landowners, and perhaps particularly by newly rich ones, there would have been a degree of one-upmanship involved.  Henry Robertson had gone to great lengths to engage a particularly well-equipped Head Gardener in 1869 when he employed Thomas Ruddy.  As a person of local consequence, an MP and a Deputy Lieutenant, he had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.  Talk of estates, gardens  and such currently popular acquisitions as vineries, hot houses etc. must have been among favourite subjects of conversation.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Fitz Hugh went to some lengths to welcome his guest, providing transport from Wrexham station, meeting and speaking to him on his arrival and ensuring lunch was provided in the mansion. The day ended with a long talk about the garden with Mr. Fitz Hugh, transport back to the station and expenses of the day paid.

August 27 Wednesday Mr Fitz-Hugh of Plas Power invited me to see his gardens, so I left here by the 929 and got to Wrexham a little after 11.  There was a groom with a trap waiting for me. It was a very pleasant drive to the mansion especially at the drive-through the Park. The drive is [116] 1 mile in length from the lodge to the mansion. The Park is said to be the finest in North Wales. There is fine timber in it; fine old Oaks, elms, beaches, Spanish chestnuts et cetera. On arriving at the mansion I had a short talk with Mr Fitz-Hugh in a room, after which he took me through the ground to the Gardener Mr Clarke. Mr Clarke is from near York, is about 45 or so – middle height. We had a look at the peaches on the wall, the melon and strawberry pits, etc.

I had dinner in the mansion at 1 o’clock. After dinner I went round again, saw the vineries, greenhouse et cetera there are two vineries – the vines are in a very exhausted state, so that the grapes were very poor. The houses have been neglected and are very unsatisfactory. There is no peach house because the peaches do very well outside. The trees were in fair condition and had a nice crop. The melons were a failure, having rotted off at the base of the stalks. Chrysanthemums were planted out and were very good. It is a first rate deep loam and the climate is very much drier and warmer than here, so that trees and crops grow rapidly and well. The ornamental grounds are very beautiful, and contain good specimens of conifers in excellent health and branching to the ground.

After seeing the gardens we went to see a very fine section of Offa’s Dyke. There is about a mile of it through the Park, mostly in excellent preservation. It is about 30 feet wide at the top running to a narrow bottom. Depth about 20 feet. The whole of the material excavated is thrown up on the English side of the trench. Section of it [drawn section included on page]

  Section labels:     No. 1. Welsh side old level of soil. 2. The excavated ditch or trench called the ‘Dyke’. 3 old level of ground on the English side. 4. the excavated material thrown up on one side. Number two is 20 feet deep, number 4, 10 feet above old level of soil. It is supposed that King Offa had it dug to form either a defensive work or boundary between England and Wales. But some consider it to be a Roman work. It begins at the sea in Flintshire and runs to the Severn or the Wye – 100

 miles. [added later] Offa’s Dyke is now considered to have been made to stop the Welsh from stealing English cattle. Builder August 28, 1886.


From Offa’s Dyke I went up to the west drive to the Minera Road then down to a romantic dingle at a mill. Followed the dingle by a private walk to the South Lodge. The dingle is very pretty, contains some fine old oaks and other trees, is bedecked with ferns and shrubs et cetera. The river runs over sandstone rock into which it has cut deeply in some places. The river has its source in the hills of Cym-y-brain, comes past the mining district of Minera, passes the village of Bersham, and enters the Dee under the name of the Clywedog. It used to be a good trout stream, but it is now so much poisoned with the lead refuse and lime that no trout can live in it. Near the village of Bersham I saw the private little church which Mr Fitz-Hugh had built for his own use, servants, and some of his tenants. It has a groined stone roof, and is elaborately carved in Grecian style.

Plas Power church website

John Wilkinson token (not the one mentioned by Thomas – these are no longer present in the collection.)

I saw where Mr John Wilkinson, ironmaster, used to cast cannon about a century ago or so. The works were near the little river, a short distance from the village of Bersham. Mr Wilkinson had the privilegeof coining copper tokens. I have two of them his home was Brymbo Hall a few miles north of Plas Power. I returned through the Park to the mansion where I had tea. It is a very roomy brick mansion with stone quoins. There is a terrace wall half round it and the flower garden; the latter is in the Dutch style and the mansion is roughly Elizabethan. I had a long talk with Mr Fitz-Hugh about his gardens before I left. The day was rather wet but I enjoyed my visit very much. Mr Fitz-Hugh was very kind and free, paid my expenses, and made the groom take me to the station. I returned home by the last train.

The weir on the river Clywedog in Nant Mill woods, Plas Power estate.

This and other visits and encounters throw light on the very delicately nuanced relationship between Head Gardener and gentry at a time of very firm class distinctions.  There were a unique set of relationships between trusted and long standing senior staff members of large houses –  housekeepers, butlers, gamekeepers, head gardeners and so on which gave them access quite intimately to the private life of the resident family, and by association with other notable families of the area.


1887: Carry on collecting

The Garden House about 1872/3.   Thomas, first wife Mary and Thomas Alexander

Thomas’ collections continued apace, comprising not only fossils, but antiquities, coins and probably birds’ eggs. The Garden House at Palé although spacious for its time, with two adults and 4 children from William aged 15 to Caroline aged 2, a live-in servant and another child expected in September of 1887 must have been bulging at the seams.

Not only was Thomas collecting for himself, but others in the area, including members of the Robertson family were keen to add to his treasures:

Tuesday the 29th [March 1887] Mrs. Sheriff  [Formerly Annie Robertson – an early widow – ed.] who has been staying at Nice for a time, very kindly brought me a Roman tear bottle; it is a small glass vessel bulb shaped, with a longish neck.  Mrs Sheriff saw it dug up in a Roman cemetery at the town of Ventimiglia, in the north of Italy, and in the ancient province of Liguria.  Many other curious articles were found in the same place. It is 2 1/2 inches high, and 1 1/2 inches across the bulb. Length of neck 1 1/2 inches and the bulb is 3 1/4 inches in circumference.

Thomas himself rarely returned from a ramble without something to add to one or other collection. Some finds were more unexpected than others:

Tuesday the 31st [March 1887]. I went to Garnedd in the evening. I picked up an unfinished stone hammer on the wall in one of the fields belonging to Pandy farm, the field in which is situated and old lime kiln, close to the Hernant Stream.  It had been ploughed up in a potato field, and was placed on the wall as a curiosity. It is in the rough, but is drilled for some depth from each side, the drilling being quite sharp.

Recent information shows that this hammer or ‘mace’ eventually ended up in the National Museum of Wales, having been presented with other finds by Thomas’ son Henry. This is known as ‘The Ruddy Collection’.

From ‘A History of Merioneth’ Vol 1  Bowen & Gresham  MHRS 1967

Information kindly supplied by Haf Roberts.

1884 Indoors and outdoors

In May 1884 another baby was born to Thomas’ growing family:

Sunday, May 18th  Baby born at 7:50 o’clock. Her name is to be the same as her mother Francis Harriett, and it will include part of her grandmother’s name.  All passed over very well and Mrs Williams was here at the time. Mrs. Owen came to the rescue shortly after until nurse arrived. Doctor arrived at 7:10.

For reference to her grandmother, Harriott Pamplin, neé Dench, see here

Mrs. Owen was the Housekeeper at Palé and was to become Godmother to baby Frances Harriett.  This suggests how closely the staff and the family of the ‘big house’ were concerned with the Ruddy family.  Their assistance would have been essential to enable Thomas to carry on as widowed father after the death of his first wife, Mary.  He appeared to able to go on with his work, natural history and geology expeditions and in due course court, marry and go on honeymoon with his second wife whilst the three quite young children of his first marriage were adequately cared for.  The Welsh census returns of each decade also show a living in general maid at the Garden House.

I have not been able to get the dimensions of the Garden House at Palé; it is a substantial house, but by 1884 was becoming well-populated.  With Thomas and his wife, there were the three children of the first marriage, Thomas Alexander (15), William Pamplin (12) and Mary Emily (11) The eldest son of the second marriage, Henry Ernest was 2, there was the new baby, the live-in servant Jane and Mrs. Williams, Frances’ mother, was staying with them.

Thomas’ ever increasing collections must have needed a growing amount of space, and as is clear from an entry later in 1884, there were always people anxious to come and see them, even with a very new baby in the house:

Friday 30th May  Mr and Mrs Aitken of Urmston Manchester came to see my fossils. Mr Aitken is president of the Manchester Geological Society. He was with the party I acted as a guide to last year and who went to Llanwydden. He examined my collection very minutely and was very pleased to see it. He said he never thought to see such a fine collection of Bala fossils although he was told I had a good one.

His wife was a very affable lady and enjoyed herself with Francis and Mrs Williams. They came by the 5.20 train and went to Bala by the last from here as they were going to stay at the Lion Hotel. I met them at the train and we had tea ready for them of which they willingly partook. I gave him some nice Bala fossils and went to the station with them after they saw the garden.

Thursday, June 19  Major K. McKenzie of the Indian staff Corps brought his wife and daughter to see my collections. They were very much interested in the fossils, birds eggs, dried plants, minerals and coins. The lady was much interested in the plants as she is a botanist. They were here an hour and a half and wished they had more time to stay. They were very much surprised to see such very interesting collections, and they repeatedly said they wished they had made my acquaintance long before. I showed them the circulation of the sap in the Nitella and other interesting things under the microscope.  They were very pleasant and affable, enjoyed their visit and wished they could come again but they leave Bodwenni for Llandudno on Monday.

Thomas was a loving and quite hands-on father by contemporary standards, recording events in the progress of his new daughter:

June 1 Whitsun Day Francis came downstairs to have dinner for the first time since baby was born.  Monday 9th Francis and baby out for first time.

Sunday the 15th Baby was christened at Llanderfel church by Reverend William Morgan. Mr Pamplin was Godfather and Mrs Owen an old friend was Godmother. [Mrs. Owen, Housekeeper at Palé Hall. ed.] Mrs. Williams was at the ceremony. Name – Frances Harriett Ruddy.

Thomas, however was not to be deterred from his lengthy expeditions, which seem to have been essential to his well-being as a busy Head Gardener and devoted husband and father.

Thursday, June 12 I left here by the 9.10 train for Arenig station to have a ramble along the railway down Cwm Prysor Valley.

Cwm Prysor Walk part 1

I got to Arenig by 10 o’clock and at once started up the line past Pont Rhydefen and the north end of Arenig. It was very warm and fine; the cuckoos were calling to one another, the larks [94] were singing merrily above me as I passed along; and the Riverside meadows were blue and white with wild hyacinths and daisies. The only interesting plant I saw until I got to the little lake of Tryweryn was the globe flower.

I walked along the south side of the lake where I saw plenty of the yellow waterlily I found the Isoetes and Littorella lacustris but no Lobelia or any other interesting plant. No shells. At Nant-du, not far from the lake, I examined an old lead mine, which was abandoned about 10 years ago. It was in the Llandeilo slates, had to shafts, some buildings, machinery, and a water wheel. I saw no minerals but as the debris consisted of fine slates I could hardly expect to find any.

I got on the line a little beyond the lake and examined the various rock cuttings through which I passed. I found plenty of Lingulas in the Lingula slates between the lake and viaduct. The Lingula shales between the lake were much iron stained and [95] I saw many thin veins and patches of iron pyrites. I saw the junction of the Lingula shales with the igneous rock, but they did not alter in the least, and the shales lay conformably upon the igneous which was distinctly bedded under them or at least seen so. I shall give sections of the rocks at the end of the account of the day’s rambling.  I saw a pair of golden plovers on the moors and several sandpipers along the mountain streams.

The second part of the Cwm Prysor Walk

I crossed the viaduct which is 12 1/2 miles from Bala and 13 1/2 from Ffestiniog at 10 minutes plus past 12 o’clock; it was then very warm but not at all oppressive as the mountain air seemed to be so bracing. The viaduct is very substantially built a variety of Felstone ash which was quarried on the mountain about one of the half miles distant. It consists of nine arches the middle arches being 100 feet in height. It spans a small stream called Nant Lladron, which runs down and narrow but deep treeless dingle. This structure is the second built as the first fell when nearly finished. I found a ring ouzel’s nest with five eggs about 12 3/4 miles from Bala and some nice crystals of feldspar at the same place.

I had a rough walk over a fearfully rough ballast; which was made up of rough lumps of igneous rock. I went through several rock cuttings where the igneous rocks were distinctly interbedded with Lingula shells, sometimes A bed of igneous would be between two beds of shale without altering either the dip or character of the shales.

I got to a large overhanging mass of igneous rock at a 1:45 o’clock; it was a fine mass and partly overhanging the rails. The line between this rock and the fire that is over and most difficult ground, as it runs along the side of a rocky slope all the way. The rocks stand high above it and the sides sloping down from eight of us, rocky, and strewn withrocky fragments. I found the Arabis hirsuta and the Hypericum androsemum on the big rock. [97] I saw several frames of quartz rock, but could not see any metallic veins. One quartz vein seemed to be auriferous, but I could not detect any visible specks. A little beyond the big rock is an isolated mound called Castell Prysor. I got onto it at 2:10 o’clock. The mound is certainly an ordinary mound like many others in Wales, and which are nothing else but sepulchral mounds. It is entirely made up of loose fragments of rock and earth; there is no masonry of any kind. Two openings were made into the side of it, but were not deep enough to find sepulchral remains. It was placed on a rocky bus of hard igneous rock, overlooking the river Prysor, and not far from the old road leading from Bala to Trawsfynydd. The mound is about the size of the Bala one.

At 2:30 o’clock I’ve got to a little lake short way from the line; it is called on the map Llyn-rhythllyn. (in a later hand – Distributed perch in it Jany 1898) [98] I was tired and thirsty so that I sat down on the stone which stood in the water at the side of the lake and began to eat for the first time since breakfast. It was very pleasant as there was a breeze blowing over the lake and the cool water was so refreshing. Before eating I washed my hands and face. While sitting on the stone I saw a leech about 4 inches in length. I saw plenty of Lobelia and Isoetes in this lake with the Littorella and a bit of Utricularia floating about. I saw freshwater sponges, could not find a single shell.

The lake is oblong, about a mile long and half a mile broad. It was shutting by local grassy hills, but no trees. I saw some little fish run away from the side, and I was told by a friend that there are perch in it, but I think I have read somewhere about char being in it.  About half a mile from the lake I left the line and got into some upland pastures where I found several fine patches of the pretty little Mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica. Near it grew a plant of the Gymnadenia orchis and quantities of the beautiful Vicia orobus which is so plentiful in Merioneth.

I got onto the road leading from Trawsfynydd to Bala at a farm house called Glanllafarwhere I cross the stream on the slab of stone 12 feet in length and another half that.   The stream must be the Llafar as GlanLlafar means on the side of the Llafar. Shortly after I passed by a ditch full of water and sphagnum where I found the Utricularia again.

I got to Trawsfynydd station at 4:10 o’clock. The country between Arenig and Trawsfynydd is not of much interest; a good part of it is wild moorland, and the sides of the Prysor river is wild rocky and treeless on the other side. There are a few farm houses down the valley, with patches of cultivation, but the most of it is pasture.

When I got to Trawsfynydd station I pushed on to try and get to Tomen y Mûr but ongetting halfway I found it would be too much for me as it was very warm and all uphill, so I turned back by the old road called Sarn Helen to the village of Trawsfynydd entering it by the north end at Pencarrig Street. I saw a nice row of houses with the fronts nearly covered with Cotoneaster Microphylla in bloom.  The village is a large one with good houses, some shops, four chapels, and a good hotel called the Cross Foxes.

The church is in a very bad situation at the back of some old houses; it is very low roofed with square headed windows, and is like two churches built along side of each other with a gutter in the roof between them. It is dedicated to St Mary. I had a glass of ale in the Cross Foxes which was a very nice house and a very obliging landlady.

In my wanderings about I met a friend, Mr John Morris Jones, builder there. He very kindly took me to his house and got tea ready for me, which I much enjoyed as I was thirsty and tired. I stayed with him till train time. He told me that Llyn-rhythllyn and most of the land in Cwm Prysor and on to the Arenig belongs to Sir Watkin W. Wynn and that he owned most of the property about the village. He also told me that Trawsfynydd was a very important little place before the coast railway was made round by Barmouth and Harlech as all the traffic was from Dolgelly through Trawsfynydd and the village of Maentwrog into Carnarvonshire.

I had a very fine views of the mountains from near the village. The Arenig on the east then kept it address in the west then Llawlech, Llether, Rhinog-fach Rhinog-fawr Y Graig Dwg and Diphusys in the north-west. I could see the mountain pass called Bwlch Drws between Rhinog fawr and Rhynog-fach. Moel Siabod and the Moelwyns shut out the north. The village of Trawsfynydd is said to be situated at a greater altitude than any village in Wales.

Throughout the summer Thomas records several further expeditions in some detail.  It is clear that as well as searching for fossils, Thomas has become very interested in botany, and records here some of his plant finds.

Two expeditions. here

1882 – New beginnings, old pastimes

William Pamplin’s choir in Llanderfel. WP centre back, FH Ruddy middle row right

At the end of 1881 Thomas records his satisfaction about the events of the year:

Christmas day, Sunday This day was mild and fine. I am thankful to say that it was a happier one to me than the previous one. We all enjoyed ourselves very much and were thankful to be happy together.

New Years Day This was also a very fine day and very enjoyable. The past year has been rather cold, especially in January when we had a fortnight of most severe frost. The summer was rather wet and cold, but the autumn was very fine. To me it has been an eventful year, having married Frances Harriett Williams, the daughter of the late and respected William Williams, Parish Clerk of the church of St. Mary, Newington. Her mother, Frances, is the sister of William Pamplin, who was a publisher and bookseller in London, but now lives in Llanderfel as a freeholder. Her only brother is Parish Clerk in successor to his father.

Thomas no doubt recalled his youthful intention to ‘become a gentleman’ through the route of taking up gardening as a profession.  Here he found himself, a respected and trusted Head Gardener with a high local reputation, married into a family of some note, and through his own passion and scholarship, a noted contributor to a leading scientific community, the Chester Society of Natural Science, Literature and Art.

Frances Harriet, his new wife aged 35 was step-mother to his three children by his first marriage, Thomas Alexander, 12, William Pamplin 9 and Mary Emily 7.  There do not appear to be any extant photographs of the new family, and there are very few The journal for 1882 sadly gives us no information about the development of this new family, nor, as in other years does Thomas make any comment about the daily life and work on the Palé estate.  In these middle years of Thomas’ life the journal is almost entirely devoted to chronicling his leisure pursuits in natural sciences and his walks and discoveries in mid Wales.

On the 21st (Tuesday) of this month Frances and I went to Chester on business. We stayed three days and enjoyed it very much. It was the first time for Frances to see Chester so that she was exceedingly pleased with her visit. During our stay we made our home with Mr. & Mrs. George Dickson of Springfield, who made us quite at home and most comfortable. When in the city we made Mr. Shrubsole’s house our head quarters, where we did as we liked and were most kindly treated.

The 21st was very fine, so that we had a pleasant day. All the way to Chester, Frances was very pleased to see the country, because it was new to her.   After settling down at Springfield, we went to the City in the afternoon. We spent the evening with my friends Mr. & Mrs. Shrubsole, where he and I spent most of our time examining fossils. The evening was far gone when we got to Springfield, and very late when we got to bed.

The following day I did some business in the Nursery, and after luncheon, we again went to the City. [Further description, especially of the Roman remains, Dee Mills, Castle and prison]  On Thursday we did some business and got ready for leaving. Our friends pressed us to stay another day, but I had to be home, so that we left with pleasant memories of our visit. We got home by 8.30 and found all right.

In May Frances Harriet’s mother was staying with the Ruddy family.  On the 13th, a Saturday, Thomas and Frances with William and Margaret Pamplin went on an extensive excursion and walk commencing in Dolgelly.  See Thomas’ vivid description here, and note his elegant literary references.

It becomes clear that Thomas was adding to his local prominence as garden designer, produce show judge, local historian and geologist, the skill of a mountain guide:

May 17th Captain Tudor and his friend a Mr. Warren called to make enquiry about going up Snowdon and Cader Idris. Mr. Warren wished to go up Snowdon before going out to China as a British Consul.

In July Thomas, now very much the go-to man for leading geological and natural history expeditions, was engaged for a two day expedition for the Caradoc Field Club, a Shropshire society, sharing some membership with the Chester Society for Natural Science.  See here for a detailed account.

The summer continued in happy natural history pursuits, sometimes shared with William Pamplin, and an increasing number of interested naturalist from overseas as well as local.

August 3rd Mr. Pamplin, Dr. Ralph and I went to Creini by Sarnau. We found several interesting plants, had fine views and enjoyed the walk. Dr. Ralph is a good botanist, microscopist and geologist. He lives in Melbourne, Australia but is over here on a visit of several months. He and I spent a pleasant evening together with our microscopes. (He has his with him.) He was very pleased to see my local collections. [added in a later hand] Dr. Ralph died in 1892 at Melbourne, Australia.

And then, in mid August, Thomas’ and Frances Harriet’s life changed with the addition of their first son, announced by Thomas without any earlier warning.

August 13th  Henry Ernest was born at half past eight o’clock in the evening (Sunday) My beloved wife got over her trouble safely and bravely, for which I felt most thankful. More of Henry Ernest in my next post

1887 Family, friends, fossils

Thomas’ journal for 1887 depicts his settled life as family man, naturalist and geologist very much integrated into his community.

His eldest son Thomas, ‘Tommy’ who began work as a clerk at Plas Power




January 22 (Saturday) Mr Williams, my geologist friend from Blaenau Festiniog spent the afternoon from 2.30 to 5 o’clock with me. He brought his rock sections and microscope with him, so that we spent a most interesting afternoon.  He had never seen my collection of local fossils, and as it was his chief object to see them, we devoted considerable time to the inspection of them. He was also very desirous to see the way I mounted and arranged my specimens, because he wished to arrange his specimens on the same plan.  Mr Williams is a good microscopist, a very enthusiastic geologist, and takes an interest in botany. Both of us seem to be so much interested in natural history that we wished we could have more time together.

Thursday the 17th witnessed a curious sight from a little after 9 o’clock to 11 o’clock; it was a lantern search for a poor old lady who lived alone in one of the Tynllechwed cottages near the village. It seems that she went for a bundle of sticks for fuel, got lost, and as she did not return, most of the village men and women went in search of her with the lanterns. They searched all Earlswood and every place where it was thought she could have wanted to, but to no purpose. The very numerous lanterns spread over the wood and flashing here and there, formed a most curious and interesting sight.

Thursday the 24th The body of Catherine Owen. The old lady who was lost a week ago, was found at midday today in the rabbit warren of Llanerch. Hundreds of men have been searching for her ever since she was lost, even on Sunday, but nothing was seen or heard of her until today.  It was never thought that she could have climbed the formidable fence which encloses the Warren, so that there was little search made there. By the appearance of the body, she seems to have sat down exhausted, wrapped her little shawl around her head and died of cold, without a struggle.  Her baptism is entered in the register of Llandderfel church, and was examined by our Rector. She was baptised on the 20th of June 1795, so that if she had lived till next June, her age would be 92 years.






Saturday the 12th Francis and Henry left by the 1120 train to visit Tommy at Southsea near Wrexham. We were sorry that snow was on the ground this morning, for it has been so very fine for a long time. Henry was very delighted to go.  They got on all right, saw the coal pit, and went into Wrexham and got home safely with the last train.


Tuesday the 29th Mrs. Sheriff  [formerly Annie Robertson – an early widow -ed.] who has been staying at Nice for a time, very kindly brought me a Roman tear bottle; it is a small glass vessel bulb shaped, with a longish neck.  Mrs Sheriff saw it dug up in a Roman cemetery at the town of Ventimiglia, in the north of Italy, and in the ancient province of Liguria.  Many other curious articles were found in the same place. It is 2 1/2 inches high, and 1 1/2 inches across the bulb. Length of neck 1 1/2 inches and the bulb is 3 1/4 inches in circumference.

Good Friday, the 8th of April. I went in the afternoon to see the wild daffodils at Garth – they were in full bloom, and from there around Henblas and Moelcalch.  It was a very pleasant day, and I enjoyed the walk. Tommy came home for his holidays yesterday evening; he and Willie went for a ramble. Many people were in the village.

Tuesday the 12th Tommy left by first train for Plas Power.



Saturday the 21st Mr Wilkins, solicitor, Uttoxeter, came to see me so as to make arrangements for a visit of the North Staffordshire field club to visit Bala, et cetera. He wanted me to be their guide, and to make out a program for him. He had tea with us, and enjoyed his visit very much.  I met him at the station and saw him off by last train to the Lion, Bala, to make arrangements for the excursion.


Saturday 28th Tommy came home for the Whitsuntide holidays. He has grown tall since he went to Plas Power.  Was very pleased to come home. Henry and Francie were very delighted to see him.


Tuesday the 31st Tommy left by the first train, and I went to G in the evening. I picked up an unfinished stone hammer on the wall in one of the fields belonging to Pandy farm, the field in which is situated and old lime kiln, close to the Hernant Stream.  It had been ploughed up in a potato field, and was placed on the wall as a curiosity. It is in the rough, but is drilled for some depth from each side, the drilling being quite sharp.  I went to our after. I caught a large blindworm, which I brought home to Mr Pamplin.





Friday the 10th Francis, her brother, Henry, Francie, and baby left by the 11.20 for London. They had a pleasant journey all the way, and were none the worse.





Saturday the 18th I left here at 4 PM for Llyn Creini. It was very warm all day and I felt it very warm walking, (it had been 77° in the shade). I went through Ty Ucha fields and left Bethel on my right and got to Bethel and Creini road on top of the hill overlooking the lake. It was so pleasant by the lake that I went into it and had a pleasant bathe.  Mr Michael Jones (the Principal of Bala Independent College) came to me when I was dressing and was tempted to do as I had done.


I collected several interesting plants by the lake, which I wished to have ready for the members of the North Staffordshire field club. I got the Listora cordata, Isoetes lacustris, Lobelia Dortmanii, Habenaria albidas, and sundew.  I got to Sarnau I got the Moenchia, Pilulasia, etc.  I found Tommy (home for Jubilee) and Willie waiting for me at the river bridge. I saw the true yellow wagtail at Sarnau; I was pleased to see it, for I had not seen it for 10 years.






Thursday the 23rd   The members of the North Staffordshire Field Club came to see my fossils, and to see over the gardens. I had a telegram at 4 o’clock from Bala to say a start would be made for Palé at 4:40.  At 5:15, seven work and it’s full of ladies and gentlemen arrived (41 in all) .


My friend Mr Wilkins who sent me the telegram from Bala soon came to me and after introducing me to some of the leading members, Such as the President, Dr Arlidge and the Secretary the Rev Thos W Daltrey of Madeley Vicarage Newcastle Staffs.  I took them through the upper garden, and pointed out my hardy ferns and interesting plants. We crossed the road and went to the lawn in front of the dining room where Mr and Mrs Robertson and family were in waiting to receive the party. After I introduced the leader (Mr Wilkins) President, & Secretary, they were all asked to partake of tea and other refreshments in the dining room, and act which was Highly appreciated. The young ladies attended to there once, and Mr Robertson and his son were most attentive and kind to them.  Mrs. Robertson being an invalid could do nothing but chat to them.


They went round the grounds, so the so-called cromlech, the tumulus in the park, and as I had my fossils arranged in the front room etc.  I had the most interesting plants of our district also ready for their inspection.  My fossils rather took them by surprise, although their program called it “most extensive and unique collection “. The plants pleased and very much, and they freely took specimens with them. My collection of birds’ eggs was also examined with much interest, and my ancient weapons too came in for close inspection.     Mr Harry Robertson kindly assisted me to show the connections.  A vote of thanks was given to Mr Robertson, and the party left at 7:40, highly pleased.


[273]  Friday, June 24  Having to act as one of the guides or leaders to the members of the North Staffordshire Field Club and over 50 of the members of the Chester Society of Natural Science, I left here by the 9.10 train.  I met with the Chester folks at our station, and got into a carriage with Mr Siddall, Mr Shepheard, Mr Newstead, Mr Lucas et cetera.  At Bala I had a chat with Mr and Mrs. George Dixon (Mayor and Mayoress of Chester last year) Mr Shone, Prof. Hughes and Mrs. Hughes, and several others of my Chester friends.  Prof Hughes was to act as Guide with me.


I went in the same carriage as Mr Wilkins, Dr. Arledge, Rev. TW Daltrey, and Miss Ashdown.  It was very warm and dusty most of the way, but all of the party enjoyed their ride, and were delighted with the scenery along the route. There was not much time for geology, but we found several interesting plants; the most interesting to me what’s the Geranium sylvaticum in full bloom.  Mr. Siddall  has botanised a very great deal of North Wales but he never saw the plant before, and it was new to the other botanists of the party.


We had lunch in the village [Llanwddyn, the vilage later drowned under the Vyrnwy Reservoir – ed. ], and on getting to the works we were taken in tram cars to the quarries, where a short address was delivered to the party by the resident engineer, Mr Deacon.  There are three or four managers and to him, my old friend Mr Bickerton being one of them. Mr Bickerton had a few fossils to show me, which had been found in the quarries.


Inserted at the end of the journal

After we saw the quarries, we were taken in the tram cars to the embankment, over which most of us walked. It was a rough walking, as it was in an unfinished state, but the managers and Mr Deacon did all they could to assist us. I helped Mr. Dixon to get Mrs. Dixon over it.  The plans of the embankment were explained to us, and indeed we had every facility to see and understand the gigantic works. The Chester members went over Bwlch y groes to Llanwuchllyn, but I returned to Bala [275] with the Staffordshire people. We returned from the works by the new road along the south side of the valley. I saw the white and yellow waterlilies growing in the stream in the valley. We passed close to Eunant Hall, a small shooting box, which will be almost covered with water when the valley is drowned.



From https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/10694


It was much cooler coming back, so that we had a very pleasant ride. On arriving at Bala we all dined together, I could not stay to dinner if I had to come home with the train, so Mr Owen of the Lion kindly promised to bring me home, which he did.  I got home by 10 o’clock very much pleased with my day’s outing, and especially with kindness and attentions of the members of both Societies. Mr Wilkins did all he could to make me comfortable, and gave me great praise at the dinner for my help and abilities.


The next day Thomas wrote a letter to his wife, who was staying with her mother in London.  It contains a much expanded account of the day.






June 25th, 1887



My dear Wife,


I shall now tell you as briefly as possible how I got on yesterday. I got home safely anyway, and brought all the Staffordshire folks back to Bala safely too.  It was beautifully fine, but hot and dusty.  I left here by the nine. 10, joining the Chester folks – several of them soon spied me at the station, and I was obliged to obey the call of some of my oldest friends.  In the carriage with me was, Mr Siddall, Mr Shepheard and his two daughters (the babies he called them) Mr Okell the secretary, and the curator and two or three more.  The first three were subscribers to my microscope. We had good fun all the way to Bala. I said they seemed full when I was about to enter, and they said they would make room for a little man like me.  Mr Shepheard’s “babies” are as big as ever they will be.


On getting to Bala, it was a sight to see the number got out; about 50 in all. Many of them were old friends, so that I had some handshaking to do. Mr Wilkins came to meet us, and when I was talking to him with my back to one of the carriages, I was tapped on the shoulder, and on looking round, I was grasped by the hand by Mrs George Dickson, and Mr D. soon came too, so we had a pleasant chat for a little time. But the carriage of Colonel Evans Lloyd, the High Sheriff came up to the station with Prof. and Mrs. Hughes, and when the Prof saw me he brought his wife to introduce to me.  The High Sheriff also spoke to me. Mr Wilkins Prof and his wife, and I went in the Lion ‘Bus to the hotel and after that time the start was made.


It was amusing to see how the Bala folks gaped at this with open mouths, such a turnout was never seen in Bala before.


Everybody seemed in high spirits at the starting off. Mr Wilkins and I sat on the box with the driver, and had four in the carriage with us, the President and Secretary and two ladies.


Prof Hughes and his wife were a short way ahead in another full carriage. We made several stoppages on the way to give time to see the fossil grounds, plants, or anything of interest.  It was 1 o’clock before we got to the village of Llanwddyn here we had our lunch in. Mr. and Mrs. Dickson would have me go into the room they were in, and offered me allsorts of drink, but I would only take lemonade and very refreshing it was after the long drive in heat, and the fearful dust in some parts.  One carriage stirring up the dust, which flew in the face of the one next to it.


After lunch and we rode to the embankment, where an engine and a number of cars were ready to take us to the quarries.  After seeing the quarries, we were taken to the embankment and conducted along the top of it, at least all who were willing to go, but as it was rough walking many would not go, and some were afraid to go. Very few ladies went. Those who did not go were conducted along the base of it to the south end where we all met again.  Mr Dickson was anxious to take his wife along the top of the embankment, and asked me to assist her, so between us we got her along nicely. I carried her parasol so as to let her have the use of her hands, because we had to go up and down stepladders here and there, and clamber over huge blocks of stone, and go under monster cranes. It was warm work, but we managed alright. The resident engineer instructed his staff of four managers (they are being four) to do all they could for us.


My old friend Mr Bickerton was very attentive to me and I found he and Mr. Dickson were old friends.  The plans of the embankment were shown to us, and fully explained, and the men sent (when we were leaving) to order the carriages to meet us, so as to save us hunting them up.  There has been a very great deal done since I was there three years ago, but there is work of great extent to be done yet before they can begin to store the water.  It will be nearly 2 years yet before they can begin to drown the valley.


There will be a fire duct along the top of the embankment to form a carriage Road, and the overflow water will pass under it. It is now built up almost to the level of the place where the viaduct is to be built on.


It is a wonderful work, and seems as if nothing could shake it. We left at 4 o’clock and returned to the new road on the opposite side of the valley to that on which the village is situated, a beautiful drive it is, nearly level for 4 miles, and much more interesting than on the village side.  The Chester folks went over the hills to be, and were anxious to get me to go with them, but Mr Wilkins would not allow me. The Dicksons wished me very much, but I said it would not be nice to desert the strangers. It was very pleasant driving because it was cooler and we had a nice breeze when crossing the hills.  We saw large masses of the beautiful geranium your brother and I found at the same old place. I brought home plants for uncle and myself, and as it was in full flower I brought the right plants this time.  Your brother and I only brought globe flowers.


We got back to Bala at a 7:15. They would make me stay to dine with them, and to make me at ease Mr Owen said he would see me home.  Mr Wilkins took me to his room to have a wash. Which was very refreshing, and the islands offered me anything I wish to drink so I had another lemonade, and Mr Wilkins made me have another at dinner, because I refused wine, beer, and spirits. We had a very nice dinner and all seem to enjoy it.  The president, Dr Aldridge sat at the upper end of the table, Mr Wilkins at the other end. I sat on Mr Wilkins right. The president and secretary still gap to thank the leaders (Mr W et cetera) and Mr Wilkins replied (he told me before dinner that he would do so.) He praised the kindness of Mr Robertson and family but said that the kindness was in great measure owing to me. He spoke very kindly about myself and said to them that he could see by the way the Robertsons spoke of me and treated me, that I was practically one of the Palé family.  I did not feel very comfortable at his praises, but he is such a nice speaker, and has such a gift of putting what he says in such nice language, that I could not but feel at ease.


The Owens and every one of the members speak highly of him and he is evidently much respected. I do not think I ever heard anyone speak so clearly and pleasingly as he did. During the day he spoke kindly to everyone, and did all he possibly could to please. Our driver said he never saw a nicer man. I felt very thankful to see them all back safely, and also that all of them were highly pleased with the outing. I thought the Caradoc members particularly amiable people, but I must say the Staffordshire people treated me as if we were old friends and equals.  Mr Wilkins asked me how I liked them, and when I said that I was highly pleased with them in every way he said he thought I would say so, for they were very nice. He is a Chester man himself.  Mr. Dickson

knows Mr Wilkins very well. Mr Shepheard thanked me very much for being so kind to his old friend, for it was he sent Mr Wilkins to me.


It was after nine o’clock before they left the table, for they had some members to elect, and other business to transact. Many of them were going after to go on the lake in the boats, and wished me to go to, but “home sweet home “was more in my line. Mr W was going on the lake, but would not go until he saw I was starting for home. Many of them came to shake hands with me and spoke so kindly, and said they never would forget their visit to BalaSeveral offered me something to drink before starting, so I had a “another bottle “of lemonade, and two old gentleman struggled to pay for it. The Owens and Miss Williams said to me that they could not understand how the people find me out.  Mr Owen himself very kindly brought me home to the very door here, where I got about a 10:15 o’clock. He evidently did not wish me to be at any expense, so that he would come himself. We had a very pleasant ride here. I found all right on getting home.


Mr and Mrs. Dickson ask very kindly after you, and Mrs D. wanted to know the number of your chicks. Mr W too made kind enquiries about you.  Miss Jones of Mount Place and her brother John were going to the lake on our return. She waved her hand to me. I was hoarse and getting home, but I’m alright now.  I had a good deal of talking to do, and I have to tell some of the ladies the names of many plants and how to spell them. They were taking specimens in books and writing the names against them. There were three young ladies in a carriage just in front of ours (Staffords) who were full of fun and kept talking Welsh to me whenever they could, that is when we were walking over bad places in the road. They would ask the driver what to say and then repeat it as well as they could.


The Staffordshire people went direct by train to Denbigh yesterday morning




[Undated]   There was an otter hunt from Bodwenni to Palé. One of 25lbs. was killed at the junction of Calethor with the Dee.   The hunters had lunch and at Palé and Miss Robertson brought Mrs. Hotchkiss (one of the hunt ladies) to me as she wished to get the names of a few interesting hardy plants from me.  Mr and Mrs Hotchkiss live at Llanstephan, Builth. I found her to be a very amiable lady. I have seen them for many years at the otter hunts.


Monday the 27th I followed the otter hunt from here to see bridge. It was a very warm day, but as I had an excellent view of the otter going and the Cilau bridge, I was much pleased. I was standing right above where he passed under. It was a very large otter and somewhat resembled a huge fish as it passed under the bridge.  One or two others were seen during the day, but the pool at L got so muddy that there was no chance of a kill. Mr Armstrong and I had tea in Llanwercilau which was very acceptable.

Wednesday the 29th   Lady Cunliffe of Acton Park, Wrexham here. Rather a dignified and stout lady. I had a chat with her as she wished to know the names of a few border plants.


Wednesday, July 6 I left here by the 1:30 PM train for Ruabon to meet Francis, her mother, and the children coming from London. On getting to Ruabon, I only had an hour to wait so I walked along the Overton Road as far as Wynnstay Lodge.  There is a high wall along Wynnstay Park, with fine old specimens of trees inside, notably oaks, beech and Spanish chestnuts. I saw a few deer near the lodge. The road is very straight for a long way. Ruabon is a very little place of little interest; the church and churchyard occupy about half of the village. My people were surprised to see me, because I did not say I was going. We travelled with Miss Ellis of Cynlas (eldest sister of the M.P. for this county), the mother-in-law of Major Best and two other ladies. All well and pleasant journey.


[278]  Monday the 18th the Rev Henry Bidder examined my fossils with me. Mr Bidder is a great lover of hardy plants, and is as familiar with the cultivation of them as he is with their names. He is not much of a geologist, not so much as his brother Mr George Bidder Queens Council; but as he is a very learned man, he takes interest in any branch of science.  The father of the above brothers was a wonderful mental calculator and was educated by some scientific gentleman in order to enable him to put his method on paper, but he could not do so. He was quite a prodigy when quite young.  See “Chambers Information for the People” Vol II p.154.  This George better, and native of Scotland, became a Civil Engineer, and because wealthy enough to buy an estate at Mitcham and also to educate his two sons and daughters. I have seen the Calculator here at Palé, a short stout course skinned, and very plain featured man. His children and grandchildren are talented, but inherit his features and stature.





Friday the 22nd  Francis’s mother left us for London. We wished we could have got her to stay longer, but could not do so. During the time she was here we had nice walks and very fine weather.


This day was a great day in Bala, being the funeral day of the Rev Dr. Lewis Edwards, Principal of Bala college, who died last Tuesday the 19th in his 78 year. Dr Edwards married the grand daughter of “Charles of Bala”, by whom he has left six children, four sons and two daughters. He was a man of great and varied learning, and his whole life was spent in battling the prejudice and narrowminded ignorance of his own sect.




I had also a very pleasant days outing with Mr Fenwick, Chief Constable of Chester, and my kind friend Mr Shrubsole of Chester. We went in a wagonette from the Lion Hotel Bala to Caer  Gai, where we examined the place with great interest for over an hour.  We carried off several Roman tiles. I next conducted them to see Castel Carn Dochan where we examined the ruins of the old castle, and the goldmine; afterwards the recumbent effigy in Llanwuchllyn church and then returned to Bala past Llangower and the old station.

We dined together in the evening; my friend is having me as guest, or as Mr Shrubsole said “as guide philosopher and friend”.  Mr Fenwick is about 50, tall, about 6 feet; very active, takes copious notes in his rambles, and is most methodical in his ways. He has travelled much, has quite a military cut, and a very agreeable manners. This outing I very much enjoyed and my friends saw me off by train.  They were going to stay in the Lion Hotel and were to go round by Barmouth and Caernarvon to Chester. This ramble was on the Wednesday, the 27th of July but I seem to have forgot to enter it at the time.


[The year and book ends here]


[Continuing p. 280]


Friday, August 5 Dr and Mrs Sturge examined my fossils with much care. Mrs Sturge when Miss Sheriff had several rambles with me in search of fossils; her sister and Mrs Sheriff used to go with us.  Dr Sturge is a good archaeologist, and devote so much time to the subject. He was much pleased to see my small collection of antiquities, and said I had some valuable objects. My Norman tiles were of much interest to him, and he was much interested in flint flakes.  I was very pleased to have a chat with him and I got considerable information from him.


[281]  Sunday, August 14th  Henry went to the Sunday School for the first time. It was his own wish, because he said he was five years old on the previous day Saturday.


Tuesday the 16th Henry wished to go to the day school, so went with Willie to our village Board School.  Master, Robert Jones; all my children are under him, and my boys began with him. Mary Emily began with Miss Annie Davies, then Miss Annie Williams, and now in the mixed school under Mr. Robert Jones.


Friday 19th Mr George Bidder QC had another examination of my fossils; he is very fond of Silurian fossils, but has to work mostly in the Chalk. See 18th July of this year.


Saturday 27th my friend Mr shrub sold sent me a box, containing several pieces of Roman pottery, recently found at Chester. The pottery consists of Samian and common wear and a tile of 20th Legion; also Elizabethan fragments.


September 7 (Wednesday) Mr Williams came from London for his annual shooting. Great pleasure to see him, and much excitement among the little ones.


Thursday the eighth Francis safely delivered of her fourth baby at 1:05 o’clock this morning. She was taken ill yesterday, but managed to keep out for tea, and to meet her brother. We had no hitch this time, for the nurse (Mrs Thomas) was in the house, and the doctor arrived at a quarter of an hour after midnight.  The baby is a strong and healthy girl.  Baby’s name – Amelia Agnes.


Saturday the 10th Henry and I went to Henblas and had a ramble with the shooting party – H. E.’s Uncle and friends.


Sunday 11th Mr Williams and I went in the evening as far as Calethor quarry.


Wednesday 14th Mr Williams and I went up to Calethor brook; enjoyed it much, but we only had 3 1/2 hours.


Saturday the 17th Mr Williams returned home.  All of us sorry to see him go again.


[283] Sunday the 18th I went as far as Garth Goch and the Hirnant stream. Had a pleasant walk there and back.


Saturday the 24th I went up the side of Hafod Uchal brooks as far as the upper quarry.  It was very pleasant. The trees are very beautiful in colour of foliage, and an abundance of Mountain Ash berries added very much to the beauty of the trees.


Sunday the 25th I went in the evening up the Berlin Road as far as Frith Brynselwrn.  I saw the remains of three tumuli and have good reviews of the distant mountains.


Tuesday, October 4 Frances and I went for a walk around Calethor bridges.


Saturday the eighth Francis and I had a very pleasant walk up the Burlin road and home by the old lane. It was F.’s longest walk since the baby was born.


Sunday the 9th F and I went in the evening to Glandwynant Road for a walk [284] up the hill here and home by Coen and Bala Road, got onto it at Tyddyn Inn.  It was cold but fine. This has been the coldest week I have seen in Wales so early in October. There was a heavy fall of snow covered the hills and mountains on Sunday night and Monday morning. Snow began again on Tuesday evening, covering covering hills and lowlands, and on Wednesday morning there was a thick coat everywhere; the trees were bent down with the weight of the snow, and I had to melt it so as to get the amount of rain.  It was very wintry looking, with the fruit nets, trees and apples covered with the snow. The depth of snow on the hills varied according to altitude, from 10 to 18″. It was a curious site to see the country under an early snow. Yesterday’s rain has melted almost all the snow from the mountains.


The cold and snow has been general over most of three kingdoms and the continent. There was a full of snow in London, and more frost down here. We had 7 1/2° here this morning.


[285]  October Monday the 17th Mr Williams came from London to spend a week here. All of us much excited to see him.


Wednesday the 19th Francis and I, Mr Williams (her brother) Henry and Francie, Mrs Thomas the nurse, and Mr and Mrs Pamplin went to have baby christened at church (Llandderfel) by Mr Wm. Morgan the Rector. We named her Amelia Agnes.  It was a beautiful day for going. Mr Williams came with us from church and spent the evening with us.


Saturday 22nd Mr Williams returned to London, which we all regretted.


Tuesday the 25th Mr and Mrs Pamplin came in the afternoon and had tea with us. Saturday the 29th there was a sale at Hafodfawr near here and that it was fine, I went there after tea. I went for a ramble over the hill at Bwlch, until I got in view of Bala and Lake. There were several curious-looking old farmers at the sale.  Prices for corn and hay stacks were very high, but livestock went very cheap.


[286] November Tuesday the 1st.  Baby was registered as Amelia Agnes Ruddy.


Thursday the 3rd Mr Robertson sent me to Llantysilio Gardens to look over the fruit and other things, because Mr Massey the old Gardner that died suddenly the previous day. I left here by the 11.20 which did not stop at Berwyn station, so I had to go onto Llangollen, and as it was sunny and fine, I had a pleasant walk back on the towpath of the canal.  The canal runs along side of the river all the way, and the scenery is beautiful and interesting. I got to Llantysilio at 1 o’clock, and went over the whole establishment with the men. Mr Robertson went from here on business by the first train; he was met at Llangollen by the person who has charge of the Hall and stables, and he, Mr Haynes had orders to meet me and assist me to see the place. The Hall is very large, well furnished, and well-kept, but it is difficult to let it.  It is the property of Mr Robertson’s only son, to whom it was left by his godfather, Mr Bayer (a German ) of the engineering firm of Bayer, Peacock and co. of Manchester (Gorton)  [Footnote by TR: the Co. is Mr Robertson chiefly.]  The kitchen garden is small and old-fashioned, having two large yew  hedges, broad gravel walks, and diagonal grass walks. The flower garden is also in it.  It contains peaches, figs, apricots and pears, et cetera on the walls which do fairly well; and there is the remains of a fine old Mulberry tree in it as a standard, but the tops of the principal limbs have been destroyed by the wind. There is a fine old Walnut tree just outside the kitchen garden with a growth of 13’6″. The Mulberry and walnut must have been planted in the early part of the 17th century – in the rain of James the second both are evidently of great age. There is a vinery, greenhouse and melon house near the kitchen garden; indeed the melon house is in it.


The situation is very beautiful, almost surrounded by hills, with the Dee sweeping round the park. Mr and Mrs Haynes kindly gave me tea before leaving, which was very acceptable, and Mr Haynes came to Berwyn station with me, where I caught the 4.28 train.  We came through the park by the side of the river, and by the weir at the entrance of the canal, so weir is styled the “Horseshoe Falls”.  From the “Falls” I walked along the canal and over the chain bridge to the station.


[288]  November


Saturday the 12th  Mr Lewis, traveller to Messrs. Clibran and son; nurserymen of Altrincham and Bowdon, Manchester, called to try for orders.   Mr Lewis lives with his parents at Arthog; his father was Gardener at Tynycoed there when Mr Davies was alive.


Monday the 14th I had to go again to Llantysilio to settle about various things. I have charge of the gardens and men for the present. I went by the 9.39 train, alighting at Berwyn station. After seeing the men and looking over things, I went across the fields by a pathway to Valle Crucis Abbey and the pillar of Eliseg.  The ruins of the abbey are by the side of a small stream with two sloping riches of hills on either side, and shut in by hills at each end. The situation is very beautiful and of great interest. The abbey is the finest monastic ruin in North Wales, it is said.


It was founded in 1200 by Madoc ap Gruffydd Maelor Lord of Bromfield and Yale, who lived at Dinas Brân Castle. The monks were of the Cistercian [289] Order.  I could not help admiring the west end of the church with its very beautiful lancet window, and the marigold window above it. I had no time to examine the ruins but hoped to do so at a future time.


Eliseg’s Pillar stands in the corner of a field near the road leading from Llangollen to Ruthin, and passing the abbey.  It is two fields from the abbey on the roof inside. The following is a rough sketch to give an idea of what it is like,

[small sketch inserted]

number 1 is a round sandstone, smooth pillar with a wreath-like ornament and circling the top, and a narrow moulding round it, number 2 is a large square block of sandstone, into which the pillar is inserted; it rests upon loosely built rough stems – see number 3.  Number figure for is a rough amount on or tumulus on which grow five young oak trees. Height of pillar, 8 feet; the square block is 5 ft3″ square and 14 inches thick, but runs off at the bottom. The pillar is 21 inches in diameter, and the mound is about 45 feet in diameter and 4 feet above surface of field.



[290] there was evidently a cross on the top of it, but it must have been destroyed, because the Puritan soldiers during the Civil War was through down the pillar, thinking it was a Popish monument.  It had an early inscription to say it was erected by sea in memory of his great grandfather, Eliseg, father of Brochmael, Prince of Powys, who was at the battle of Bangor Isycoed, 603.  The inscription has been obliterated for many years, but it has a modern one, which says that the pillar was repaired and re-erected by T Lloyd of Trevor Hall in 1779.  It is supposed that the pillar was a Roman column, which was probably brought from Chester.  It is said that the mound was excavated, and that stone coffin was found in it, containing bones.  This sepulchral monument is one of the most remarkable in Wales. I was very pleased to see it, because I have long wish to examine it. The land on which the pillar and Abbey stand is the property of the owners of Trevor Hall 2 miles east of Llangollen.


The field in which the pillar stands is called Llwyn-y-groes (grove of the cross).  [291] I could not find any fossils in the shale on the way, or many plants of interest, but I saw a bullfinch and a green woodpecker. I came home here by the 5.19 train, having very much enjoyed my outing.


Saturday the 19th Francis, Henry and I had a nice walk; we went past Brynmelyn.


Sunday the 20th I went in the afternoon along the Barlow Road on the south side of the Dee near Garth- Goch.  It was sunny and fine, but frosty. I came back by the river from the tunnel. I did not see any interesting birds.


Tuesday the 22nd I was very delighted to see a flock of crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) feeding on the cones on the Larch tree opposite our parlour window.  I never saw any in the flesh before, although I have long wish to see them. They are very rare in North Wales. I had four shot for examination. I went over to Mr pumpkin with the pair of them, which pleased him very much because he never saw any before.


[292]  I left here for Llantysilio and Llangollen by the 933 train. I got out at Berwyn station, crossed the river by the Chain bridge, and walked along the side of the canal to the very beautiful weir constructed by Telford.  The Llangollen people call it the “Horseshoe Falls”. Bryntysilio, the seat of Sir Theodore Martin immediately overlooks it, and Llantysilio church is a little farther on. When I got to the gardens, I had a look round and afterwards so all through the Hall of Llantysilio which is very substantial, and well furnished. I got onto the outside of the water tower from which I had a beautiful view of the Vale and neighbourhood.  Plas Berwyn just on the opposite side of the river; it is a nice looking hole of moderate size, with a small sized garden attached, which is only partly walled in, and with one or two hothouses. This (Plas Berwyn) is the seat of Major Tottenham, but he has another seat and estate in Wicklow.  Major and Mrs Tottenham have been here to see the gardens several times.


After seeing about, I started to walk to Llangollen at 12:20. I got onto the side of the canal, and walked very fast all the way, arriving in town a little after 1 o’clock.  I was very pleased to see the crossbills on my way there; a flock of six flew on to an ash tree where they soon began to eat the kernels of the seeds. I also saw two or three feeding on the Larch cones opposite Llangollen Bridge, on the side of the canal.


When in town I arranged with Mrs Ellis the greengrocer about the fruit and vegetables of Llantysilio Gardens, and got a blank book to continue my journal at Horsepool’s Fancy Shop.



I went to buy the 1.54 train to Berlin, went to going to the gardens to settle about things. When in the garden, I had a note of a strange bird to me, which one of the men said was a very small black and white woodpecker, [294] which I take to be the lesser spotted woodpecker.  The greatest spotted species has been seen about there. After arranging about things, I left for home by the 4.20 from Berwyn I was much pleased with my outing and I had a nice day; it was warm, sunny and dry.


Saturday the third Mr Pamplin and I went in the afternoon for a ramble as far as the little pool of M. It was sunny and fine, so that we enjoyed being out together. Mr Robertson has some workmen there to raise the embankment, so as to have a larger area of water in the pool, which he intends to stock with Loch Leven trout, those he raced from over. On returning to Mr Pamplin’s we enjoyed our tea, and Mr Pamplin was glad to get home again, for he cannot walk now with me as he used to do a few years ago, poor man, his spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  But he now feels the weight of years, so that he has to take shorter steps then he did 10 years ago. [Pamplin then 81, ed.]


[295] Christmas Day  this fell on Sunday this time, which made it seem strange.  Tommy came home five and 519 on the previous evening, greatly to the delight of the little ones. He was quite as pleased to come home. Henry, Willie and I met him at the station.


Christmas Day was changeable and cold, but it was fine and dry. There was a very beautiful halo around the moon at 5 o’clock in the evening. There was a broad reddish green circle outside a thick white cloud. The morning was frosty 8 1/2°.


Monday 26th there was a little snow in the early morning, and frosty during the day. The children had great fun in the evening, amusing themselves with crackers et cetera

Wednesday the 28th time we return to the office by the first train in the morning; he was very pleased and enjoyed his holidays very much.  [296] The children had many cards sent to them at Christmas, and the “Chatterbox” as usual this is always a welcome present.



Saturday the 31st this has been a remarkably dry year, the driest since I began to take the rainfall in 1875. I have recorded as much as 60 inches in the year, but this year we only had 37.37 inches, or a little over 37 1/4 inches. With the exception of a light shower on the 7th of June, we had 30 consecutive days without rain – that is from the 4th of June till the 3rd of July inclusive. There were 15 days (consecutive) in April 2 without rain. Such long droughts are very rare in Wales. The number of days on which -01 or more rain fell during the year was 178. The maximum temperature was 80° on the 8th of July; this was not so high as we have had it in warm years. Indeed it was more dry than warm. But it was a very trying year owing to the great dryness of the air.  The lowest form minimum temperature was 14, being equal to 18° of frost. This was on the 13th of March. We had 18° on the 17th too; indeed we had nine days of very severe weather in this month from the 11th till the 19th Snow every day, making 6 inches of snow. The frost setting on the 11th with 7° and ended on the 23rd with 4 1/2°. We had eight days of hard frost in February, began on the sixth and ended on the 17th–17° of frost was the minimum. We have had a good deal of frost during October November and December and an unusually deep fall of snow on the 11th of October. It was 6 inches here, but 6 to 18 inches deep on the grass hills between Pontcwmbedwr and Moel Sarn Llwyd on the 12th. Minimum temperature in October 12 degrees of frost. This is very unusual in this month. November was the coldest November I have ever had to record here that is since 1875 we had 14° of frost. The planet Venus has been shining brightly during the last two months; it was to be seen on clear mornings a little above Palé Hill from here, and could be seen till 8:30 AM.  It was popularly called the “Star of Bethlehem”.


I did very little scientific work during the year, at least fieldwork. I did not find us much time to ramble as usual, and telling to the great dryness and heat, I dreaded long rambles.


I had the pleasure of a visit from the members of the Staffordshire field club on the 23rd of June; and I went with them to L on the 24th and dined with them in the White Lion hotel Bala in the evening.


I had also a very pleasant days outing with Mr Fenwick, Chief Constable of Chester, and my kind friend Mr Shrubsole of Chester.  We went in the wagonette from the Lion Hotel Bala to Caer Gai, where we examined the place with great interest for over an hour. We carried off several Roman tiles. I next conducted them to Castell Carn Dochan where we examined the ruins of the old castle, and the Gold Mine; afterwards the recumbent effigy in L church, and then returned to Ballagh past L and the old station. We dined together in the evening; my friends having me as guest, or as Mr Shrubsole said, “as Guide, Philosopher and Friend”.


Mr Fenwick is about 50, tall, about 6 feet; very active, takes copious notes in his rambles, and is most methodical in his ways.  He has travelled much, has quite a military cut, and a very agreeable manners. This outing I very much enjoyed and my friends saw me off by train. They were going to stay in the lion hotel and were to go round by Barmouth and Caernarvon to Chester.


This ramble was on the Wednesday, the 27th of July, but I seem to have forgot to enter it at the time.


End of Volume 2





1883: Life and landscape

Huw Lloyd’s Pulpit, oil on panel by James Stark, 1794-1858 from the collection of the V &A Museum.  Visited and climbed by Thomas in June 1883

Thomas Ruddy, at age 41 was very well settled in the Bala area.  He was obviously trusted by his employers the Robertson family, was well- known in the area and beyond as a naturalist, geologist, judge of local produce and leader of geological and scientific expeditions.  It would seem that by the year 1883 the man and the landscape he inhabited were at one.

He was the father of four children, three by his late first wife Mary, and a new baby son with his second wife Frances Harriet.  His friendship with the eminent naturalist and former London bookseller William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret was warm and firmly established.  Thomas had in effect become that ‘gentleman’ he dreamed of being when he first chose gardening as his profession.

The Journal entries for the year reflect the settled state of  Thomas’ life as he entered his middle years.  Even the harsh conditions of the winter and their effect on the garden could not disturb his equilibrium.

April 1st,  
Sunday. Nothing particular to mention, except the weather so far. It was changeable all January, very fine most of February, but exceedingly cold nearly the whole of March. The wind was piercingly cold, there was a lot of snow, and hard frost –culminating in 19 ½ deg. on Saturday 10th. Nearly 15 inches of snow fell during the month. It was the coldest March I ever remember.  A good many things were injured by it in the garden and

As the weather became warmer, geology expeditions continued as usual:

May 22nd I went geologizing to the hills and mountains above Cynwych [SJ 056 411] It was a very warm day so that I was very tired on getting home. I took particular note of the beds on the ridge of the Berwyns between the two roads going over the Berwyns  south of Moel Ferna – I brought home some good fossils.  

May 30 (Wednesday) I had a short time at my hunting ground near Gelli Grin where I found a starfish, and the first so far perfect I ever found so that I was highly pleased.  

Saturday June 2nd I went to Rhosygwaliau, from there to Caerglas, then along the ridge to Cornilau, from there to Brynbedwog, from there to Gelli Grin, and then home. I had a very fine day and found some good fossils, among which was a rolled up Homalonotus

From Wikipedia image by smokey just
Fossil of Homalonotus dekayi at the Amherst Museum of Natural History

Via Wikipedia Image by smokeyjbj

On a June 5th Mrs Williams, Frances Harriet’s mother arrived to stay for five weeks, in order to make the acquaintance of her new grandson.  A number of excursions were undertaken, among them this expedition to Ffestiniog by rail and foot.  Once again we see Thomas very accomplished and lively writing style.

In July the family took advantage of the growing availability of photography to record the arrival of the new baby:

Tuesday July 3rd   Frances, Mother, baby and I went to Llangollen by the 9.35 train. The principal object in going was to have baby photographed. After he got “taken” we had some refreshments, and after that we set out for the top of Castell Dinas Bran. The donkey boys made several efforts to get us to patronise them, and a ragamuffin of a girl offered to sing us a song either in Welsh or in English for a halfpenny. After that an old lady offered to sell us guide books. It was a very warm day so that we found it no easy climb, but by repeated rests and I carrying baby we got up all right. It was the first time for Mother to be on top, and it was good work for a lady of 75 years of age. The ladies had a good long rest while I explored the hill and the ruins in search of plants, but I got nothing new…

We are left with a charming portrait of a day out for a late Victorian family in Mid Wales, but sadly the baby photograph is not to be found – perhaps edited out by its adult subject during his curating of the family papers in the first part of the 20th century.

Thomas was in demand for judging local horticultural shows, and of course he could always be side-tracked by an object of local history!

Tuesday July 10th   Mr. Evans of Rhiwlas and I had a days judging of Cottage Gardens in connection with the Corwen Flower Show. Mr. Bennett of Rug met us at Llandrillo with a trap and drove us about from garden to garden. We went from Llandrillo to Cynwydd, from there over the hill by Caenmawr, Salem Chapel and Pont-pren to Llawerbettws, from there to Rug, from Rug to Llansantffraid. We had tea with Mr. Owen and then crossed by the fine bridge spanning the Dee to the Corwen road, and then on to Corwen.

We had a very good dinner at the Crown and after awarding the prizes we went about the town. I saw the shaft of the ancient cross in the churchyard, which is 8 feet in height. I also saw what is called Owen Glyndwr’s dagger, but it is only a rude cross. The ancient cross seems to be early Christian, 7th – 10th century, I would say. Most of the gardens we inspected were very clean and well-cropped. I was appointed to take notes of them and to draw up a Report of them. The day was very fine, with the exception of a shower between Cynwedd and Salem Chapel.

At the age of 41 Thomas could look back with some satisfaction at his fulfilment of his erly ambition to raise his status and satisfaction in life through the medium of gardening.

Thomas Junior enters a world of work

Thomas Alexander Ruddy
26.3.1869 -13.3.1939

In December 1886 the family at the Garden House at Palé was extensive, with children aged between 17 years and 11 months.  Thomas Alexander was 17, William Pamplin 14, Mary Emily 13, and of the second marriage to Frances Harriett , Henry was 4, Frances Harriett 2 and Caroline Elizabeth 11 months.

When Henry Robertson arranged for a post to be offered Thomas Alexander at the Plas Power colliery the eldest son of Thomas and first wife Mary was able to move away from Palé and begin a career at Plas Power where he worked for most of his life, moving for a brief time to Montserrat to work I am not able to identify.

As usual, his father Thomas on encountering an environment new to him took copious notes. Here is his account of the day:

December 3rd (Friday) Tommy and I left here by the 755 train in the morning for Plas Power Colliery, near Wrexham.



I had a letter of introduction from Mr Robertson to the secretary, F A Sturge Esquire. It was very cold being frosty with a coating of snow. We left the snow behind after leaving Ruabon. It was sunny and fine at Wrexham. On arriving at Wrexham we left the mainline and went up the Brymbo branch to Plas Power. We got to the office a little before 10 o’clock, and were very kindly received by Mr Sturge and those in the office. Our object in going was to make arrangements for Tommy to enter the Company’s office as junior clerk.

After we had a chat with Mr Sturge, he sent his cashier with us to get lodgings. Mr Hanmer the cashier took us to Mrs. Bevan of Glanrafon House, Southsea, because it was where he lodged when a boy, and as he had been very pcomfortable there he could recommend it above all others. Mrs Bevan said she would take him and after arranging with her we went to have a look at the works.

The working of a coal pit was only known to me by reading, but thepractical working was all new, so that I was highly interested in all I could see. Mr Hanmer very kindly took us over the workshops, engine room, and pit mouth. The colliery is the most complete in its arrangements of any in North Wales; all the machinery is new and of the most approved construction. The colliery has only been in working order for about nine years. Mr Robertson sank the pit and put it in working order, after which he made it into a Company. But the directorship is in the hands of his own family and immediate friends.

The pit is 270 yards deep and has an output of 1000 tons to 1200 tons of coal in a day. The number of men and boys employed is between 500 and 600 and it takesabout £2200 fortnightly to pay them. The colliers go down to work in the pit at 1 o’clock in the morning on Mondays and at 6 o’clock on other days. They work from 6 to 3:30 PM that is 9 1/2 hours in the pit. The night gang goes down at 9pm to get coal ready for the output. All works stops on the Sundays, except keeping up the files and keeping the engines going to ventilatethe pit. The funding wheel which ventilates the pit makes 160 revolutions per minute. There are two families for fear of accident, one keeps going at that speed night and day for six months, and when it stops the other takes its place. The night gang works the coal, and the day gang sends it it up. Each man has a number to his name and as he works the coal by the time it is weighed at the pit mouth and credited to his number. Each man’s coal being kept separate in the pit. The coal is sent up in little oval steel wagons called “tubs” one tub above the other in the “cage”, which is divided into divisions, and there are two cages one goes down when the other is ascending. As soon as the tubs of coal arrive at the surface they are pushed off to be weighed and empty, and empty tubs are pushed into their place. The cage brings up 30 men at a time and it takes half an hour to get the gang up. The cage takes 22 seconds to descend the 270 yards.

On going over the works, we saw a lamp room, carpenters shop, blacksmith shop, storeroom and other offices. The store room contains every requisite required for the pit, the various articles required by the colliers in the pit are sold to them in the storeroom. They get their lamps ready trimmed in the lamp room, but have to pay 3 half pence each shift for the use of them. The office is very prettilysituated and the neighbourhood is nicely undulated and present.

Southsea is a Scottish village of cottages chiefly occupied by colliers. Glanrafon House is a corner shop in a pleasant and clean street. After seeing the works Mr Sturge asked me to go and see Broughton old pit on my way to Wrexham by road. It was a colliery worked by Mr Robertson for many years. It is now turned into a pumping station with splendid machinery. It is situatedclose to Plas Power colliery, and pumps the water from a neighbouring colliery too. We had an extensive view from the top of the engine room, Broughton. I saw Brymbo for the first time; it is an extensive estate belonging to Mr. Robertson. On our way to Wrexham we passed Gatwen colliery, which is also worked by Mr. Robertson and friends.


There is a steel work at Brymbo worked by Mr. Robertson and friends.

Thomas Alexander’s obituary, 1939