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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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  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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 tunneland 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 Llandrilloas the church clock struck 4 , and through Corwen as the clock  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.  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.
Every few pages whilst transcribing Thomas’ journal I come across a delightful vignette of Victorian life. Here, Thomas, going for a walk (presumably after a day’s work) on a hot evening, takes a dip in a small lake and meets a friend who is encouraged to do the same. Research shows that throughout the 19th century it was commonplace for men to bathe nude, and there was some resistance to the use of ‘bathing drawers’ for males. When sea bathing by ladies, dressed in voluminous bathing dresses come into fashion, there was pressure on the males to ‘cover up’ and the use of bathing machines for sea bathing was introduced. Male nude bathing because particularly scandalous and a cause of conflict at the fashion sea bathing venue of Brighton.
Meanwhile, Thomas, and later his friend, seem happy to strip off and wade into the small lake. I do not think that Thomas learned to swim – he makes no reference to it, and rarely spent time at the seaside except for his brief Folkestone honeymoon and fall trips to Barmouth.
The location of Thomas’ bathe gave me some trouble, but his description of the walk to and from the lake suggests it is Llyn Caer Euni. He sometimes mis-spells place names if he has not seen them written down, but is usually very accurate and painstaking with Welsh place names.
Saturday the 18th [June] I left here at 4 PM for Llyn Creini. It was very warm all day and I felt it very warm walking, (it had been 77° in the shade). I went through Ty Ucha fields and left Bethel on my right and got to Bethel and Creini road on top of the hill overlooking the lake. It was so pleasant by the lake that I went into it and had a pleasant bathe.
Mr Michael Jones (the Principal of Bala Independent College) came to me when I was dressing and was tempted to do as I had done.
I collected several interesting plants by the lake, which I wished to have ready for the members of the North Staffordshire field club. I got the Listora cordata, Isoetes lacustris, Lobelia Dortmanii, Habenaria albidas, and sundew. I got to Sarnau I got the Moenchia, Pilulasia, etc. I found Tommy (home for Jubilee) and Willie waiting for me at the river bridge. I saw the true yellow wagtail at Sarnau; I was pleased to see it, for I had not seen it for 10 years. Thomas walked approximately 11-12 miles, arriving back to find his eldest son home from work at Plas Power colliery to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
In May 1884 another baby was born to Thomas’ growing family:
Sunday, May 18th Baby born at 7:50 o’clock. Her name is to be the same as her mother Francis Harriett, and it will include part of her grandmother’s name. All passed over very well and Mrs Williams was here at the time. Mrs. Owen came to the rescue shortly after until nurse arrived. Doctor arrived at 7:10.
For reference to her grandmother, Harriott Pamplin, neé Dench, see here
Mrs. Owen was the Housekeeper at Palé and was to become Godmother to baby Frances Harriett. This suggests how closely the staff and the family of the ‘big house’ were concerned with the Ruddy family. Their assistance would have been essential to enable Thomas to carry on as widowed father after the death of his first wife, Mary. He appeared to able to go on with his work, natural history and geology expeditions and in due course court, marry and go on honeymoon with his second wife whilst the three quite young children of his first marriage were adequately cared for. The Welsh census returns of each decade also show a living in general maid at the Garden House.
I have not been able to get the dimensions of the Garden House at Palé; it is a substantial house, but by 1884 was becoming well-populated. With Thomas and his wife, there were the three children of the first marriage, Thomas Alexander (15), William Pamplin (12) and Mary Emily (11) The eldest son of the second marriage, Henry Ernest was 2, there was the new baby, the live-in servant Jane and Mrs. Williams, Frances’ mother, was staying with them.
Thomas’ ever increasing collections must have needed a growing amount of space, and as is clear from an entry later in 1884, there were always people anxious to come and see them, even with a very new baby in the house:
Friday 30th May Mr and Mrs Aitken of Urmston Manchester came to see my fossils. Mr Aitken is president of the Manchester Geological Society. He was with the party I acted as a guide to last year and who went to Llanwydden. He examined my collection very minutely and was very pleased to see it. He said he never thought to see such a fine collection of Bala fossils although he was told I had a good one.
His wife was a very affable lady and enjoyed herself with Francis and Mrs Williams. They came by the 5.20 train and went to Bala by the last from here as they were going to stay at the Lion Hotel. I met them at the train and we had tea ready for them of which they willingly partook. I gave him some nice Bala fossils and went to the station with them after they saw the garden.
Thursday, June 19 Major K. McKenzie of the Indian staff Corps brought his wife and daughter to see my collections. They were very much interested in the fossils, birds eggs, dried plants, minerals and coins. The lady was much interested in the plants as she is a botanist. They were here an hour and a half and wished they had more time to stay. They were very much surprised to see such very interesting collections, and they repeatedly said they wished they had made my acquaintance long before. I showed them the circulation of the sap in the Nitella and other interesting things under the microscope. They were very pleasant and affable, enjoyed their visit and wished they could come again but they leave Bodwenni for Llandudno on Monday.
Thomas was a loving and quite hands-on father by contemporary standards, recording events in the progress of his new daughter:
June 1 Whitsun Day Francis came downstairs to have dinner for the first time since baby was born. Monday 9th Francis and baby out for first time.
Sunday the 15th Baby was christened at Llanderfel church by Reverend William Morgan. Mr Pamplin was Godfather and Mrs Owen an old friend was Godmother. [Mrs. Owen, Housekeeper at Palé Hall. ed.] Mrs. Williams was at the ceremony. Name – Frances Harriett Ruddy.
Thomas, however was not to be deterred from his lengthy expeditions, which seem to have been essential to his well-being as a busy Head Gardener and devoted husband and father.
Thursday, June 12 I left here by the 9.10 train for Arenig station to have a ramble along the railway down Cwm Prysor Valley.
I got to Arenig by 10 o’clock and at once started up the line past Pont Rhydefen and the north end of Arenig. It was very warm and fine; the cuckoos were calling to one another, the larks  were singing merrily above me as I passed along; and the Riverside meadows were blue and white with wild hyacinths and daisies. The only interesting plant I saw until I got to the little lake of Tryweryn was the globe flower.
I walked along the south side of the lake where I saw plenty of the yellow waterlily I found the Isoetes and Littorella lacustris but no Lobelia or any other interesting plant. No shells. At Nant-du, not far from the lake, I examined an old lead mine, which was abandoned about 10 years ago. It was in the Llandeilo slates, had to shafts, some buildings, machinery, and a water wheel. I saw no minerals but as the debris consisted of fine slates I could hardly expect to find any.
I got on the line a little beyond the lake and examined the various rock cuttings through which I passed. I found plenty of Lingulas in the Lingula slates between the lake and viaduct. The Lingula shales between the lake were much iron stained and  I saw many thin veins and patches of iron pyrites. I saw the junction of the Lingula shales with the igneous rock, but they did not alter in the least, and the shales lay conformably upon the igneous which was distinctly bedded under them or at least seen so. I shall give sections of the rocks at the end of the account of the day’s rambling. I saw a pair of golden plovers on the moors and several sandpipers along the mountain streams.
I crossed the viaduct which is 12 1/2 miles from Bala and 13 1/2 from Ffestiniog at 10 minutes plus past 12 o’clock; it was then very warm but not at all oppressive as the mountain air seemed to be so bracing. The viaduct is very substantially built a variety of Felstone ash which was quarried on the mountain about one of the half miles distant. It consists of nine arches the middle arches being 100 feet in height. It spans a small stream called Nant Lladron, which runs down and narrow but deep treeless dingle. This structure is the second built as the first fell when nearly finished. I found a ring ouzel’s nest with five eggs about 12 3/4 miles from Bala and some nice crystals of feldspar at the same place.
I had a rough walk over a fearfully rough ballast; which was made up of rough lumps of igneous rock. I went through several rock cuttings where the igneous rocks were distinctly interbedded with Lingula shells, sometimes A bed of igneous would be between two beds of shale without altering either the dip or character of the shales.
I got to a large overhanging mass of igneous rock at a 1:45 o’clock; it was a fine mass and partly overhanging the rails. The line between this rock and the fire that is over and most difficult ground, as it runs along the side of a rocky slope all the way. The rocks stand high above it and the sides sloping down from eight of us, rocky, and strewn withrocky fragments. I found the Arabis hirsuta and the Hypericum androsemum on the big rock.  I saw several frames of quartz rock, but could not see any metallic veins. One quartz vein seemed to be auriferous, but I could not detect any visible specks. A little beyond the big rock is an isolated mound called Castell Prysor. I got onto it at 2:10 o’clock. The mound is certainly an ordinary mound like many others in Wales, and which are nothing else but sepulchral mounds. It is entirely made up of loose fragments of rock and earth; there is no masonry of any kind. Two openings were made into the side of it, but were not deep enough to find sepulchral remains. It was placed on a rocky bus of hard igneous rock, overlooking the river Prysor, and not far from the old road leading from Bala to Trawsfynydd. The mound is about the size of the Bala one.
At 2:30 o’clock I’ve got to a little lake short way from the line; it is called on the map Llyn-rhythllyn. (in a later hand – Distributed perch in it Jany 1898)  I was tired and thirsty so that I sat down on the stone which stood in the water at the side of the lake and began to eat for the first time since breakfast. It was very pleasant as there was a breeze blowing over the lake and the cool water was so refreshing. Before eating I washed my hands and face. While sitting on the stone I saw a leech about 4 inches in length. I saw plenty of Lobelia and Isoetes in this lake with the Littorella and a bit of Utricularia floating about. I saw freshwater sponges, could not find a single shell.
The lake is oblong, about a mile long and half a mile broad. It was shutting by local grassy hills, but no trees. I saw some little fish run away from the side, and I was told by a friend that there are perch in it, but I think I have read somewhere about char being in it. About half a mile from the lake I left the line and got into some upland pastures where I found several fine patches of the pretty little Mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica. Near it grew a plant of the Gymnadenia orchis and quantities of the beautiful Vicia orobus which is so plentiful in Merioneth.
I got onto the road leading from Trawsfynydd to Bala at a farm house called Glanllafarwhere I cross the stream on the slab of stone 12 feet in length and another half that. The stream must be the Llafar as GlanLlafar means on the side of the Llafar. Shortly after I passed by a ditch full of water and sphagnum where I found the Utricularia again.
I got to Trawsfynydd station at 4:10 o’clock. The country between Arenig and Trawsfynydd is not of much interest; a good part of it is wild moorland, and the sides of the Prysor river is wild rocky and treeless on the other side. There are a few farm houses down the valley, with patches of cultivation, but the most of it is pasture.
When I got to Trawsfynydd station I pushed on to try and get to Tomen y Mûr but ongetting halfway I found it would be too much for me as it was very warm and all uphill, so I turned back by the old road called Sarn Helen to the village of Trawsfynydd entering it by the north end at Pencarrig Street. I saw a nice row of houses with the fronts nearly covered with Cotoneaster Microphylla in bloom. The village is a large one with good houses, some shops, four chapels, and a good hotel called the Cross Foxes.
The church is in a very bad situation at the back of some old houses; it is very low roofed with square headed windows, and is like two churches built along side of each other with a gutter in the roof between them. It is dedicated to St Mary. I had a glass of ale in the Cross Foxes which was a very nice house and a very obliging landlady.
In my wanderings about I met a friend, Mr John Morris Jones, builder there. He very kindly took me to his house and got tea ready for me, which I much enjoyed as I was thirsty and tired. I stayed with him till train time. He told me that Llyn-rhythllyn and most of the land in Cwm Prysor and on to the Arenig belongs to Sir Watkin W. Wynn and that he owned most of the property about the village. He also told me that Trawsfynydd was a very important little place before the coast railway was made round by Barmouth and Harlech as all the traffic was from Dolgelly through Trawsfynydd and the village of Maentwrog into Carnarvonshire.
I had a very fine views of the mountains from near the village. The Arenig on the east then kept it address in the west then Llawlech, Llether, Rhinog-fach Rhinog-fawr Y Graig Dwg and Diphusys in the north-west. I could see the mountain pass called Bwlch Drws between Rhinog fawr and Rhynog-fach. Moel Siabod and the Moelwyns shut out the north. The village of Trawsfynydd is said to be situated at a greater altitude than any village in Wales.
Throughout the summer Thomas records several further expeditions in some detail. It is clear that as well as searching for fossils, Thomas has become very interested in botany, and records here some of his plant finds.
Huw Lloyd’s Pulpit, oil on panel by James Stark, 1794-1858 from the collection of the V &A Museum. Visited and climbed by Thomas in June 1883
Thomas Ruddy, at age 41 was very well settled in the Bala area. He was obviously trusted by his employers the Robertson family, was well- known in the area and beyond as a naturalist, geologist, judge of local produce and leader of geological and scientific expeditions. It would seem that by the year 1883 the man and the landscape he inhabited were at one.
He was the father of four children, three by his late first wife Mary, and a new baby son with his second wife Frances Harriet. His friendship with the eminent naturalist and former London bookseller William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret was warm and firmly established. Thomas had in effect become that ‘gentleman’ he dreamed of being when he first chose gardening as his profession.
The Journal entries for the year reflect the settled state of Thomas’ life as he entered his middle years. Even the harsh conditions of the winter and their effect on the garden could not disturb his equilibrium.
April 1st, Sunday. Nothing particular to mention, except the weather so far. It was changeable all January, very fine most of February, but exceedingly cold nearly the whole of March. The wind was piercingly cold, there was a lot of snow, and hard frost –culminating in 19 ½ deg. on Saturday 10th. Nearly 15 inches of snow fell during the month. It was the coldest March I ever remember. A good many things were injured by it in the garden and
As the weather became warmer, geology expeditions continued as usual:
May 22nd I went geologizing to the hills and mountains above Cynwych [SJ 056 411] It was a very warm day so that I was very tired on getting home. I took particular note of the beds on the ridge of the Berwyns between the two roads going over the Berwyns south of Moel Ferna – I brought home some good fossils.
May 30 (Wednesday) I had a short time at my hunting ground near Gelli Grin where I found a starfish, and the first so far perfect I ever found so that I was highly pleased.
Saturday June 2nd I went to Rhosygwaliau, from there to Caerglas, then along the ridge to Cornilau, from there to Brynbedwog, from there to Gelli Grin, and then home. I had a very fine day and found some good fossils, among which was a rolled up Homalonotus
Via Wikipedia Image by smokeyjbj
On a June 5th Mrs Williams, Frances Harriet’s mother arrived to stay for five weeks, in order to make the acquaintance of her new grandson. A number of excursions were undertaken, among them this expedition to Ffestiniog by rail and foot. Once again we see Thomas very accomplished and lively writing style.
In July the family took advantage of the growing availability of photography to record the arrival of the new baby:
Tuesday July 3rd Frances, Mother, baby and I went to Llangollen by the 9.35 train. The principal object in going was to have baby photographed. After he got “taken” we had some refreshments, and after that we set out for the top of Castell Dinas Bran. The donkey boys made several efforts to get us to patronise them, and a ragamuffin of a girl offered to sing us a song either in Welsh or in English for a halfpenny. After that an old lady offered to sell us guide books. It was a very warm day so that we found it no easy climb, but by repeated rests and I carrying baby we got up all right. It was the first time for Mother to be on top, and it was good work for a lady of 75 years of age. The ladies had a good long rest while I explored the hill and the ruins in search of plants, but I got nothing new…
We are left with a charming portrait of a day out for a late Victorian family in Mid Wales, but sadly the baby photograph is not to be found – perhaps edited out by its adult subject during his curating of the family papers in the first part of the 20th century.
Thomas was in demand for judging local horticultural shows, and of course he could always be side-tracked by an object of local history!
Tuesday July 10th Mr. Evans of Rhiwlas and I had a days judging of Cottage Gardens in connection with the Corwen Flower Show. Mr. Bennett of Rug met us at Llandrillo with a trap and drove us about from garden to garden. We went from Llandrillo to Cynwydd, from there over the hill by Caenmawr, Salem Chapel and Pont-pren to Llawerbettws, from there to Rug, from Rug to Llansantffraid. We had tea with Mr. Owen and then crossed by the fine bridge spanning the Dee to the Corwen road, and then on to Corwen.
We had a very good dinner at the Crown and after awarding the prizes we went about the town. I saw the shaft of the ancient cross in the churchyard, which is 8 feet in height. I also saw what is called Owen Glyndwr’s dagger, but it is only a rude cross. The ancient cross seems to be early Christian, 7th – 10th century, I would say. Most of the gardens we inspected were very clean and well-cropped. I was appointed to take notes of them and to draw up a Report of them. The day was very fine, with the exception of a shower between Cynwedd and Salem Chapel.
At the age of 41 Thomas could look back with some satisfaction at his fulfilment of his erly ambition to raise his status and satisfaction in life through the medium of gardening.
Some months ago I booked a holiday on the Isle of Man. I had been on the Island a full 24 hours before it occurred to me that once again I was following in the footsteps of Thomas Ruddy, who worked there between 1863 and 1865. He had chosen the Island over an tempting vacancy in London, since it offered him a further career enhancement in due course:
I had the offer of two situations the same day, one was to go to be journeyman
at Lambeth Palace London, which I declined; the other to go to the Isle of Man in a place where I was to get the foreman’s place when he left, this I accepted.
A web search showed The Nunnery to be about a mile and a half from our hotel in Douglas, so early one morning I set out in search of it. Past the harbour and railway station over the river bridge, and a little way up the hill, I came across a promising- looking gatehouse.
I had discovered that The Nunnery is now part of the University of the Isle of Man, and a private site. A knock on the impressive wooden door brought a gatekeeper, who confirmed that it was indeed The Nunnery. He invited me to explore the site further, but time was pressing, and already a sprint would be required to return me to the hotel in time for the day’s excursion. Thomas lost out in favour of a journey up Snaefell on the electric railway, but I had tracked him down and followed his footsteps to the very gate of his workplace in the 1860’s.
The previous day had brought an expedition to the superb museum in Peel, the House of Mannanen, housed in Peel’s former railway station. Lingering in the vestibule, a familiar name caught my eye:
Here was my link with Henry Robertson, whose eldest son was Henry Beyer Robertson, named after his Godfather, Charles Beyer. Robertson was co-founder in 1854 of Beyer, Peacock and Co with Charles Beyer and Richard Peacock. Based at Gorton Foundry, in Gorton, Manchester, it would become one of the world’s leading locomotive manufacturers. Robertson knew Beyer because he supplied some of the locomotives to his railways. He was a sleeping partner but his connections with the Great Western Railway proved useful in securing orders.
On the recommendation of Thomas Brassey, Robertson provided the loan, when the original loan of banker Charles Geach fell through. Robertson and Beyer subsequently became close friends for life; Beyer was godfather of Robertson’s daughter in 1854 and of his son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson ten years later.
It is now twelve years since I first opened the trunk of Ruddy and Pamplin family papers left in my keeping by Thomas’ grandson the Revd. Denys Ruddy. They have been fascinating, with many discoveries and opportunities arising, together with a sense of responsibility for interpreting, publicising and handing on the papers and artefacts. This is complicated as they are not related to my own family story.
So far, among other things, the enterprise has taken me:
* To the Garden Museum in London, where the journals of William Pamplin the elder (1768 – 1864) have now been donated.
* To the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, where I sat with Queen Victoria’s journal (as edited by her daughter Beatrice) to read the Queen’s account of her visit in 1889 to Palé Hall
* To Cyfarftha Castle Museum in Merthyr Tydfil to see the two detailed drawings by William Pamplin the elder of the water wheel and works there, see here .
* Correspondence with the Natural History Museum where I discover that Thomas Ruddy donated over one thousand fossil specimens collected by him from the Bala series of rocks.
* To the Grosvenor Museum in Chester to donate the Kingsley Medal awarded to Thomas in 1889, with the related correspondence.
Sadly, attempts to communicate with the present owners of Palé Hall have met with no response.
Sometimes, the task ahead seems daunting. I am as yet not even a third of the way through transcribing the journals: occasionally I wonder whether it is all worth while. But it is these moments when Thomas Ruddy, his friend William Pamplin and his employer Henry Robertson intrude into my life – sometimes at the most unexpected moments – I know they and their stories will not let me go. I remain firmly in their grip.
On July 14th 1881 Frances Harriet Williams arrived in Llanderfel where she stayed for over a month with her uncle and aunt William and Margaret Pamplin. Her mother, Frances Williams, had been in Llanderfel the previous month. Nothing is said in Thomas’ journal about the events of these two visits, beyond descriptions of walks taken, but since Thomas was to marry Frances Harriet in October 1881, one can conjecture that Mrs. Williams was asked permission to marry her daughter in June and that a proposal was made to Frances Harriet in July or August.
The July/August visit must have been an important one, since a marriage proposal to Frances H. would involve her becoming stepmother to three youngsters – Thomas Alexander aged 13, William P. aged 9 and Mary Emily aged 7. Frances Harriet Williams was herself already aged 35 and must have been considered by her family as perhaps unlikely to marry.
Thomas reveals nothing as Frances H. leaves Lllanderfel in August 1881. the next time she returns she will be Mrs. Ruddy. ‘August 19th I went to Ruabon to see Miss Williams off to London. Afterwards I rambled about and walked back to Llangollen. I got a few shells on the way and also plants, but nothing new to me. ‘
Thomas records in detail a walk ascending Cader Idris with companions from the Chester Society on August 23rd (see future post) and the same walk with Master Robertson’s current tutor and former tutor on September 3rd, his description including a very competent geological sketch:
Then on Friday October 7th 1881 Thomas departs for London by train, and at last there is confirmation of the forthcoming marriage: Mr. Williams and his dear sister (my intended wife) met me at the train. I was delighted to see them, and they were no less so to see me, so that our meeting was as happy as it was enthusiastic. Our faces beamed with joy, and we were all excitement. We got a cab, which took us to 25 Kennington Park Road SE about a quarter past 8 o’clock. Mrs. Williams was waiting to welcome me to her home. I was soon at home and most comfortable. We all spent a happy evening together.
The next two days are spent meeting close family friends of the Williams’ and going to church three times: Sunday was very fine. We went to Newington Church in the morning, and Frances and I went to the afternoon service in the Abbey. After service we looked through it to see the monuments. Got introduced to Miss Neate in the evening. All had tea together and went to St. Thomas’s Church Lambeth. Mr. Starey the vicar preached.
So far, so good. But Thomas was Thomas, and how could he resist visiting two Museums in the capital devoted to his enduring passions, natural history and geology. Miss Williams can have been in no doubt about the abiding interests of her future husband. Fortunately, she seems to have shared his interest: Monday 10th Frances and I went by the District or Underground Railway from Westminster Bridge to South Kensington. Visited the Geological Museum there. I was highly interested with what I saw in the way of fossils. Saw the skeleton of a mastodon 18 feet in length, a Dinotherium with tusks 4 or 5 yards in length and a mammoth with tusks 4 yards in length. I also saw a fine male and female Irish Elk, Ground Sloth, and a cast of monster armadillo.
Among the Saurians I saw fine specimens of the following: Plesiosaurus, Ichthyosaurus and Pterodactyl, with many others. I saw a fine collection of bones from caves. I had a letter of introduction from Mr. Palin to young Mr. Etheridge, whom I found to be very courteous and willing to show me the Silurian Collection. I can say that Mr. Etheridge is quite an enthusiastic geologist. The British Caradoc or Bala collection is very poor. Frances and I stayed 2 and a half hours in the Museum. We went from S.K. station to Kew Gardens. We had but a little over a couple of hours. The palm house is very good. The collection being well-grown and clean. The Lily House is also very nice and interesting with its lilies, valisneria [aquatic foliage plant] and other rare plants. The Fern House has a good and clean collection.
Tuesday 11th Frances and I went to the Geological Museum, Jermyn Street [Established 1853, transferred to Exhibition Rd. S. Kensington 1935, taken over by the Natural History Museum 1985 see here ] I can say that there is a magnificent collection of minerals and fossils, and all beautifully arranged. The collection of Bala fossils is very good, and the Irish specimens are very good, but many of the British specimens are poor. Indeed, I could only see very miserable representatives of many of our Welsh species. Mr. Newton kindly opened the cases for me, so that I might examine them critically.
At some time Thomas must have set about rectifying the poor collection of Brutish Bala fossils, as I have established that there are over 1,000 specimens collected by Thomas held at present by the Natural History Museum.
By Wednesday Thomas and Frances Harriet had re-focussed on their marriage, and by mid-day on Thursday they were husband and wife: Wednesday 12thMr. Williams and I went to Doctor’s Commons, near St. Paul’s to get the marriage license. After getting it we went as far as the Bank of England, the Mansion House, Royal Exchange, down Cornhill; and afterwards got back to Queen Victoria Street, and saw the Civil Service Stores, then home over Blackfriars Bridge.
Thursday the 13th at 11 o’clock I was married to Frances Harriett Williams at St. Mary’s Church, Newington S.E. Mr. Palmer the rector officiated, and also delivered a very beautiful address. Miss Neate acted as bridesmaid, and Mr. Irvine as best man. Her brother Mr. Williams gave her away, and her mother was present. All of us signed the Marriage Register. We had a very beautiful day with the sun shining, so that we wished the old saying to be true, ‘happy is the bride the sun shines on’. We all enjoyed ourselves up till 4 o’clock, when Frances and I took our departure for London Bridge Station amidst a shower of rice.
Thomas had lost his first wife Mary in June 1879, and by 1881 he was drawing nearer to the Pamplin family, and in particular, to Frances Harriet Williams, niece of his friend William Pamplin. In particular he refers to a significant visit from Frances H and her mother Frances Williams, nee Pamplin, in February 1881.
Walking was always central to Thomas’ life, and several walks are recorded in the journal of the first half of 1881. His friends, made mainly via the Chester Society and further acquaintances recommended by friends from the Society seem to have been central in his rehabilitation following Mary’s death.
A Bank holiday walk on April 18th with Mr. Jebb, whom he met on the highest summit of the Berwyns, took him on a 20 mile round trip, ending with a meal at the ‘smartest’ hotel in Bala, the White Lion. Thomas’ friends were usually from a ‘higher’ echelon of society, as discerned by the scrupulous social order of Victorian Society, but his geological and botanical knowledge gave him the edge in any expedition into the hills.
On May 4th the Vicar of Runcorn, the Revd. William Preston arrived, introduced by a letter from Mr. Shrubsole of the Chester Society, to view Thomas’ fossil collection, and be taken on a fossil hunting expedition.
On May 10thThomas walked with Mr. Dean, the brother of Mrs. Robertson, wife of his employer. Thomas quite frequently spent time in the company of John Dean, who seems to have shared his interest in the countryside, and who no doubt relied on Thomas as guide and interpreter of the environment.
On Tuesday 4th June Thomas set out from William and Margaret Pamplin’s house with Mrs. Williams, mother of Thomas’ future second wife, for a lengthy walk to Pont y Glyn. William was at this time 75 years old, and Frances Williams 73. It is interesting that Frances, who had been a widow since 1866, was visiting alone, since the friendship between Thomas and her daughter had become so close. Was she perhaps visiting to enable Thomas to ask her permission to propose marriage to Frances Harriet?
The walk was about 7 miles, over testing mountainous country, to a height of 430 metres (400 ft) Thomas comments on the sprightly nature of his companions (Margaret Pamplin was younger – only 43 at the time.) From Pont y Glyn they returned by ‘a conveyance’. Would it be necessary to book this in advance, I wonder, or could one find a conveyance in the village, or stop one passing on the road?
To end an exciting day, Thomas records feeling a sizeable earthquake in the evening. his own world was certainly in the process of change. I wonder whether he regarded it as an omen?
Sept 17th Friday. I went with Mr. & Mrs. Pamplin and his niece Miss F.H Williams to Dolgelly.
This is Thomas’ first mention of his future wife, Frances Harriet. It is unclear to what extent there was a degree of matchmaking on the part of her uncle William Pamplin. William himself had been widowed in 1876 when his first wife Caroline died from cancer. William married Margaret Parry, a local woman considerably younger than himself, two years later in 1878. One interesting point is that Frances’ mother, Frances Williams did not join the walk, although she was usually included in later walks. It is likely that she had accompanied her daughter to Wales, but the party consisting of Mr and Mrs Pamplin, Thomas and Frances encouraged an opportunity for conversation on a walk of some length.
We went with the first train to Bontnewyd. On our route we could see the effects of the great floods – the debris of bridges strewn in the bed of the rivers; riverside meadows covered with large stones, sand and gravel. There were plenty of signs of destruction all along the line from Llanwchllyn to Bontnewyd [SH771 201]. From Bontnewyd we went up past the village of Brithdir [SH767188] to the head of the Torrent Walk. The village is scattered about; the bulk of the houses being covered with creepers; the tropaeoleum speciosum being very conspicuous. There was an Independent Chapel in the village, and a school a little further on. From the village we had beautiful and extensive views. South of us stood Aran, on the north conspicuous were the cone of Moel Offrum and the high Rhobell-faur. West of us stood Cader Idris in all its beauty, its east side showing the steepness of it. The walk by the torrent was most pleasing; numerous cascades or steep slopes of rock, down which the water rushed; deep gorges when the water disappeared, overhung with lichen covered trees; the rocky slopes of the torrent being covered with moss, ferns or flowers. The little filmy fern (H. Wilsonii) being most beautiful and abundant.
We lunched by the torrent, and strolled down leisurely until we arrived at Dolserau gate. We next went through the grounds of Dolgûn [SH747184] which pleased my friends very much. I showed them the old smelting work, the beautiful trees of Dolgûn, and rare ferns, especially the Ceterach and a branching, fronded Asplenium trichomanes. We were all delighted with the walk, and as it was all new to my friends, they were full of admiration. On our way to Dolgelly we found the Tutsan St. John’s wort by the roadside. We crossed the river Aran which runs down from Cader, and got into Dolgelly by 3 pm. We had a substantial meat tea at the Talbot Hotel, where we were most comfortable.
After tea we walked out to Cymmer Abbey. On the way we passed the young ladies’ school, Dickson’s Nursery and the mansion of Hengwrt – once the residence of a noted antiquary Robert Vaughan. My friends stayed on the road in sight of the abbey while I went to see it. On my way down I saw fine walnut trees in the grounds. I entered the ruin which is a long nave with three windows (lancet) in the east end, the entrance being at the west end. The walls were built of shale except the coigns and mouldings. A great quantity of Asplenium trichomanes and the pellitory of the wall grew on the walls. The garden is a square attached to the abbey, but it has no very old trees. Along the south boundary wall there is a ditch full of water cress, showing that the monks cultivated it. The abbey is situated, as abbeys usually are, in a beautiful spot at the entrance to Llanelltyd valley, and close to the river Mawddach. We returned to Dolgelly at the back of Hengwrt, where we got charming views. While waiting until train time, we had a stroll about the town, which is famed for short, crooked streets, houses with entrances by outside steps, and everything in confusion. We returned home in good spirits and delighted with our very interesting and pleasant trip.
For both Frances Harriet and Thomas the walk was something of a test of their mutual suitability. Frances had been brought up in a town, but seems to have sustained two walks, the first about four and a half miles, partly over rough terrain, the second at least two and a half miles. This must have seemed satisfactory to Thomas, who was to lead her on many such demanding expeditions for the rest of her life. On her part, Frances appears to have relished Thomas’ commentary on all things botanical, geological and historic encountered along the way. This is not surprising as she was the grand daughter of a nurseryman and botanist, and the niece of a botanist and botanical bookseller. No wonder Thomas returned delighted and in good spirits from what was to be a very significant expedition.