A Patriotic Victorian Evening 1898

Llandderfel school in the early 1890’s AAR – Millie; CAR – Carrie

The last decade of the nineteenth century saw a large number of home- grown entertainments, concerts, musical and dramatic evenings becoming increasingly popular, and members of the Ruddy family both attending and taking part. Thomas’ account from April 1898 gives a very clear idea of one such entertainment. the patriotic nature of the event seems characteristic of the times.

Easter Monday the 11th. We had ‘Living Pictures’ in the village school in the evening. Alfred represented the “Young Britain” with a supposed old soldier. His best was as “Bubbles”. He was in costume of black velveteen edged with lace and frills and a pipe for the soap bubbles. He looked exactly like the picture called Bubbles. His beautiful curly hair and costume coming out well. He sat perfectly still.

Carrie acted in the picture of ‘Don’t Move” with Mr Armstrong as a soldier. She had to kiss him under the mistletoe. She did it well in primrose frock and tan stockings. The best picture of the evening was the “United Kingdom”. Francie represented England in a white long frock, a haymaker’s hat trimmed with pink Roses and carrying a basket of pink roses (artificial); Carrie represented Scotland in tartan frock and shoulder sash, tam-o’-shanter cap with our real dried fish sauce in it from my collection and a globe artichoke head (old one) with leaves as a thistle in her hand. Millie was in green frock and hood with the garlands of large artificial shamrocks to represent Ireland. Gladys Williams, a little girl represented Wales. Each appeared in turn first, then all together with a garland flowers entwining them. The girls looked splendid and stood perfectly still each time.

The musical party from Liverpool who usually come here at Easter sang Rule Britannia when the picture was on view. The school room was crammed full of people. There was not a hitch in the whole affair. It was a very wet day and evening for it too. We had to provide the costumes for all of ours.

Such patriotic occasions lasted well into the 20th century. This photograph from the 1920s demonstrates several of the costumes described by Thomas in the journal.

1895: Day trippers

Bridge at Bettws y Coed by Ray Jones (Creative Commons)

As the 1890’s continued, there is an increasing reference in Thomas’ journal to days out, some organised by the family, others part of an organised group. Transport was made easily available and destinations, such as the attractive village of Bettws y Coed, still magnet for modern day tourists, geared up to receive visitors and receive their money. In August 1895, Frances Harriet’s brother William Williams and his wife were visiting the Ruddy family, and they set out for a day’s enjoyment.

Wednesday the 28th. We were all up early to get ready to go to Bettws-y-Coed with Mr and Mrs W.   We left here by the 9.10 train, and had a wagonette and pair of horses waiting for us at Bala station. We left the station at 9.40 and got to Bettws -y-Coed at 12.30.  We follow the road to Ffestiniog until we got to Frongoch, here we turned to the right by the side of the stream called Monachdwr and passed the vicarage. We passed a few houses and the chapel at Glanrafrn in Cumtir Mynach. After passing Pont Monachdwr, we saw the clay works of Mr Price at Rhiwlas.  

We got into Denbighshire when we crossed a small brook which skirts the road for a short distance and then goes towards Llangwm.  We got onto the Holyhead Road at Pont Arddwyfaen, about a couple of miles south of Cerrig-y-Druidion.  It is a dreary and an interesting road from Frongoch to the Holyhead road.

A short halt was made at the roadside hotel called the Saracen’s Head near Cerrig-y-Druidion. (Below – now houses?)

Thomas continues with a blow by blow commentary on the journey. It seems their route was already well favoured by tourists.

Pentre Voelas Hotel, image by Nigel Gallaghan under Creative Commons.

Pentre Voelas Hotel seems to be a comfortable place; it is in a hollow sheltered by trees and has nice gardens.  There were many people about it– tourists and bicyclists.

  The scenery is very pleasing all the way to Betws y Coed; the Conway runs in a continual torrent the walls of rock; it makes a short detour westward where it receives the river Machno, and shortly afterwards the united streams for over a rocky slope called the Conway Falls. The river now runs in a deep dingle with the rocky slopes on each side, and the whole is well clothed with trees. The road is high above the river on the rocky slope, the rock is composed of the usual felstone ash rock, so common in North Wales.

Afon Conwy by John Firth Creative Commons

 We got to the Waterloo Hotel, which is a short distance from the bridge, and about a quarter of a mile from the station and church at 12:30 o’clock. We returned over the Waterloo Bridge, which is an iron structure of one span, built in the year 1815. It carries the Holyhead Road over the Conway. It is very beautiful here; the views up and  down the river being very pleasing.  There is a broad meadow in front of the hotel on the north side of the river, and rugged rocky heights rise up from the river on either side; the whole covered with trees. We followed of the road leading to Ffestiniog along the side of the river to the stone bridge called the Beaver Pool Bridge, which we crossed, and finding a quiet rocky ledge near the end of it, we sat there under a projecting rock and had our luncheon.

The Fairy Glen Hotel – still a popular tourist destination. Image Dot Potter via Geograph, Creative Commons

We next returned and recrossed the Stone bridge and entered by a turnstile and old road leading to the Fairy Glen, at quarter of a mile distant.  We paid 2d each, half price for the children to see the Glen. The Fairy Glen is a wild bit of river scenery where the Conway runs in a torrent between upright walls of rock for a short distance and then widens into a raging pool hemmed in by rock on either side, and then it rushes onward between rough ledges and masses of rock to join the Lledr.    There is a rough pathway to the river where there is a view up the gorge.  There were many people there at the time, and indeed the roads were swarming with people wherever we went between Conway Falls and Swallow Falls, everywhere while we were at Bettws, some on coaches, and many as we were, walking.  

Image by Eirian Evans via Geograph, Creative Commons

We next walked back, re-crossed the Waterloo Bridge and went straight to the railway station of the London and North Western.  Here we got a coach to the Swallow Falls. It was a very pleasant drive; the village consists of the hotels and lodging houses, the houses being built around the base of the rugged rocky slopes.  We passed the end of the bridge over the Llungwy, called Pont y Pair where there is a pretty view up the river, which runs over a rocky bed with a rocky wall on one side.  The falls are close to the road where we entered by a little gate without payment. We had to go down by rough steps to the riverbed to see the Falls and a rough dangerous place it is, but it is carefully and strongly fenced on one side where there was a much danger. There are two falls each 20 feet by about 30 feet wide.

Swallow Falls, upper fall. Image by Christine Matthews, via Geograph, Creative Commons

The lower fall also glides down the rocks over a smooth surface; each fall ends in a deep boiling pool; the lower fall issues from the pool at the bottom of the first one. From the lower pool the waters run in a torrent over a wide rocky bed with walls of rock on either side,  and the rocks rise perpendicularly over the falls on the north side to a great height, and there are the remains of an old tower on the top of the precipice. The Swallow Falls are well worth seeing, and after the rains as we saw them, they were wild and foaming.  The river scenery all the way from the falls to Pont y Pain is pleasing; it is beautifully wooded, being closed with young plantations of Larch, self sown and planted oaks, and the rocks rise into rounded masses high above the river of the north side.

 On our return to the Village, we had a hurried tea, and started for home at 5.10. We got to Pentre Voelas at 6, Cerrig y Druidion at 6:30, and Bala at 8:15, just as the train got into the station. The road was steeper on the return than when going, but the horses were good, and the driver was steady and careful. 

It is interesting to see that visitor attractions still very popular today were attracting large crowds in the 1890s. Although visitors now pay to view the Swallow Falls, the 2 pence per person to view the Fairy Glen in 1895 seems steeper than today’s price!

1895 Of This and That

Thomas in later life from his newspaper obituary

I have now been transcribing and researching Thomas’ journals for more than 15 years. It has been possible to keep going because of the sheer variety and interest that his jottings present. I usually concentrate these posts on a single issue, but perhaps it is time to record some edited extracts from a six month period to demonstrate the range of interests and events he chose to record.

NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST Friday, March 1. Mr Woodall very kindly sent me gratis a volume of Bye-Gones for the years 1893–4. He has now sent me three volumes, representing six years. All my own contributions to the Oswestry Advertiser are reprinted in Bye-Gones. I am very pleased to have the copies.

                           

WEATHER REPORTER March Wednesday the sixth. The ice still unbroken on Bala Lake and the reservoir. The snow is now confined to hollows, sides of roads and fences where it is of great depth in many places. Saturday the 16th. We walked to Bodwenni Gate. It was very pleasant, very clear road almost all the way and the birds singing. Great snow wreaths in many places.

FATHER Palm Sunday (the seventh)  Henry, Carrie and little Alfred with me over Palé hill.  It was fine and sunny. Alfred walked well and was pleased to go. Saw the Ring Ouzel. Good Friday. The whole family of us over Palé hill, and very enjoyable it was. Great snow wreaths on the hills, and a yard deep at the little farm of Bwlchysafen at an altitude of 1054 feet.

GEOLOGIST On Wednesday the 17th. I had a visit from Mr Lake of Cambridge University and his friend Mr Groom from Herefordshire. They had luncheon and tea with us and spent most of the time inspecting my fossils.  Both are keen geologists and we had a pleasant time together. They enjoyed the visit and left by the 4.6 train.

Fossil material collected by Thomas from the collection in the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge.

FRIEND Thomas had befriended Thomas Mellard Reade as a fellow geologist, (see previous post) but in bereavement Reade chose to stay near to his friend Ruddy. Monday the 29th Frances and I met my friend Mr. Mellard Reade and his stepdaughter, Miss Taylor at the station.  They came to spend a week at the Derfel to recruit their health, because Mrs Reade died the previous week. They were pleased to see us and we walked with them as far as the village. Wednesday, 1 May. I went over Palé hill with Mr Reade. We had an interesting ramble. Thursday the second. Mr Reade, Miss Taylor and I went to Sarnau, then on to Caeranucha and home by Bethel lane. It was very fine all the way. Saturday the 4th. I went to Sirior with Mr Reade. We examined some rather interesting glacial deposits and boulders. I had tea him at the Derfel where he lodges. Monday the 6th. Mr Reade and Miss Taylor returned home.  They had very fine weather and much enjoyed their visit.

EMPLOYEE Monday the sixth [May]. Lady Robertson was safely delivered of her fourth daughter at 7:30 am.  Both going on well.

Monday the 20th. Sir Henry and Col Burton [ Sir Henry’s brother in law] wished to see my collection of birds’ eggs.  Col Burton knows much about them. He said my collection is very good and of much interest.

The Staircase Hall, Palé

NEIGHBOUR. Saturday the 25th. I went after tea as far as Garnedd to see the old farmer. I found him in a very weak state and not likely to live long. He was very pleased to see me, and I was very sorry to see him in such a weak state. We have been dealing in potatoes now for over 20 years.

LOCAL EVENTS Tuesday the 28th Frances and I at Corwen where we spent most of the day after sale of furniture at Colomendy where the late Dowager Mrs Price of Rhiwlas lived for over 20 years. The articles were rather ancient, for the old lady was very saving body.  Colomendy is a curious old place and house and gardens are much out of repair. It was very warm. I bid for a carpet and got it, and finished with that. Mr Owen of the White Lion Hotel kindly left it at Bryntirion here for me. We came home by the last train.

HUSBAND From their Geologically themed honeymoon onwards Frances Harriet seems to have been content to share her husband’s hobbies. Saturday the eighth.  Frances and I went to Bala in the afternoon.  We went along the side of the lake to Fachdeiliog boathouse.  I searched for a sedge warbler’s nest there, but only found an empty whitethroat’s.  I picked up two or three flint flakes by the lake on my return.

GUIDE. Thomas was always willing to act as guide to anyone who sought his instruction. Wednesday the 12th The Revd James Gracie came here on his bicycle from Bala College in the afternoon.  I took him around the gardens, and after tea I guided him onto the top of Palé hill. The mountains were very clear, so I was able to show him Snowdon, Moelwyn, etc. I also showed him Moel Fammau.  He was much pleased with the views, for he never saw Snowdon before.  After supper he returned on his bicycle at 9 o’clock.

EXPERT Thomas was widely consulted as a horticultural expert. Thursday the 13th. I went by request to Bala College to see the grounds and give advice about the trees and shrubs. Principal Edwards, Prof Williams, and Mr Gracie went around with me. The Principal and Mr Williams were very nice and chatty all the time.  Mr. Gracie came to the station to see me off.

PARENT Francis took the children in the evening to Bala to be photographed in a group.

CHESTER SOCIETY FOR NATURAL SCIENCE Wednesday the 26th. Frances and Henry went to Arenig station to see Mrs Evans Jones. I was to have gone too, to act as one of the leaders to the members of the Chester Society of Natural Science, but as the excavation was a failure, I stayed at home.  It was hot and hazy all day with thunder far away; not a good day for top of Arenig.

ORNITHOLOGIST Saturday the 29th.[June] Henry and I went to see the young cuckoo for the last time; it was almost ready to fly. Sunday the 30th. Henry and I along the railway as far as Garth Goch.  We found the nest of a shrike with three eggs and a whinchats with five eggs, all fresh.

Sunday the seventh. We all went in the evening to see the swans and their cygnet on the river near Dolygadfa.  The cygnet is much grown. It got onto its mother’s back for a time.  We came home by the village.

POLITICAL COMMENTATOR. The General Election is now over,  and the result has been a surprise to all concerned. The Conservatives have made a clean sweep of the Liberals, for they got into power with a majority of 152. There has not been such an election for many years. Many of the Liberal leaders have been defeated; even Sir W Harcourt, Mr Morley, Mr Shaw  Lefevre, etc.  The Welsh Radicals are quite dejected over it.  They thought to disestablish the Church in Wales, but now it seems afar.

GEOLOGICAL RESEARCH. Monday the fifth. Bank holiday. My old friend Mr A.C.Nicholson of Oswestry and his brother paid us visit.  We had them to luncheon and tea etc.  I have been for some time arranging and naming parcels of fossil material from Gloppa, Old Oswestry and Sweeny for him and also for him and Mr. Cobbold of Church Stretton.  The Church Stretton material consists of fossil Beds 1 to 2 inches each in thickness which have been found in an igneous rock; this igneous rock has been for a time passed off as Precambrian by two or three geologists. I find the fossils to belong to the base of the Caradoc series and the igneous rock to be a vassicular ash.  I have named the fossils and made a report of the whole.

The Nicholsons and I spent most of our time in the fruit room packing the specimens to take home and examining and discussing my fossils.  We spent a very interesting afternoon together.  The fossils from Sweeny near Oswestry are from Boulder Clay; the fossils being of Llandeilo age. They occur in a black shale, rather soft and I found the Lingulella lepis common in it.  This fossil has not been found south of the Berwyns, so that it is of  much interest. My friends left by the 8.30

A page from Thomas’ Commonplace book – from the handwriting, written in older age.

Ice on Bala Lake

Thames Frost Fair early 19th Century

Thomas kept precise and unfailing records of the weather, but in February 1895 there was much to report. His temperature records are, of course in Fahrenheit.

Friday the 22nd some severe frost during the week–20° on the 18th, 11° on the 19th, 13° on the 20th, 15° on the 21st, 19 ½° on this the 22nd.  Frances, the children and myself have had colds for three weeks; they have left us now. We have not been at church for several Sundays.

Saturday the 23rd. Frances, Francie, Carrie, Millie, and myself went to Bala by the 3.16 train to see the lake frozen over.  It was a strange sight to see such an extent of water frozen over– say between three and 4 miles in length, and three quarters of a mile in width.  We stood for a few minutes on the bank at the North East end of it to view the scene. There were many people on it some skating, some walking about, and a large party playing at hockey on skates.  The snow covered the slopes of the surrounding hills, which  made it look very wintry. But at the time it was rather pleasant, for there was a slight thaw. The scene reminded one of a fair or suchlike. It was so very strange to see the smooth expanse of level ground where I have often seen wild waves rolling along before the winds.  We met Henry on the ice and we all walked about for about an hour. The little ones were sliding part of the time. The ice seems to be very solid and quite strong enough for any ordinary weight. I found a hole broken through it in one place and the ice was about 4 inches in thickness. It averages six or 9 inches over most of it. It is a rough ice, much spotted with white specks and has huge cracks all over it.  There were fewer people there today than usual owing to it being market day at Bala.  I met several people I knew such as Mr Evans, Master of the Grammar School, Mr. Gracie, Mr Owen of the White Lion Hotel etc. and Mr Owen told me he drove over the lower end of the lake on Thursday in his dogcart and a tandem. He zigzagged it afterwards towards Eryl Aran and back again to the lower end.  He, the tandem and people were photographed on the ice. 

This is quite extraordinary as there had been a fatality on the frozen lake on February 19th, reported in at least one newspaper. From the Montgomeryshire Express, Tuesday 19th February 1895:

 Nevertheless, the local population, including the Ruddy Family, seemed undaunted: Several people have skated and walked all the way to the upper end of the lake, and bicycles are frequently running over the ice. There was much of the lake frozen over in January 1881, and in the winter of 18 60–61 too, that there has not been such ice on it as it presents since the winter of 1854–55.  That was the time of the Crimean war. I am told by Mr Peter Jones of Bryntirion that he was taken across the lake that Winter from near Llangower to Bala.  There was a very deep snow that winter and it covered the ground for weeks.

There is not much ice on the Dee, but the river Tryweryn was frozen over from near Rhiwlas to the junction.

We were all very pleased to be on the ice for we may never see such a scene again. We were about three quarters of a mile from the east shore of it.  I never saw such an extent of ice before; and Frances has hardly ever been on any frozen water.

Henry went right across it twice and back on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite Thomas’ report that photographs were taken, I have been unable to find one online. Instead I give you one of my favourite pictures!

Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Lock by Sir Henry Raeburn (about 1784)

Raeburn painted his Skating Minister 100 years before the Bala skaters had fun on the ice.

1894 Walking with the children

The children circa 1895: top l-r Millie (Amelia), Henry, Francie (Frances) bottom l-r Carrie (Caroline) Alfie (Alfred)

In 1894 the five children of Thomas and Frances were aged between 12 and 4 years. Thomas, sometimes joined by Frances, enjoyed taking them walking, choosing the expeditions according to the abilities of the children. Each walk gave him opportunity to teach them about the sights and sounds of the countryside. His journal entries suggest that in some of the walks the children were able to decide for themselves whether to join in the walks, as varying numbers and combinations join different expeditions. Over the mid and late 1890s, Henry, the eldest, seems to have been Thomas’ most constant companion, followed by Millie (Amelia). The two elder girls, Francie (Frances) and Carrie (Caroline) were less likely to join in, perhaps being expected to help in household tasks. At this point Henry was 12, Francie 10, Carrie 9, Millie 7 and Alfred 4.

July 21st 1894, Henry and his father made a lengthy expedition too strenuous for the younger siblings. Henry and I went by train to Llandrillo and from there we walked to the top of Cader Fronwen.  [Cadair Bronwen on OS maps] We went over the village bridge, then followed a lane until we got to nice upland pastures, across which we walked until we got to the circle upright stones on Moel ty Ucha.

We next got to a splendid spring of pure water on the top of the ridge where the road turns towards Clochnant at the base of Cadair Fronwen (now Cader Bronwen).  [SJ077 346]. The well has rough slates replaced as a square and is well known from time immemorial as ‘ffynon Maen Milgi” the Greyhound’s stone well.  Some are inclined to think that it is a Roman well from the name Greyhound because it is believed the Romans brought this dog from Italy. We left the road at the well and took to the mountainside until we got to the top of Cader [294] Fronwen by 3.35.  We found the cloudberry or Berwyn raspberry on the way up, but there were neither flowers nor fruit. It had evidently been injured by the frost in May.

On the ridge near the upright stone there is a mound of earth, mostly peaty with a few stones in it.  It is certainly artificial and marks a sepuchral place. From here we went up a steep slope to the top of Craig Berwyn. On top we found many plants of the raspberry in boggy ground.  On our return we followed the same road all the way to Llandrillo where we got to the station a few minutes before train time. Observed the kestrel on the very top, but interesting birds were scarce. We were highly pleased with our visit to the mountain, and were in good condition on our return home.

Not all family expeditions were so extensive. Family members walked ‘after tea’ on many days, observing rocks, flowers and trees and birds and their nests. Each month Thomas would faithfully record details of the weather; his reports were published in the Oswestry Advertiser.

Family walks continued throughout the 1890’s joined by elder step brother Willie when he came home from his work in Wrexham. The frequency of his notes of these walks in the journals of these years (journals 4 and 5) show Thomas’ delight in sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with his children.

Marriages 1894

What happens when a biographer suddenly comes across an event in the life of their subject which they find difficult to understand, and in some senses seems quite shocking? It is impossible to understand the context and circumstances of the event, or to interrogate an objective contemporary bystander. I have been acquainting myself with Thomas Ruddy through his journals since I inherited them in 2005, finding much to admire in his character and endeavours in gardening, geology, and as a family man. I rarely read ahead in the journals; following the ‘story’ being a major factor in keeping on with the task of transcription.

So it was that I came to April 1894, and a grand wedding in the Robertson family, when the youngest daughter of the late Henry Robertson, sometime MP, and the sister of Sir Henry Robertson, Henrietta, married, at the somewhat advanced age of 36, the clergyman Eustace King. There seems to have been much rejoicing in the Ruddy family at this happy event. On Friday the 6th of April, Miss Robertson presented Thomas and Frances with a gift:

Miss Robertson gave me a handsome photo frame for two photos. One has a photo of the Rev. Eustace King (her intended husband) and she is going to send me one of her own soon to put in the empty frame. It was very kind of her to give it and we appreciate her kindness.

A gift was given in return on the 12th April: Presented Miss Robertson with a wool handmade hearthrug as a wedding present. We had it made for her. She was much pleased with it, said it would be a nice remembrance, and that as it would suit the pile carpet that we could not have given her anything more acceptable. She took it away with her.

And then comes the shock: Saturday the 14th Tom (his eldest son) married at Southsea much against our wish.

Seemingly entirely unmoved, Thomas continues to enthuse about the wedding of Miss Robertson: Wednesday the 18th Miss Robertson married with the Rev. Eustace King at the church here. It passed off nicely – see account in Oswestry Advertiser. The report is my composition, but Lady Robertson gave me the list of presents to copy. See above.

Thomas continues: I had plenty of white and other flowers for the occasion. Mr King told me he liked the way I decorated the church. I had a beautiful Spirea as a table plant to put in the Queens silver bowl the cake was decorated with Deutzia.

I have now transcribed as far as the end of 1895, and there is no further mention of Thomas’ eldest son, Thomas Alexander, Tom. This is particularly heartbreaking as records show that in February, Tom’s wife Elizabeth Ann, nee Roberts gave birth to a son who lived just three days. They called him Thomas Alexander.

Despite this family rift, Thomas Alexander did well for himself. My future transcription will show whether the rift was ever healed. Tom and Elizabeth did finally have a son, Reginald Harold, born in 1900 and a daughter Beatrice Rosamund born in 1903. I have been in touch with a descendant of Reginald.

It is tempting to quote L.P. Hartley: ‘The past is another country, they do things differently there.’ However, family feuds and rifts still exist, and how is it possible for an onlooker to understand what happens in the human psyche?

1893 Thomas the Journalist

National Library of Wales

Wednesday the 19th April I received a copy of Bye-Gones 1891-1892 in one volume from Mr Woodall the proprietor. It is a valuable and handsome present and contains contributions from myself.

Occasionally Thomas makes reference to something that reveals more about his activities beyond his employment as Head Gardener at Palé. With the growing addition of archive material online, it is often possible to follow up and view the originals. Similarly with the National Newspaper Archive, it is possible to see reports of events referred to in the Journal.

Copies of Bye-Gones are available online via the National Library of Wales.  It seems that Thomas contributed regular weather notes (reproducing those in the journal)  and occasional nature notes, also featuring items from the journal.

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1893 Judging the Judge

Sir Henry Beyer Robertson and his wife do not seem to have entertained guests to Palé as frequently as did his father. Suggestions are that income was not as generous as in former days; Thomas had to decrease his garden staff immediately after Henry Robertson’s death in 1888. H. B. Robertson was not involved in national political life as his father had been, and the arrival of two young daughters in a family which would eventually expand to six children kept Lady Roberson busy. However, some guests did arrive, and didn’t escape Thomas’ critical and sometimes judgmental eye.

Saturday the 25th [March] Mr Justice Williams, his wife and daughter came to stay at Palé for the Assizes at Dolgelly in the beginning of the week. Sir Henry as High Sheriff invited them to be his guests.

Sunday the 26th Sir Henry had the Judge and party about with him. The Judge is an elderly gentleman of dark complexion; his wife and daughter much resembled him; being of a gypsy cast of countenance. The lady employed at most of her time this day in winding worsted, knitting, and washing socks or stockings. In the evening Sir H with the Judge, the Sheriff Chaplain and the Judge’s secretary amused themselves by playing billiards until very late. The Rev Dan Edwards (late of Bala) now of [space not filled -ed.] Is the chaplain.

There was no private religious service, nor did any of them go to the church. Rather strange way of spending a Sabbath. It was a very miserable day to go anywhere, for much snow fell during the night with sleet showers all day, which made the roads deep in snow sludge. But such people might have spent Sunday differently.

Philippe de Champaigne / public domain

1882 The Minera Works

The images in this post are taken from a report in the Wrexham newspaper The Leader, on 13th February 2019 by Jamie Bowman. No copyright infringement is intended.

Volunteers working on restoration of the Minera Works, 2019

Thomas’ employer Henry Breyer Robertson owned or part owned a number of industrial, mining and rail enterprises over a wide area. Thomas’ sons Thomas Alexander and William were given clerical employment in the Plas Power works. H. B. Robertson’s uncle, Mr Dean, obviously had influence in the Minera Lime works, in the same area. In 1892 Mr Dean invited Thomas to view a newly discovered cave at the works.

Wednesday the 27th I left here by the first train for Minera. On arriving at Plas Power station I first went to see Tom who was in bed with the measles since Saturday. Mr Dean kindly had his trap in waiting for me to take me to Minera. He asked me to go to see the recently discovered cave there, from which he sent me the stalagmites. He said he would send the trap to meet me. I was sorry Tom was laid up, and he was very sorry too, for he would have liked to help me in any way. I was much interested in what I observed all the way to Minera. I passed near a coal pit, and the village. I saw Minera Church; a nice one it is. Minera Hall was close to the roadside; a moderate sized place.

I got to the Lime Works at twenty minutes to eleven o’clock. On getting to the Office, Mr. Lewis the Secretary, and his clerk, Mr. Wilkins got ready to go over the works with me. They first took me to the stone crushing mill: here the limestone is prepared for road metalling and for glass works. It was a noisy and dusty place, but of much interest. I next inspected the lime kilns: there are two large buildings on the Hoffmann principle. The buildings are in the form of a long square with the circular ends. The chambers in which the limestone is burned, are arched over all round the sides of the buildings and the doors are bricked up until the operation is over. The fire never dies out but it keeps travelling from one chamber to another all the year round; small coal (slack) is introduced into the chambers by means of iron tubes so as to feed the fire. There is a huge chimney to one of the kilns; it is 225 feet in height, by 15 feet in diameter. The kilns cost the company £20,000 to construct, but they can turn out an unlimited quantity of burnt lime.

Our next move was to the cave; it was not very inviting, but like an man of science, I wished to explore it. Mr Lewis got me leggings to cover my legs, and coat to cover my body, so as to keep me clean. I doffed my own coat, and with a lighted candle, I followed Mr Mr Lewis and Mister Wilkins into the cave. I had to lie on my right side and drag myself down slope, with scarcely enough room for me to wriggle through. After a few yards of this, I got to a wide passage where I could stand nearly upright. I was then conducted into a large chamber, long and wide and with a lofty roof. Numerous stalactites were hanging from the roof; they were long tubes of transparent calcite. Pillars of stalagmites word dotting the floor, and most of the floor was covered with thick stalagmitic crust. The floor was uneven and slippery, being here and there composed of soft red earth.

I was next taken to another large chamber, but to get to it I had to clamber on my hands and knees over the wet clay floor. In addition to the usual stalactites and stalagmites, the walls of this chamber one much encrusted with stalactites which oozed from the rock. We returned to the entrance to the first chamber and turned to the right where we got to a large chamber by again crawling over the wet rough floor. This was very uneven, the floor sloped much, and was nearly all covered with a thick stalagmitic crust. From this we went up an narrow flue-like passage on hands and knees into a large space with very lofty roof and the floor much encumbered with fragments of rock. There were a good pillars of stalagmites, and a tiny stream flowed over a gravelly bed on one side. The cylindrical tubes of calcite fell from the roof in hundreds in each of the chambers and got firmly fixed in the stalagmitic floor. It was a rough place to explore and our heads received many hard knocks, but the air was nice and cool. There is a great depth of stalagmite and clay all over the floor of the cave, and the whole bears the impress of great antiquity so that if properly explored, important scientific results might be attained. The entrance is too difficult at present, and it would be expensive to widen it. It was quite accidentally discovered when some rock was taken away.

The Minera site is now owned by the North Wales Wildlife Trust to be used as a nature reserve.

1892 Miss Pamplin of Winchester

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 Bala with 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!