1893 Judging the Judge

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

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

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

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

Philippe de Champaigne / public domain

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.

27th August 1889 morning at Palé

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)


27th AUGUST 1889





I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation.‘  This unusually lengthy passage details a moment which was certainly the highlight of the Queen’s visit for Thomas, and probably the highlight of his entire life.

After planting a tree in the garden, the Queen and Princess Alix proceed to the fruit room where encouraged by Dr. Reid the Queen makes a detailed and close examination of his fossil and mineral collections.  Her question about the age of a bronze age axe has to bee seen in the light of the Darwinian controversy earlier in her reign, and the tension between church and science about the age of the Earth.  The Queen’s question has to be seen as forensic, and Thomas’ reply as diplomatic!  Her question about his origins in Scotland show that his accent even after so many years away from Jedburgh had remained Scottish.  He certainly wasn’t going to divulge his Irish roots.

The Queen’s Journal mentions to inspection of the fossils only briefly.  Since we are reading Princess Beatrice’s redaction of the original Journal it is not possible to say whether she mentioned Thomas.  Beatrice was known to excise mention of the servants from her version of the Journal, thus diplomatically excising mentions of John Brown or the Munshi Abdul Hafiz.

Sir Theodore Martin called at Palé during the morning, and returned to Berwyn before luncheon. Colonel Wilson and Mr. Darby came from Brymbo accompanied by the heads of various departments at the steel works, exhibited specimens of ornamental steel to Her Majesty, and had specimens to illustrate the process of steel manufacture. Mr. Robertson went with them. Mr. Edwards of Trevor showed Her Majesty specimens of his TerraCotta (sic)  Several others exhibited various articles.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 16.20.55
Turkey Oak leaf

The queen next wished to plant a tree in the grounds in memory of her visit; everything was ready and Her Majesty planted a Turkey Oak a little beyond the end of the lawn tennis ground. Her Majesty took one of the garden steel spades in her hand and with the help of Mr. Clark her Highland attendant put some fine earth on the root of the tree, and said ‘Shall I put a little more on it’.  Her majesty was accompanied by the Princess Alix of Hesse (The Queen’s granddaughter ), Lady Churchill, Mr. Robertson and the aboveMr. Francis Clark. Mr. Cameron and I were present to see the ceremony, which was performed at quarter to twelve noon.

After the ceremony was over, the Queen asked which way she was to go next, so Mr. Robertson asked her if she would like to see the cromlech, the Queen said ‘Yes’ and added, ‘Anywhere.’  Mr Clark then led the pony ( the Queen had entered her pony carriage) along the lower walk under the Cromlech wood; the Queen walked from her little carriage to see the cromlech, and after the Queen was seated again, Mr. Robertson guided her to the end of the long walk, from which they then returned by the upper walk and crossed the lawn again as when going to the front of the Hall. From there, they came by the front, passing the gun room, until they arrived sat the little iron gate leading to the Lower, or fruit garden. Here the Queen got out to walk round the lower garden.

During the time the Queen was along the long walk, or “Queen’s Walk” as it ought to be called now, I went to get in the fruit for luncheon. I was coming from the upper or Kitchen garden when I was met by Mr. Francis Clark whotold me that I must come at once to go with the Queen around the garden. I followed Mr. Clark, and as the Queen by this time had got to the end of the walk leading to the conservatory. Mr. Clark and I went round the west end of the garden and past the conservatory to the store door; here Mr. Clark told me to stay until I was called; the Queen continued her walk until she got to the fruit room steps; here a halt was made as the Queen expressed a wish to go up into the fruit room to see my fossils etc. Dr Reid was in possession of it with the door open [TR’s footnote: I used to leave the key of the fruit-room on a nail for Dr. Reid to see the fossils at his leisure]; the doctor was near the door, examining the fossils, he told the Queen he was much interested in the fossils, and Her Majesty said ‘I fear you are more interested in the fruit than in the fossils.’ – This caused a laugh at the Doctor’s expense. The Doctor then came out and told the Queen it wasvery interesting up there – meaning the fruit- room. The Queen was then helped up the stone steps and Mr. Clark was at once sent back for me to go to explain the collection to Her Majesty.

On entering the fruit room, I found the Queen with her head down looking over the fossils; Mr Robertson was standing on the left by the door, Mr. Francis Clark on the right near the door, Lady Churchill in the north passage of the fruit room, and the Princess Alix standing at the end next the door of the south passage. The Princess looked straight at me, and as the Queen was stooping over the fossils, I bowed to the Princess, who nodded back.  On the Queen raising her head, she looked at me, Mr. Robertson said, “This is the gardener,”and when I bowed the Queen nodded, and then said “These are very wonderful and must be very interesting,” and added, “Did you get these yourself?” I answered Her Majesty that I collected and arranged them all myself, then Her Majesty said, “Very nice” and continued examining the specimens.  I pointed out to the Queen the arrangement of the various groups and their peculiarities, the Queen remarking as I went on “Yes, yes.”

I took up one of the tablets [TR’s footnote Echinospherites balticus]and showed the Queen the label on the back of it, which gives particulars of the locality where the fossil was found and other information. Her Majesty read the label slowly and carefully, and then said “Very nice”.  When Her Majesty looked at my specimens of univalves or fossil snailshells, she remarked, “Wonderful, so natural”.  Then Her Majesty asked me, “Are these from near here?”  I told Her Majesty that they were to be found in various locations between Corwen and Bala, and that Bala was the typical district for Bala fossils, but they were also to be found near Llangollen. Her Majesty then said “This part must be rich in these”, and after a prolonged examination Her Majesty said “Very nice”.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 16.46.49
Echiospherites specimens – an extinct group related to the sea lily and starfish, found as fossils in Ordovician marine rocks (between 505 and 438 million years old).

The Princess [TR’s footnote Now Empress of Russia –Nov 1894] took up the tablet on which the gold quartz from Gwynfynydd or the Morgan minewas fixed, I told the Princess to take it to the door where the light was best, and then the Princess examined it carefully as I pointed out where the visible gold was to be seen. The Queen was much interested in it, and when I told Her Majesty that it was from the Morgan mine near Dolgelly, Her Majesty gave me a nod and smiled very knowingly, as much as to say plainly “All that glisters is not gold.”  In fact the mine has been so puffed that people are distrustful of it.  [TR’s footnote (it was a failure afterwards)]

The Princess Alix then called the attention of Her Majesty to my flint flakes, stone hatchets bronze hatchets, etc. Her Majesty took up the bronze hatchet or Celt in her hand, examined it, read the label on it, and asked me if it was found near here, I said it had been found on the estate, then Her Majesty took it between her fingers, and looking at me closely and straight in the face said “Can you tell me the age of this?”  I at once answered “I think that is beyond man’s knowledge, Your Majesty,” and as I said this I looked full into Her Majesty’s face, which was only half a yard from mine; Her Majesty still looking into my face said, “Well, I suppose it is.”

After that the Queen seemed to have finished her inspection of the fossils,and as she was standing looking round at the room, Lady Churchill told her Mr. Robertson wished her to have a peach; Her Majesty said “Not now” [TR’s footnote; When the queen was inspecting the fossils and chatting, she was at her natural ease, but stood dignified when talking ofthe fruit.] and then added “You have very fine peaches and grapes here,indeed, very fine fruit.”

When the Queen prepared to go down the steps again, her pug dog went to get down, but seemed afraid to go, and stood whining on the top step. Her Majesty then said to Mr. Clark the Highland attendant “Carry him down carefully,”  and then smiling and looking at all of us said, “He has the rheumatism and cannot well go down.” Then when Her Majesty was being helped down the steps, Mr. Robert son told me to go before and open the hot house doors for Her Majesty. The Queen looked into the forcing houses but was afraid to go through for the heat, then she walked slowly and stiffly along the back of the forcing houses until she got to the end of the peach house, here she stopped to admire a beautiful border of penstemons in full bloom; then she walked slowly after me through the peach-house, remarking to the Princess when she saw the peaches caught in nets, “That is very nice”, then through the conservatory, and on getting into the vinery, Her Majesty looked at me in the face and said, “I suppose this is a good country for fruit and flowers.”  I said it was very fair.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 18.04.22
Queen Victoria’s pug ‘Basco’ is seen here at her feet. Princess Alix and Princess Beatrice stand behind the Queen. Note her ‘boat shaped hat trimmed with white flowers’ as mentioned by Thomas. About 1887, Royal Collection

We got out at the west door of the vinery, and then past the flower border in which grew Love-in-a-mist, Victoria asters,salpiglotis, gladioli, Rockets, Dahlias, and sunflowers next the wall. Then past the narrow flower border, in which grew dwarf chrysanthemum, asters, peony asters and African marigolds.  Her Majesty admired the flowers, and stopped when she got near the west entrance gate to admire the iron palisade which was almost hidden with flowers, consisting of clematis, scarlet and yellow nasturtiums, the yellow creeper Tropaeolum Canariense, and the Tropaeolum Speciosum. The whole had a striking and beautiful effect, and as Her Majesty looked at it, she called the attention of the Princess Alix to it and said, “Isn’t that beautiful,” and then said as she pointed to the Tropaeolum Speciosum “That is a pretty little red plant.”

When Her Majesty got seated in her pony carriage, she turned to me and said “What part of Scotland do you come from?” I said “From Jedburgh,Your Majesty,” at which the Queen remarked to Lady Churchill, “That is near Floors” (Floors Castle, Kelso), Lady Churchill said “It is”, then the Queen said looking at me again “I have been there”, and I said “And to Jedburgh too Your Majesty”, the Queen at that nodded to me and said “Yes”. Then she said “I do not wish to get out again”.

Mr. Robertson then told me to go on before and tell the stable keepers to open the stable doors so that the Queen could look in. When the pony carriage was led past the doors, Her Majesty said “I see they are very nice.” After that the Queen continued her out past my house, and went down the road to see the laundry, and the other houses there, and returned up the drive to the Hall.  I left at the gate here as I wished to finish getting the fruit. Mr. Robertson signalled to me the time to leave. I left my hat near the outside of the fruit room door when I entered, and went afterwards round with the Queen without it. Mr Robertson did the same.

When I went to the Queen in the fruit room, I felt nervous, but Her Majesty’s very pleasant way of speaking to me, and her kind manner eased me very much. Indeed, her manner was simplicity itself. Her way of speaking was in short sentences, and like stout people with a little difficulty. The queen evidently wished me to feel at ease, for she looked pleasantly at me and spoke very kindly to me.

Before Her Majesty came to Palé I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a good look at her, but I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation. To me certainly it was a Red Letter Day, and I fully appreciated Her Majesty’s kindness in honouring my collection with a visit.

The Queen is under middle height, has a very full round face very stout, and hair grey. She wore a dress having black and grey stripes, a black mantle with a fringe to it. Her hat was large, of boat shape, with white flowers in front. When walking she took short steps and walked stiffly, from the effects of her rheumatism, I expect. I was pleased to see the great interest Her Majesty took in everything.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 17.07.24
Dr. Reid, the Queen’s Physician

When I went back to the fruit room for my hat, I found Dr. Reid inspecting my collection again, as soon as he got Her Majesty away he went back again, and there I left him as I wanted something to eat. Mr. Minshall of the Oswestry Advertiser was in my house waiting for me to get particulars of my interview with the Queen, but I declined to say more than that her Majesty inspected my collection with much interest.

After the Queen had luncheon, Mr. Evan Morris, Mayor of Wrexham, arrived at Palé and was knighted by Her Majesty. Sir John McNeill handed his sword to Her Majesty, and as Mr. Morris knelt on his right knee, Her Majesty touched him on both shoulders with the sword, and addressing him as Sir Evan Morris, commanded him to rise. Sir John Puleston also came to Palé and was presented to the Queen by Mr. Raikes. Mr. Raikes left during the afternoon. I only saw Mr. Raikes when he was with the Queen at the dog trials; he was very tall, stout and full-faced.

Queen Victoria’s Journal here

Sunday 25th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)



Thomas again provides fruit for the royal breakfast, then comments on the events of the day: the Queen attends a service led by the Bishop of St. Asaph, she goes for a short expedition in the Pony Chair, and then a longer outing in her barouche taking in a visit to Crogen, the former home of the Robertson family before they came to Palé.

Sunday the 25th It was a little quieter here today, but the baker’s cart had to come from Corwen, and one or two tradesman’s traps came from Bala with supplies. I was up at 7.15, went over the gardens, then got the letters and my breakfast. After my breakfast I sent in fruit for the Royal breakfast table, and saw that all was right in my department.

Screenshot 2018-08-15 14.31.24

Alfred George Edwards (1848 -1937)

He had only recently become Bishop of St. Asaph in March of 1889.  Much later in a distinguished career in 1920 on the disestablishment of the Church in Wales he became its first Archbishop.

In her journal for the previous evening the Queen calls Edwards ‘a pleasing and very young-looking man’.

Photograph of A. G. Edwards, Bishop of St Asaph (later Archbishop of Wales), c. 1910 postcard published by G. D. & D., London. Public domain

At 11 o’clock the Queen had the Bishop of St. Asaph to officiate at Divine service in the Hall; the Bishop was assisted by some of the choir from St. Asaph, and after the service was over the Bishop left for Corwen where he had stayed the previous night. The service lasted but a short time.  Mr. Savage, inspector of the Windsor police told me that if the Queen had been settled here for any time, she would be sure to have the servants all connected with her present at the service. But as this was an exceptional stay, there were but few at the Bishop’s service.

At 12 noon the Queen went out in her pony carriage, accompanied by Prince Henry andthe Princesses, the Highlanders, a footman, and Hugh Edwardswere to follow at about 50 yards distance, so as to be ready to answer questions if wanted. The procession went slowly down the drive to the back of Brynbwlan, then turnedback to the park gate, and from there down the park to the riverside, crossing the railway at the level crossing. They went along the riverside walk to Brynselwrn Meadow near Calethor brook, and returned the same way. I had a view of the party when starting: it came on a little rain, so the pony stopped a minute or two, then the Queen said something and laughed a little, and then they went on again. They returned at 1 oclock for luncheon. There was a little rain during the afternoon.

Pony Chair
Queen Victoria in her ‘Pony Chair’ in this case drawn by a donkey.  The Highlander may be Francis Clark, mentioned by Thomas on 24th August.  From a print owned by the editor

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Pony Chair
Note her rendering of Llanderfel as ‘Llandifer’.

24th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall






Thomas had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his skill as Head Gardener on Saturday 24th August.  Having provided fruit for the royal breakfast, he once again picked peaches and grapes from the hothouses for the meal in the evening.  As well as this he decorated the table with flowers from the garden, chiefly, it seems carnations and pinks.

Having organised the tennis court for the party in the morning, once again Thomas put out the tennis equipment and was rewarded in the late afternoon by the sight of Princess Beatrice and her husband and Princess Alix with members of their household playing tennis.  Visitors to Palé might bring to mind the sight of the future ill-fated Tsarina of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna playing tennis on a Welsh lawn.

Queen Victoria sent him her bouquet from the previous day and asked him to strike cuttings from the myrtle it contained. Myrtle was very significant to Victoria as she had been given a plant by her late husband’s grandmother some of which was used in her wedding bouquet, and plants from it were established at Osborne in the Isle of Wight, from where royal brides continue to carry sprigs in bridal bouquets.


The highlight of the day came when having arranged a group of flower vases on the Queen’s supper table, he and his wife Frances were invited to view the table arrangement and Frances was allowed to sit in the Queen’s chair.  Thomas records the details of the table setting in a plan (see below).

At 3 o’clock Frances, the children, and myself went to the stand at the station to see the Queen, the Princesses, and Prince Henry, attended by her suite, leave by the Royal train at 3.30 for Ruabon. Her carriage was drawn by a pair of greys. Semi-state carriages from Windsor were to be ready at Ruabon, and the Royal carriages from here went to Ruabon to take the members of the household and servants, and the Indian attendants.

The procession went all the way from Ruabon to Wrexham, through part of the town, and then To Acton park where the children belonging to the various schools were arranged in order. Several addresses were presented to the Queen, in the park, the children sang, and all passed off well. Wrexham was much decorated, and great enthusiasm and good will prevailed all through. Indeed, there was not a disloyal shout heard along the route during the procession. Good nature and fun was the order of the day.

The Indians caused much talk and curiosity. I was told by an onlooker that he heard somebody call out “Here comes the Shah”, and another called out at once “There are four Shahs”.   After the procession passed on, an old lady in the crowd was saying she could not see the Queen; somebody told her the Queen was in the first carriage, an elderly lady, the old lady said “Well, I saw that lady well enough, but she did not wear a crown.”It was calculated that about 12000 to 14000 school children were got together in the park.

Screenshot 2018-08-15 09.30.20
From https://www.wrexham-history.com/queen-victoria-visit-1889/

The Royal party got into the park about 25 minutes past 5 o’clock, and left Wrexham station at 6 o’clock in the Royal train which went to Wrexham from Ruabon.  There were flags and various decorations, and stands for people all the way from Ruabon to Wrexham.

Robert Trebor Roberts (left) and colleague dressed as part of the welcoming ceremonies for Queen Victoria. The Roberts family still has Robert’s trumpet in their possession. Photograph courtesy of the Roberts family.

After I got back from the station, I made up the flower vases for the large dining room table, because the Queen was to dine downstairs with her guests. Mr. Robertson and theBishop of St Asaph (Dr. Edwards) were invited and dined with the Queen. I filled two glass crosses, one glass circle in two parts, six finger glasses, and one tall glass. I had plenty of nice flowers, and an abundance of carnations and picotees. I sent in some fine fruit for the Royal table, and took out the racquets and balls to the tennis ground.

After the royal party got back here, some of the members of the Household and Princesses played at tennis until it got too dark. I was in the dining room at the time, and could see Princess Henry very active.  While I was in the dining room the Queen sent me by Mr. Thompson, her page, the bouquet she had presented to her at Glanllyn the previous day.  The bouquet was presented to the Queen by Miss Williams Wynn, the little daughter and only daughter of Sir Watkin and Lady Williams Wynn.  There was much myrtle in the bouquet, and the Queen wished me to root some of the sprigs for her. I learned afterwards when at Glanllyn that the myrtle came from Llangedwen, the home of the Dowager Lady W. Wynn.

Mr. Thomson said I could take Frances to see the table set ready for the Queen and her guests. We went together to see it and were very pleased to see the arrangements of the table. Mr. Thomson was very kind and would insist upon Frances sitting on the chair which the Queen was to occupy when dining. It was a low chair with a footstool in front of it. Mr. Martin also was very good natured; he is the chief in the pantry for the Queen at Palé. The chief of the Queen’s Indian attendants stood near the door of the dining room, ready to stand behind the Queen’s chair and attend to her wants. Mr. Thomson had to bring the chair from her upstairs dining room, take it up again, and attend to special wants. The table was arranged in the following order –

Thomas’ journal page for August 24th shows his plan of the table for the royal supper, as shown to him by the Queen’s chef.

Mr. Thomson had to see that the table was properly set, and everything correct. Frances and I came away well pleased with our inspection.

Roberts family (Father and nine sons) gave a selection of music on harps and other stringed instruments, and so ended Saturday’s doings – I may add that the Roberts band is well known in most of Wales as very good musicians. Their home is at Newtown, Montgomeryshire.

The Indian who attended to the queen is named the Munshi Hafiz Abdul Karim; he acts as Hindustani instructor-secretary to the queen, and is in great favour with her. Munshi is his title, the rest is his name.

Photographby Robert Milne (1865–1952) of Ballater and Aboyne. Via Wikipedia

Queen Victoria’s account of the afternoon and evening from the middle of this page

23rd August 1889 afternoon and evening

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)






The Queen and her party leave Palé for a brief stop in Bala, and a visit to Sir William Williams Wynne at Glanllyn.  Resident on the estate, Thomas and Frances have a good view of their departure.

In the evening Thomas is present as the Llandderfel choir sings for the Queen in the Staircase Hall at Palé.

At a quarter past four o’clock the Queen was to leave here to go through Bala to Glanllyn.

Before the Queen went out, the Llanderfel Committee of Management headed by the Rev. W. Morgan, Rector, and Mr. Pryce of Bronwylfa presented Her Majesty with a hazel gold mounted walking stick, as a present from Llanderfel district. The stick was grown on the Palé estate. The Queen in English and Welsh thanked the Committee briefly, and then got into her carriage drawn by four grey horses, and followed by her attendants went down the drive and on to Bala and Glanllyn.

At Bala the Queen made a halt for about four minutes to receive an address of welcome and a painting of Bala Lake. The streets of the town were crowded with people who had come very long distances.

At Glanllyn, Sir W. W. Wynn had his tenants to line the drive, and after the Queen left, they were entertained to a luncheon.  The Queen and the Princesses were presented with bouquets at Bala, and Sir Watkin’s little daughter and only child presented a bouquet to Her Majesty at Glanllyn.  Frances and myself had a nice view of the Queen and Her Suite when going down the drive; we were standing out of view at the north side of the Lower Garden. Kate and the children went and stood near the north end of Llanderfel bridge and had a good view of the Royal party when passing.

The Queen got back here about 6.30 o’clock, but we did not see her.

In the evening the Llanderfel choir sang before the Queen in the staircase hall. The Queen with the Hon. Miss Harriet Phipps on her right, and Lady Churchill on her left occupied seats on the landing above the staircase hall, near the entrance to the room above the boudoir. The Queen was sitting down most of the time, her head only being partly visible to those downstairs. The women and girls of the choir were in Welsh costumes. When the singing was over, the Queen shook hands with three of the girls, and told them it was a long time since she heard Welsh singing, and added ‘I suppose you only wear these costumes on special occasions.’

The Staircase Hall, Palé. Anyone who enters should remember Thomas’s view of Queen Victoria keeping time with her fingers on the bannister as the Welsh Choir sang below.

I observed the Queen sometimes keep time with her fingers on the bannisters before her when they were singing. The Prince and the Princesses with members of the household occupied seats at the end of the hall near the door of the drawing room and boudoir. Young Mr. W.T. Jones of Brynmelyn was conductor of the choir, and the Queen told him he had chosen difficult pieces.

We should accept Queen Victoria’s comment on the difficulty of the pieces as a compliment, as the Queen’d Journal expresses her satisfaction and pleasure at the entertainment.

Read the Queen’s journal for these events from the middle of the page here

Queen Victoria is coming – look busy!

Pale j. Thomas

Gardeners on the lawn, Palé Hall, about 1876, photographed by the noted Welsh photographer John Thomas (From the Ruddy Collection)

19th August 1889. Thomas had been concerned and somewhat indignant that Henry Beyer Robertson, recently having become his employer, following the death of Henry Robertson senior, had allowed him insufficient men to get the gardens at Palé tidy.  However, at the last moment and amidst the scurry of final preparations, and the arrival of the Queen’s advance luggage, order was restored to the garden, and good will to employ-employee relationships.

Monday the 19th. An immense quantity of the Queen’s luggage has arrived, about five tons. Every one in authority very busy inside & outside the Hall, preparing for the 23rd.

Thursday the 22nd I have been allowed a little extra help at the 11th hour, but as the weather has been wet, I cannot have things as I could wish.. Mr. Robertson has been indifferent about the fate of the gardens, did not care if I could have the lawns and walks around the house in order. But he has been worried about the indoor arrangements, so that I ought to excuse him. Mr. Robertson has been telling me to leave the gardens rough, and that it was no use to try to have them nice, but today he told me he was glad I cleaned up, and that I had got them very nice.

1887-8 Homes and Gardens

Llantysilio Hall by Eirian Evans, used under Creative Commons licence

On the death of Charles Beyer, Henry Robertson’s business partner in 1876, Llantysilio Hall, the house Beyer had built soon after Robertson had built Palé, was left to Henry Beyer Robertson and Annie Robertson for their lifetimes.  Both were godchildren of Beyer.

More photographs and details here

Thomas was involved with work there in November 1887 following the death of the Head Gardener at Llantysilio.

Thursday the 3rd   Mr Robertson sent me to Llantysilio Gardens to look over the fruit and other things, because Mr Massey the old Gardner had died suddenly the previous day. I left here by the 11.20 which did not stop at Berwyn station, so I had to go onto Llangollen, and as it was sunny and fine, I had a pleasant walk back on the towpath of the canal.  The canal runs along side of the river all the way, and the scenery is beautiful and interesting. I got to Llantysilio at 1 o’clock, and went over the whole establishment with the men. Mr Robertson went from here on business by the first train; he was met at Llangollen by the person who has charge of the Hall and stables, and he, Mr Haynes had orders to meet me and assist me to see the place. The Hall is very large, well furnished, and well-kept, but it is difficult to let it.  It is the property of Mr Robertson’s only son, to whom it was left by his godfather, Mr Bayer (a German ) of the engineering firm of Bayer, Peacock and co. of Manchester (Gorton)  [Footnote by TR: the Co. is Mr Robertson chiefly.] 

The kitchen garden is small and old-fashioned, having two large yew  hedges, broad gravel walks, and diagonal grass walks. The flower garden is also in it. It contains peaches, figs, apricots and pears, et cetera on the walls which do fairly well; and there is the remains of a fine old Mulberry tree in it as a standard, but the tops of the principal limbs have been destroyed by the wind. There is a fine old Walnut tree just outside the kitchen garden with a growth of 13’6″. The Mulberry and walnut must have been planted in the early part of the 17th century – in the reign of James the second – both are evidently of great age. There is a vinery, greenhouse and melon house near the kitchen garden; indeed the melon house is in it.

The situation is very beautiful, almost surrounded by hills, with the Dee sweeping round the park. Mr and Mrs Haynes kindly gave me tea before leaving, which was very acceptable, and Mr Haynes came to Berwyn station with me, where I caught the 4.28 train.  We came through the park by the side of the river, and by the weir at the entrance of the canal, the weir is styled the “Horseshoe Falls”.  From the “Falls” I walked along the canal and over the chain bridge to the station.

In November Thomas visited Llantysilio Hall again.  In typical fashion, he used the time in the area to see a site of local interest:

Monday the 14th [November] I had to go again to Llantysilio to settle about various things. I have charge of the gardens and men for the present. I went by the 9.39 train, alighting at Berwyn station. After seeing the men and looking over things, I went across the fields by a pathway to Valle Crucis Abbey and the pillar of Eliseg.  The ruins of the abbey are by the side of a small stream with two sloping riches of hills on either side, and shut in by hills at each end. The situation is very beautiful and of great interest. The abbey is the finest monastic ruin in North Wales, it is said.  Thomas follows with information about Valle Crucis.

He was back at Llantysilio again later in the same month:

Tuesday 22nd I left here for Llantysilio and Llangollen by the 9.33 train. I got out at Berwyn station, crossed the river by the Chain bridge, and walked along the side of the canal to the very beautiful weir constructed by Telford.  The Llangollen people call it the “Horseshoe Falls”. Bryntysilio, the seat of Sir Theodore Martin immediately overlooks it, and Llantysilio church is a little farther on. When I got to the gardens, I had a look round and afterwards saw all through the Hall of Llantysilio which is very substantial, and well furnished. I got onto the outside of the water tower from which I had a beautiful view of the Vale and neighbourhood.  Plas Berwyn just on the opposite side of the river; it is a nice looking hole of moderate size, with a small sized garden attached, which is only partly walled in, and with one or two hothouses. This (Plas Berwyn) is the seat of Major Tottenham, but he has another seat and estate in Wicklow. Major and Mrs Tottenham have been here to see the gardens several times.

After seeing about, I started to walk to Llangollen at 12:20. I got onto the side of the canal, and walked very fast all the way, arriving in town a little after 1 o’clock.  I was very pleased to see the crossbills on my way there; a flock of six flew on to an ash tree where they soon began to eat the kernels of the seeds. I also saw two or three feeding on the Larch cones opposite Llangollen Bridge, on the side of the canal.

When in town I arranged with Mrs Ellis the greengrocer about the fruit and vegetables of Llantysilio Gardens, and got a blank book to continue my journal at Horsepool’s Fancy Shop.

Advertisement for Horspool’s shop from a newspaper of the 1880’s
The new journal purchased from Horspools
Opening pages of the new journal

In April 1888, soon after the death of Henry Robertson, Thomas was back at Llantysilio:

Thursday the 26th I went to Llantysilio.  At lunch I went for a ramble through the young covert leading westward to the river. I had the pleasure of seeing the lesser spotted woodpecker for the first time.  It was on an old tree near the gardens (an ash tree) and I followed it from tree to tree, and observed it tapping the trees, and running over the trunks and limbs in search of food.  Its peculiar note first attracted my attention. I was very highly pleased to see it. I brought home a few fine bunches of primroses for the ladies here, who made a wreath with some of them and placed it on their father’s grave.

In May Henry Beyer Robertson involved Thomas in further work at Llangollen, this time at a house known as Woodlands, the former railway station of the town.  Thomas was not to know that in 1906, on his retirement, he would move to Woodlands, provided for him by Roberson, by then, Sir Henry.

Monday the 14th I went to Llangollen to see about cropping the garden at the Woodlands, a villa belonging to Mr Robertson. After looking over the garden, I went to Llantysilio by way of Valle Crucis Abbey. I had my luncheon sitting on the hillside opposite the abbey; after my luncheon, I went to see the ruins, but did not go inside. I examined the outside with much interest and as the rubbish has been cleared away, there is much to be seen from the outside.  The western or main entrance must have been very beautiful; it is now of great interest to those who take interest in such buildings.  The only plant of interest to be seen was the wall-flower, which grew on the ruined walls. Several good walnut trees grow on the side of the avenue, but they are not of the same age as the ruins.

Valle Crucis Abbey by Robert Edwards from Geograph and used under creative commons license

[the rest of pages 14 and 15 are historical details re Valle Crucis]

 From the abbey I went to Llantysilio; I botanised on the way, and found the Monchia and Filago minimaon the road side opposite the abbey, and the cowslip plentiful in the pasture between the abbey and Llantysilio.  I came home with the 5.19, much pleased with my day at Llangollen.

Friday the 18th I went again to Llangollen to get men to work the Woodlands garden, after arranged for manure, and while the men were at dinner I went for a ramble along the canal side to near the Sun Inn. [The next sentence heavily scored out – appears he thought he had found a rare plant – assume he later found himself mistaken – Followed by a long list of plants found]

…… From the road and canal I went up a winding Lane plus past Erwwen and Caecock and lunched sitting on the block of limestone…….I next went up to Dinas Bran, had a beautiful view around …… From Llangollen I went to the Woodlands again and from there home by the 5.19.  The Woodlands was formerly the railway station of Llangollen, but when the railway was extended to Corwen, the present station was built.

Siamber Wen From the collections of the National Monuments Record of Wales © Copyright: National Buildings Record Collection

Wednesday the 23rd I went to Llangollen to see the Woodlands again. After I got the men to work I had a look through Siamber Wen gardens, the residence of the misses Robertson, sisters to the late Mr Robertson. The house is on the north side of the canal, opposite Llangollen Bridge.  It is a nice little place, and the house being like a miniature castle, it has a striking appearance.  Miss Anne Robertson kindly went over the place with me and showed me the rooms, and offered me wine, and was very kind.  from there I walked along the side of the canal to Pontrefelin, and then past the Abbey to Llantysilio.  

Description and photographs of Siamber Wen http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/27888/details/siambr-wen-siamber-wen-wern-road-llangollen#images

The 1891 census for Wales shows three Robertson sisters living at Siamber Wen

Henry Robertson’s three unmarried sisters, Christina, Anne and Jessie lived at Siamber Wen in 1888 when Thomas visited them.  Anne and Jessie had lived there at least from 1861, together with their brother John, who died at Siamber Wen in 1883.  It is not clear when their sister Christina joined them.

Thomas left the Robertson family in their castellated villa, and botanised as he returned home full of the joys of spring.

I saw several species of pondweed in the canal, the Teesdalia moenchia, Filago etc. on the roadside when skirting Y Foel Abbey, the hill opposite the Abbey. I found the Lysimachia vulgaris  in a ditch between the Abbey and Llantysilio when I went that way on the fourteenth. I saw nothing else of much interest. I got home from Llantysilio by the 5.19, much pleased.

Lysimachia Vulgaris