Mr – and Mrs Ruddy


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A photograph of Thomas taken in Chester. Possibly aged 27, about to begin work at Palé


Before commencing work at Palé Hall in January 1869, Thomas spent two years at Middleton Hall, Stoney Middleton in Derbyshire.  During this time he married Mary Blackhall, daughter of an Edinburgh family.  Mary makes a very unexpected entry to the journal coming as a great surprise to the transcriber:

1868 October 27 Tuesday                I observed a very beautiful lunar rainbow; it appeared after a shower 8.15pm. It had no colour. My year being coming to a close I resolved to try and get a better situation. I was very comfortable, but it was a very out of the way place and Lord Denman (although very kind) had no money to spend on the garden. I was welcome to Dicksons of Chester so that I told Lord Denman to try and get one to succeed me. I was now married to Mary Blackhall, daughter of John Blackhall of Edinburgh and sister to the manager for Paton and Ritchie booksellers Edinburgh.

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Mary Blackhall of Edinburgh

Thomas gives no hint of how they met, but their marriage certificate for the 18th December 1868 may provide a clue.  Married at Stoney Middleton, Mary’s profession is stated as ‘lady’s maid’ so perhaps it was at Middleton Hall that they met.  The certificate gives Mary’s father’s name as Alexander, and the naming of their first child Thomas Alexander may confirm this, as do the other records concerning Alexander.

Thomas signals his satisfaction at the beginning of 1869:   January 1st The past year was a happy one for me and I had excellent health, and I took to wife a daughter of ‘Auld Reekie’. It was an unusually hot summer, about the hottest for many years, 90 or over in the shade.

Two years in Derbyshire

Stoney Middleton, via the Parish Council website

Leaving the winter damp, summer flies and argumentative Smith father and son of Newtonairds, Thomas set out on for his second Head Gardener post at Middleton Hall near Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire.

His employer was somewhat different from those self made men for whom he had previously gardened.  I’ll let Thomas explain in his forthright style:

I left on Monday 11th November 1867- went to Dumfries, thence to Annan and Carlisle.  I had an hour to stay here so that I went to see the city. It was now dark so that I could not see much. From Carlisle my route was by Lancaster and Skipton to Leeds. Here I had to wait for a long time. Left Leeds, passed through Marsbro [sic] and got into Sheffield for the first time. I found Sheffield to be a smoky stuffy place, with a fearful number of public houses. I was glad to get out of it. I left it on the Baslow Coach.   

 Our route was over a wild moor most of the way and a country without much interest until we got to Chatsworth park. We had now a beautiful country before us, the grounds of Chatsworth and the valley through which winds the river Derwent. I got off at Baslow and had to walk to my destination along the Derwent, past the village of Calver to the village of Stony Middleton, where I got by mid day on the 12th of November. My situation was to be Head Gardener to Lord Denman at Middleton Hall.

 This Hall is close to the village of Stony Middleton, one mile from the village of Eyam, one mile from Calver, two from Curbar village, over two from Baslow, five miles from the town of Bakewell, five from the little town of Hathersage and five from the little town of Tideswell. Middleton Hall was once the Parsonage. After that it was occupied by Dr. Denman, who was once the Court Physician to George III. Dr Denman’s son became Chief Justice of England – known as Chief Justice Denman.   

 Lord Chief Justice Denman, father of Thomas’ employer ( via Wikipedia)
The present Lord Denman is the son of the Chief Justice. He is a tall spare man, eccentric, very stern, but frank and generous, once fond of hunting but now devoted to farming and politics. 

[TR’s footnote: the above Lord Denman died on the 9thof August 1894, aged 89 years, was twice married, second time in 1870.] 

He is a devoted Conservative and was much disappointed that his party did not give him an official appointment in Germany. His nature is suspicious or distrustful and somewhat superstitious. 

 Lady Denman was stout, tall, full face affable and highly polished; a good German scholar, from which language she translated some tales, but she was also an original writer. Lady Denman was Georgina Moore, the daughter of a lecturer before she married Thomas Denman. The estate is but small, with an income of about £1,800 only. The village church is in Grecian style, but of no particular merit. The Vicar was Rev Urbin Smith, a stiff but affable man; a good geologist. The village is but little having one good inn called the ‘Moon’. The bulk of the people are engaged in lead mining.