1886: Casting a Critical eye – a visit to Nannau

Nannau, photographed by Charles Leventon and used from Geograph under Creative Commons.

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.

http://nannau.com/buildings/house-timeline.php

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.

By Jeff Buck via Geograph using Creative Commons Heading north along the Precipice Walk next to Llyn Cynwch. The Precipice Walk is not a public footpath but a private walk over part of the Nannau estate, which dates back to the twelfth century. The public have been allowed to use the walk by the estate since 1890 on the understanding that they observe the country code, follow the route indicated and use the proper access.

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.

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1885 In demand as a guide

Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, Second President of the Chester Society of Natural Science

Photographs in this post are from
Cynthia V. Burek and Thomas A. Hose

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.

The full expedition can be viewed here

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.

1885: Scenes from Victorian life

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events abroad cause alarm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bala Calvinistic Methodist College

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

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

Roman inscription from Caer Gai

A London Vacation, Sightseeing and family links

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

Frances Williams, sister of William Pamplin, and her son William Pamplin Williams had been visitors to Llandderfel since William and Caroline Pamplin had arrived there in 1858 to a house near the church, Ty Cerig, which seems to have been shared between William and Caroline, William’s unmarried sisters Harriet and Sarah and Frances and William Williams, perhaps sharing it as a holiday retreat.  In 1863, when William Pamplin’s lease in Chelsea ran out, he and Caroline moved permanently to their own house in Llandderfel, Top y Llan.

By the time Thomas married Frances Harriet, Harriet and Sarah Pamplin had both died and Frances Williams had been widowed in 1866.  Her husband William Williams had been Parish Clerk of Newington, and their son William Pamplin Williams succeeded him in the post.

Both Mrs. Williams and her son became even more frequent visitors to Llandderfel after the marriage of Frances Harriett and Thomas, and with the birth of their children.  Thomas sometimes mentions William P. Williams taking part in country sports such as shooting during his visits; both were occasionally involved in Thomas’s countryside expeditions, sometimes with the addition of William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret.

In October 1884 both Mrs. Williams and her son had been visiting, and on their return to London Frances Harriet, Henry Ernest and the baby Frances Harriett aged 5 months returned with them, being joined a few days later by Thomas.  The couple commences an exhaustive and probably exhausting tour of the sights of London.  Thomas devotes many pages to descriptions, particularly the individual rooms of the British Museum, which from the style and content would seem to have been directly copied from guide books.

One significant visit was to the Jermyn Street Museum of Practical Geology, see here   

‘I made a very minute inspection of the collection of Bala fossils, Mr Newton opening bookcases for me and assisting me all he could.’

Thomas did not think that the Bala fossils then held in the Jermyn St. museum were a good selection of specimens.  At some point in his life he contributed over one thousand specimens, now held at the Natural History Museum.  There are also over sixty specimens attributed to Thomas in the Sedgwick Museum, presumably donated via Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, as Ruddy never personally visited Cambridge, as far as I can tell.

When he married Frances Harriett , Thomas married into a family which was aware of its ancestry, and kept a considerable amount of relevant papers and documents, many of which, registered with the National Archives, are still curated by the author of this blog.  Thomas was given an introduction to his wife’s interesting ancestry, which reached back to Halsted, Essex, where the Pamplin family were nurserymen.  Her great grandfather William Pamplin, 1740-1805 having moved to a nursery in Walthamstow.

Thursday the Fourth – I went shopping with F. Before dinner. We went up the Causeway, saw new Kent Road, Walworth Road, we went into the churchyard where the church of St Mary Newington stood before it was pulled down. It was gay with chrysanthemums and it is a pretty bit of pleasure ground for the people of the district. I examined the marble tablet which some of the parishioners elected as a token of their esteem to the memory of the Father of Frances.

The inscription on it is:
In memory of William Williams,
25 years Clerk of this Parish.
Who died on 9 November 1866
aged 59 years.
This tablet is erected by several Parishioners
in testimony of their esteem and respect.

I also saw the tombstones and graves of the father of the above and other relatives. After dinner Frances and baby, Mr Williams and myself went to Walthamstow.

They looked at the gravestones of the Pamplin family and Thomas copied the inscriptions. They saw the graves of the Dench family and Thomas describes other aspects of Walthamstow.

Thomas, the lad who had spent his earliest years in the Irish village at the centre of the potato famine, and during its most devastating years, had achieved what he had set out to do when he made a deliberate choice of gardening as a career, respectability and a degree of gentrification, through his own efforts and through his marriage into the respectable Pamplin family.

1884 Politics and Politicians

Henry Robertson of Palé Hall

Today visitors to Llandderfel, the nearest village to Palé Hall, will find themselves in a quiet and mainly unfrequented part of the Welsh countryside.  However, the situation in the nineteenth century was quite different, due mainly to the burgeoning industrialisation of south Wales and to the work of engineers like Henry Robertson whose efforts were making transport by road and particularly by rail increasingly available and swift.  Whilst not situated in a coal mining area, quarries for railway hard core and minerals and mines for phosphate, used as agricultural fertiliser were being actively worked in the area during the second part of the 19th century.

Palé was not the only country house built, inherited or purchased by wealthy man in the area.  Robertson’s partner Charles Beyer  lived at Llantysilio Hall near Llangollen, leaving it to his godson Henry Beyer Robertson on his death.  The largest landowner in the area was Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, descendant of a very old and distinguished family, living at Wynnstay Hall. He too, like Robertson was involved with railways, as Director of the Great Western Railway, and also a Member of Paliament, although as a Conservative, a member of the opposite party.  Another branch of the family owned Glanllyn, a small estate on the shores of Bala lake.  Thomas was on many occasions invited to view or advise on the gardens of these and other estates.

Another interesting local resident was Sir Theodore Martin, another Scot who settled for some time in Wales, at Bryntysilio Hall.  Poet, translator and biographer, Sir Theodore was invited by Queen Victoria to write the opbiography of her late husband Prince Albert.  This he produced in five volumes between 1874 and 1880, winning the lifelong friendship of the Queen.

Henry Robertson of Palé Hall, Thomas’ employer served as Liberal MP for Shrewsbury from 1862 to 1865 and from 1874 to 1885.  A number of influential visitors made their way to Palé Hall, much assisted by the convenient railway station on Robertson’s line at Llandderfel.  Thomas gives an interesting account of the visit in September 1888 of the Postmaster General, Henry Fawcett.

Wednesday the 17th [September]  Mr Fawcett the Postmaster General arrived at Palé. Francis and myself went to the station to see him. He is a very remarkable looking man being 6’1″ in height, squarely built and straight. His hair is fair, face roughish, broad brow, but is quite blind, having been accidentally shot. His feet are very long, boots measure 13 inches in length. His manner is most genial and he makes very free with people. He writes a fine bold hand, lines straight, ‘t’s crossed etc. He came to fish grayling, at which he is very good.

Fawcett had been blinded aged 25 being accidentally shot from his father’s gun while the two men were out hunting.  It is not clear whether his blindness was total or partial, but it did not prevent his becoming Professor of Political Economy, Cambridge (1863), MP for Brighton (1865) later for Hackney, and marrying the political economist and suffragist Millicent Garrett in 1867. Appointed Postmaster General by Gladstone in 1880, he introduced postal orders, the Post Office Savings Bank and most importantly, parcel post.  The contracts for parcel transport by various railway companies would give him a common interest with Henry Robertson, in addition to their Liberal politics and parliamentary status.

A cartoonist’s reaction to the introduction of Parcel Post

The following day the nearby town of Bala hosted a major Liberal Party meeting at which Fawcett was to deliver a speech on the Franchise Bill (the Representation of the People Act 1884)

Friday 19th I went to Bala to a Liberal Meeting. My object was to hear Mr Fawcett deliver an address on the Franchise Bill. He is a powerful speaker; it rolls out of him in the wavy style. He made several good hits, his sentences causing a sensation among the audience. He spoke for 20 minutes. Mr. Robertson M.P., Mr. Holland M.P.,  Mr. Gee of Denbigh and Rev. Ellis Edwards of Bala College also spoke, but Mr. Fawcett was the Lion of the evening. I heard Mr. Gladstone speak for two hours in Chester in 1865. But Mr. Fawcett, although powerful is not an orator like Mr. Gladstone.

Gladstone’s Bill only allowed for representation by a distinct group of men.  Had we the text of Fawcett’s speech, it would have been interesting to see whether Fawcett made any mention of women’s suffrage, since he was married to the foremost female suffragists, Millicent Fawcett, whose sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. Fawcett  clashed with Gladstone over his refusal to give women the franchise in 1884.  Fran Abrahams, author of Freedom’s Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003), writes: “As a member of a government which opposed the measure he could not vote for it; as a keen supporter of reform he could not vote against it. In the end he abstained. The measure was roundly defeated but Gladstone was furious with Henry, and wrote to him saying his action had been tantamount to resignation. Henry was reprieved only because the Prime Minister wanted to avoid the bad publicity which would inevitably accompany a ministerial sacking.”

Thomas contrasts Fawcett’s power as an orator with that of Gladstone.  In fact Fawcett’s health and strength had been considerably weakened by diphtheria in the summer of 1882 .   He was to die of pleurisy less than two months after his visit to Palé, on 6th November 1884.

As so often when distinguished visitors came to Palé, Thomas was introduced to the visitor, in this case by the son of the family, then aged  22 and having served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from 1882-3.

Monday the 22nd  Mr H.B. Robertson introduced me to Mr Fawcett in the gun-room. Mr. Fawcett said “Let me shake hands with you Mr. Ruddy.” He then talked to me for some time about the heat, the rainfall, and the weather in general, after which he said on going away as he held out his hand to me again “Good morning Mr Ruddy, I am very glad to have made your acquaintance.”

Had the conversation with Thomas progressed beyond the customary remarks about the weather, they might have found much in common, as Fawcett was an admirer of and correspondent with Charles Darwin, writing an article asserting the logic of Darwin’s theory.  Although not being able to see Thomas’ fossils, Fawcett might have been interested to handle and discuss their significance.  A paper by Geoffrey Fishburn gives detail.

The final evening of Fawcett’s visit gave the owners and staff of Palé Hall an opportunity to entertain in style, foreshadowing the warm hospitality offered to Queen Victoria a few years later.  Thomas found himself among the company, having no doubt provided choice fruit and vegetables for the table and flowers and pot plants for decoration.

In the evening I had a chat with Colonel Evans Lloyd of Moelgarned and Mr. Osborne Morgan M.P. While the guests were dining, the Llandderfel Brass Band played outside the dining room window, and after dinner the Llandderfel Choir sang in the staircase hall for about an hour. The guests were at one and looking on. Frances went with me to see and hear them sing. It was a very interesting sight.

Tuesday the 23rd  Mr Fawcett left in company of Mr. O. Morgan and Mrs. Morgan, and Mr Dryhurst Secretary to Mr Fawcett. Mr. Fawcett had a great many letters every morning; his secretary read them to him as they walked about arm in arm, up and down the walks. He was very fond of his pipe, wore tweeds and a straw hat, when fine. During dinner hour he told the guests many very amusing anecdotes, so that all eyes were directed to him. Mr Dryhurst dined with him.

Guests today at Palé Hall Hotel might be amused to imagine these figures from national political life mingling in the staircase hall while the Llandderfel choir sang, as they would do again in 1889 while Queen Victoria herself listened from the landing, tapping her fingers in time on the bannister rail.

Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes: a special relationship.


Entrance to the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge

Portrait of Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes Here

A summary of his work  Here

Throughout his life Thomas Ruddy found a succession of key people who encouraged him in his lifelong hobby of geology.  This must have begun with the schoolmaster in Jedburgh who first encouraged him in literacy and nurtured his wide curiosity, particularly about the wold of nature.  Then there was Adam Matheson, curator of the Jedburgh museum, originally a Millwright, found in the Scottish census of 1851 aged 50 with wife and several children living in High St. Jedburgh and at that time still working as a millwright.  By the time Thomas Ruddy became acquainted with him about 1861, he may have been full-time curator of the Jedburgh, museum, or simply fulfilling this role in his spare time.  It is clear from the transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for 1844 that Matheson was a considerable amateur geologist:

Proc. Royal Soc of Edinburgh 1844

Thomas’ introduction to Professor McKenny Hughes came in July 1876 by which time Thomas was already central to the expeditions of the Chester Society for Natural  Science of which McKenny Hughes was President.  Thomas was never a member, despite being a recipient of its foremost medal in due course.

July 20th [1876]  Thursday The members of the Geologists Association and friends to the number of 34 came to Llandderfel station where there were seven conveyances waiting for them to take them to Llangynog. I had an invitation to go with them, so that I got ready.  Mr. Davies acted as guide, so that he brought them to see my collection of fossils. I was glad to get introduced to some leading geologists such as Professor McKenny Hughes of Cambridge, Prof. John Morris, London University, Dr. Hicks of London, Mr. Hopkinson and other minor stars.

There were several ladies in the party. I gave them some refreshments, showed them my fossils which highly interested them, and took them afterwards to Brynselwrn quarry to get some graptolites. We next went up the Berwyns to the phosphate mine which was examined with interest and then to Llangynog where there was an excellent lunch ready for us at the expense of Mr. Doveston of ‘The Nursery’ near Oswestry whose two daughters were with us.

All were happy and enjoyed the lunch. I had to carve ducks, which I managed very well. Several amusing speeches were made after dinner. We also had Geological addresses outside in the evening. The day was very warm. The party proceeded to Oswestry in conveyances from there and I came home by those returning to Bala. I felt very much pleased to be with such high geologists. See paper for report of it [Paper not found – ed.] I may add that I had with me Mr. Barrois of Lille, France, Mr. & Mrs. Barbec of Pinner, Watford.

McKenny Hughes must have been delighted to discover an assured and knowledgeable amateur geologist with a large collection of good and accurately identified fossils of the Bala area and a hunger to continue to collect them in the field.  Thomas had arrived fully prepared with geological understanding at the centre of one of the areas of greatest interest to geologists of his time.

For further detail see The Silurian controversy and the Bala area

From this time geologists of note from far and wide began to appear at Ruddy’s door to view his fossils – no doubt at the suggestion of the Professor and his contacts.  In 1878:

August 13th Prof Leonhard Törnquist of the town of Geflé in Sweden visited me for local geological information, and to see my fossils. Dr. Hicks of London sent him. I gave him a nice lot of Bala fossils and showed him the local rocks between here and the tunnel. I found him an excellent botanist, a very good geologist and a most intelligent and well-bred person. He took copies of my sections and wrote down anything of interest I told him. He had dinner and tea with us, and could speak good English. He was about 5 feet 8 inches, fair hair and ruddy complexion. He told me over and over again that he was so pleased he found me, and that he was highly delighted with his visit. I got a great deal of geological knowledge from him regarding his own country.

Screenshot 2017-11-03 14.26.18
Professors Barrois and Törnquist listed as Foreign Members of the Geological Society of London 1917


September 10th Prof Tawney of Cambridge University came to me. Mr. Tawney examined my fossils very minutely, and with great interest. He named my minerals for me and I found him to be very nice. Mr. Tawney is very short and deformed. 

[Further information re Professor Tawney here]

October 18th Mr. Walter Keeping, the Geologist at the University C of Wales came to me for fossils. We spent a real pleasant evening together examining my fossils. I found him to be a most enthusiastic geologist. He named for me many fossils from the Crag and London Clay.  October 19th We went together to Aberhirnant, which pleased him very much and he was much astonished at my familiarity with the rocks. I gave him a nice collection of fossils.

In 1879 a paper ‘On the Upper Part of the Cambrian (Sedgwick) and Base of the Silurian in North Wales’ was published under Ruddy’s name in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society.  There is no mention of the paper in Ruddy’s journal, but that may not be surprising as it coincided with the illness and death of Ruddy’s first wife Mary and his being left responsible for three very young children.  Whilst it is likely that the paper was ‘tidied up’ and edited by Professor McKenny Hughes, there is little doubt that the basis of the work is Ruddy’s.  He was certainly capable of making the stratigraphical sketches included as some are in the original journal.  Also the detailed descriptions, some in the first person: ‘Although I have examined the debris at various openings in the interbedded grits and shales above the Graptolite zone, I have only found Encrinite stems and a few fragments of small bivalves.‘ etc. mirror accounts of expeditions in Ruddy’s journal.  it is clear that McKenny Hughes certainly did not spend the many hundreds of hours in the area needed to provide the detailed descriptions in Ruddy’s paper.

The paper is based on work presented to the Chester Society for Natural Science in the autumn of 1878:

Oct 3rd [1878]  I took my fossils to the annual conversazione of the Chester Society by request of the Committee.  I prepared them by the advice of Mr. Shrubsole for the occasion. Both of us my dear wife and myself had a very hard job for a month before going. I for the first time mounted them upon little boards, so that I had to polish the backs of them on a grindstone, my wife put the papers on the boards, and gummed on the labels as I wrote them. We often sat at work till midnight. My collection took the Chester people by surprise, and I got much praise. I was introduced to Mr. McIntosh of the Birkenhead College who had written to me during the summer. Mr. Shrubsole brought the Revd. Mr Symonds of Pendock to me. Mr. Symonds said he wanted to have the pleasure of shaking me by the hand; he made special mention of me after in his address. Prof Hughes introduced me to one of those who conducted the geological survey in North Wales, that is Mr. Aveline.   William Talbot Aveline, 1822–1903

The last thing Prof. Hughes said to me when parting was that I must now push on and follow up my good work.

Thomas was to continue his working relationship with Professor McKenny Hughes throughout the nineteenth century, leading many further expeditions and producing a list of fossils of the Bala area. (I am unable at present to date this list, but it is certainly not as early as 1874 as suggested by the photographed cover included in the PDF below).  I am inclined to date it from internal evidence to the mid 1880’s.  TR mentions seeing Bala fossils in the London geological museum which he did in late 1881.

Full text of Ruddy’s list of Bala fossils

I have recently discovered that there are 66 examples of Bala fossils collected by Thomas Ruddy in the collection of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, no doubt transferred there by McKenny Hughes.  These are in addition to over one thousand specimens collected by Ruddy in the Natural History Museum.


A Thomas Ruddy field sketch from 1881

  Following them around, 2017

 
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.