1889: Look who’s coming to stay!

Queen Victoria in 1889 photographed by her daughter Beatrice

In June 1889 the first mention is made in the journal of a forthcoming royal visit.  Sadly, this would have been arranged with Mr. Henry Robertson, who had been a Member of Parliament for the area and Deputy Lieutenant for Merionethshire.  Unfortunately , Henry Robertson had died in March 1888 and it was left to his son, Henry Beyer Robertson to host the Queen’s visit.

Wednesday the 19th [June, 1889]   Mr Schoberth, one of the Queen’s pages here with Sir Theodore Martin to make arrangements for the visit of the Queen to Palé in August.  Mr Schoberth seemed to be well versed in his wants and business. Mr Robertson introduced him and asked me to help to get sleeping places for those who are to come with the Queen, numbering about 50, he said.  I promised one room and asked them to go upstairs to see it.  Mr Schoberth was very pleasant and free, so that we got on very well together.  I observed that he could not sound the “r” in his speech, but spoke good English otherwise for a German.  He had full whiskers but no moustache; his height was about my own.

Sir Theodore Martin was a dear friend of Queen Victoria, having been chosen by her to write the biography of Prince Albert soon after his death.  He lived nearby at and Queen Victoria visited him and his family during her visit to Palé.

Thomas’ extensive journal of the visit of the Queen to Palé in August 1889 will be published in ‘real time’ during August this year [2018] on the equivalent days, 22nd -27th August.

Queen Victoria’s own journal is now on line and her account can be read searching for these days on the site, http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/search

A link to the Queen’s journal will be given on each day of publication of Thomas’ journal.

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1887 – Taking a dip

Lynn Caer-Euni © Ian Medcalf via Geograph and Creative Commons

Every few pages whilst transcribing Thomas’ journal I come across a delightful vignette of Victorian life.  Here, Thomas, going for a walk (presumably after a day’s work) on a hot evening, takes a dip in a small lake and meets a friend who is encouraged to do the same.  Research shows that throughout the 19th century it was commonplace for men to bathe nude, and there was some resistance to the use of ‘bathing drawers’ for males.  When sea bathing by ladies, dressed in voluminous bathing dresses come into fashion, there was pressure on the males to ‘cover up’ and the use of bathing machines for sea bathing was introduced.  Male nude bathing because particularly scandalous and a cause of conflict at the fashion sea bathing venue of Brighton.

Meanwhile, Thomas, and later his friend, seem happy to strip off and wade into the small lake.  I do not think that Thomas learned to swim – he makes no reference to it, and rarely spent time at the seaside except for his brief Folkestone honeymoon and fall trips to Barmouth.

The location of Thomas’ bathe gave me some trouble, but his description of the walk to and from the lake suggests it is Llyn Caer Euni.  He sometimes mis-spells place names if he has not seen them written down, but is usually very accurate and painstaking with Welsh place names.

Saturday the 18th [June] 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.
Thomas walked approximately 11-12 miles, arriving back to find his eldest son home from work at Plas Power colliery to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

1887 – 1888 A Birth and a Death

In September 1887 Frances Harriet Ruddy, now aged 41 had her fourth child, a daughter, named Amelia Agnes. Frances Harriet’s brother William Williams arrived just before the birth for his customary shooting vacation, and Frances seems to have welcomed him and entertained him to tea during her advancing labour.

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.

Amelia’s two step brothers and one step sister brought Thomas’ children to seven. At 43, Thomas was well established in his work as Head Gardener of Palé, was popular in a wide area of the neighbourhood, advising on gardens of local landowners, judging gardens and produce in local shows and being allowed plenty of time by his employer to undertake leadership of geological and botanical expeditions for a growing number of eminent scientific bodies.

However, in March 1888 an event occurred which was to bring changes to Palé and in some measure to Thomas and his family.  Wednesday 21st began with a visit by Thomas to Llantysilio Hall, which had been left to Henry Beyer Robertson, son of Thomas’ employer by his godfather Charles Beyer, late partner of Henry Robertson senior.

Henry Robertson of Palé Hall

Wednesday the 21st [March] I went to Llantysilio. I had to go first to Llangollen and then walked back by the side of the canal. It was very fine but I did not see much of interest in the bird line. On arriving home, I heard with deep sorrow that Mr Robertson was in a very critical state; his health has been bad for some time; indeed it has been very unsatisfactory since last summer, but we have all been hoping for the best.

Thursday the 22nd Mr Robertson very ill and not expected to live till evening. Everyone deeply grieved, and none more so than myself.  4 pm Mr Robertson rallied wonderfully to the great surprise of the doctors and his family. 8 o’clock Mr Robertson very ill again and not expected to live many hours.

I went and stayed in the gun room with Mr Armstrong at 9 o’clock. Colonel Wilson and Mr HB Robertson came to us and told us we would not have to wait long, for Mr Robertson was near his end. He passed away at 9:45 o’clock on the evening of Thursday the 22nd.  He was born on the 11th of January 1816 so that he was only 72 years of age. His death will be severely felt by many in the counties of Merioneth and Denbigh, for he was ever ready to help any good cause, or anyone in need, and he was a deservedly popular landlord, always helping his tenants, and as an employer of labour on his estate he had no equal in this county. I specially deplore his loss, for he was like a father to me, always friendly, and took great interest in my natural history collections; indeed he has all along encouraged me and I have valued his kindness.

Mr Robertson was the son of the late Mr Duncan Robertson of Banff Scotland, a farmer. He was educated at Kings College Old Aberdeen, where he got his degree of MA. In 1846, he married Elizabeth Dean, daughter of Mr William Dean, solicitor of London, by whom he had six children, two of whom died young.  His only son who succeeds him, is Henry Beyer and is now 26 years of age.  One of his daughters (Lily) is married to Colonel Wilson. Mrs Wilson is the eldest of the family; the second daughter was married in December (the 4) 1872 to Mr Sheriff who died on the 8th of February 1880.  Mrs sheriff has been a widow since then. Mr Robertson’s third living daughter is single. Mr Robertson’s profession was that of a civil engineer, and first worked on the Greenock railway under Mr Locke. He came to Cheshire in 1842, and he soon turned his attention to the mineral wealth of North Wales and finally planned the railway from Chester to Shrewsbury, from Ruabon to Ffestiniog, and several others.  One of his greatest triumphs is the beautiful viaduct across the valley of the Dee. This viaduct  is 1,531 feet in length, 148 feet in height, and has 19 arches, each having a span of 60 feet. It cost nearly £80,000 and was about 2 1/2 years in building. Mr Robertson also planned Chirk viaduct.  About the year 1858 he rented the Crogen estate from Earl Dudley, and soon commenced to buy property of his own in the neighbourhood, to which he has ever since been adding, until the estate is now valuable and expensive. From the first Mr Robertson had a great love for planting forest trees, and at present the value of his timber is between 40 and £50,000. He bought the Palé estate from the Lloyd family in 1868, and began building operations in the beginning of the year I came here, in 1869, and got into his new mansion on the 18th of September 1871. He altogether spent about £40,000 on his house and grounds.

Friday the 23rd Mr Henry Beyer Robertson very kindly sent for me and some of the other residents to see Mr Robertson before he was put in his coffin; the body looked quite natural, and that little changed. All of us, and especially myself felt deeply grieved to see our kind employer for the last time. His coffin was made by his joiners on the estate; it was solid oak outside a shell and polished, and had solid brass fittings. On the breast shield where the words:

Henry Robertson Died 22nd of March 1888, aged 72.

The funeral took place on Monday following. I and 17 other estate workmen carried the bier all the way from here to Llandderfel churchyard;  the Rector, Mr Morgan, read prayers in the entrance hall over the bier after which we started at 9:15 in the morning.  It was sunny and fine for us and we managed all the way without a hitch. Six men carried at a time, I had five men and me, Mr Cameron the forester five, and Mr Roberts the stationmaster five, by this means there was no confusion. The Estate tenants, workmen, and general public went in front of us, the mourners and their friends followed us. None of the daughters went with us. His grave was 9 feet deep and is at the north-west corner of the churchyard, in full view of the Hall here. There were about 500 at the funeral, but there would have been many more if it had been generally known the time of burial.

A lunch and was given to the bearers et cetera after in the Hall. There were a number of wreaths from friends. I put some on the top and tied the others on the sides. The wreath on the breast which circled the shields, was from his own daughters, made of white camellias from the conservatory; it was really the most beautiful in the lot.