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