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.

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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.

Marriage Congratulations October 1881

IMG_4568Newlyweds Thomas and Frances Harriet returned from their brief honeymoon in Folkestone on the 19th October.  They continued their holiday in London at F.H’s home, making exhaustive excursions to numerous places of interest in London.  Thomas gives pages of description in detail of each place, especially the British Museum, describing each room, probably copied from a current guide book st a later date.

Meanwhile, on the 19th October, his friend and now relative by marriage, William Pamplin, Frances Harriet’s uncle, wrote to congratulate the couple.

 

IMG_4569

William  was 75 years old when he penned this letter of congratulations to Thomas in his minute, precise and exquisite hand on pages measuring 7 x 4.5 inches. The black margin probably relates to mourning for Sarah Williams, half sister of Frances Harriet by her father’s first marriage, who had been living with William and Margaret Pamplin, and who had died in the previous February.

Several themes appear here – William’s great affection for Thomas and his delight that in marrying F.H, Thomas could now be considered as nephew.  Then there is religious fervour, often apparent in William’s social discourse.  There is reference in Thomas’ diaries about William giving out religious tracts at Llandderfel funerals.  Then there is the shared love of natural science.  Thomas had obviously taken time on his Kent homeymoon to collect plant specimens and send them to William, much to his delight.

Here is a wonderful little insight into a very significant and fruitful friendship.

Llandderfel, Corwen, North Wales

October 19, 1881

My very dear Friend and Kinsman,

It is not that we have not been occupied in the thinking About you both, about you all, in talking about you and you’re happy doing is since we parted at Carrog – neither have we been backward in our earnest prayers for you – that every blessing may attend your union – although hitherto we have not written – (you know we shall not be very distant neighbours) – So I wrote to my dear Sister and to my dear Nephew first;

Nothing could be more delightful to me than to read those 3 most interesting Letters which you and the one which my dear Niece now your beloved Wife so kindly have written to us it was the most good and most considerate on your parts to have written. We have both read them all over & over with increased pleasure and with many thanks and much praise to the Gracious Father of all our Mercies for the many comforts in connection with such an event as a Union for Life; everything connected with it down to its minutest details were also kindly ordered for your mutual comfort and pleasure that it really is quite a pleasure to go over the whole of the circumstances in mind and in thoughts & that tho’ we could not be present actually in person we seemed to be in spirit and I may say with truth we did, and could “joy and rejoice with you all “in the whole event and in its attending circumstances.’ – as Mr Pailin says the 13th day of October will be, may it ever be, a Red Letter day in your calendar for both, mutually, being now one – or Heirs together &c. The talking about days reminds me that this Day the 19th day of October is dear William’s birthday – we wish him many many happy returns of it – but I shall put this in – is that he may not have many more until he finds what you have done – a good Wife – for we know the Word of God on our side for this –for we know the Word of God on our side for this –

‘ He that findeth a Wife findeth a Good Thing and obtaineth favour of the Lord’ Prov. XVIII.22 – and to this I can by experience set my seal as a witness for the Truth – once and again ( = twice that is ) so I can recommend it to others.-

Thanks many for the sight of those two letters very many kind and friendly ones Mr. Pailin & Mr Shrubsole they are carefully laid up for you on your return home – why all the friends and neighbours far only know you desire me to present their warmest congratulations upon your marriage ( lists neighbour’s & wellwishers)

We have had a fearful storm as you can see by the Papers – it is most remarkable (up in East Wood and elsewhere too) how the destruction of the Timber trees is for most part in lines or as in furrows in the ploughed fields, in particular spots- The road to Bethel was completely blocked, so the road beyond Blaen y Cwm by trees uprooted and laid fairly right across the road – The destruction it has been great also in farm buildings in roofs of dwelling houses and such.

I shall now refer to your most interesting Letter 1st the little box of plants we only finished overhauling it last night the contents for most interesting to me – everyone has been carefully laid down and registered 19! Yes no less than 19 species have been made out by name beside two of whom I find myself unable to speak positively as to species – & of all of ‘em Thesium linophyllum
Pleases me most. I think – of all the Counties ever botanised by me I think my favourite was Kent, perhaps in one sense of as it was my first love and certainly for the most interesting and rare plants with which it abounds. – with what pleasure I have ransacked it’s chalk hills and especially a delight is used to be, to go poking into every hole and corner, in some of those interesting overgrown and deserted old Chalk Pits. – I cannot now think I see the beautiful and interesting Silene nectans ( the Dover catchfly) just back on the very verge of the perpendicular short chalk cliffs a short distance west of Dover near where the Samphire grows.

After you were gone we were quite as if one of our own family had left us. I was on the point are often of saying to Margaret I dare say we shall see friend Ruddy tonight and we shall be heartily glad I can assure, fairly home and stationary so near us and that for good. I’m sorry (as I always am) our neighbour Mr and Mrs Pryce have gone off to Holland or somewhere; and when he came in to say goodbye, he told us he would be about three Sundays – of which last Sunday was the first. Dear Margaret is so so, we have been out very little even to Blaen y Cwm, partly on account of the unfavourable weather we have had.
The red flag is flying at Palé which is all that we can say about it. If you have that’s fine sunlight as we have here you will enjoy the ride back to London – we are united kindest love to you both – to our dearest sister and to my dear nephew. Believe me to be your very affectionate and attached Uncle 
William and Margaret Pamplin


Reader – he married her!

London Metropolitan Archives

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:

Thomas Ruddy: diary page for 3rd September 1881

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.

Internal and external pictures of the Geological Museum, Jermyn Street

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 12th Mr. 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.

Newington Church and Mr. Palmer, Rector in 1881

 

 

 

Closer to the Pamplins

 Angel in Rûg Chapel, © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Angel in Rûg Chapel, © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

During 1880 Widower Thomas had been walking with Frances Harriet Williams, niece of his friend William Pamplin, who lived with her parents in London.  See details of their walk here.

A sad event in early 1881 brought Frances Harriet – and presumably her parents Frances and William Williams – back to Llanderfel.  Frances Williams was William Williams’ second wife.  He had previously been married to Sarah Mason and they had a daughter, Sarah before her death in 1841.  Sarah had apparently been living with the Pamplins in Llanderfel, and died there in February 1881.  The photograph of Sarah, below, was taken in Denbigh.

Sarah Williams, 1841-1881
Sarah Williams, 1841-1881

Feb 1st Thursday Miss Williams, Mr. Pamplin’s niece died [Sarah Williams, daughter of William Williams & his first wife Sarah Mason. Half sister to Frances Harriet] Miss Williams was an old and valued friend who will be much missed by all who knew her.  2nd (inserted later)I went to Rûg and met Miss F.H. Williams.

8th Very rainy & stormy so that the river rose to a high flood.
9th Miss Williams buried at Llandderfel – fine.


13th I and Miss Williams went to Llandrillo church

20th I and Miss Williams went to Rhosygwalia church and from there up to Aberhirnant pool, and from there home by Maeshir and Bwlchhannerob. [A round trip of about 8 miles, if they walked both ways].


22nd Tuesday. I went to Ruabon to see Miss Williams off to London.