It has been some weeks since I completed my ambition to publish Thomas Ruddy’s account of Queen Victoria’s visit to Palé in 1889. It was a great pleasure to make it happen and I was very pleased with the feedback and increased readership the posts attracted.
Regular readers will have noticed that it has been rather quiet on this site since the Victoria posts, but much has been happening away from the blog. Once again one of those happy coincidences which have kept me going in this work of transcription, research, and more recently blogging has spurred me on.
The most persistent theme in Thomas’ journals has been not the gardening which was his (very successful) career, but his hobby as an amateur geologist, and his increasing value as a researcher and fossil hunter, under the mentoring of Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor at Cambridge, and successor to Adam Sedgwick, after whom Cambridge’s geological museum is named. One of my greatest friends, a retired geography teacher, realised that a former pupil is now a member of staff at that very museum.
Links were made, plans put in place, and so in October my friend and I met up with her friend on the Sedgwick museum staff and two more of her colleagues. We were treated to a tour of the museum (well worth a visit if you are in Cambridge) and spent a happy hour talking about Thomas and his geology. I was delighted to know how much he is respected as a contributor to the collection, and that the journals have a potential place in their archive.
Finally, I was able to see some of the collection of fossils donated by Thomas. These come from some of the oldest rocks in the geological series, so are sometimes quite small or fragmentary. Expect to be impressed by their age, rarity and significance in the history of the dating and description of geological time rather than their glamour!
Having worked on transcribing, researching and recently publishing the journals for about 12 years, these little pieces of ancient rock affected me greatly – I found myself hovering between joy and tears.
Now I await a formal decision from the Museum’s archivist about whether they will accept the journals into the collection. The wear and tear (actually I have managed not to tear anything) on the journals as I transcribe them is causing some deterioration, so I need to place them somewhere where they can be properly stored quite soon. I’m waiting in hope for a positive response from the Sedgwick; I can’t think of anywhere better than the Museum planned and worked for by Thomas McKenny Hughes, Thomas Ruddy’s friend and mentor.
Insights are interesting and sometimes amusing – the Queen’s preference for whisky rather than wine with meals; the request of the Indian servants for flowers in their railway carriage, somewhat contributing to the suggestion that other members of the Household thought that they gave themselves undue airs and were over indulged by the Queen. Also the picture of Thomas being allowed by the head housemaid Miss Reynolds to sit in the Queen’s chair.
At the end of the volume of Thomas’ journal he has pasted newspaper reports concerning some of the people he had met during the visit.
It must be acknowledged that the Queen worked hard while at Palé, for she was out to somewhere every day. I learned that her Majesty keeps very regular hours; she get up at 8 am, has breakfast at 10, but takes a cup of tea when she gets up. The Queen gets through a good deal of business before 10 o’clock. The Queen is fond fruit and has usually a plate of fruit on her breakfast table; she is more fond of peaches than grapes. If the weather is at all favourable, her Majesty is very fond of having her breakfast in a tent on the lawn; the weather was unsettled for that here. Luncheon time is at 1 o’clock,, and dinner at 9 o’clock, rather a late hour. Her Majesty’s usual dinner beverage is whisky, either in seltzer or Lithia water, she never drinks beer and seldom wine.
Her Majesty usually sat up writing until one or 2 o’clock in the morning. When her Majesty dined upstairs, she always had the Princess Alix with her, sometimes Lady Churchill, sometimes the Hon. Harriet Phipps, at other times Sir John McNeil, Sir H. Ponsonby, or any other to make up a party of four with her, including Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, making five with the Queen. The chief Indian helped the Queen down the stairs, the Queen taking hold of his arm, and holding onto a thick cord put up for the purpose with the right-hand. Her Majesty had to be carried upstairs, an Indian and a Highlander always carried her Majesty upstairs on a chair kept for the purpose; whichever of them went before her Majesty, had to walk backwards. The Queen’s maids are called “dressers” and not ladies’ maids. When they retire from the Queen, they bow to her Majesty by bending the right knee and wheel around and away. When Lady Churchill all the Hon. H Phipps retired, they bent the knee and made a graceful bow. When Mr. Robertson was presented by Mr Raikes to her Majesty, he went down on his right knee and kissed Her Majesty’s hand. I was told that the Queen asked Mr Thompson, her page, at a dinner where the fruit for her table was from, because she remarked that it was very beautiful fruit. Indeed her Majesty is in the habit of making enquiries into things, and takes much notice of the servants of her household.
There was a master cook (Mr Feltham), a meat cook,(Mr Tustan) a pastry cook (Mon. Ferry), and a roasting cook (Mr. Goring). There was a kitchen maid with the Queen, Miss Lamond, a Balmoral Lassie, and a head housemaid, a native of Suffolk, named Miss Reynolds. Mr. Bishop was the Queens upholsterer. Then there was a tapissier, a cellar man, several tall strong looking footmen, some in scarlet and gold liveries. The four Indians being Mahometans, cooked for themselves, and would not eat any meat except it had been killed by themselves. They only have fowls while they were here. The chief Indian came with the one Mr Clark introduced to me, the evening they were going to leave and wanted a few flowers to put in their carriage when in the Royal train. Both were tall, about 5’10” live and very active men. They were natives of Agra. They were dark brown in colour, but a little man who acted as Cook was rather darker in colour. I got them to give me their names; the chief wrote for both, because he was able to write in English, and he learned since he came over in the year of the Jubilee. The chief wrote his name as follows – “Mūnshi Hafiz Abdul Karim, Indian Clerk to the Queen Empress”. Both were very pleased with me for showing them the flowers and fruit. The chief Indian was belonging to a lancer regiment when in India, and he often amuses the Queen by going through the tent pegging on and Arabian horse.
Mr. Schoberth acts as a factotum in looking after indoor supplies, and general management. He is shrewd German. The dressers were elderly ladies; they did not go out with the Queen to any place while here. They dined with the upper servants. The Queen brought a couch and an easy chair with her, both were upholstered in figured damask. There were two little pillows on the couch, one at each end. The chair was a low, very comfortable one to sitting, for I sat in it ( by the request of Miss Reynolds) and looked nice in its crimson and gold damask. The Queen always takes a bedstead and bedding with her wherever she goes. It is her travelling bed. It was a plain half tester mahogany with curtains of figured white muslin, and green satin hangings. The counterpane was a beautiful work of art; it had figures of squirrels, butterflies, foliage and fruit worked all over it in raised work, and most beautifully done. The material of it was all fine soft satin. The Queen also brought an inkstand with her it is made from the hoof of the favourite horse, which Prince Albert used to ride out on, and on which Her Majesty used to ride too. The hoof was gold mounted and had an inscription on it to say it was the hoof of Prince Albert’s horse.
The Queen brought a large quantity of massive silver plate to Palé; the articles were heavy. The glass was also very good cut glass ornamented with the crown. Her Majesty had peas, French beans, cauliflower, etc. from the garden. I had plenty of vegetable marrows but her Majesty is not fond of them. Prints and Princess Henry of Battenberg are fond of fruit, the Prince is fond of white grapes. I had the pleasure of packing the Queens fruit box, the one she takes with her when travelling. It is a moderate size square silver box, about 10 inches long seven wide and four deep I put a good little bunch of grapes into it, two peaches, and two pears I had from Mon. Ferry. The Queen was to take it with her for use on the way to Scotland.
Wednesday 28th The Queen’s horses, carriages, stablemen, police, pages and Mr and Mrs Manning left at 10 o’clock forenoon in a special train for Windsor and London. The Queen had 15 horses, and 10 men in the stables; in fact I may say we had all the Queen’s horses and all the Queens men to put Humpty Dumpty up again. The carriages were travelling carriages, and the horses were useful roadsters, but nothing much to look at. The pony for the garden chair was 26 years old, strong and bulky. The little carriage was very comfortable one on four wheels. The men in the stables cooked their own food in the saddle room. Carriages were plain but comfortable. The men were very civil and allowed me to take any friends through the stables to see the horses, and to look at the carriages.
Many people called here during the day to see Palé and the grounds. I went through with the Fronderw family, Mrs Jones and young ladies. Mr and Mrs Edwards of Liverpool were here also, and had tea with us.
Thursday the 29th. Many people here today and again to see through the house and grounds. The Queen’s Cooks left for Windsor. I brought out all of my plants and vases again for fear of getting injured.
Both Highlanders at Palé, Hugh Brown and Francis Clark were related to John Brown.
At 4.30 the Queen accompanied by the Princess Alix and Lady Churchill passed out at my house on the way to see Bala Lake. Mr. Savage told us to expect the Queen to pass out at the above time. Frances (TR’s wife) got the three little ones (Frances Harriet, Caroline Elizabeth and Amelia Agnes ) to stand in a group with Amelia in the middle on the table in front of the parlour bow window to see the Queen pass. The three were not close to the window for fear it might be offensive to Her Majesty, but they could easily be seen, and they looked a pretty group with their smiling faces. When the carriage was passing the Princess saw them and smiled at them, and then pulled the Queen by the sleeve so as to call her attention to them; when the Queen saw them she smiled at them and nodded to them very pleasantly. We all had a good view of her, and we thought it very gracious of herself and the Princess to take such notice of the children.
After tea, Frances took Henry as far as Tyndol for a walk, on returning the Queen’s carriage passed them, Frances bowed, and Henry touched his cap, Her Majesty acknowledged them by bowing to them. During the afternoon, Mr. Robertson told him the Queen had been talking with him in the morning, and that she asked him about me,and was very pleased to hear him say I came from Scotland. Mr. Robertson also said that when the Queen glanced at the fossils on entering the fruit room and before I got there, she remarked how very like an Ammonite my specimens of Lithuites were – a remark which shows Her Majesty has a good eye when looking at such things. Mr. Robertson also added that he was very pleased to see the Queen take such deep interest in my collection, and he said he did not think the Queen was much of a geologist but that she was certainly much interested.
At 6.30, Mr. Hugh Brown, Her Majesty’s Highland attendant came to me and giving me a small brown case, said “The Queen bid me give you this”, on opening it I found it to contain a very beautiful gold and pearl scarf pin. I was highly pleased with my present, and asked him how I was to thank Her Majesty, at which he said, “I am to do that for you, for I know the lassie gie weel.” I felt most grateful, and will all my life value it and treasure it as a precious relic, given to me by the best Queen who has occupied the throne of England for centuries, and perhaps the best that ever occupied it.
Hugh Brown was the brother of the more famous John Brown. See a letter from Queen Victoria to Hugh Brown here
Thomas left the scarf pin in his will to his eldest son by his second marriage, The Revd. Henry Ruddy. I do not know what then happened to it thereafter, but it was not amongst the objects left in the will of Henry’s only son Denys.
Her Majesty would have given it to me from her own hand if there had been time to do so, and I understand it is her usual custom to do so if at all convenient. The pin is heavy, of very good gold, horseshoe shape,* [*footnote Mrs. Wilson (Mr. Robertson’s sister) told me that the Queen is fond of giving horse-shoe articles, because it is thought they bring good luck] and is studded with nine large and beautiful pearls. It has quite a striking and handsome appearance. I learned from one of Her Majesty’s attendants that the Queen had been reading the chapter on the Silurian rocks of the Dee valley, which Mr. Darlington of Llangollen got me to write for insertion into his Guide to the Dee Valley. The queen remarked to the attendant that it was written by the gardener here, and added “And he comes from Scotland.”
Mr. Francis Clark told me that I got through my interview with the Queen very well, considering I came from Scotland! Both Highlanders are evidently valued and faithful servants of Her Majesty, and both were good natured and free in manners. Mr. Grant, a Queen’s Messenger was also very good nature, and so were nearly all the attendants.
Tuesday Evening At 9.30 we went to the station to take our places so as to witness the departure of the Queen and her suite. There were 400 or 500 persons present some of them from Bala. The Llanderfel choir were on the stand in their costumes, and had Chinese lanterns. Banners were everywhere to be seen, and when the time for the departure was near, the heather arch near the station was illuminated, but the wind was rather high for it to look well. All the houses in the village and neighbourhood were illuminated, which had a very pretty effect. On Moel Calch there was a bonfire which burned brightly and added very much to beautify the scene. A little before ten o’clock an outrider came up and shortly after theQueen came in an open carriage with the Prince and Princesses. The people were most enthusiastic and cheered loud and long and the Choir sang the National Anthem. The Queen bowed to the people and was evidently well pleased. The members of her household were also cheered, and when the Queen alighted from her carriage, she walked with the aid of the stick which she accepted from the Llanderfel people. There was a mottoe (sic) spanning the way to the train which said “Come again!”
The Royal train left the station two or three minutes past ten, the Queen put her head out at the carriage window and said “I Thank you all very much”. The people cheered again and again, the choir sang on until the Royal train went from sight, and nothing could be nicer than the whole scene, a scene which all can never forget. The loyalty and behaviour of the people could not be better, and after the Queen left, all dispersed quietly to their homes. Crowds of people cheered the Royal train at every station on the way to Chester.
‘I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation.‘ This unusually lengthy passage details a moment which was certainly the highlight of the Queen’s visit for Thomas, and probably the highlight of his entire life.
After planting a tree in the garden, the Queen and Princess Alix proceed to the fruit room where encouraged by Dr. Reid the Queen makes a detailed and close examination of his fossil and mineral collections. Her question about the age of a bronze age axe has to bee seen in the light of the Darwinian controversy earlier in her reign, and the tension between church and science about the age of the Earth. The Queen’s question has to be seen as forensic, and Thomas’ reply as diplomatic! Her question about his origins in Scotland show that his accent even after so many years away from Jedburgh had remained Scottish. He certainly wasn’t going to divulge his Irish roots.
The Queen’s Journal mentions to inspection of the fossils only briefly. Since we are reading Princess Beatrice’s redaction of the original Journal it is not possible to say whether she mentioned Thomas. Beatrice was known to excise mention of the servants from her version of the Journal, thus diplomatically excising mentions of John Brown or the Munshi Abdul Hafiz.
Sir Theodore Martin called at Palé during the morning, and returned to Berwyn before luncheon. Colonel Wilson and Mr. Darby came from Brymbo accompanied by the heads of various departments at the steel works, exhibited specimens of ornamental steel to Her Majesty, and had specimens to illustrate the process of steel manufacture. Mr. Robertson went with them. Mr. Edwards of Trevor showed Her Majesty specimens of his TerraCotta (sic) Several others exhibited various articles.
The queen next wished to plant a tree in the grounds in memory of her visit; everything was ready and Her Majesty planted a Turkey Oak a little beyond the end of the lawn tennis ground. Her Majesty took one of the garden steel spades in her hand and with the help of Mr. Clark her Highland attendant put some fine earth on the root of the tree, and said ‘Shall I put a little more on it’. Her majesty was accompanied by the Princess Alix of Hesse (The Queen’s granddaughter ), Lady Churchill, Mr. Robertson and the aboveMr. Francis Clark. Mr. Cameron and I were present to see the ceremony, which was performed at quarter to twelve noon.
After the ceremony was over, the Queen asked which way she was to go next, so Mr. Robertson asked her if she would like to see the cromlech, the Queen said ‘Yes’ and added, ‘Anywhere.’ Mr Clark then led the pony ( the Queen had entered her pony carriage) along the lower walk under the Cromlech wood; the Queen walked from her little carriage to see the cromlech, and after the Queen was seated again, Mr. Robertson guided her to the end of the long walk, from which they then returned by the upper walk and crossed the lawn again as when going to the front of the Hall. From there, they came by the front, passing the gun room, until they arrived sat the little iron gate leading to the Lower, or fruit garden. Here the Queen got out to walk round the lower garden.
During the time the Queen was along the long walk, or “Queen’s Walk” as it ought to be called now, I went to get in the fruit for luncheon. I was coming from the upper or Kitchen garden when I was met by Mr. Francis Clark whotold me that I must come at once to go with the Queen around the garden. I followed Mr. Clark, and as the Queen by this time had got to the end of the walk leading to the conservatory. Mr. Clark and I went round the west end of the garden and past the conservatory to the store door; here Mr. Clark told me to stay until I was called; the Queen continued her walk until she got to the fruit room steps; here a halt was made as the Queen expressed a wish to go up into the fruit room to see my fossils etc. Dr Reid was in possession of it with the door open [TR’s footnote: I used to leave the key of the fruit-room on a nail for Dr. Reid to see the fossils at his leisure]; the doctor was near the door, examining the fossils, he told the Queen he was much interested in the fossils, and Her Majesty said ‘I fear you are more interested in the fruit than in the fossils.’ – This caused a laugh at the Doctor’s expense. The Doctor then came out and told the Queen it wasvery interesting up there – meaning the fruit- room. The Queen was then helped up the stone steps and Mr. Clark was at once sent back for me to go to explain the collection to Her Majesty.
On entering the fruit room, I found the Queen with her head down looking over the fossils; Mr Robertson was standing on the left by the door, Mr. Francis Clark on the right near the door, Lady Churchill in the north passage of the fruit room, and the Princess Alix standing at the end next the door of the south passage. The Princess looked straight at me, and as the Queen was stooping over the fossils, I bowed to the Princess, who nodded back. On the Queen raising her head, she looked at me, Mr. Robertson said, “This is the gardener,”and when I bowed the Queen nodded, and then said “These are very wonderful and must be very interesting,” and added, “Did you get these yourself?” I answered Her Majesty that I collected and arranged them all myself, then Her Majesty said, “Very nice” and continued examining the specimens. I pointed out to the Queen the arrangement of the various groups and their peculiarities, the Queen remarking as I went on “Yes, yes.”
I took up one of the tablets [TR’s footnote Echinospherites balticus]and showed the Queen the label on the back of it, which gives particulars of the locality where the fossil was found and other information. Her Majesty read the label slowly and carefully, and then said “Very nice”. When Her Majesty looked at my specimens of univalves or fossil snailshells, she remarked, “Wonderful, so natural”. Then Her Majesty asked me, “Are these from near here?” I told Her Majesty that they were to be found in various locations between Corwen and Bala, and that Bala was the typical district for Bala fossils, but they were also to be found near Llangollen. Her Majesty then said “This part must be rich in these”, and after a prolonged examination Her Majesty said “Very nice”.
The Princess [TR’s footnote Now Empress of Russia –Nov 1894] took up the tablet on which the gold quartz from Gwynfynydd or the Morgan minewas fixed, I told the Princess to take it to the door where the light was best, and then the Princess examined it carefully as I pointed out where the visible gold was to be seen. The Queen was much interested in it, and when I told Her Majesty that it was from the Morgan mine near Dolgelly, Her Majesty gave me a nod and smiled very knowingly, as much as to say plainly “All that glisters is not gold.” In fact the mine has been so puffed that people are distrustful of it. [TR’s footnote (it was a failure afterwards)]
The Princess Alix then called the attention of Her Majesty to my flint flakes, stone hatchets bronze hatchets, etc. Her Majesty took up the bronze hatchet or Celt in her hand, examined it, read the label on it, and asked me if it was found near here, I said it had been found on the estate, then Her Majesty took it between her fingers, and looking at me closely and straight in the face said “Can you tell me the age of this?” I at once answered “I think that is beyond man’s knowledge, Your Majesty,” and as I said this I looked full into Her Majesty’s face, which was only half a yard from mine; Her Majesty still looking into my face said, “Well, I suppose it is.”
After that the Queen seemed to have finished her inspection of the fossils,and as she was standing looking round at the room, Lady Churchill told her Mr. Robertson wished her to have a peach; Her Majesty said “Not now” [TR’s footnote; When the queen was inspecting the fossils and chatting, she was at her natural ease, but stood dignified when talking ofthe fruit.] and then added “You have very fine peaches and grapes here,indeed, very fine fruit.”
When the Queen prepared to go down the steps again, her pug dog went to get down, but seemed afraid to go, and stood whining on the top step. Her Majesty then said to Mr. Clark the Highland attendant “Carry him down carefully,” and then smiling and looking at all of us said, “He has the rheumatism and cannot well go down.” Then when Her Majesty was being helped down the steps, Mr. Robert son told me to go before and open the hot house doors for Her Majesty. The Queen looked into the forcing houses but was afraid to go through for the heat, then she walked slowly and stiffly along the back of the forcing houses until she got to the end of the peach house, here she stopped to admire a beautiful border of penstemons in full bloom; then she walked slowly after me through the peach-house, remarking to the Princess when she saw the peaches caught in nets, “That is very nice”, then through the conservatory, and on getting into the vinery, Her Majesty looked at me in the face and said, “I suppose this is a good country for fruit and flowers.” I said it was very fair.
We got out at the west door of the vinery, and then past the flower border in which grew Love-in-a-mist, Victoria asters,salpiglotis, gladioli, Rockets, Dahlias, and sunflowers next the wall. Then past the narrow flower border, in which grew dwarf chrysanthemum, asters, peony asters and African marigolds. Her Majesty admired the flowers, and stopped when she got near the west entrance gate to admire the iron palisade which was almost hidden with flowers, consisting of clematis, scarlet and yellow nasturtiums, the yellow creeper Tropaeolum Canariense, and the Tropaeolum Speciosum. The whole had a striking and beautiful effect, and as Her Majesty looked at it, she called the attention of the Princess Alix to it and said, “Isn’t that beautiful,” and then said as she pointed to the Tropaeolum Speciosum “That is a pretty little red plant.”
When Her Majesty got seated in her pony carriage, she turned to me and said “What part of Scotland do you come from?” I said “From Jedburgh,Your Majesty,” at which the Queen remarked to Lady Churchill, “That is near Floors” (Floors Castle, Kelso), Lady Churchill said “It is”, then the Queen said looking at me again “I have been there”, and I said “And to Jedburgh too Your Majesty”, the Queen at that nodded to me and said “Yes”. Then she said “I do not wish to get out again”.
Mr. Robertson then told me to go on before and tell the stable keepers to open the stable doors so that the Queen could look in. When the pony carriage was led past the doors, Her Majesty said “I see they are very nice.” After that the Queen continued her out past my house, and went down the road to see the laundry, and the other houses there, and returned up the drive to the Hall. I left at the gate here as I wished to finish getting the fruit. Mr. Robertson signalled to me the time to leave. I left my hat near the outside of the fruit room door when I entered, and went afterwards round with the Queen without it. Mr Robertson did the same.
When I went to the Queen in the fruit room, I felt nervous, but Her Majesty’s very pleasant way of speaking to me, and her kind manner eased me very much. Indeed, her manner was simplicity itself. Her way of speaking was in short sentences, and like stout people with a little difficulty. The queen evidently wished me to feel at ease, for she looked pleasantly at me and spoke very kindly to me.
Before Her Majesty came to Palé I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a good look at her, but I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation. To me certainly it was a Red Letter Day, and I fully appreciated Her Majesty’s kindness in honouring my collection with a visit.
The Queen is under middle height, has a very full round face very stout, and hair grey. She wore a dress having black and grey stripes, a black mantle with a fringe to it. Her hat was large, of boat shape, with white flowers in front. When walking she took short steps and walked stiffly, from the effects of her rheumatism, I expect. I was pleased to see the great interest Her Majesty took in everything.
When I went back to the fruit room for my hat, I found Dr. Reid inspecting my collection again, as soon as he got Her Majesty away he went back again, and there I left him as I wanted something to eat. Mr. Minshall of the Oswestry Advertiser was in my house waiting for me to get particulars of my interview with the Queen, but I declined to say more than that her Majesty inspected my collection with much interest.
After the Queen had luncheon, Mr. Evan Morris, Mayor of Wrexham, arrived at Palé and was knighted by Her Majesty. Sir John McNeill handed his sword to Her Majesty, and as Mr. Morris knelt on his right knee, Her Majesty touched him on both shoulders with the sword, and addressing him as Sir Evan Morris, commanded him to rise. Sir John Puleston also came to Palé and was presented to the Queen by Mr. Raikes. Mr. Raikes left during the afternoon. I only saw Mr. Raikes when he was with the Queen at the dog trials; he was very tall, stout and full-faced.
The fruits produced in the hothouses of Palé Hall were obviously popular, not only with Queen Victoria who was presented with them for her breakfast, but also with her household, several of whom found Thomas in the garden asking for a peach. When Sir John McNeill found Thomas with fruit in mind, the two amateur antiquarians got into conversation, with interesting details revealed about a Viking burial on a Scottish island.
Tuesday August the 27th I sent in fruit for the Queen’s breakfast and saw to various things, and at 9 o’clock Sir John McNeill hunted me up in the garden to get a peach from me. When we were talking about antiquities, Sir John told me that stone hatchets were frequently to be found in the Western Highlands, and on his estate in the Isle of Colonsay he lately discovered the remains of a Viking, and with the remains there were armour, enamelled ornaments, bronze scales and other curious things. Sir John told me he put the bones of the Viking and various other articles in a velvet lined box and sent the whole to the museum Edinburgh on loan, and that they were there now. Sir John also added that a Swede who had read about the find was so interested in one of the articles found that he came over to Edinburgh to see it, and on getting to Edinburgh he found the precious relic had been lentto a gentleman in the West of Scotland, so thither the Swede went to see it, – so anxious was he to examine it. I was much pleased with the manner of Sir John.
Prince and Princess Henry of Battenburg left here by the Royal Train for Barmouth to lay the foundation stone of the Barmouth new Church. The Hon. Harriet Phipps and Major Bigge went with them to be in attendance. The Royal train arrived at Barmouth at 12.50. The greater part of the county Magistrates and several ladies were at Barmouth to receive the Prince and Princess.
Barmouth was gaily decorated and an immense number of people were in the town. There was a procession from the station to the site of the church, a short way off. The Bishop of the Diocese (Bishop of Bangor) and the Bishop of London (The latter was staying at the time at Dolgelly) were there, and many clergymen. The Princess received a silver trowel and laid the stone in the presence of a large assembly of people. The church is to cost £20,000, and of this sum, Mrs Dyson Perrins and her family give three fourths, and £3,500 has been subscribed by others. Mrs. Perrins lives in a large house near Barmouth, on the way to Llanaber. Mrs. Perrins is of the sauce makers of the firm Lea and Perrins.
After the stone was laid, the Marchioness of Londonderry from Plas Machynlleth gave a luncheon at the Corsygedol (note – a Barmouth Hotel) to the Prince & Princess, the bishops, Lord H. Vane Tempest, Lord and Lady Harlech, Mr.W.R.M. Wynne of Peniarth, Mrs. Dyson Perrins and members of her family from Brynmymach, Barmouth and a fewothers. Lady Londonderry was the principal in getting the Princess to lay the stone.
The Lord Lieutenant of the County, Mr. R.D. Pryce of Cyfronyd, gave a luncheon in the Masonic Hall to the county magistrates and others. After luncheon, the Prince and Princess, with the Marchioness of Londonderry drove to Aberamffra harbour and back on to the esplanade; they were loudly cheered on the way and were everywhere well received.
At 4.10 they left in a Cambrian saloon for Minfford junction where they got into a train of the Toy or Festiniog Railway on their way to Plas Tanybwlch and had tea with Mr. Oakley, the owner of the Plas and the large estate around. Mr. Oakley afterwards drove the Royal party to Maentwrog Road station, from there they came home by the Royal train a little after 7 o’clock.
Once again Thomas and his family get a close up view of the Queen and her retinue as she sets out to visit Llangollen, first using the royal Train and then setting out in a carriage to visit Sir Theodore Martin at his home, Bryntisilio Hall nearby.
26th August, the birthday of the late Prince Albert, was a fitting day to visit the man whom Victoria had chosen to write her husband’s biography.
Further information about Sir Theodore below. I suspect that some of the description of the Queen’s afternoon was copied from a local or national newspaper, as this technique was used in other places in the journal by Thomas.
At half past three o’ clock we all went to the stand at the station again to see the Queen and her attendants go by the Royal Train to Llangollen. There were a great number of people to see the train leave, and all were very orderly. We had a very near and good view of the Royal party. The Prince and Princesses went with the Queen. The afternoon was sunny and fine, and added much to the pleasant scene. when the Queen got out of the carriage, she walked alone to the train. The people cheered long and loud when the Queen was going to the station and when the train was leaving.
After I got back here, I had the flower vases to fill for the dining table, because the Queen was to have guests and dine downstairs in the usual dining room. There were to be eleven to dinner including the Queen; there were eleven on Saturday too, and four upstairs. The Queen returned at 7 o’clock, bringing many bouquets with her.
The Queen arrived at Llangollen at two minutes past 4 o’clock, there were hundreds of people there to see the Royal party, who had a very loyal reception. The Queen walked to her carriage (the carriage left here for Llangollen in the morning) with the aid of the Llanderfel stick. The two scarlet liveried servants mounted on grey horses preceded the Queen’s carriage; the carriage was drawn by four horses (greys), the near horses being mounted by postillions in blue and gold. The Gillies were seated behind the carriage, and following the carriage were Colonel Cornwallis West M.P. on horseback, the equerries and two outriders. The second carriage contained Sir H. Ponsonby and Mr. Raikes MP in private clothes, with them were Lady Churchill and Hon Harriet Phipps. The road was lined with people in various places along the route, many being on the slope of the open hillside On approaching Bryntisilio. The Queen, the Prince and Princesses were loudly and loyally cheered all the way, the Royal party acknowledged the reception by bowing and smiling. The Indians followed in a closed carriage.
It is a beautiful and pleasing route all the way from Llangollen to Bryntysilio; the north side of the road slopes up into the hills, the north side slopes down to the canal and river, and the south side of the river slopes up into hills again. Pretty villas enliven the scene, and the whole is beautifully wooded, and at the present time the trees are changing into their autumn tints. At Pentrefelin, the Queen had a view up the vale of Valle Crucis, but could not see the Abbey ruins.
Bryntysilio, the seat of Sir Theodore Martin is on rising ground overlooking the vale of Llangollen and the vale past Llantysilio, for some distance. This is certainly beautifully situated, and although of no great size, it has a good effect. It was in one of the rooms looking up the vale, immediately overlooking the church of Llantysilio, and on the first floor that Sir Theodore wrote the life of Prince Albert; the Queen wished to see this room. The Queen had tea with Sir Theodore and Lady Martin, and Miss Alice Helps, daughter of Sir Arthur Helps. During Her Majesty’s stay there was some singing by 20 of the Llangollen Choral Society.
Like Henry Robertson, Sir Theodore Martin was an Edinburgh Scot who later settled in Wales. Wikipedia article
On returning to Llangollen, the Queen halted for a minute or two to receive an address of welcome from the inhabitants, and then went on the Holyhead road to Corwen. The Queen made a halt at Glyndyfrchwy to accept a bouquet from Miss Tottenham, shook hands with Major and Mrs. Tottenham and said they lived in a beautiful country. The Queen arrived at Corwen at 7 o’clock, left Llangollen about 5.45. The Royal Carriage came to a standstill in the middle of the square at Corwen, here the Queen received an address of welcome, and then drove on to the station where the Queenentered the saloon of her Royal train and made the rest of the journey by rail. The Queen had a loyal and hearty reception all along the route, sothat she was much pleased with her visit. And as the whole route is through a beautiful part of the country, and the day was fine, Her Majesty could not help being pleased with the people and the country.
In the evening, the Lord Lieutenant of Merioneth (Captain Pryce), the Lord Lieutenant of Denbighshire (Col. Cornwallis West MP) and Sir Watkin and Lady Williams Wynn hadthe honour of dining with the Queen. After dinner the members of the Llanderfel choir again sang a selection of music in
Welsh. The Queen gave the conductor, Mr. W. T. Jones of Brynmelyn a silver mounted ivory baton as a memento of her visit.
There are a number of interesting illustrations and commentary on Queen Victoria’s visit at the Wrexham History site
For Thomas, the main event of the morning was the opportunity to show several senior members of the Queen’s household his fossil collection. Sir Henry Ponsonby, Sir John McNeill and Dr. Reid seem to have been interested in the well displayed collection which Henry Beyer Robertson had asked him to display during the visit. See here for the Royal Household
Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry had an eventful visit to a coal mind during the morning, descending to the coal face, hewing a piece of coal each, and setting off an electrical charge. Meanwhile the Queen’s morning began with her marking with sadness the birthday of her late husband. “This dear dear day, spent for the 27th time without my darling Husband, the light of my life.” A carriage ride up the hill road behind Palé towards the Berwyn mountains, providing her with good views may have lightened her mood. Thomas found a number of interested people arriving at his house to get a view of the Queen.
Monday the 26th. There was nothing very particular going on until breakfast was over. At 10.30 Prince Henry, the Princesses, the Hon. Harriet Phipps & Major Bigge in attendance, left here in the Royal train for Ruabon to go a coal pit. The carriage of Major Evan Morris (Mayor of Wrexham) was waiting at the station and took them to the Winnstay Colliery, half a mile away. At the coal pit they put on dust cloaks and caps,the gentlemen put on overalls. They were accompanied in the descent by Major Morris, chairman of the colliery, the engineer, the underground manager, Sir W. Wynn, and others connected with the colliery. They were pushed along in tubs for about five hundred yards, and on getting to the coal, each cut out a piece with a pick; afterwards the Princess Beatrice fired a shot by electricity to bring down some coal, and then the party returned to the surface. They kept the pieces of coal they got out as trophies, and were well pleased with their visit. The miners, above and below the surface cheered them heartily. The Royal party got back here in time for luncheon.
A good drawing of Princess Beatrice hewing coal, originally from ‘The Graphic’ here (not available on this page for copyright reasons)
At 11.20, the Queen, attended by Lady Churchill, went out at the gate by my house for a drive over the Berwyn road.When the queen passed my house, she took a good look at itso that we had a close and full view of her. My friend Mr. Robinson of Shrewsbury came into my house to see the Queen pass, and three ladies from Bournemouth (the Misses Hull) friends of Mrs. Roy asked to come in too so as to have a view of the Queen. They were all satisfied, for they had an excellent view of her. Mrs. Roy (Mrs. Robertson’s sister) lives near the Misses Hull at Bournemouth, and as they were coming to Bala, Mrs.Roy told them to come to me and I would be sure to show them all there was to be seen at Palé. They came to me three or four times last week, and their great ambition was to see the Queen in her pony carriage anywhere in the grounds. They are ladies pretty well in years, and as they made themselves agreeable, I did all I could for them, but they could not see the Queen in her pony carriage. The Misses Hull took much interest in my collection of fossils and other objects of interest. They told me that Mrs. Roy often talked about me, so that in name I was no stranger to them.
The two Highlanders accompanied the Queen in her carriage, but no other guards or attendants. Mr. Robertson went up the hill on foot and met the carriage at the head of the old lane at Wernol, there he was taken into the carriage and sat with the Highlanders, and then he acted the guide to the Queen. They went to Palé stables on the hill near Pontcwmbedw; here the Queen had a good view of all the Berwyn heights, the valley ofLlandrillo and a retrospect view of the hills north and west ofBala. On the return journey the Queen had a distant view of Snowdon, the Moelwyns at Festiniog and a very pleasant view of the valley of the Dee from Llanderfel to Bala. The route for two miles went through a wild moorland, covered in heather in full bloom. Palé mill is the only roadside dwelling all the way from here to where the Queen went, and indeed for three or four miles further. The distance from here to Palé grousing stables is 3 and a quarter miles.
At Mr. Robertson’s request I laid out my collection of fossils in the fruit room, which is a well-lighted and convenient place to display it. I arranged the fossils into groups, according to their natural divisions. The fossils are mounted on little wooden tablets,
covered with blue paper, so that when spread out there is nothing to be seen but the blue surface, the fossils, and the labels with the names. On the back of each tablet there is a label to give the exact locality of the fossil and other information about it. The arrangement of the collection has a pleasing and effective appearance, and as most of the specimens are good, even those who know little or nothing of geology usually take an interest in the collection.
The kinds of fossils that would have been displayed in Thomas’ collection.
Mr Robertson told Dr. Reid that I had a well known collection, and the Doctor said he wished to inspect it. I got out several other objects of interest, such as visible gold in quartz from the much vaunted Mount Morgan or Gwynfynydd gold mine at Dolgelly, a fine bronze celt found on Palé estate, two stone celts from Antrim, Ireland, flint arrowhead from near Arenig, flint flakes from Bala Lake. I also had a geological map of North Wales, books on geology and the local Natural History of the district. I did not display all my local fossils, but the selection covered a space ten feet in length and two feet in width.
After the Queen went out for a drive, I had the pleasure of conducting General Sir Henry Ponsonby and General Sir John McNeill over the gardens and hot houses, and also of showing them my fossils and the other objects laid out. Both gentlemen were most surprised at the extent of my collection and took much interest in all I showed them. The gold quartz was of much interest to them, and Sir Henry asked me to point out on the map the situation of the Mount Morgan gold mine. They were very chatty and of pleasant manner, so that I felt quite at ease with them.
Sir Henry is very tall, six feet or over, Sir John about 5 ft 8 to 5ft 9. I gave Sir John a peach when leaving the fruit room. Sir Henry said he never ate fruit in the morning. Dr. Reid and I had a minute inspection of my collection and I gave him much information about them. Dr. Reid took special interest in the various groups, and examined them with care. I left the key of the door in a place where he could find it at any time, and he said he would go and look over the collectiuon whenever he had time.
The Queen returned from the Berwyns at half past twelve o’clock; when passing my house, we had another good view of her as she looked at the creepers on the house when passing. The pretty scarlet Tropaeolum speciosum was well in bloom, and much admired by everybody.