When I first looked through the chest containing the stored papers of the Ruddy and Pamplin families, I found a small packet of letters, photographs and press cuttings labelled ‘Winchester Pamplins’. After reconstructing the huge family tree compiled by Thomas Ruddy’s elder son by his second marriage, the Revd. Henry Ruddy, I was able to see the relationship between the Winchester Pamplins and Thomas’ second wife, Frances Harriet Williams. Frances Harriet was a second cousin of Ellen Pamplin, whose portrait is shown above. They shared a common great grandfather -William Pamplin of Halstead Essex, born in 1740, a nurseryman.
Frances Harriet’s grandfather, another William, became a nurseryman first in Chelsea and later Lavender Hill, continued in the nursery trade. His beautiful business card was among the contents of the family papers. I was delighted to donate it to the Garden Museum in London, where it is now on display.
William of Halstead’s younger son James, b. 1785, was also a nurseryman, trading in Walthamstow, whilst his son, another James became a bookseller and set up a family business in Winchester. He chose one of the most famous houses on Winchester’s main Street as his shop and home – God Begot House, which after many uses and transformations is now an Italian restaurant, still boasting the wonderful oak beams in the ground floor room, formerly the bookshop, and the upper restaurant, once the living rooms of James and later Ellen Pamplin.
I had often wondered whether these Pamplin families ever met up in Thomas and Frances Harriet’s time. They certainly did when their son Henry began to piece together his huge family tree. Then, transcribing the year 1892 in Thomas’ journal, I found my answer.
Monday the 18th [July 1892] Miss Ellen Pamplin of Winchester (cousin to my wife) and her friend Miss Ord of London arrived here by the 4.06 train from Llandudno where they have been staying for over a week. We had them in here to tea and supper and escorted them to their lodgings at the Derfel after. After tea, Frances and Miss Pamplin went to see Mr Pamplin and Francie and I took Miss Ord for a walk round the old bridge, Calethor.
Tuesday the 19th.Rainy all day, but cleared off enough in the evening to allow Francis to go to Balawith Miss Pamplin and Miss Ord. It was very gloomy, that we went to the Lake on the way to the old station, and along Cae Mawr to road at Eryl Aran. Both were very pleased with their visit to Bala. They had supper here and I went over to the Derfel [hotel] with them after.
Wednesday the 20th Miss Pamplin and Miss Ord left for Winchester. They were highly pleased with their visit; and we were glad to have them with us. Both were free and good-natured.
Did they ever meet again? Four volumes of the journal still remain untranscribed – a thought which leaves me praying for long life! It remains to be seen.
Ellen became a well-known and respected figure in Winchester. The report of her funeral in the Cathedral in 1937 shows her as a supporter of the Cathedral’s work and having a very wide circle of friends and admirers. Passenger lists show her a regular visitor to New York, her brother Ernest having emigrated to the USA with his family.
One pleasurable outcome of researching the Ruddy/Pamplin papers over the last 15 years has been recently to send the ‘Winchester Pamplins’ papers to one of Ernest’s descendants, David Pamplin, a firefighter in Colorado, met on Facebook.
Among them is this photograph of David’s great uncle, Ellen Pamplin’s brother Herbert, who became a Yeoman of the Guard. Some family!
By 1892 all three of Thomas’ older children were at work, and living away from home, placing less pressure on Thomas’ family with his second wife Frances Harriet.
Tom, now 23, was progressing in his work in the office of the Robertson’s Plus Power coal mine in Wrexham. He was trusted to visit other offices to audit their books: Saturday the 3rd October 1891 Tom came home in the evening to be ready to go to Dolgelly on Monday, to check the books of the coal agent there. We were all very pleased to see him; the little ones being very excited. Tom appeared at home several times each year in order to go to the Dolgelly office.
Tom was also involved in military interests: Saturday the 8th. August 1891 Tom arrived here at 8 o’clock in the morning. He took us all by surprise. He had been with his Company of Volunteers camping out for a week on Conway Marsh, and he thought he would come and have Sunday at home. He left at 4 o’clock in the morning and came by Ffestiniog here. We were all very pleased to see him and the children as excited as usual. Henry much interested in the rifle.
Mary Emily, 18, having finished her education at a small private residential school in Chester, began her working life in May 1891: May 4th (Monday) Frances went with Mary Emily to Corwen to get her into lodgings with Mr and Mrs Owen, so that she might begin an apprenticeship with Mr Davies, draper etc at dressmaking and the millinery for two years. We trust that she may get on, and we have been fortunate to get her into a nice shop and lodgings.
The very next month William, (Willie) aged 19 departed for work: Monday the 29th (June) Willie off to Brymbo Steel Works by the 9.39 train. Sir Henry kindly got him a situation there for which I am most thankful, and hope it may be for you is good. Tom was to meet him at Wrexham and go with him to the works. He is to be at a weighing machine for the present. He was very pleased to go, for he has been studying hard to prepare himself for such an opening–I mean office clerk. Tom has got on well and is very steady and good.
In May 1892 Thomas and Frances had one of those family crises in which both the older generation and the children need assistance ad care. The death of Frances Harriet’s Mother, also Frances (above) gave Thomas an opportunity to describe in detail a typical Victorian funeral.
Monday the 30th. May 1892. Frances and I had a telegram from her brother to say that her Mother died at 2:50 o’clock a.m. It was sad news for us although we were not unprepared for the news. We had letters from the brother to say that Mother was not well during the week, but it was only on Saturday that is the news was anything alarming. Frances wrote yesterday to say she was anxious to go at once, but it was too late.
Both of us very sorry, Frances of course very much so, for she has lost a good and kind mother; and to me in the loss is quite as great, for she has at all times being kind and most straightforward to me; indeed nobody could have acted in kinder to me when she became aware of the intentions of her daughter and myself. And during our married life, now about 10 ½ years, she has been most kind in every way.
Mrs Williams was a lady of good principles, strictly religious, and had as her brother Mr. Pamplin said to me ’good judgement’. Frances and I have often said that we were glad her mother lived to see our children; and much pleasure it gave her to see them. She has been able to come to see us every summer since our marriage, and Frances has always returned the visit. It was a very great pleasure to us to see her come to us, and the visit was always looked forward to with much excitement by the children. The dear old lady has now gone to her rest at the ripe age of nearly 84 years. She has lived happily during her 25 years of widowhood with her two children; and has been spared to see five grandchildren born to her.
Tuesday the 31st Frances left this morning by the 11.22 train for London. It will be a sorrowful meeting between herself and her good brother, and a strange visit for her this time. But she has had many a happy one.
As so often in family life, one crisis is followed by another: so it was for Thomas and Frances. Thursday the 2nd [June] I am sorry to say that Carrie, then Henry, and now Francie have had to go to bed with the measles. It is very unfortunate when their mother is absent, and I also have to London. But we are fortunate in having a good and steady nurse for them in Mrs Davies who will be with them night and day.
Thomas set out for London on June 2nd. l was quite fresh on my arrival at Paddington when my brother in law met me. We at once got into a hansom and was at 25 Kennington Park Road by 6.30. After tea I went to get a silk hat; Frances with me to show me the way.
Friday the 3rd We were up early to get all ready for the funeral. The mourners arrived at 12 o’clock and after I light luncheon, we left for Walthamstow in Essex, about 9 miles distant at 1:10 o’clock. The coffin was of polished elm with massive brass fittings; the shield also of brass with the inscription–
“Frances Williams, Died May 30th 1892,
Aged 83 years”
The coffin was placed in a covered hearse drawn by four jet black entire Flemish horses. These horses are truly beautiful; having arched necks, long manes, and tails and go at a half trot all the way if desired. The horses were covered with velvets and pages with truncheons in their hands walked by their sides for about half a mile at starting and about the same again at Walthamstow; the rest of the way through the city and suburbs at half trot.
We went over London Bridge, up King William Street, then Gracechurch Street then Bishopsgate to Shoreditch and turned it down Hackney Road and on through some small streets until we went through London Fields and Clapton. We crossed the river Lea at Lea Bridge Road and got to the church gate, Walthamstow at the time appointed, 2.40.
Four pages carried the coffin on their shoulders to the church and from the church to the grave. The service was very impressively read by the Vicar, the Rev W.H. Langhorne; and the service at the grave was just ending when the church clock struck three. Dear Mother was buried in the grave where her husband was buried 25 years ago (1866) After the funeral we looked at the graves of the Pamplins; there are several generations of Pamplins buried in the churchyard.
Fortunately, on returning home Thomas found the children recovering well. Frances stayed on in London for some days to assist her brother.
The consistent themes running through Thomas’ journals through the years as Head Gardener at Palé are his own family’s events, the developments in the Robertson family, his employers at Palé and, like a golden thread running through it all, his passionate interest in geology.
Geology had, for a few years in the late 1880s and early 1890s, become less featured in the journal’s pages. I suggest that was for reasons related to all three themes suggested above; his growing family of young children with Frances, together with the older family of his first wife Mary, who were starting out in the world of work, demanded his attention; the death of Henry Robertson, and the succession, marriage and knighthood of his still relatively young son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson needed his attention at Palé. 1889 saw the momentous visit of Queen Victoria, requiring intensive preparations and recovery.
The late 1880s also saw the end of sustained interest from Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes. The Bala region and its key importance in defining the detail and sequence of Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian had been thoroughly researched, with much practical help from Thomas. Hughes had interests to pursue with his Cambridge Professorship, the ongoing project to fund and build the Sedgwick Museum, and his international contacts resolving ongoing geological questions. The geologists of the Chester Society for Natural Science had been conducted by Ruddy over the key sites, as had members of several other Scientific Societies. In May they again visited, and Professor Hughes (‘the President’) was in the party.
Wednesday the 25th I went by the first train to Chirk to meet a Chester party for whom I promised to act as one of their guides for the day. On arriving at share I met my party. The President, Mr. Walker, the Vice President, Mr. Shepheard, and the Hon. Secretary, Mr G.R. Griffith were there with about 30 members, including a good sprinkling of ladies. The above gentlemen were very pleased to see me, as they were in a fix, the other Guides having failed to come with the train. There were open tram cars ready to take us on the tramway to the New Inn at Glyn Ceiriog.
On arriving at the New Inn, we were met by the vicar of the parish, the Rev R Jennings, and Mr Rooper. The latter owns a large slate quarry and a stone quarry short distance from theNew Inn. All of us went with Mr Rooper to see his slate quarry. He very kindly acted as our guide over the works and explain the working of the elaborate machinery erected for sawing and dressing the slates, and for other useful purposes. I found some specimens of the Graptolithes priodon, but nothing else.
After leaving the slate quarry, I acted the Guide and conducted most of the members over the Bala beds on the famous Myndd Ffronfrys. We found some good corals and brachiopods, one or two univalves, and some fragments of trilobites.
In 1892 there is evidence of Thomas Ruddy’s continuing interest in geology, and his flexibility in relating to others as mentor and tutor, as assisting colleague, and as a student ever pressing on in his geological understanding.
Thomas was always eager to pass on his knowledge to others, and particularly in the context of practical geology. A notable feature of his mentoring skills was his readiness and enthusiasm for helping women students. This was in some contrast to the exclusively masculine ranks of the Chester Society for Natural Science at the time. Thomas had given attention to the adult daughters of his employer Henry Robertson, see 1887-8 The Fossil years
Geologists late 19th century. Note two women at the front, one of whom may be Mary Caroline Hughes. Prof. Hughes at the far right.
Thomas mentions the lady geologists who were present on his expeditions with the various Scientific Associations for whom he acted as guide, often commenting on their interest and expertise in geology, and giving them help and advice.
In August 1892 a mother and her two daughters, Mrs. Nevins and the Misses Frances and Lettice Nevins came to lodge in Llandderfel village for most of the month. At the end of their visit writes a little about them. The two young ladies were serious geologists, and the family was acquainted with a very famous geologist, Murchison.
Mrs Nevins told us she was an Irish lady, and her husband had some knowledge of geology, and was acquainted with Sir R. Murchison. They are certainly well bred ladies. They went on Monday to see Chester and went to the Grosvenor Museum. I gave them a letter of introduction to Mr Newstead the curator. They said he acted most kindly to them. Last Friday the three of them went to the top of the Arenig.
They relied heavily on Thomas’ advice and guidance throughout their stay: Wednesday the 3rd (August). Mrs Nevins and her two daughters Miss Francis M and Miss Lettice came heree with Mr Thomas of the shop, with whom they lodge. They asked to see my fossils, and as Miss Frances had been studying geology, she took particular interest in them. Miss Nevins also wished me to mark fossil localities on the Ordnance map for her.
Saturday the 20th. Frances, Henry and I went with the Misses Nevins to Bala by the 2.25 train. From the station we went to the lake at the lower end, and from there on to Gelli Grin. I found the impression of Bellerophon on a heap of shingle at the lake.
I showed the Misses Nevins the glacial markings at Penygarth in the strophomena expansa zone and also at Gelli Grin. Indeed we were very successful at the latter place. I got a well preserved eye of an Asaphus [trilobite – Ed.] And what very much resembles Cythere aldensis. We all enjoyed the ramble and the Misses Nevins were highly pleased with their fossils, and the scenery.
The 22nd The Misses Nevins here in the evening to have their fossils named.
Tuesday the 30th Mrs. and the Misses Nevins here. They brought back some books I lent then, and were much obliged to me for all my kindness to them. They were very refined and good-natured ladies, and highly intelligent, and eager to learn anything I could tell them. Miss Nevins told me I was the best tutor she had had to teach her practical geology.
On the 7th -8th September 1892 a fellow geologist with whom Thomas had been corresponding visited.
Wednesday the 7th my correspondent, Mr A.C. Nicholson of Bronderw, Oswestry came to see me. He arrived by the 4.20 fast train. He had tea with us here and then I took him to the fruit room to see the fossils. Although he knew about them by report, he was very much surprised when he saw them spread out.
On the 8th September, Thomas joined Nicholson for part of a lengthy walk and they returned to Thomas’ home. After tea we packed his specimens I gave him, also fragments of fossiliferous Silurian rocks which he found in the glacial deposit with marine shells at Gloppa, Oswestry, and which he sent to me some time ago to name for him.
More of Mr. Nicholson in a later post. He had just published an article on the rocks around Gloppa in the February 1892 Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society.
Perhaps the most important record, late in 1892 was evidence that Thomas himself was embarking on a new phase of geological research, documented in the journal and in a smalltattered notebook found amongst the trunk’s contents.
“Boulder and Glacial Drift Dispersion Written by Thomas Ruddy of Llandderfel”