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.

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 Family troubles

Frances Williams, mother of Frances Harriet Ruddy and Mother-in-law of Thomas

In May 1892 Thomas and Frances had one of those family crises in which both the older generation and the children need assistance ad care. The death of Frances Harriet’s Mother, also Frances (above) gave Thomas an opportunity to describe in detail a typical Victorian funeral.

Monday the 30th. May 1892. Frances and I had a telegram from her brother to say that her Mother died at 2:50 o’clock a.m. It was sad news for us although we were not unprepared for the news. We had letters from the brother to say that Mother was not well during the week, but it was only on Saturday that is the news was anything alarming. Frances wrote yesterday to say she was anxious to go at once, but it was too late.

Both of us very sorry, Frances of course very much so, for she has lost a good and kind mother; and to me in the loss is quite as great, for she has at all times being kind and most straightforward to me; indeed nobody could have acted in kinder to me when she became aware of the intentions of her daughter and myself. And during our married life, now about 10 ½ years, she has been most kind in every way.

Mrs Williams was a lady of good principles, strictly religious, and had as her brother Mr. Pamplin said to me ’good judgement’.  Frances and I have often said that we were glad her mother lived to see our children; and much pleasure it gave her to see them.  She has been able to come to see us every summer since our marriage, and Frances has always returned  the visit.  It was a very great pleasure to us to see her come to us, and the visit was always looked forward to with much excitement by the children.  The dear old lady has now gone to her rest at the ripe age of nearly 84 years.  She has lived happily during her 25 years of widowhood with her two children; and has been spared to see five grandchildren born to her.

Tuesday the 31st Frances left this morning by the 11.22 train for London. It will be a sorrowful meeting between herself and her good brother, and a strange visit for her this time. But she has had many a happy one.

As so often in family life, one crisis is followed by another: so it was for Thomas and Frances. Thursday the 2nd [June] I am sorry to say that Carrie, then Henry, and now Francie have had to go to bed with the measles.  It is very unfortunate when their mother is absent, and I also have to London. But we are fortunate in having a good and steady nurse for them in Mrs Davies who will be with them night and day.

Thomas set out for London on June 2nd. l was quite fresh on my arrival at Paddington when my brother in law met me. We at once got into a hansom and was at 25 Kennington Park Road by 6.30.  After tea I went to get a silk hat; Frances with me to show me the way. 

Friday the 3rd We were up early to get all ready for the funeral.  The mourners arrived at 12 o’clock and after I light luncheon, we left for Walthamstow in Essex, about 9 miles distant at 1:10 o’clock.  The coffin was of polished elm with massive brass fittings;  the shield also of brass with the inscription–

“Frances Williams, Died May 30th 1892,

Aged 83 years”

The coffin was placed in a covered hearse  drawn by four jet black entire Flemish horses. These horses are truly beautiful; having arched necks, long manes, and tails and go at a half trot all the way if desired.  The horses were covered with velvets and pages with truncheons in their hands walked by their sides for about half a mile at starting and about the same again at Walthamstow; the rest of the way through the city and suburbs at half trot.

We went over London Bridge, up King William Street, then Gracechurch Street then Bishopsgate to Shoreditch and turned it down Hackney Road and on through some small streets until we went through London Fields and Clapton. We crossed the river Lea at Lea Bridge Road and got to the church gate, Walthamstow at the time appointed, 2.40. 

Four pages carried the coffin on their shoulders to the church and from the church to the grave. The service was very impressively read by the Vicar, the Rev W.H. Langhorne; and the service at the grave was just ending when the church clock struck three.  Dear Mother was buried in the grave where her husband was buried 25 years ago (1866)   After the funeral we looked at the graves of the Pamplins; there are several generations of Pamplins buried in the churchyard.

Fortunately, on returning home Thomas found the children recovering well. Frances stayed on in London for some days to assist her brother.

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!

The Kingsley Medal, 1889

Kingsley Memorial Medal obverse – awarded to Thomas Ruddy

Thomas was to receive his awarded medal on 3rd October at the Annual Conversazione of the Chester Society for Natural History

Thursday the 3rd   Frances and myself left here with the 9.37 train for Chester.  I got all my specimens into the box I have for the purpose, and took it with us in the train.  On arriving at Chester station, we took a cab and went directly to the Town Hall to leave the box of fossils, and from there to Mr. Shrubsole’s.  When leaving the box in the Assembly Room of the Town Hall, I met Mr. Griffith there who said he was very pleased to see me.  Mr. and Mrs. Shrubsole were also very pleased to see us. We felt quite at home at once with the latter, and amused ourselves until dinner was ready.  

After dinner Francis and I went over to the Town Hall (which is just opposite to Mr. Shrubsole’s) to unpack the fossils. They carried beautifully , and as they were conveniently arranged, we were not very long in displaying them.  While we were at them, Professor Hughes and Mrs Hughes came to us and went over the specimens with us, as Prof. Hughes wished to examine them more interesting ones very carefully, I pointed them out. Prof Hughes was very pleased to see the rarities, and after he had examined the whole with care, he said there was not a man in England who could name my collection.

Cheshire Chronicle, 5th October 1889

Mr Griffith told me there was a chair or on the platform for me with my name on it, and at 8 o’clock the Chair was taken by Prof Hughes the President of the Society.  The people on the platform included in the Countess Grosvenor, and her husband Mr. George Wyndham M.P. for Dover, the Mayor and Mayoress, (Mr. & Mrs. George Dutton) Lady Edmund Talbot, Sir T.G. and Lady Frost, Colonel Scotland ( Secretary to the Duke of Westminster), Archdeacon Barber, Dr. Stolterfoth, etc.  Prof. Hughes addressed the people and gave a brief sketch of my work among the fossils, and told them why the medal had been awarded to me, and then called upon the Countess Grosvenor to present the medal to me for “having contributed materially to the promotion and advancement of some branch or department of Natural Science”. The Countess held out her hand to me and when shaking hands with me said “I congratulate you very much Mr. Ruddy” and then handed me the medal in its case. I thanked the Countess and Prof Hughes, and as there was much applause among the general audience, I turned to the people and bowed my thanks.  

Professor Hughes speaks about Thomas Ruddy’s geological contribution

Thomas and Frances spent the night with his friends George Dickson and family, the Nurseryman and fellow member of the Chester Society.

 I arranged to leave my fossil packing until the following morning. We felt at home with the warm welcome we had at Mr Dickson’s, and after supper we chatted for some time, and the medal and pin were critically examined.  We had much to talk about the Queen’s visit.  

Members of the Building Committee for the Grosvenor Museum, Chester. They were members of the Society and friends of Thomas Ruddy. Mr. Griffiths, light jacket front row mentioned above.

1887 – 1888 A Birth and a Death

In September 1887 Frances Harriet Ruddy, now aged 41 had her fourth child, a daughter, named Amelia Agnes. Frances Harriet’s brother William Williams arrived just before the birth for his customary shooting vacation, and Frances seems to have welcomed him and entertained him to tea during her advancing labour.

September 7 (Wednesday) Mr Williams came from London for his annual shooting. Great pleasure to see him, and much excitement among the little ones.

Thursday the eighth Francis safely delivered of her fourth baby at 1:05 o’clock this morning. She was taken ill yesterday, but managed to keep out for tea, and to meet her brother. We had no hitch this time, for the nurse (Mrs Thomas) was in the house, and the doctor arrived at a quarter of an hour after midnight. The baby is a strong and healthy girl. Baby’s name – Amelia Agnes.

Amelia’s two step brothers and one step sister brought Thomas’ children to seven. At 43, Thomas was well established in his work as Head Gardener of Palé, was popular in a wide area of the neighbourhood, advising on gardens of local landowners, judging gardens and produce in local shows and being allowed plenty of time by his employer to undertake leadership of geological and botanical expeditions for a growing number of eminent scientific bodies.

However, in March 1888 an event occurred which was to bring changes to Palé and in some measure to Thomas and his family.  Wednesday 21st began with a visit by Thomas to Llantysilio Hall, which had been left to Henry Beyer Robertson, son of Thomas’ employer by his godfather Charles Beyer, late partner of Henry Robertson senior.

Henry Robertson of Palé Hall

Wednesday the 21st [March] I went to Llantysilio. I had to go first to Llangollen and then walked back by the side of the canal. It was very fine but I did not see much of interest in the bird line. On arriving home, I heard with deep sorrow that Mr Robertson was in a very critical state; his health has been bad for some time; indeed it has been very unsatisfactory since last summer, but we have all been hoping for the best.

Thursday the 22nd Mr Robertson very ill and not expected to live till evening. Everyone deeply grieved, and none more so than myself.  4 pm Mr Robertson rallied wonderfully to the great surprise of the doctors and his family. 8 o’clock Mr Robertson very ill again and not expected to live many hours.

I went and stayed in the gun room with Mr Armstrong at 9 o’clock. Colonel Wilson and Mr HB Robertson came to us and told us we would not have to wait long, for Mr Robertson was near his end. He passed away at 9:45 o’clock on the evening of Thursday the 22nd.  He was born on the 11th of January 1816 so that he was only 72 years of age. His death will be severely felt by many in the counties of Merioneth and Denbigh, for he was ever ready to help any good cause, or anyone in need, and he was a deservedly popular landlord, always helping his tenants, and as an employer of labour on his estate he had no equal in this county. I specially deplore his loss, for he was like a father to me, always friendly, and took great interest in my natural history collections; indeed he has all along encouraged me and I have valued his kindness.

Mr Robertson was the son of the late Mr Duncan Robertson of Banff Scotland, a farmer. He was educated at Kings College Old Aberdeen, where he got his degree of MA. In 1846, he married Elizabeth Dean, daughter of Mr William Dean, solicitor of London, by whom he had six children, two of whom died young.  His only son who succeeds him, is Henry Beyer and is now 26 years of age.  One of his daughters (Lily) is married to Colonel Wilson. Mrs Wilson is the eldest of the family; the second daughter was married in December (the 4) 1872 to Mr Sheriff who died on the 8th of February 1880.  Mrs sheriff has been a widow since then. Mr Robertson’s third living daughter is single. Mr Robertson’s profession was that of a civil engineer, and first worked on the Greenock railway under Mr Locke. He came to Cheshire in 1842, and he soon turned his attention to the mineral wealth of North Wales and finally planned the railway from Chester to Shrewsbury, from Ruabon to Ffestiniog, and several others.  One of his greatest triumphs is the beautiful viaduct across the valley of the Dee. This viaduct  is 1,531 feet in length, 148 feet in height, and has 19 arches, each having a span of 60 feet. It cost nearly £80,000 and was about 2 1/2 years in building. Mr Robertson also planned Chirk viaduct.  About the year 1858 he rented the Crogen estate from Earl Dudley, and soon commenced to buy property of his own in the neighbourhood, to which he has ever since been adding, until the estate is now valuable and expensive. From the first Mr Robertson had a great love for planting forest trees, and at present the value of his timber is between 40 and £50,000. He bought the Palé estate from the Lloyd family in 1868, and began building operations in the beginning of the year I came here, in 1869, and got into his new mansion on the 18th of September 1871. He altogether spent about £40,000 on his house and grounds.

Friday the 23rd Mr Henry Beyer Robertson very kindly sent for me and some of the other residents to see Mr Robertson before he was put in his coffin; the body looked quite natural, and that little changed. All of us, and especially myself felt deeply grieved to see our kind employer for the last time. His coffin was made by his joiners on the estate; it was solid oak outside a shell and polished, and had solid brass fittings. On the breast shield where the words:

Henry Robertson Died 22nd of March 1888, aged 72.

The funeral took place on Monday following. I and 17 other estate workmen carried the bier all the way from here to Llandderfel churchyard;  the Rector, Mr Morgan, read prayers in the entrance hall over the bier after which we started at 9:15 in the morning.  It was sunny and fine for us and we managed all the way without a hitch. Six men carried at a time, I had five men and me, Mr Cameron the forester five, and Mr Roberts the stationmaster five, by this means there was no confusion. The Estate tenants, workmen, and general public went in front of us, the mourners and their friends followed us. None of the daughters went with us. His grave was 9 feet deep and is at the north-west corner of the churchyard, in full view of the Hall here. There were about 500 at the funeral, but there would have been many more if it had been generally known the time of burial.

A lunch and was given to the bearers et cetera after in the Hall. There were a number of wreaths from friends. I put some on the top and tied the others on the sides. The wreath on the breast which circled the shields, was from his own daughters, made of white camellias from the conservatory; it was really the most beautiful in the lot.

1884 Indoors and outdoors

In May 1884 another baby was born to Thomas’ growing family:

Sunday, May 18th  Baby born at 7:50 o’clock. Her name is to be the same as her mother Francis Harriett, and it will include part of her grandmother’s name.  All passed over very well and Mrs Williams was here at the time. Mrs. Owen came to the rescue shortly after until nurse arrived. Doctor arrived at 7:10.

For reference to her grandmother, Harriott Pamplin, neé Dench, see here

Mrs. Owen was the Housekeeper at Palé and was to become Godmother to baby Frances Harriett.  This suggests how closely the staff and the family of the ‘big house’ were concerned with the Ruddy family.  Their assistance would have been essential to enable Thomas to carry on as widowed father after the death of his first wife, Mary.  He appeared to able to go on with his work, natural history and geology expeditions and in due course court, marry and go on honeymoon with his second wife whilst the three quite young children of his first marriage were adequately cared for.  The Welsh census returns of each decade also show a living in general maid at the Garden House.

I have not been able to get the dimensions of the Garden House at Palé; it is a substantial house, but by 1884 was becoming well-populated.  With Thomas and his wife, there were the three children of the first marriage, Thomas Alexander (15), William Pamplin (12) and Mary Emily (11) The eldest son of the second marriage, Henry Ernest was 2, there was the new baby, the live-in servant Jane and Mrs. Williams, Frances’ mother, was staying with them.

Thomas’ ever increasing collections must have needed a growing amount of space, and as is clear from an entry later in 1884, there were always people anxious to come and see them, even with a very new baby in the house:

Friday 30th May  Mr and Mrs Aitken of Urmston Manchester came to see my fossils. Mr Aitken is president of the Manchester Geological Society. He was with the party I acted as a guide to last year and who went to Llanwydden. He examined my collection very minutely and was very pleased to see it. He said he never thought to see such a fine collection of Bala fossils although he was told I had a good one.

His wife was a very affable lady and enjoyed herself with Francis and Mrs Williams. They came by the 5.20 train and went to Bala by the last from here as they were going to stay at the Lion Hotel. I met them at the train and we had tea ready for them of which they willingly partook. I gave him some nice Bala fossils and went to the station with them after they saw the garden.

Thursday, June 19  Major K. McKenzie of the Indian staff Corps brought his wife and daughter to see my collections. They were very much interested in the fossils, birds eggs, dried plants, minerals and coins. The lady was much interested in the plants as she is a botanist. They were here an hour and a half and wished they had more time to stay. They were very much surprised to see such very interesting collections, and they repeatedly said they wished they had made my acquaintance long before. I showed them the circulation of the sap in the Nitella and other interesting things under the microscope.  They were very pleasant and affable, enjoyed their visit and wished they could come again but they leave Bodwenni for Llandudno on Monday.

Thomas was a loving and quite hands-on father by contemporary standards, recording events in the progress of his new daughter:

June 1 Whitsun Day Francis came downstairs to have dinner for the first time since baby was born.  Monday 9th Francis and baby out for first time.

Sunday the 15th Baby was christened at Llanderfel church by Reverend William Morgan. Mr Pamplin was Godfather and Mrs Owen an old friend was Godmother. [Mrs. Owen, Housekeeper at Palé Hall. ed.] Mrs. Williams was at the ceremony. Name – Frances Harriett Ruddy.

Thomas, however was not to be deterred from his lengthy expeditions, which seem to have been essential to his well-being as a busy Head Gardener and devoted husband and father.

Thursday, June 12 I left here by the 9.10 train for Arenig station to have a ramble along the railway down Cwm Prysor Valley.

Cwm Prysor Walk part 1

I got to Arenig by 10 o’clock and at once started up the line past Pont Rhydefen and the north end of Arenig. It was very warm and fine; the cuckoos were calling to one another, the larks [94] were singing merrily above me as I passed along; and the Riverside meadows were blue and white with wild hyacinths and daisies. The only interesting plant I saw until I got to the little lake of Tryweryn was the globe flower.

I walked along the south side of the lake where I saw plenty of the yellow waterlily I found the Isoetes and Littorella lacustris but no Lobelia or any other interesting plant. No shells. At Nant-du, not far from the lake, I examined an old lead mine, which was abandoned about 10 years ago. It was in the Llandeilo slates, had to shafts, some buildings, machinery, and a water wheel. I saw no minerals but as the debris consisted of fine slates I could hardly expect to find any.

I got on the line a little beyond the lake and examined the various rock cuttings through which I passed. I found plenty of Lingulas in the Lingula slates between the lake and viaduct. The Lingula shales between the lake were much iron stained and [95] I saw many thin veins and patches of iron pyrites. I saw the junction of the Lingula shales with the igneous rock, but they did not alter in the least, and the shales lay conformably upon the igneous which was distinctly bedded under them or at least seen so. I shall give sections of the rocks at the end of the account of the day’s rambling.  I saw a pair of golden plovers on the moors and several sandpipers along the mountain streams.

The second part of the Cwm Prysor Walk

I crossed the viaduct which is 12 1/2 miles from Bala and 13 1/2 from Ffestiniog at 10 minutes plus past 12 o’clock; it was then very warm but not at all oppressive as the mountain air seemed to be so bracing. The viaduct is very substantially built a variety of Felstone ash which was quarried on the mountain about one of the half miles distant. It consists of nine arches the middle arches being 100 feet in height. It spans a small stream called Nant Lladron, which runs down and narrow but deep treeless dingle. This structure is the second built as the first fell when nearly finished. I found a ring ouzel’s nest with five eggs about 12 3/4 miles from Bala and some nice crystals of feldspar at the same place.

I had a rough walk over a fearfully rough ballast; which was made up of rough lumps of igneous rock. I went through several rock cuttings where the igneous rocks were distinctly interbedded with Lingula shells, sometimes A bed of igneous would be between two beds of shale without altering either the dip or character of the shales.

I got to a large overhanging mass of igneous rock at a 1:45 o’clock; it was a fine mass and partly overhanging the rails. The line between this rock and the fire that is over and most difficult ground, as it runs along the side of a rocky slope all the way. The rocks stand high above it and the sides sloping down from eight of us, rocky, and strewn withrocky fragments. I found the Arabis hirsuta and the Hypericum androsemum on the big rock. [97] I saw several frames of quartz rock, but could not see any metallic veins. One quartz vein seemed to be auriferous, but I could not detect any visible specks. A little beyond the big rock is an isolated mound called Castell Prysor. I got onto it at 2:10 o’clock. The mound is certainly an ordinary mound like many others in Wales, and which are nothing else but sepulchral mounds. It is entirely made up of loose fragments of rock and earth; there is no masonry of any kind. Two openings were made into the side of it, but were not deep enough to find sepulchral remains. It was placed on a rocky bus of hard igneous rock, overlooking the river Prysor, and not far from the old road leading from Bala to Trawsfynydd. The mound is about the size of the Bala one.

At 2:30 o’clock I’ve got to a little lake short way from the line; it is called on the map Llyn-rhythllyn. (in a later hand – Distributed perch in it Jany 1898) [98] I was tired and thirsty so that I sat down on the stone which stood in the water at the side of the lake and began to eat for the first time since breakfast. It was very pleasant as there was a breeze blowing over the lake and the cool water was so refreshing. Before eating I washed my hands and face. While sitting on the stone I saw a leech about 4 inches in length. I saw plenty of Lobelia and Isoetes in this lake with the Littorella and a bit of Utricularia floating about. I saw freshwater sponges, could not find a single shell.

The lake is oblong, about a mile long and half a mile broad. It was shutting by local grassy hills, but no trees. I saw some little fish run away from the side, and I was told by a friend that there are perch in it, but I think I have read somewhere about char being in it.  About half a mile from the lake I left the line and got into some upland pastures where I found several fine patches of the pretty little Mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica. Near it grew a plant of the Gymnadenia orchis and quantities of the beautiful Vicia orobus which is so plentiful in Merioneth.

I got onto the road leading from Trawsfynydd to Bala at a farm house called Glanllafarwhere I cross the stream on the slab of stone 12 feet in length and another half that.   The stream must be the Llafar as GlanLlafar means on the side of the Llafar. Shortly after I passed by a ditch full of water and sphagnum where I found the Utricularia again.

I got to Trawsfynydd station at 4:10 o’clock. The country between Arenig and Trawsfynydd is not of much interest; a good part of it is wild moorland, and the sides of the Prysor river is wild rocky and treeless on the other side. There are a few farm houses down the valley, with patches of cultivation, but the most of it is pasture.

When I got to Trawsfynydd station I pushed on to try and get to Tomen y Mûr but ongetting halfway I found it would be too much for me as it was very warm and all uphill, so I turned back by the old road called Sarn Helen to the village of Trawsfynydd entering it by the north end at Pencarrig Street. I saw a nice row of houses with the fronts nearly covered with Cotoneaster Microphylla in bloom.  The village is a large one with good houses, some shops, four chapels, and a good hotel called the Cross Foxes.

The church is in a very bad situation at the back of some old houses; it is very low roofed with square headed windows, and is like two churches built along side of each other with a gutter in the roof between them. It is dedicated to St Mary. I had a glass of ale in the Cross Foxes which was a very nice house and a very obliging landlady.

In my wanderings about I met a friend, Mr John Morris Jones, builder there. He very kindly took me to his house and got tea ready for me, which I much enjoyed as I was thirsty and tired. I stayed with him till train time. He told me that Llyn-rhythllyn and most of the land in Cwm Prysor and on to the Arenig belongs to Sir Watkin W. Wynn and that he owned most of the property about the village. He also told me that Trawsfynydd was a very important little place before the coast railway was made round by Barmouth and Harlech as all the traffic was from Dolgelly through Trawsfynydd and the village of Maentwrog into Carnarvonshire.

I had a very fine views of the mountains from near the village. The Arenig on the east then kept it address in the west then Llawlech, Llether, Rhinog-fach Rhinog-fawr Y Graig Dwg and Diphusys in the north-west. I could see the mountain pass called Bwlch Drws between Rhinog fawr and Rhynog-fach. Moel Siabod and the Moelwyns shut out the north. The village of Trawsfynydd is said to be situated at a greater altitude than any village in Wales.

Throughout the summer Thomas records several further expeditions in some detail.  It is clear that as well as searching for fossils, Thomas has become very interested in botany, and records here some of his plant finds.

Two expeditions. here

1883: Life and landscape


Huw Lloyd’s Pulpit, oil on panel by James Stark, 1794-1858 from the collection of the V &A Museum.  Visited and climbed by Thomas in June 1883

Thomas Ruddy, at age 41 was very well settled in the Bala area.  He was obviously trusted by his employers the Robertson family, was well- known in the area and beyond as a naturalist, geologist, judge of local produce and leader of geological and scientific expeditions.  It would seem that by the year 1883 the man and the landscape he inhabited were at one.

He was the father of four children, three by his late first wife Mary, and a new baby son with his second wife Frances Harriet.  His friendship with the eminent naturalist and former London bookseller William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret was warm and firmly established.  Thomas had in effect become that ‘gentleman’ he dreamed of being when he first chose gardening as his profession.

The Journal entries for the year reflect the settled state of  Thomas’ life as he entered his middle years.  Even the harsh conditions of the winter and their effect on the garden could not disturb his equilibrium.

1883
April 1st,  
Sunday. Nothing particular to mention, except the weather so far. It was changeable all January, very fine most of February, but exceedingly cold nearly the whole of March. The wind was piercingly cold, there was a lot of snow, and hard frost –culminating in 19 ½ deg. on Saturday 10th. Nearly 15 inches of snow fell during the month. It was the coldest March I ever remember.  A good many things were injured by it in the garden and
grounds.  

As the weather became warmer, geology expeditions continued as usual:

May 22nd I went geologizing to the hills and mountains above Cynwych [SJ 056 411] It was a very warm day so that I was very tired on getting home. I took particular note of the beds on the ridge of the Berwyns between the two roads going over the Berwyns  south of Moel Ferna – I brought home some good fossils.  

May 30 (Wednesday) I had a short time at my hunting ground near Gelli Grin where I found a starfish, and the first so far perfect I ever found so that I was highly pleased.  

Saturday June 2nd I went to Rhosygwaliau, from there to Caerglas, then along the ridge to Cornilau, from there to Brynbedwog, from there to Gelli Grin, and then home. I had a very fine day and found some good fossils, among which was a rolled up Homalonotus

From Wikipedia image by smokey just
Fossil of Homalonotus dekayi at the Amherst Museum of Natural History

Via Wikipedia Image by smokeyjbj

On a June 5th Mrs Williams, Frances Harriet’s mother arrived to stay for five weeks, in order to make the acquaintance of her new grandson.  A number of excursions were undertaken, among them this expedition to Ffestiniog by rail and foot.  Once again we see Thomas very accomplished and lively writing style.

In July the family took advantage of the growing availability of photography to record the arrival of the new baby:

Tuesday July 3rd   Frances, Mother, baby and I went to Llangollen by the 9.35 train. The principal object in going was to have baby photographed. After he got “taken” we had some refreshments, and after that we set out for the top of Castell Dinas Bran. The donkey boys made several efforts to get us to patronise them, and a ragamuffin of a girl offered to sing us a song either in Welsh or in English for a halfpenny. After that an old lady offered to sell us guide books. It was a very warm day so that we found it no easy climb, but by repeated rests and I carrying baby we got up all right. It was the first time for Mother to be on top, and it was good work for a lady of 75 years of age. The ladies had a good long rest while I explored the hill and the ruins in search of plants, but I got nothing new…

We are left with a charming portrait of a day out for a late Victorian family in Mid Wales, but sadly the baby photograph is not to be found – perhaps edited out by its adult subject during his curating of the family papers in the first part of the 20th century.

Thomas was in demand for judging local horticultural shows, and of course he could always be side-tracked by an object of local history!

Tuesday July 10th   Mr. Evans of Rhiwlas and I had a days judging of Cottage Gardens in connection with the Corwen Flower Show. Mr. Bennett of Rug met us at Llandrillo with a trap and drove us about from garden to garden. We went from Llandrillo to Cynwydd, from there over the hill by Caenmawr, Salem Chapel and Pont-pren to Llawerbettws, from there to Rug, from Rug to Llansantffraid. We had tea with Mr. Owen and then crossed by the fine bridge spanning the Dee to the Corwen road, and then on to Corwen.

We had a very good dinner at the Crown and after awarding the prizes we went about the town. I saw the shaft of the ancient cross in the churchyard, which is 8 feet in height. I also saw what is called Owen Glyndwr’s dagger, but it is only a rude cross. The ancient cross seems to be early Christian, 7th – 10th century, I would say. Most of the gardens we inspected were very clean and well-cropped. I was appointed to take notes of them and to draw up a Report of them. The day was very fine, with the exception of a shower between Cynwedd and Salem Chapel.

At the age of 41 Thomas could look back with some satisfaction at his fulfilment of his erly ambition to raise his status and satisfaction in life through the medium of gardening.

1885: Scenes from Victorian life

 

The death of General Gordon at Khartoum by J.L.G. Ferris      (public domain)

I will quote the first thee months of Thomas’ journal in full, giving as they do a broad insight into his various interests and activities, ranging from the success of his crops to the international news of the year:

January 1st 1885  The last year has been a warm and fruitful one; every crop did well in the garden. Our government have sent troops at the Nile to get General Gordon out of Khartoum who is shut up there with Egyptian troops and defending themselves against the Mahdi or False Prophet as he is called at the head of his Sudanese.  An American dynamite party has given some trouble in London by attempting to blow up London Bridge and other buildings.

Trade in general is very slack all over the country. France is at war with China . https://www.britannica.com/event/Sino-French-War

From events on the world stage, Thomas turns to local and more personal news:

Tuesday January 6th Today Mrs Owen of the White Lion Bala died suddenly. She was a very kind friend.

His brother-in-law comes to stay in the Llandderfel cottage rented by the London Pamplin family:

Monday January 19th Mr. Williams came here from London for a weeks shooting over Henblas. We were very pleased to see him, but I could not get to the station to meet him as I had an influenza cold.

Saturday the 24th Mr Williams returned to London. We were very sorry to see him go. I went to the station with him. This day the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower of London were much damaged by dynamite. The dastardly and cowardly explosions have caused great consternation in London and all over the country. Fortunately none were killed but sorry to say five or six were injured. It will take about £20,000 to restore the buildings again as they were.

Geology remains an abiding interest, and his employer Henry Robertson shows an interest and brings his guest to visit the collection

Friday 6th February Mr. Robertson brought his guest Mr Frank Archer to see my collection of Bala fossils. Both gentlemen were here for nearly 2 hours, and both are like were highly pleased with the collection.

Saturday   Mr. Robertson and Mr Archer came again for nearly a couple of hours to see the remainder of the collection and my antiquities. Mr Archer is a very good geologist and antiquary. Mr Haywood told me about him some time ago. He is an honorary member of our Chester Society.

Events abroad cause alarm:

Saturday the 7th News arrived today to say the Mahdi captured Khartoum by treachery on the 26th of last month and that General Gordon was killed. Our troops only two days late in reaching Khatoum at least a small party by river. Great sorrow and indignation in the country about it. Gladstone in Office.

Family events are chronicled with pride, and old friends visited:

March 1st   This was Henry’s first Sunday at church. He walked nicely and kept very quiet all the time and was much pleased with going.

Saturday the 7th   Frances, the little ones, and myself had tea with Mr Pamplin. He and I went for our first 1885 walk as far as Tyrsa (?) It was very pleasant at the lanes and in the fields.

Thomas continued to be in demand for landscaping and horticultural advice.  He was friendly with the Principal, a fellow antiquarian.

Friday 13th  I went to Bala to look over the C.M. College grounds with the trustees so as to see what could be done in the way of improvements. I was there for two hours. As it was so fine I got Francis to go to Bala with me and she took the two little ones with her. They spent most of their time with Mrs. Evan Jones of Mount Place while I was on duty.

Bala Calvinistic Methodist College

http://www.ebcpcw.cymru/en/who-we-are/our-history

After I got done, Dr. Hughes took me for a drive to Llanwchllyn. Our principal object in going that way was to see a newly discovered inscribed Roman stone.  For a description of Thomas’ visit to the stone, just 8 days after it had been found, see here: https://wp.me/P5UaiG-kG

Roman inscription from Caer Gai