A Patriotic Victorian Evening 1898

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

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

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

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

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

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

1895: Day trippers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afon Conwy by John Firth Creative Commons

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

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

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

Image by Eirian Evans via Geograph, Creative Commons

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

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

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

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

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

1895 Of This and That

Thomas in later life from his newspaper obituary

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

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

                           

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Staircase Hall, Palé

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ice on Bala Lake

Thames Frost Fair early 19th Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1894 Walking with the children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1893 'Science Under Difficulties'

‘Science under difficulties’ was the name given by Thomas to an expedition he undertook with his son Henry on the evening of the 30th September 1893. Henry was then 10 years and 11 months old. It was past mid afternoon before the pair set out, and they returned just before 8.00 pm, soaked through, and in the dark. It was a journey of, in my estimation, at least ten miles.

Saturday the 30th  Henry and I left home at a 3:45 o’clock for Cae Howel lane. We had  heavy showers on the way, but went on to the gate leading to Maeshir at Bwlch y Fenni.  It cleared off when there and had every appearance of keeping fine and as I wished to hunt for boulders on the Aberhirnant side, we pushed on along the mountain road leading to Llangynog over Trwmysarn.   I imagine Thomas’ main purpose was his new research on Glacial Drift.

Thomas’ notebook on boulder dispersion

Thomas describes the journey: We found one Arenig boulder near Cae Howel at an altitude above the sea of 1200 feet and again a boulder of the Aran ash where the road gets close to the brook of Nant-cwm-hesgen.  That was all the boulders we found in our ramble. There were none in the bed of the upper part of the Brook all along the roadside all the way to the county boundary at Trwn-y-sarn. 

The slopes of Foel Carn Sian Llwyd Photo © Dave Corby (cc-by-sa/2.0)

It got almost dark at the county boundary and rained cruelly with a breeze of wind. We crossed the moorland on the south side of the hill called Moel-cwm-sarn-llwyd. It was a rough and tumble walk all the way to the Berwyn Road from Bala to Llangynog. We had to pick our way over bogs, through wet heather or rushes in semi- darkness until we got down to Palé Mountain stables, and most thankful we were to reach them in safety. It rained heavily all the way.

When we got to the road we were drenched from the knees downwards and our boots full of water. It didn’t rain much all the way home, but it was weary journey. It was science under difficulties. Henry followed without a murmur all through the worst part of it, and was glad he was with me. We got home a few minutes before 8 o’clock, and after a change of clothes and a wash we felt quite comfortable and enjoyed our supper. Neither of us will forget our experience over the rough bit of mountain between the two roads. Luckily we had waterproof coats.

Thomas instructed the children of his second family well in natural history. He probably had more leisure to do this with the five children born to Frances Harriet, and she too, encouraged by her expert botanist uncle, William Pamplin, was enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits. Only two of their children, the second family, married, and only Henry Ernest had a single child, a son Denys, the inheritor of Thomas’ journals before me.

Henry Ernest, a clergyman, inherited his father’s love of natural science, concentrating on astronomy, an interest which he passed on to Denys. Here they are in about 1940 in the garden of Braunston Rectory with their very impressive telescope.

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 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.

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.

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!