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.
Thomas was regularly leading field expeditions for local natural history societies, particularly the Chester Society for Natural Science. He offered expert knowledge on both geology and botany, but no doubt commented on birds as well, as this was another of his studies. His reputation as an expedition guide was obviously growing, and in 1887 he was approached by the most distant group yet, and set out to plan a comprehensive programme for late June of that year which would involve the Palé family, as the Robertsons were to offer tea and a tour of the Palé gardens led by Thomas as part of the programme.
Saturday the 21st [May 1887] Mr Wilkins, solicitor, Uttoxeter, came to see me so as to make arrangements for a visit of the North Staffordshire field club to visit Bala, etc. He wanted me to be their guide, and to make out a programme for him. He had tea with us, and we enjoyed his visit very much. I met him at the station and saw him off by last train to the Lion, Bala, to make arrangements for the excursion.
By chance or arrangement, Frances Ruddy and the small children visited their Grandmother, Frances Williams, in London at the time of the expedition, thus a letter to Frances describing the expedition is also preserved amongst the pages of the journal.
The North Staffordshire Field Club visit Day 1
Thursday the 23rd The members of the North Staffordshire Field Club came to see my fossils, and to see over the gardens. I had a telegram at 4 o’clock from Bala to say a start would be made for Palé at 4:40. At 5:15, seven work and it’s full of ladies and gentlemen arrived (41 in all) .
My friend Mr Wilkins who sent me the telegram from Bala soon came to me and after introducing me to some of the leading members, Such as the President, Dr Arlidge and the Secretary the Rev Thos W Daltrey of Madeley Vicarage Newcastle Staffs. I took them through the upper garden, and pointed out my hardy ferns and interesting plants. We crossed the road and went to the lawn in front of the dining room where Mr and Mrs Robertson and family were in waiting to receive the party. After I introduced the leader (Mr Wilkins) President, & Secretary, they were all asked to partake of tea and other refreshments in the dining room, and act which was highly appreciated. The young ladies attended to their wants, and Mr Robertson and his son were most attentive and kind to them. Mrs. Robertson being an invalid could do nothing but chat to them.
They went round the grounds, so the so-called cromlech, the tumulus in the park, and as I had my fossils arranged in the front room etc. I had the most interesting plants of our district also ready for their inspection. My fossils rather took them by surprise, although their programme called it “most extensive and unique collection “. The plants pleased and very much, and they freely took specimens with them. My collection of birds’ eggs was also examined with much interest, and my ancient weapons too came in for close inspection. Mr Harry Robertson kindly assisted me to show the collections. A vote of thanks was given to Mr Robertson, and the party left at 7:40, highly pleased.
The involvement of the whole Robertson family in this visit is quite remarkable, and demonstrates the close relationship and trust between the family and their Head Gardener.
The North Staffordshire Field Club visit Day 2
The main objective of the party’s second day was the site of the construction of the reservoir to be known as Lake Vyrnwy, involving the inundation of the village of Llanwddyn. They were joined by some members of the Chester Society for Natural Science. Thomas had previously visited the site and made himself known to the construction manager, Mr. Bickerton.
A very clear series of photographs of the construction of the dam which well illustrate Thomas’ description can be found here:
It is notable that included in the visit was Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes of Cambridge, Thomas’ mentor in his practical research of the Bala fossils. Professor Hughes had connections with both the Chester Society for Natural Science and the North Staffordshire Field Club, and had probably recommended Thomas as guide for the expedition.
Also of interest is the inclusion of a number of ladies, mainly the wives of members, in the expedition. We can imagine these ladies, clad in voluminous long skirts and laced boots, and wearing hats (as shown in photos of the era) gamely clambering over the enormous construction site.
Friday, June 24 Having to act as one of the guides or leaders to the members of the North Staffordshire Field Club and over 50 of the members of the Chester Society of Natural Science, I left here by the 9.10 train. I met with the Chester folks at our station, and got into a carriage with Mr Siddall, Mr Shepheard, Mr Newstead, Mr Lucas et cetera. At Bala I had a chat with Mr and Mrs. George Dixon (Mayor and Mayoress of Chester last year) Mr Shone, Prof. Hughes and Mrs. Hughes, and several others of my Chester friends. Prof Hughes was to act as Guide with me.
I went in the same carriage as Mr Wilkins, Dr. Arledge, Rev. T.W. Daltrey, and Miss Ashdown. It was very warm and dusty most of the way, but all of the party enjoyed their ride, and were delighted with the scenery along the route. There was not much time for geology, but we found several interesting plants; the most interesting to me what’s the Geranium sylvaticumin full bloom. Mr. Siddall has botanised a very great deal of North Wales but he never saw the plant before, and it was new to the other botanists of the party.
We had lunch in the village [Llanwddyn, the vilage later drowned under the Vyrnwy Reservoir – ed. ], and on getting to the works we were taken in tram cars to the quarries, where a short address was delivered to the party by the resident engineer, Mr Deacon. There are three or four managers and to him, my old friend Mr Bickerton being one of them. Mr Bickerton had a few fossils to show me, which had been found in the quarries.
After we saw the quarries, we were taken in the tram cars to the embankment, over which most of us walked. It was a rough walking, as it was in an unfinished state, but the managers and Mr Deacon did all they could to assist us. I helped Mr. Dixon to get Mrs. Dixon over it. The plans of the embankment were explained to us, and indeed we had every facility to see and understand the gigantic works. The Chester members went over Bwlch y groes to Llanwuchllyn, but I returned to Bala with the Staffordshire people. We returned from the works by the new road along the south side of the valley. I saw the white and yellow waterlilies growing in the stream in the valley. We passed close to Eunant Hall, a small shooting box, which will be almost covered with water when the valley is drowned.
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.
In December 1886 the family at the Garden House at Palé was extensive, with children aged between 17 years and 11 months. Thomas Alexander was 17, William Pamplin 14, Mary Emily 13, and of the second marriage to Frances Harriett , Henry was 4, Frances Harriett 2 and Caroline Elizabeth 11 months.
When Henry Robertson arranged for a post to be offered Thomas Alexander at the Plas Power colliery the eldest son of Thomas and first wife Mary was able to move away from Palé and begin a career at Plas Power where he worked for most of his life, moving for a brief time to Montserrat to work I am not able to identify.
As usual, his father Thomas on encountering an environment new to him took copious notes. Here is his account of the day:
December 3rd (Friday) Tommy and I left here by the 755 train in the morning for Plas Power Colliery, near Wrexham.
I had a letter of introduction from Mr Robertson to the secretary, F A Sturge Esquire. It was very cold being frosty with a coating of snow. We left the snow behind after leaving Ruabon. It was sunny and fine at Wrexham. On arriving at Wrexham we left the mainline and went up the Brymbo branch to Plas Power. We got to the office a little before 10 o’clock, and were very kindly received by Mr Sturge and those in the office. Our object in going was to make arrangements for Tommy to enter the Company’s office as junior clerk.
After we had a chat with Mr Sturge, he sent his cashier with us to get lodgings. Mr Hanmer the cashier took us to Mrs. Bevan of Glanrafon House, Southsea, because it was where he lodged when a boy, and as he had been very pcomfortable there he could recommend it above all others. Mrs Bevan said she would take him and after arranging with her we went to have a look at the works.
The working of a coal pit was only known to me by reading, but thepractical working was all new, so that I was highly interested in all I could see. Mr Hanmer very kindly took us over the workshops, engine room, and pit mouth. The colliery is the most complete in its arrangements of any in North Wales; all the machinery is new and of the most approved construction. The colliery has only been in working order for about nine years. Mr Robertson sank the pit and put it in working order, after which he made it into a Company. But the directorship is in the hands of his own family and immediate friends.
The pit is 270 yards deep and has an output of 1000 tons to 1200 tons of coal in a day. The number of men and boys employed is between 500 and 600 and it takesabout £2200 fortnightly to pay them. The colliers go down to work in the pit at 1 o’clock in the morning on Mondays and at 6 o’clock on other days. They work from 6 to 3:30 PM that is 9 1/2 hours in the pit. The night gang goes down at 9pm to get coal ready for the output. All works stops on the Sundays, except keeping up the files and keeping the engines going to ventilatethe pit. The funding wheel which ventilates the pit makes 160 revolutions per minute. There are two families for fear of accident, one keeps going at that speed night and day for six months, and when it stops the other takes its place. The night gang works the coal, and the day gang sends it it up. Each man has a number to his name and as he works the coal by the time it is weighed at the pit mouth and credited to his number. Each man’s coal being kept separate in the pit. The coal is sent up in little oval steel wagons called “tubs” one tub above the other in the “cage”, which is divided into divisions, and there are two cages one goes down when the other is ascending. As soon as the tubs of coal arrive at the surface they are pushed off to be weighed and empty, and empty tubs are pushed into their place. The cage brings up 30 men at a time and it takes half an hour to get the gang up. The cage takes 22 seconds to descend the 270 yards.
On going over the works, we saw a lamp room, carpenters shop, blacksmith shop, storeroom and other offices. The store room contains every requisite required for the pit, the various articles required by the colliers in the pit are sold to them in the storeroom. They get their lamps ready trimmed in the lamp room, but have to pay 3 half pence each shift for the use of them. The office is very prettilysituated and the neighbourhood is nicely undulated and present.
Southsea is a Scottish village of cottages chiefly occupied by colliers. Glanrafon House is a corner shop in a pleasant and clean street. After seeing the works Mr Sturge asked me to go and see Broughton old pit on my way to Wrexham by road. It was a colliery worked by Mr Robertson for many years. It is now turned into a pumping station with splendid machinery. It is situatedclose to Plas Power colliery, and pumps the water from a neighbouring colliery too. We had an extensive view from the top of the engine room, Broughton. I saw Brymbo for the first time; it is an extensive estate belonging to Mr. Robertson. On our way to Wrexham we passed Gatwen colliery, which is also worked by Mr. Robertson and friends.
Thomas records many visits to the great houses of mid Wales, sometimes at the invitation of the owner, with the hope of advice being given, at other times in a spirit of curiosity or even competition. He doesn’t hold back in his comments in what was, after all, a private journal.
The Head Gardener of Nannau, Mr. Cooke, had visited Palé in September 1885. It is not clear whether his visit was unannounced. It may be that there was a small degree of wishing to see the estate as it was, without the opportunity of any tidying up in advance of a visit from a colleague. Thomas’ return visit was certainly unannounced.
16th Wednesday Mr. Cooke and friend called here for a run round the garden. Mr. Cooke is Gardener at Nannau, Dolgelly.
In June 1886 Miss Keable, Thomas’ wife’s friend and cousin stayed in the village. As Frances Harriet had three very small children at the time, as well as her three elder step children, Thomas conducted Miss Fanny Hannah Keable on several expeditions during her visit, including to Nannau.
Miss Fanny Hannah Keable, Born in Battersea 1851, died Edinburgh 1936
Tuesday the 8th Miss Keable and I went to Nannau near Dolgelly. We left here by the 11 train and got out at Bontnewyd station, from which we walked up an old road and through the Park to the Mansion. The day was threatening rain, but it cleared up and became very warm and fine. We lunched at 10 o’clock by the side of the little rill in full view of Cader Idris. Cader was very interesting to watch for scarcely could we get a glimpse of it before the mist enveloped it over and over again. At last the sun shone brightly and then the mist disappeared and Cader stood out in all its beauty.
I found several interesting plants on the roadside between the station and the park, such as the bog Pimpernel the black Briony the Tutsan Saint John’s wort and the moonwort -four in a little field where we had lunch. In the same field I caught a pair, or at least two, pretty Cinnabar months the first I ever saw, and the first Mr H. B. Robertson ever saw in Wales. On our way through the park we saw a small herd of deer. The park is rocky and undulated but is very poorly wooded. It seems to have been well wooded at one time but when the old family of Vaughan got involved in debt, I expect that the timber was one of the 1st to be turned into money. Passed two or three rustic towers, two lodges and a little pond on the way up, and we left the old kitchen garden on our left in which once stood the old “Haunted Oak”.
“Of evil fame was Nannau’s antique tree Yet styled the hollow oak of Demonie.”
It fell on the 13 July 1813. It is said that Owen Glyndwr slew his cousin Howel Sele of Nannau and threw his body into the hollow of this oak where the skeleton was discovered many years after.
We got to the modern gardens about 2 o’clock; they are near the mansion, a mile from the old kitchen garden. Mr Cooke the gardener unfortunately was from home having gone for the afternoon to the village of Llanfachreth, a most out of the way church and village 1 1/2 miles from Nannau. We met the proprietor Mr Vaughan a tall burly elderly gentleman. He was very civil and regretted Mr Cooke was from home, and asked me several questions about Palé. We saw through the houses – one peach house, three vineries, I large unheated peach house in which grew (planted out) roses, peas et cetera. The crop of peaches was very poor. There is a nice little greenhouse and pits. The kitchen garden is made up of a number of patches, enclosed by hedges and the grounds are very nice, but contain nothing in particular. The mansion is a modern native stone plain building and it is said to be the most elevated site of a mansion in Britain, being 700 feet above sea level.
There are many interesting pages regarding Nannau in this website, including the census return showing the Roberts family at the Coachman’s house in 1891.
It stands on a watershed as it were of the park at the West base of Moel Offrwm, a rounded hill from which very extensive views can be obtained.
After seeing the gardens I left my companion at the Coachman’s house, she having known Mrs Rogers 10 years ago when once round the Precipice Walk. I thought of going to hunt up Mr Cooke at Llanfachreth, and went within half a mile of the village, then I feared I would not have time to go there, so turned back and went onto the Precipice Walk where I sat down and rested. From my position I had very pleasing and extensive views. Cader stood on my left, Barmouth and the sea further on, the noble estuary extending almost to Dolgelly, the rugged slopes on each side of the river Mawddach, which run along the bottom of the narrow Vale at the foot of the slope where I was sitting. Far north I could see Snowdon and at the mountains, and to my right beyond Llanfachreith stood the hill of Robell Fawr, and further on Arenig and Aran. It was very warm, but a nice breeze called the air a little.
I next went to the little lake of Cynwch, which is situated about half a mile from the mansion in a hollow between two low wooded ridges. It is a most desolate looking lake, entirely devoid of beauty or interest. The sides are composed of roughangular fragments of rock without a patch of gravel. I picked up a few fragments of plants, which had been cast upon the shore – they were leaves of quill wort but I could not see the plant growing, nor could I see any Lobelia, shells, or anything else of interest. The lake is about a mile in length and a quarter mile wide. It does not seem to be deep and it stands about 100 feet higher than the mansion. On my way back I met F. K. and Mrs. Rogers. I saw Lobelia in abundance growing in a pond between the mansion and the lake. We left in at 6:20 o’clock and got to Dolgelly by 7.20. We walked pretty fast all the way, distance about 4 miles. Saw a few good trees along the drive, and several fine four-leaved beech, Austrian Pine, etc. We had pretty glimpses of the scenery on the way home, and got here safely.
By the middle of the 1880’s Thomas was much in demand to lead expeditions for the various natural history societies which were springing up throughout the British Isles. His first and most frequent expeditions were with the Chester Society of Natural Science, with whose President the Cambridge Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes he had become closely associated as a knowledgeable and enthusiastic seeker after local fossils, some of which found their way into the collection of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge.
He had also become a favourite expedition guide for the Caradoc Field Club, a Shropshire Society based in Shrewsbury.
it is likely that McKenny Hughes or one of his associates had advised their using Thomas as a guide.
During 1885 Thomas guided major expeditions by both Societies, of which he gives full and fascinating accounts.
On 3rd August 1885 he accompanied members of the Chester Society to Glyn Ceriog – see here
Later that month he undertook a demanding two-day expedition for the Caradoc Field Club based on Dolgellau. A large party including some women, wives or relatives of the (all male) members, stayed ay the New Inn at Dolgellau overnight, and day one took in the summit of Cader Idris.
A photograph of the Chester Natural Science Society First long excursion,10–13 June 1898, Bull Bay, Anglesey (Siddall 1911). Some of Thomas’ friends appear, e.g. Dr. Stolterfoth, front extreme right. Mr. Siddall may be right centre, but since the caption suffers from a piece of Victorian everyday sexism the ladies’ names are omitted and therfore placement is uncertain.
I will quote the first thee months of Thomas’ journal in full, giving as they do a broad insight into his various interests and activities, ranging from the success of his crops to the international news of the year:
January 1st 1885 The last year has been a warm and fruitful one; every crop did well in the garden. Our government have sent troops at the Nile to get General Gordon out of Khartoum who is shut up there with Egyptian troops and defending themselves against the Mahdi or False Prophet as he is called at the head of his Sudanese. An American dynamite party has given some trouble in London by attempting to blow up London Bridge and other buildings.
From events on the world stage, Thomas turns to local and more personal news:
Tuesday January 6thToday Mrs Owen of the White Lion Bala died suddenly. She was a very kind friend.
His brother-in-law comes to stay in the Llandderfel cottage rented by the London Pamplin family:
Monday January 19thMr. Williams came here from London for a weeks shooting over Henblas. We were very pleased to see him, but I could not get to the station to meet him as I had an influenza cold.
Saturday the 24thMr Williams returned to London. We were very sorry to see him go. I went to the station with him. This day the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower of London were much damaged by dynamite. The dastardly and cowardly explosions have caused great consternation in London and all over the country. Fortunately none were killed but sorry to say five or six were injured. It will take about £20,000 to restore the buildings again as they were.
Geology remains an abiding interest, and his employer Henry Robertson shows an interest and brings his guest to visit the collection
Friday 6th FebruaryMr. Robertson brought his guest Mr Frank Archer to see my collection of Bala fossils. Both gentlemen were here for nearly 2 hours, and both are like were highly pleased with the collection.
SaturdayMr. Robertson and Mr Archer came again for nearly a couple of hours to see the remainder of the collection and my antiquities. Mr Archer is a very good geologist and antiquary. Mr Haywood told me about him some time ago. He is an honorary member of our Chester Society.
Events abroad cause alarm:
Saturday the 7th News arrived today to say the Mahdi captured Khartoum by treachery on the 26th of last month and that General Gordon was killed. Our troops only two days late in reaching Khatoum at least a small party by river. Great sorrow and indignation in the country about it. Gladstone in Office.
Family events are chronicled with pride, and old friends visited:
March 1st This was Henry’s first Sunday at church. He walked nicely and kept very quiet all the time and was much pleased with going.
Saturday the 7thFrances, the little ones, and myself had tea with Mr Pamplin. He and I went for our first 1885 walk as far as Tyrsa (?) It was very pleasant at the lanes and in the fields.
Thomas continued to be in demand for landscaping and horticultural advice. He was friendly with the Principal, a fellow antiquarian.
Friday 13thI went to Bala to look over the C.M. College grounds with the trustees so as to see what could be done in the way of improvements. I was there for two hours. As it was so fine I got Francis to go to Bala with me and she took the two little ones with her. They spent most of their time with Mrs. Evan Jones of Mount Place while I was on duty.
After I got done, Dr. Hughes took me for a drive to Llanwchllyn. Our principal object in going that way was to see a newly discovered inscribed Roman stone. For a description of Thomas’ visit to the stone, just 8 days after it had been found, see here: https://wp.me/P5UaiG-kG