Homecoming to a tragedy, 1898

Few photographs exist of Frances Harriet Ruddy, neé Williams. This is apparently taken when she was a young woman.

As mentioned in my previous post, Thomas had hardly ever, perhaps never been away overnight from his family since his marriage to Frances Harriet. The events that were to unfold on his return were therefore particularly shocking.

I got home here to find poor Frances looking quite ill with what we thought was severe bilious attack.  She was very sorry to be ill on my arrival home, for she would have liked to hear all about my visit if well enough.

Tuesday the 26th.  I got the doctor (Mr Williams) to come and see Frances. He said she had a chill and inflammation, so she had better keep to bed for a day or two, and that she would be alright in a few days.

Wednesday the 27th. Francis fairly well. I at Pen. [Home of Mr Pamplin, Frances’uncle]  Frances weak on Thursday. 

Friday. Henry had his report to say he had passed in the first division the Matriculation Exam of the University of Wales.  His mother was much pleased and complimented him. Willie came in the evening for his holidays; he had a week, most of which he spent in the Isle of Man.

Saturday the 30th. Francis apparently better. Dr here every day at my wish, because it is more satisfactory.

The 31st. Dear Frances pretty well until the evening when she became delirious. She had great thirst the previous night; I gave her milk and soda water frequently, and champagne occasionally.

Monday, August 1. Dear Frances delirious all night, and dreadfully exhausted in the morning. When the doctor came he discovered that there was an internal rupture of the stomach; this was terribly sad news for me, for he held out no hope of recovery. It was a fearful shock to all of us, and God took her from us at a 12:45 o’clock midday. She was quite unconscious, and died with the bright smile on her face. Mrs Cleveley the Coachman’s wife and Mrs Davies who washes for us were with her all the morning until she died. We were all suddenly plunged in deep sorrow, a sorrow which never can be forgotten. My dear wife was a most devoted mother to her children and a wife who could scarcely be equalled in her sphere of life. She is well and truthfully described in Proverbs, chapter 31 , verses 27 and 28.

Frances sang as part of her Uncle William Pamplin’s choir ‘Sacred Melodies’. She is probably standing extreme right (unconfirmed)

Willie returned to his work in the evening. Mrs Cleveley kindly made room for the two boys, Henry and Alfred to sleep at her house, and I slept or tried to sleep in their room. We had a sad house.

So, with terrible suddenness, Thomas became a widower for a second time, leaving the children of their marriage: Henry, 16, Frances Harriet (Francie) 14, Caroline Elizabeth (Carrie) 13, Amelia Agnes (Millie) 11 and Alfred Williams (Alfie) 8.

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.

Harriett Dench: in Memoriam

First extant letter from Harriott to William Pamplin Sen. who was working for Richard Crawshay at Cyfathfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil. Dated September 1792

Harriott or Harriett Dench was the grandmother of Thomas Ruddy’s second wife, Frances Harriet neé Williams. When papers were passed down first through the Pamplin family, and then through the Ruddy family, they finally arrived literally at my door, when I became Executor to Denys, the last surviving member of Thomas Ruddy’s second family with Frances Harriet. Her letters, which commence in September 1792 were some of the oldest items in the trunk of family journals, letters and memorabilia. They detail the relationship between Harriett (1774-1837) and William Pamplin (1768 – 1844) during their long-distance courtship and engagement.

Harriett lived with her mother Sarah and father John Dench (1748-1798) and elder sister Elizabeth in Walthamstow. Her future husband William also born in Walthamstow was by the time the letters were written working as Gardener to the Ironmaster Richard Crawshay in his increasingly industrialised works. Distance strained the relationship between the couple, as the first two letters indicate. The first – outside posting surface displayed above – (none of the letters has those latecomers to the postal service an envelope or stamp) is sharp in tone as Harriett has obviously been charged with displaying affection for another. That first letter written in September 1792 was nevertheless kept by William, and evidence shows how much handling it received from him.

It was not until February 1793 that Harriett wrote again to William. She goes into details about her acquaintance with the supposed suitor, whom she refers to as ‘that Gentleman’ Her letter reads like an extract from a Jane Austen novel, but this was real life. All the capitals are Harriett’s own.

I really did repent writing to you and joined with a little natural impatience I had almost given over the thoughts of an answer to my letter but as I wish to be candid and inform you of all my acquaintance with that Gentleman alluded to in your letter You must summon all your Patience to your Aid to hear the tiresome Story. I went to a Dance at Money’s. Mr . Stock was dancing with me, Mrs Hedge with that Alan who was an Acquaintance of hers. He called a dance which Mrs Hedge was ignorant of and it was agreed by all parties to change partners. It was agreeable to me as he danced very well. And we danced the rest of the evening together. He called the next day and in about a Month after he came down to see Mrs Hedge. She happened to be out and he drank tea at our house that evening you were there since which time I have never seen him. He behaved in a very polite manner but no more that ever I observed nor till I received your last letter had I the most distant idea of the kind.

That there are those capable of such an Untruth is plain from the above now as you are Credibly informed it is but a reasonable request that you will with inform me who told you this. I hope it will be complied with for my satisfaction.

Despite the sharp words, Harriett concludes Yours Affectionately H. Dench. And so the correspondence continues, with 24 more letters from Harriet over the years until their marriage in February 1801.

William and Harriett met only once or twice during those years. Harriett visited William in Wales once, but their wedding arrangements were conducted by letter. Richard Crawshay kept William hard at work during his employment, and several times a visit to London by William was apparently prevented by Crawshay’s demands on his time.

During his work there, William produced two pencil sketches of Crawshay’s works, which are now given pride of place in Merthyr’s Cyfarfa Castle Museum, having been donated from the Ruddy papers in the 1930’s.

Cyfathfa Works and Water wheel by William Pamplin. The only extant depiction of the mechanism

I suspect the drawings were intended for Harriett as a Christmas gift, as her letter of December 30th 1799 indicates: I fear you have been that much trouble and Expense to procure those things you have sent to me, for which be assured I feel myself very much obliged to you. I think them all very Handsome, particularly the Inkstand. The drawings I must acknowledge I am sorry to lose, had I been fortunate enough to receive I should have prized them very much, as it is I can only wonder how a man of Mr. Crawshay’s rank in Life can behave so much unlike a Gentleman. Crawshay may have been worried about industrial espionage, as the wheel was famous and unique.

By December of the following year, William had left Crawshay and taken a post as Gardener at Royal Fort House in Bristol. It seems that there was an intention for the couple to marry and live in Bristol. Harriett writes: My Determination I trust you will not at this time expect, the house when you wrote to me not being furnished, will take some time and I hope you will have the goodness not to hurry me too much in an affair which I feel is of so much consequence to us both. I am glad to hear the house is a good one, will you inform me if Linen is allowed for its use.

However, by June of that year plans had changed, and William had decided to return to London, where he would set up in his own Nursery in Chelsea, then a small village just outside London. Harriett was not convinced: The frequent mention you have made of your intention to settle near London has prevented me from entertaining a thought to the contrary, and I found myself equally concerned and surprised at the change which has taken place in your determination. It appears giving up too much of the comfort of life for the prospect of getting forward. Tho’ I am not obstinately attached to any place, yet to what factors which will deprive me of the Society of every friend (Yourself excepted) it would be very far from being pleasant or even comfortable to me, but as it is your wish I should be sincerely glad to think other ways of it.

William Pamplin’s business card. Note the offer of fashionable Pineapple plants.

Despite the chilliness of Harriett’s letter, it seems that by December 1800 the relationship had grown, although William was not a regular correspondent: … as nothing particular appears to have prevented you, it occasioned much alarm to your Friends, they with myself began to think you were unwell. Tellingly, however, Harriett’s final greeting changes at this point from ‘Yours affectionately’ to ‘Most affectionately Yrs.’ it seems Harriet had decided to link her life to her absent, hard-working but sometimes negligent suitor.

The marriage between William and Harriett would be arranged via letters, he in Bristol, she in Walthamstow. It seems that William had stepped up the frequency of his letters, and Harriet had got down to practicalities! Your Letter was so quick a return that I was indeed much surprised by it. Respecting the Furniture you propose to buy I can have no Objection to. The Bed it will be necessary to have someone with you who understands buying unless you can depend on those who sells as there is great deception in things of this kind. My mother will give me a pair of good Sheets and Blankets which I think will be as much as we shall want for the present.

This long distance approach to marriage caused some tension, both as to when the event might take place and in particular with the purchase of that ‘Bed’. Freud would have something to say. On January 17th, 1801, Harriett’s tone is tense: The request in my last was, that if the time I proposed there, was any material difference to you I should wish an answer by return of Post. As you did not write I suppose it would not interfere with any Business which you were engaged in. Excuse me therefore from consenting to your coming sooner than the last week in February. I feel assured I shall not be thought unreasonable, the Bed, I think it will be much better to purchase when I come, for what you have bought no doubt you must be much better Judge. Poor Harriett, like so many before and since, Bridezilla has taken over!

Tension continues on the 19th January, Harriett having received a letter from William later in the same day that she sent her letter. Although there is some regret at having sent her snappy letter, the ‘Bed’ remains an issue: Our friends all think it will be most advisable to buy a Bed at Bristol … on this account I write early as I can that you may have the opportunity of asking the Upholsterer’s advice on it and getting him to go with you when you buy.

By the 30th January, the Bed issue is on hold: I think you had better not trouble yourself further about it at present, as we can put up with what you have till I come and can get one. However, a new issue is the length of time William will stay in London after their marriage, before returning to work in Bristol – without Harriett: I should be very sorry if you thought you could not stop week when you do come as remember that you proposed the Time Yourself and as I found it would be of no use to complain reconciled myself to it but you will now give me fresh cause if you don’t keep Yr Word with me. She does assure him of her love: My Dear Friend, I remain Most Affectionately Yours H. Dench.

St George, Hanover Square

Despite all issues, and with the date of William’s departure still an issue: I was extremely sorry to find that you think to set off for Bristol so soon in the week as Thursday , William and Harriett were married at the fashionable St George, Hanover Square on the 23rd February 1801. They were not in fact parishioners, but used the address of Harriett’s aunt as a convenient residency. This was useful, as the marriage appears to have taken place on the very day of William’s arrival from Bristol by coach: Our friends all think the time will be so very short it will be better for me to meet you in Ranelagh Street the day you propose coming to London I imagine you have not wish to ask anyone but your father who with Robert [her brother] could come to London early Monday morning.

In the same letter The Bed I think you had better buy at Bristol. Hope you will be careful to have it well aired before you sleep on it.

One more letter remains from Harriett to William. Written in October 1801, three months after their marriage, it finds William still in Bristol, while Harriett is in Kings Road Chelsea working on their new project together, the Nursery whose business card is shown above. Her spirit demonstrated in the earlier letters made her a determined project manager.

Mr Gibbs called on me the beginning of the week with the bricklayer they looked over the repairs and Mr G valued the bedsteads, sent a man to repair the Tiling which he finished before the afternoon and left. Mr G promised to send his men to begin which he has not done nor sent those Locks for the Gates which I mentioned to him but I will call on him tomorrow or the beginning of next week and tell him what you have said of it. Lenny has housed all the Green House plants. He is very steady and indeed very obliging to us.

Harriett and William went on to have five children, Harriet in 1803, Sarah in 1804, William in 1806, Frances in 1808 and Robert in 1811. William became a noted botanist and botanical bookseller, first in Chelsea, and later moving to Llandderfel, Wales, where he met and befriended Thomas Ruddy.

William Pamplin, son of William and Harriett, in old age.

Through William Pamplin, Thomas Ruddy met and married William’s nice, Frances Harriet Williams, daughter of William’s sister Frances. Their family preserved the letters and the last of their descendants in the line handed them on to me.

In due course the village outside London, where William from time to time saw King George III ride past on his horse, was developed and William and his family moved to Lavender Hill. The information contained with the papers is now in the care of the Garden Museum.

And there it would have ended, until fresh material became available on line, adding a final and devastating chapter to Harriett’s story. This was the publication of the written records of Bethlehem Hospital – ‘Bedlam’.

Feisty, patient, practical and loving Harriett ended her days in that dreaded and pitiful place, having been admitted several times.

Transcription: Harriet Pamplin Admitted June 26th 183[?]. At 61 A married Woman. ( See Curable Patents Books) Left this hospital on the 10th of October 1834 as has been out at Mrs. Bradbury’s Earls Court latterly. At present in a very excited state occasionally refusing her food and obliged to be fed with the Stomach Pump. Oh Harriet!

1837, August 9th died of Exhaustion after great Cerebral Excitement and the refusal of food. The body was not Examined Anatomically.

Poor, poor Harriett and William. I have lived with them through the letters for 15 years as I have transcribed and researched the related papers. She is not my ancestor, but I feel I love her and honour her life, and mourn her sad last years. So it was with enormous pleasure that I recently entrusted her letters to the Garden Museum, where her husband’s journals and business card are now preserved. You may have died in Bedlam, Harriett, but your life is not forgotten.

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?

Walking with the Family 1892-3

a general map of the area around Palé Hall

By the spring of 1892 Thomas was the father of eight children; by his first marriage Tom (23) William (20) Mary Emily (19) all at work and living away from home; by his second marriage Henry (10) Frances H ‘Francie’ (8) Caroline E ‘Carrie’ (7) Amelia A ‘Millie’ (5) and Alfred (2).

A significant new element in the journal is the number and frequency of walks recorded, which match the diminution of the expeditions with various natural history societies by Thomas alone. On almost all, Thomas records finding plants, birds, trees and other natural phenomena.  It must have been a pleasant and instructive pastime for the children to have such a rich source of tutoring in natural history.

A charming aspect of these recorded walks is that they are undertaken by different combinations of companions. Sometimes Thomas walks just with his wife, occasionally the whole younger family is involved, often Thomas walks with just one of his young children and when the older siblings come home, they are involved as well.  This suggests that the children were allowed to choose whether to go on the expeditions, concentrated as they are at the weekends, rather than being made to participate.  The opportunity to do this, leaving some young children at home, was possible as the Ruddy family always had a live in general servant. Here is a selection from 1892-3

April 1892

Sunday the 10th Henry and I went along the railway to rock opposite Crogen. (Tanycraig) and returned home by Caepant.  We had a pleasant walk.  Thursday the 14th Tom came home for his holidays. Little ones much excited over his coming.  Good Friday. Tom and I went for a ramble round Fronheulog in the evening. 

May 1892

Sunday, May 1st Francis and I took the children to about half a mile beyond Brynmelyn.  It was very pleasant.  Saturday the 7th Carrie and I had a ramble over Palé Hill, and went as far as Brynselwrn Ffrith.  Sunday the 8th Francie and I went along the railway to Tanygraig rock. We flushed corncrake twice on the way, and found a kestrel’s nest with four eggs, and a wood pigeon’s nest on the ground on a ledge of rock under the shelter of the tree root.  It was built in the usual way. We saw a water hen’s nest with five eggs and a newly hatched chicken in the nest.  Francie very pleased to see the little bird. I observed the tree pipit for the first time.  We returned home by the village. Francie much pleased with her walk.

July 1892

Saturday the 23rd Frances and I took Francie and Carrie by the 4 o’clock train to Llandrillo. On our arrival there, we walked along the railway to a plantation about 2 miles away. I picked up the Medicago luplulina on the way, and so a few other things of interest.  On getting to the plantation, which is on the side of the line, Francis and little ones rested until I went to examine two or three specimens of the noble Silver Fir, which Sir Henry wished me to examine.  From the plantation we went up and narrow lane to the road, and got out about halfway between Plasynfardre and Hendor bridge. We had a pleasant walk to the village and from there to the station.  We met Mr and Mrs Vernon on our way to the station. We had a pleasant ramble, and the girls were pleased to go.

September 1892

Sunday the fourth. Tom, Francie, Carrie Millie, and I went as far as Glandwynant, and then up through the wood to Bwlch Hannerob, and home by the path passing the old quarry. It was a pleasant little ramble.

Feb 1893

Saturday the 11th Francis and I went after tea to near Ty Tanygraig at the western outlet of the tunnel. We much enjoyed the walk, and it was a change to be able to get a walk. Sunday the 19th. Francie and I went after tea as far as Tydyninco; we had to return home as it came on to rain rather heavily.

March 1893

Sunday the 19th Carrie and I went along the Bala road after tea to Bodwenni and returned by Bodwenni pillar and Earlswood, getting down by Fronheulog.  We had a pleasant ramble. We could see the tops of Aran and Arenig covered with great stripes of snow.

Thomas and Carrie’s walk

Sunday the 26th [March]  after tea we took the children along with the Bala Road as far as the little roadside pool beyond Bodweni.  On arriving there we crossed a little meadow to the riverside where the children ran about for a short time, much to their delight.  Two herons flew over us, on screaming several times. Both birds went eastwards, presumably to Rûg near Corwen where there is a heronry. We had it chilly coming home.

April 1893. Sunday the 9th Francie, Milly and I went past  Brynmeredeth and over the hill by Fedwfoullan home.  A Very nice walk.   Saturday the 22nd  Frances, Francie and I went after tea to Sarnau bog.  It was very fine and we enjoyed the walk. We heard the sedge warbler.  Sunday the 23rd We all went in the evening to near the tunnel and sat in a field overlooking the bog near the railway. It was very pleasant. Observed a whitethroat. Friday the 28th Frances and I went by the riverside near Tyndol to see a swan sitting and home by roads. Found a tree creepers nest with six eggs.  Saturday the 29th Henry and I went as far as Crogen.  Found several nests. We thought of meeting Tom coming on his bicycle.  Saturday, 6 May.  Francis and I took Henry and Millie with us by the 4 o’clock train to Llandrillo we walked back past Llanwercillan and got into the old lane near Llechwercilan where we had a pleasant walk to Tynyfach and Tynycoed.  We did not see any interesting bird, but I got a good fossil (Orthoceras vagans) at Tynycoed quarry.  We returned by train from Llandrillo. It was a pleasant outing.  Observed many black-headed gulls from the train.

Sunday the seventh. Very fine; 12 hours sunshine. I got Henry and Francie to go with me in the evening along the railway and that past Llanerch Sirior, etc.  We found a stockdove’s nest and several other nests; the whitethroat, chiffchaff etc.  We also found a blackbird’s nest made on the ground in the wood.  It was placed on fragments of stone without any protection at the foot of an naked hazel bush and the bird sitting on four eggs.

Whit Sunday. Tom, Francie and I walked to Bala in the evening and came home by the mail train. It was pleasant to walk. Willy went on the hill with the others.

By 1893 Alfred aged 3 was able to walk a fair distance. Tuesday 30th May Francis & I took Alfred with us past Tydninco and round by the riverside home. Alfred to did enjoy his outing and was very amusing.  Tydyninco was a small propert owned by Sir H.B. Robertson.  Its gardens were looked after by staff originally from Palé, and directed in their work by Thomas.

Sunday the 11th  Francie and I went past Brynmelyn into the Meadows and got to the yellow waterlily pool, where the Nuphar advena [yellow pond lilly – ed.] grows. We found the nest of the water hen with 7 eggs, saw the Lily in flower. We came home along the riverside all the way; saw shelves in the river, the limpet and Linnaea.  It was a pleasant walk, for it was cool by the river.

Bicycle! While the rest of the family were still on foot, Tom had acquired a fashionable new possession -a bicycle. Perhaps the model was the 1886 Swift Safety Bicycle

Tom arrived by bicycle on Saturday 17th Monday the 19th Tom up, and had breakfast at 3am, and started off by 3.30 it was a beautiful morning, the birds singing and pleasant for travelling; he left in fine spirits.

Tuesday the 20th had a letter from Tom to say he was going through Llandrillo as the church clock struck 4 , and through Corwen as the clock [174] chimed 4.30; and got to Llangollen by .10.30, Ruabon by 6.20, and arrived at Southsea by 7 o’clock. He had a pleasant journey, the air being sweet with the honeysuckle in the hedges in many places. It was rather with warm between Llangollen and Ruabon as there is a stiff pull up their part of the way.

And finally, an expedition for the whole family, at the end of June 1893. Sunday the 25th. After tea, we all went on to the Bala road and along the riverside opposite Palé until we got onto the Bala road again near Pantyffynon.  The children did enjoy sitting on a prostrate tree by the river.  We picked up the Linnaea I observed in the river at Dolygadfa, also the freshwater limpet and the cockle, (Spaerium lacustre).  We saw several of the little bearded fish called the loach in Scotland. [176] It is of the genus Cobites and a few of the fish called miller’s thumb. Alfred had walked all the way there and back. He soon fell asleep when put to bed.

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!

1892 Tutor, adviser, student

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.

Members of the Building Committee for the Grosvenor Museum. Messrs Griffiths and Shepheard in the front row.

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.

Mentor

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.  

Adviser

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.

Student

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”

The Robertsons of Palé 1888-1892

Palé Hall from a photograph in the author’s collection.

The death of Henry Robertson in 1888 heralded a time of many changes for the Robertson family. Only the next year, in 1889 Queen Victoria’s visit with members of her family and a huge retinue brought excitement, hard work and nervous times to Henry Beyer Robertson, who had inherited the estate aged only 27, and his staff.

Sadly, only in July 1889, just a month before the Queen’s visit, Henry’s sister Annie, already widowed at 26, died aged 35. A memorial window was erected to Annie and her husband in Llandderfel church.

Sherriff window, Llandderfel church

The success of the Queen’s visit brought a knighthood for Henry Beyer in 1890. Thomas writes: The Queen conferred the honour of Knighthood upon Mr Robertson at Windsor Castle, and Sir Henry had the additional honour of dining with her Majesty in the evening and staying in the Castle all night. The knighthood was given on 24th May, the Queen’s birthday, but as her Majesty has been in Scotland, it was not conferred until now 30th June (Monday)

He adds rather sourly: Tuesday 8th. Sir Henry returned from London. There was no reception or elevation awaiting him; it would have been otherwise if the late Mr Robertson had been Knighted.

The year continued well for Sir Henry, with his marriage in November. November 1890 Thursday the 20th This is the wedding day of Sir Henry Beyer Robertson, my employer, to Miss Keates (Florence Mary) of Llantysilio Hall, Llangollen. Sir Henry got acquainted with the family in the Spring of last year. The young ladies(there are two sisters) were with him when coracle fishing, and also when otter hunting. They were here after the Queen left here, that Sir Henry was only publicly engaged to her before he left for Windsor to be knighted on the 30thof last June. I left here by the 9.37 for Llangollen.

I walked along the canal side to Llantysilio church. We witnessed the friends of the bride and bridegroom enter the church and as I had a ticket for the church, I went in to see the marriage ceremony. The service commenced with the hymn, “Thine for ever, God of love” the bride wished to have this hymn. The service was conducted by the Rev. Herbert A. Keates B.A. brother of the bride.

I was the first to give the happy pair a shower of rice as they were going out the church porch. Several cannon were fired after the service was over, flags were displayed, and there were three evergreen arches. Sir Henry paid on the railway fares of his work people and provided a luncheon for them at the Hand Hotel, Llangollen. 

The couple’s first child, evidently a ‘honeymoon baby’ arrived next August:

Sunday the 16th.  Lady Robertson safely delivered of a baby girl at 7:40 am.  Dr here all night, and the nurse since 5.30 yesterday evening. The baby is the first born in the hall, and it is the firstborn to any of the children of the late Mr Robertson, for although two sisters of Sir Henry married, neither have children.

Sadly, only next month came the news of the death of Sir Henry’s brother-in-law, Colonel George Wilson, husband of his sister Elizabeth. Wednesday, the 2nd September [1891] .  News came here this afternoon that Col Wilson aged 47, died on board the Teutonic, 20 hours sail outside Queenstown when returning from New York, where he had gone for the sake of a sea voyage. He died last Monday (31st) and his body taken to Liverpool.

Col Wilson lived in boyhood with his aunt at Tyddynllan near Llandrillo,  one of them was the wife  of the Revd John Wynne, for many years Vicar of Llandrillo Church.  He entered the army, and was for some years with his Regiment (The 26th Lanarkshire or Cameronians ) in India.

Some time after returning home, he married Lily, the eldest daughter of the late Mr Robertson, sister to the present proprietor of Palé, Sir H. B. Robertson. [Note: the eldest Robertson daughter was named Elizabeth, confirmed by her baptism, marriage and census records.  Lily must have been a family pet name)

The sad death of Col Wilson left the other of Sir Henry’s sisters as a young widow, Elizabeth’s younger sister Annie, Mrs Sherriff, having lost her husband Alexander in 1880, when she was 26, and she herself had died in 1889.

The new baby at the Hall was not christened until 12 days after her uncle’s funeral: Tuesday the 15th the baby of Sir Henry and Lady Robertson was christened at the church here (Llanderfel) by Mr Morgan.  The baby received the name of Jean an old-fashioned Scotch name. it is frequently used in Scottish song, but a rather uncommon English name.  The Bala Registrar told me that he never had to enter the name of Jean in his books before the Palé baby.  The Christening was a very quiet affair.

1892 began, and within a few days, another bereavement came for the Robertson family:

Tuesday the 12th January Mrs. Robertson of Palé died at a quarter past three o’clock this morning. She has been an invalid for many years, and quite helpless for a year or two, so that it is a happy release to her.

Friday the 15th  The funeral took place this morning at 10 o’clock at Llandderfel churchyard. The grave lies between that of her husband on the right of her, and that of her daughter Mrs Sherriff on her left near the west end of the church. The coffin was of polished oak with a heavy brass mountings, and the plate bore the following inscription.

Elizabeth Robertson Died January 12th, 1892 Aged 68

I acted as one of the 12 bearers. It was a fearfully cold, the ground being deeply covered with snow and an intense frost; 18 ½° in the morning which kept on with thick hoar.  My whiskers were covered with hoar frost when returning home. There were no friends from a distance, but a number of people came from the neighbourhood. There were several wreaths, and her son Sir Henry, and nephew, Mr John Dean were the chief mourners.

By August, the news in the Palé household had improved: Tuesday 9th August: Lady Robertson had a little baby (a daughter) at 12:20 o’clock mid day. Day changeable with 3 ½ hours sunshine. The daughter was named Mary Florence.

Within five years Sir Henry had experienced the deaths of his father, mother, sister and brother in law. He had been knighted, married and had two children. He had also experienced he visit of the Queen, three other members of the Royal Family and a huge retinue. He was still only 30 years old. Such a switchback of joyful and sad experiences must have been disturbing not only for his household, but for the whole staff. He must have been grateful for the loyalty of some of the long-standing members of his staff, not least the Ruddy family at the Garden House.

Throughout Thomas’ journal there are frequent references to Sir Henry and Thomas sharing love of nature, and drawing one another’s attention to natural occurrences in the Palé grounds and around the surrounding countryside. Only a short time before the birth of his second daughter, Sir Henry spotted something of interest: Tuesday the 2nd  July: Sir H. B. Robertson called my attention to a pied wagtail feeding a young cuckoo on the lawn here.  We watched it for some time and were much interested. The wagtail fed it as often as it could find any food for it, and the Cuckoo simply took it easy and only opened its mouth, into which the wagtail put the food.

By November 1892 Lady Robertson was seeking the company of Frances Harriet Ruddy so that the toddler Miss Jean Robertson could play with Frances’ fifth child Alfred, 18 moths older. Frances Harriet had herself lost her own mother earlier that year. Wednesday the 23rd Lady Robertson brought Miss Jean to play with Alfred, he was rather shy, but Miss Jean tried to make friends with him. Lady Robertson remarked that all the advancement was on the lady’s side.

It is to be hoped that the young family now in charge of the Palé estate found support and encouragement from their mature and loyal Head Gardener and his family.

1891: The weather and the birds

Sunshine recorder invented by John Francis Campbell (1821-1885)
Thomas must have used such an instrument, as he records monthly hours of sunshine. (Science Museum)

By 1891 Thomas was 49 years old, settled with his second wife Frances Harriett and father of eight children, ranging in age from 22 years old to a few months. His employer, Sir Henry Beyer Robertson, son of his original employer at Palé, had himself become a family man. There was a settled air about the estate, although perhaps its most affluent days were already waning. Thomas had needed to lay off some of his garden staff after the death of Robertson senior.

The white hot days of geological investigation were over, although its study would continue for the rest of his lifetime. The investigation of the Silurian geological period, to which his collection of fossils and in depth understanding of the strata in the Bala area had contributed so much, was largely settled. People continued to call by appointment or at random at Thomas’ door to view his fossils, and he continued, although less frequently to lead occasional geological and botanical expeditions for various scientific and field study clubs.

His mentor, Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes received the Lyell Medal for geology in 1891, and as well as his professorial duties and family commitments (he had three sons) he was deeply involved in fundraising for the new Geological Museum in Cambridge which was to be named the Sedgwick Museum in honour of his distinguished predecessor. Thomas had supplied fossil specimens to London, Cambridge, some are in the University collection in Swansea, and I suspect he had provided some to his Swedish contact, Professor Törnquist.

After the intense excitement and activity of Queen Victoria’s visit in 1889, Henry Beyer Robertson’s Knighthood and marriage in 1890, the fourth volume of Thomas Ruddy’s journals is more settled and domestic in tone. We do find new aspects of Thomas’ careful observation of the natural world, however. He has obviously been recording bird observations for some years, although he records only occasional sightings prior to 1891.

Now, with his children growing up, he records a number of ‘birding’ expeditions, alone or accompanied by Frances and one or more of the children. He obviously shared his interest with his employer, Sir Henry. Egg collection, sadly, was commonplace and not regarded as improper.

Sunday the 19th [April] After tea I went along the railway to near Garth Goch. It was very nice walking, clean and dry.  I found the nest of a thrush ready for eggs, and to my surprise saw a flock of about fifty field fares.  Sir Henry has seen a few at Gaerwen on the 21st last year, but I have no record of seeing them myself so late.  Saw no other birds of interest.

Fieldfare

Saturday the ninth [May] I got Willy and Henry to go with me bird nesting up the hills.  We went as far as Tynant old slate quarry. We found the nest of carrion crow about 30 feet up a birch tree; it had five eggs, and as they were quite fresh we took them for my collection. We also found the nest of a ring-ouzel with four eggs; these we left in the nest. We saw a flock of a dozen goldfinches high up the Brook (Calethor).

As well as interest in and records made of the local bird life, Thomas had obviously been recording the weather on a daily basis, and he now begins to give a weather summary of each month, in particular rainfall and sunshine – measured no doubt on a device such as that shown above. He looks back over his records to comment on particularly extreme events, remarking on when such a record was last made. Temperature is, of course, in Fahrenheit.

Tuesday the 12th [May] This has been a very warm day –74 in the shade. It has only been twice so warm as this so early in May since I began to record the temperature in 1875.  May fourteen, eighteen seventy-five, it was 77° in the shade, and on 11 May 1884, it was 75° in the shade.

1891 it would seem, was a year of extreme weather events. Thomas records them throughout the year.
Sunday the 4th. [January] Roads  very slippy; icy almost all the way.  Some of us managed to go to church; Frances went with us to the laundry gate, fell down once, but not to hurt, and as she could not walk without slipping, even when holding my arm, I got her to return home.

Saturday the 28th.[February]  I observed a good specimen of the Painted Lady Butterfly (Cynthia cardui) on the violets and walk near the fruit room.  I disturbed it several times, but it soon returned to the violets again.  It was sunny and fine at that time, but there had been 7° of frost in the morning. It must have been hibernating somewhere and was tempted out by the warm sunshine. I never remember seeing a specimen of the above earlier than May. The month of February has been sunny and fine, and it has been the driest month on record here. Rainfall 0.19 inch.

Exceptionally warm weather was followed by equally unseasonable cold, and Thomas hears a sad story from the past:

Sunday the 17th [May]  This has been an exceptionally wintry day for the middle of May. The hills were covered with snow in the morning, some snow during the day, and a heavy fall of snow between 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock. The snow fell in large flakes, just like half crowns, and soon covered the ground and trees, although much of it melted as it fell. In the evening, the surrounding country had a beautiful but very wintry appearance. Frost is set in in the evening. 

Some of the old people about here tell me that there has not been such a snow in May since 9 May, 1854. Edward Evans, one of the gamekeepers at Palé tells me that he and his younger brother came over the Berwyns from Llanarmon D.C. on that day; the snow was blinding and drifting, as it was freezing on the mountains he and his brother were up to their waists in snowdrifts at times, because the mountain road from Llanarmon to Llandrillo was obscured with the snow.  It was a fearful journey, and after hours of it, the brother became so exhausted that Edward had to carry him on his back. Edward too began to get exhausted about 3 miles from Llandrillo (he was then about 19 and his brother that about 17 years of age), but his cries brought a shepherd from the farm of Hendwr to his assistance.  But by that time his brother was dead.

Cadair Berwyn in snow: © Richard Webb via Geograph

Monday the 18th. [May] The snow on the ground and the fruit trees in bloom with icicles hanging to them.  There were only 5° of frost, but the bush fruits and some of the apple trees in bloom were so wet that all froze and destroyed the fruit crops wholesale. It was the same all over England. The young gooseberries and currents dropped off like hail under the bushes a short time after. I have never seen anything like it since I came to Wales.

Wednesday the 24th [June] we had a severe thunderstorm in the afternoon. The lightning was  frequent and seemed very near and the cracks of thunder shook the ground and kept roaring fearfully loud and prolonged.  The rain fell in torrents for a time, accompanied by large hail– Nearly an inch of rain fell in about an hour.  The lightning struck an ash tree at the entrance to the station; it went through the tree, came out in three places and then rang down the tree into the earth, tearing off a strip of bark in its course and also making a groove in the solid wood.

The intemperate weather continued through the summer, with yet another tragedy:

Wednesday the 26th wet and stormy yesterday and the same all-night, 1 ¼ inches of rain fell since 9 am yesterday morning; this has brought down a heavy flood and did much damage to trees, flowers, vegetables and fruit. Some trees were torn up by the root and many large limbs were broken off. The flowers were almost all disfigured and the trees have been much denuded of their leaves. I have seldom seen so much damage done.

A sad fatality happened at Brynselwrn this morning. Our family from Crosby, Liverpool, occupy apartments there; the family consists of father, mother, two daughters, and two sons. All are grown up and the sons have been in the habit of swimming in the Dee every morning, and went this morning as usual, much against the wishes of their parents. 

After entering the water, they were carried away by the swift current for about 300 yards, when the younger one got out by being cast against a projecting tree and bank.  The other was carried away and drowned, and his body was found entangled in a tree about an hour afterwards, and about 300 yards from where the other brother got out. When carried away, they kept well together, swimming with the flood, and for a time a younger one supported the elder one as he was getting exhausted; they tried to reach the side but failed, and at one place they held on for a few seconds to the overhanging branches of a tree; when they let go they were sucked under water under a tree that leaned over the river, and immediately after the one got to land, he gave the alarm, and the father with Mr Hughes the farmer of Brynselwern with his ploughman searched the river sides, and the ploughman found the body near Tyndol, and nearly opposite Palé.

The month of October has been unusually wet, the wettest on record here, with the one exception, and that was January of last year. Rainfall  9.11 inch; nearly 3 ½ inches of it fell in two days; that is 1.69 inch on the 13th and 1.76 inch on the 14th. Registered sunshine, 76 hours. The corn crops were out in an almost continuous rain for about three weeks; it was much knocked about and had commenced to sprout before it was got in in the last week of the month.

And so to December:

The weather during the month–we had the heaviest rainfall in any month since I began the record in 1874. Rainfall 10.42  inch. Max temperature in shade, 57 deg.  Min 10 deg – 22 deg of frost. Registered sunshine, 32 hours.

Total rainfall during the year 1891: 57.00 inch, being 8.50 inch above the average of the last 15 years. Rainy days 231.

1890 Family Matters

This year Thomas was 48, he had been Head Gardener at Palé for 21 years, and the last of his eight children was born. Alfred Williams Ruddy was born on the 10th February 1890, so was able to be included in the 1891 Wales census

Of the eldest three children, born to Thomas and his first wife Mary, Thomas Alexander, now 21, was working as a Colliery Clerk at Brymbo, owned by the Robertson family of Palé. Thomas junior was lodging at Thomas Street, Brymbo.

The photograph of Thomas Alexander is from Southsea, Wrexham, not from the south coast!

Aged 19, William Pamplin Ruddy was living at home, and working as Monitor at the school in Llandderfel as evidenced by the 1891 census above. https://www.britannica.com/topic/monitorial-system. Later in 1891 Willie took up a clerk’s post at Brymbo Steel Works, alongside his elder brother, with the assistance of its owner, Sir Henry Robertson.

Mary Emily, aged 17, was away at school in Chester during the census period. It shows her as a scholar at Bridgegate House School in the centre of the town: . At that time, the demand for secondary education in Chester was still largely being satisfied by private schools: in 1871 there were at least 40 private schools in Chester, 30 of them for girls. Several of the larger and longer established boys’ schools in the 1870s occupied such notable buildings as the old Albion Hotel and Bridge House (“Bridge House School”, run by a Mrs Keats and known for its gardens at the rear) in Lower Bridge Street, ‘Derby House’ (Stanley Palace) in Watergate Street, and Forest House in Foregate Street, though Gamul House had closed as a boarding school in the 1860s. (From Chester Wiki) It seems that the Ruddy family were able to pay for their daughter’s education.

Bridgegate House, the site of Mary Emily’s school in 1891

We now move to consider the five children of Thomas and Frances Harriet, his second wife in 1890. Henry Ernest, 7, and Frances Harriett, ‘Francie’ 5 were at the school in Llandderfel. Caroline Elizabeth, ‘Carrie’ was 4 and may not have started school. Then came Amelia Agnes, ‘Millie’ 2 and the baby, newborn in 1990, Alfred Williams, ‘Alfie’. So over the course of 21 years Thomas had become father to eight children, six of whom were living at home in 1990.

Llandderfel School in the mid 1890’s. ‘Millie’ A.A.R, and ‘Carrie’ C.E.R. As marked by Thomas, their father. Their similarity as sisters very marked. Do enjoy the hand weights brandished by the front row and the pipe band in the back row!