New Directions in Geology

Cadair Berwyn

In the second half of 1892 it suddenly becomes obvious from the journal entries that Thomas has begun a completely new field of geological study, still rooted in the landscape of mid Wales that surrounded his home. It had been some time since he had led any fieldwork expeditions concentrating on the fossils of the Silurian period, a task he had often undertaken in the company of the Cambridge Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, and on which he had written a paper for the Journal of the Geological Society published in 1879. ‘On the Upper part of the Cambrian (Sedgwick) and Base of the Silurian in North Wales’. Many people still called at his home to view his fossil collection, but the arrival in succession of five children with his second wife Frances make the focus of his attention increasingly domestic during the 1890s.

However, in August 1892 a new interest and body of knowledge suddenly and surreptitiously makes and appearance while he is mentoring two young ladies who with their mother were staying in the area:

20th August: I showed the Misses Nevins the glacial markings at Penygarth in the strophomena expansa zone and also at Gelli Grin.  Indeed we were very successful at the latter place. I got a well preserved eye of an Asaphus [trilobite – Ed.] and what very much resembles Cythere aldensis. We all enjoyed the ramble and then Misses Nevins were highly pleased with their fossils, and the scenery. We got home at the dusk.

In transferring his interest from Cambrian and Silurian fossils to the influence of the action of Ice Age on the landscape, Ruddy was turning his attention from a period about 450 million years ago, the Silurian, to only about 1 to 2 million years in the past, a period of intensive study and much debate in the mid and late 19th century, the period of ‘recent’, in geological terms, glaciation. The great geologists Charles Lyell and Roderick Murchison were involved, arguing in effect against theories of the way landscapes were changed and shaped by the action go progressing and retreating glaciers.

In brief, the study which Ruddy began in a small notebook, now very much degraded by time (shown above) was to examine boulders left in the landscape and which were of a different age or rock formation from the underlying rock. and had been picked up or broken off by advancing glaciers, and then deposited some distance away from their origin as the glaciers retreated and deposited mixtures of boulders, smaller rocks and other deposits, including some displaced fossils in the landscape, this deposit known as glacial till.

The study of glaciation had not originally been centred on Wales and the border counties – it had originally been investigated in Scotland, and the contrasting landscape of East Anglia, particularly Norfolk.

As in many other places in Ruddy’s Journal, we become aware of pre-existing friendships and correspondences which are only mentioned at a later date, as on 7th September 1892:

Wednesday the 7th My correspondent, Mr A C Nicholson of Bronderw, Oswestry came to see me.  He arrived by the 4.20 fast train.  He had tea with us here and then I took him to the fruit room to see the fossils.  Although he knew about them by report, he was very much surprised when he saw them spread out. We had a good look at them, and spent the rest of the evening chatting about geology, until suppertime. I went with him to his lodgings at Shopisaf after.

Thursday the 8th Mr. Nicholson went by first train to Llandrillo, then up the Berwyns to get the ash and greenstone rocks. He went over Chlochnant, Carnedd-y-ci, and to the top of Cader Berwyn, then along the ridge to Milltir Gerrig, on the Llangynog  road. There I met him at 4:30 o’clock. He was very tired, but was pleased to have got specimens of the rocks on the way. He had long wish to see the same rocks. I showed him the Little Ash on the roadside Milltir Gerrig, then the felstone, and found Orthis alternata and other fossils.  I found a Bellerephon in the rubbly shale between the felstone and Little Ash.  The species is new to me and of much interest.

Mr Nicholson’s expedition

Mr Nicholson gave me the altitude above sea level at the well near the felstone on the roadside as 1500 feet.  There are freshwater limpets in the rill at that altitude. The altitude at the stone on the boundary, dividing this county from Montgomery, was 1650 feet. We got to my house at about 8:30 o’clock. We thoroughly enjoyed a good feed, and particularly enjoyed a piece of fresh Dee salmon which Sir Henry kindly sent us.

Friday the ninth Mr. Nicholson came over at half past nine and looked over my fossils until dinner time.  He had dinner with us, and after dinner I went to show him the Hirnant beds at Bwlch Hannerob and then the Tarannon and Wenlock shales.

After tea we packed his specimens I gave him, also fragments of fossiliferous Silurian rocks which he found in the glacial deposit with marine shells at Gloppa, Oswestry, and which he sent to me some time ago to name for him.

Mr. Nicholson had published a paper ‘ High-Level glacial gravels, Gloppa, Cyrn-y-bwlch, near Oswestry’ in the quarterly journal of the Geological Society in February 1892. His was one of the early investigations into the glacial geology of the Mid Wales and Shropshire area; the paucity of such investigation was noted ten years earlier, in 1882, Walter Keeping, who began his geological career at the Woodwardian museum in Cambridge, predecessor to the Sedgwick, and then became Professor of Natural Science at Aberystwyth, until 1880 when he became Keeper of the Yorkshire Museum, in his article The Glacial Geology of Central Wales in the Geological Magazine.

Gloppa, near Oswestry.  Contorted glacial drift, sands and gravels. Contemporary photograph.  British Geological Survey website.

Wednesday the 14th I received a handsome book as a gift from Mr Nicholson, entitled “Island Life” by Alfred Russell Wallace. It will be of great service to me as it is up-to-date in scientific research.

Mr. Nicholson’s visit obviously inspired Ruddy to begin in earnest his examination of his local landscape in the light of the new understandings of glaciation and its effects on the landscape.

Saturday the 17th [September 1892] I left here at mid day for the head of the Llangynog Valley. I got to the stone marking the boundary of the counties at 1:50 o’clock. I went to see the little patch of ash rock and could see that it rested conformably on sandy shales.  The ash is about 10 feet thick, and is about 40 feet under the limestone outcrop, the same as it is at Gelli Grin.  I once found a specimen of the Orthis flabellulum in the shales under the ash in the shales where they are quarried for mending the roads, but I failed to see anything this time. I also searched loads of the shale along the side of the road, but could not find a fossil.

I next crossed over the moor to the old phosphate mine to try and find Arenig boulders on the way or in the bed of the brooks near the mine.   I could not find one after I left Brynselwrn ffrith.  I found some angular blocks of the local ash, and an abundance of blocks of Denbigh grits; these are evidently from the base of the Wenlock at Bwlch-y-dwr.  I found the local ash at the little stream where the old Bala and Llangynog road crossed it.  I traced it up the hill towards the county boundary.  Neither of these patches of ash are marked on the map.

 I also found the upper end of the greenstone near the ash, and followed it down the brook to the road leading to the mine.  Most of it keeps crumbling away into course sand all rather fragments. It runs as a dike with a rounded bosses diverging a little from the line. I found a few fossils at the old mine; the only thing of interest being at badly preserved Trochonema triponcata.  I found a few specimens of one minute snail; Helix rupestris. The place where I found the Helix is about 1550 feet above sea level. 

I next went to see massive shales in the brook some distance lower than the mine. The shales dip towards the bed of the brook and large masses have become detached and lie in the bed of the book like square pieces of masonry.   Lower down there is a pretty cascade falling into a deep pool, which is almost shut in by walls of rock. I next crossed over to the little stream where I followed the greenstone again up the bed of the brook.  It runs like a dyke with diverging round bosses, and has a sort of false bedding in some places. The dyke is about 15 feet in thickness and crumbles away into course sand and crumbles away into course sand and rotten pieces.

? Site of the Waterfall above

Copyright Eirian Evans, Creative Commons. Waterfall in Coed Llystyn

I have never seen any of the ashes or greenstones in N Wales crumble away in the same as the Trwyn Swch greenstone It is plainly an intrusive mass, and the shales resting upon it are much disturbed at the junction. In one place the greenstone is very hard and compact, and falls away from the rocky wall in square blocks.

 I carried off specimens of the greenstone, but failed to find any fossils in the shales all along the ravine.  I searched for fossils on the roadside Milltir Gerrig.  I found good specimens  of Orthis alternata  in the usual place, but nothing lower in the beds. I could not get time for beds higher in the series.  I left at 6:35 o’clock, and got home at 8:20. I had a beautiful day and much enjoyed it.  

Examples of investigations of this new interest continue through the following years of the journal, and A. C. Nicholson visited again in August 1895.

A map of the direction of glacial drift across the British Isles pasted into the front of Ruddy’s notebook.

1893 'Science Under Difficulties'

‘Science under difficulties’ was the name given by Thomas to an expedition he undertook with his son Henry on the evening of the 30th September 1893. Henry was then 10 years and 11 months old. It was past mid afternoon before the pair set out, and they returned just before 8.00 pm, soaked through, and in the dark. It was a journey of, in my estimation, at least ten miles.

Saturday the 30th  Henry and I left home at a 3:45 o’clock for Cae Howel lane. We had  heavy showers on the way, but went on to the gate leading to Maeshir at Bwlch y Fenni.  It cleared off when there and had every appearance of keeping fine and as I wished to hunt for boulders on the Aberhirnant side, we pushed on along the mountain road leading to Llangynog over Trwmysarn.   I imagine Thomas’ main purpose was his new research on Glacial Drift.

Thomas’ notebook on boulder dispersion

Thomas describes the journey: We found one Arenig boulder near Cae Howel at an altitude above the sea of 1200 feet and again a boulder of the Aran ash where the road gets close to the brook of Nant-cwm-hesgen.  That was all the boulders we found in our ramble. There were none in the bed of the upper part of the Brook all along the roadside all the way to the county boundary at Trwn-y-sarn. 

The slopes of Foel Carn Sian Llwyd Photo © Dave Corby (cc-by-sa/2.0)

It got almost dark at the county boundary and rained cruelly with a breeze of wind. We crossed the moorland on the south side of the hill called Moel-cwm-sarn-llwyd. It was a rough and tumble walk all the way to the Berwyn Road from Bala to Llangynog. We had to pick our way over bogs, through wet heather or rushes in semi- darkness until we got down to Palé Mountain stables, and most thankful we were to reach them in safety. It rained heavily all the way.

When we got to the road we were drenched from the knees downwards and our boots full of water. It didn’t rain much all the way home, but it was weary journey. It was science under difficulties. Henry followed without a murmur all through the worst part of it, and was glad he was with me. We got home a few minutes before 8 o’clock, and after a change of clothes and a wash we felt quite comfortable and enjoyed our supper. Neither of us will forget our experience over the rough bit of mountain between the two roads. Luckily we had waterproof coats.

Thomas instructed the children of his second family well in natural history. He probably had more leisure to do this with the five children born to Frances Harriet, and she too, encouraged by her expert botanist uncle, William Pamplin, was enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits. Only two of their children, the second family, married, and only Henry Ernest had a single child, a son Denys, the inheritor of Thomas’ journals before me.

Henry Ernest, a clergyman, inherited his father’s love of natural science, concentrating on astronomy, an interest which he passed on to Denys. Here they are in about 1940 in the garden of Braunston Rectory with their very impressive telescope.

1893 A Rural Enterprise

Sometimes Thomas’ journal demonstrates his narrative ability as with his keen eye and lively writing he records an event. Here we read of the stir caused by (possibly) a nightingale, and of the opportunity this provided for a money-making enterprise for the fortunate locals. Without further comment, I leave you to enjoy the tale.

Saturday the 13th. [May] Mr Armstrong and I went to Llandrillo by the last train and walked from there to Tynycelin near Cynwyd to hear a so-called Nightingale, which has attracted hundreds to hear it every night.  I was doubtful about the bird being Nightingale, so got Mr A. to go with me to hear it.  We had a warm and dusty walk from Llandrillo, and it was more of a walk than I thought it was. We hardly met anyone all the way after leaving Llandrillo; in fact that people seemed to have gone to bed.  When we got to Cynwydfechan we distinctly heard the loud notes of the bird in a little wood close to Tynycelyn, the house of Mr Jones.  We got quite excited and after listening for a short time, we walked on until we turned in at the gate leading to Tynycelyn.  As we went up a lane, we passed some people listening in the lane to hear the bird.

The road from Corwen to Cynwyd, 1967 © Ben Brooksbank,
used under Creative Commons

On arriving at the gate, there was a man there with a lantern to make all who entered the gate pay a penny. On paying, we found ourselves in a little grass field with Tynycelyn House on our left and a small wood to the right.  Here was a curious scene; several groups of persons were either standing or squatting all over the field, and about the middle of it were displayed two lanterns where are man had sweets, cakes etc spread out on a canvas on the grass.  We walked over to the side of the plantation where the bird sent forth its shrill notes within 3 yards of us. The bird was in a thick bush about a yard from the ground. There was a tall ash tree in the fence close to it, and here’s several people of both sexes were sitting on the grass quietly listening. The bird sent forth very loud notes. It began with three or four no, rather sweet notes, and then went into shrill, shivery notes for a few seconds, and then stopped. After a short interval it went over the same notes again, and repeated them at time after time with short intervals of rest. The notes were something similar to the notes of the wood wren, but much louder.  

We went to different parts of the field to hear it – I thought before going that it might possibly be either the sedge warbler or the reed warbler, because both sing at night, but I soon came to the conclusion that it was not a sedge warbler and I did not think it could be a reed warbler.  Curious to say, there was a sedge warbler in the same plantation singing in opposition to this so-called nightingale, I was pleased to hear the sedge warbler as a night singer, and it hardly ever ceased.  I heard the nightingale when in France, but it was very different song from the present one; but some people who said they had heard a nightingale in England, declared the present bird to be a veritable one. On the other hand several people who had also heard the nightingale in Middlesex, were positive that the Cynwyd bird was not a nightingale. The bird was new to me and it pleased me much to hear it.  I was glad I went so as to be certain about the bird if possible, for several so-called nightingales are said to have been heard in Wales. We arrived there about 10.15, left there a few minutes before 11 o’clock.

 I made enquiries of the gatekeeper about it, and he said it was first heard on the night of the 24th of April, and attracted the notice of some persons by its louder singing at night.  The bird commenced with two or three low plaintive notes which suddenly rose to loud rich notes, then gradually fell to a long drawn twee twee several times repeated and shivery as it were. The same were repeated after an interval of silence without any variation. It usually began to sing at 10 or a little before, and kept on until about midnight.

When we were leaving the field, several young men entered and began tripping one another and playing on tin whistles. Several have told me that it has been very noisy and rough there some nights and that there have been several fights.  Many were in drink, for they stayed in the public houses, Cynwyd, until closing time; and when many of them got to the field they could hear nothing but quarrelling and uproar. The Prince of Wales Hotel, Cynwyd, was kept open all night for the accommodation of those who came from a distance. The coach went from Bala several times; bicyclists from various parts; horses and traps from Cerrig-y-Drwidion, etc.  The man has had as much as 17 to 18 shillings of a night as gate money.  Many of the people were much disappointed when they heard it, for they believe the nightingale was about the best of singing birds, that many were so pleased to say they heard the nightingale sing for once in their lives.

When Mr Armstrong and I were going down the lane to the road we heard some of those in the field join in choral singing as is the usual custom in Wales. They sang as loud as they could for some time and as soon as they stopped, donkey took it up and kept braying loudly for a long time.  It is said that there is only a step between the sublime and the ridiculous. The donkey belonged to the man with the sweets. The noise quite drowned the notes of the bird.  We had a long and dusty road before us, but we kept trudging on steadily. A wagonette from Bala passed us on its way to Cynwyd; it was crammed with people who were shouting and singing loudly. On getting to Hendwr bridge, we heard a sedge warbler singing at the side of the brook.  Several people told me they heard a bird singing in several places near the river as they walked along the railway, from Tynycelyn, and that it was nearly as good as singer as the nightingale, but not as loud.  Corncrakes were calling in many of the fields all the way home. We disturbed a white throat near Hendwr in the hedge, and another near Llanwen Cilau; both gave three or four notes and suddenly stopped.

I picked up a glow-worm near Crogen it was very bright, and kept so in an envelope all the way home. It was luminous on the following evening. When near Tydyn Inco, we heard a sandpiper sending forth its shrill notes near the river. We were very glad to get home, for we were rather tired; having walked in all about 11 miles on a dusty road, and the weather was very warm. It was very warm walking for it registered 69 ½° in the shade during the day, and the night temperature was 42 ½ and a half on Sunday morning. There had been 11 ½ hours of sunshine on the Saturday. I got into the house here at 1.35 in the morning, and Frances was very pleased when she heard me come in, for she was anxious about me.

1893 Thomas the Journalist

National Library of Wales

Wednesday the 19th April I received a copy of Bye-Gones 1891-1892 in one volume from Mr Woodall the proprietor. It is a valuable and handsome present and contains contributions from myself.

Occasionally Thomas makes reference to something that reveals more about his activities beyond his employment as Head Gardener at Palé. With the growing addition of archive material online, it is often possible to follow up and view the originals. Similarly with the National Newspaper Archive, it is possible to see reports of events referred to in the Journal.

Copies of Bye-Gones are available online via the National Library of Wales.  It seems that Thomas contributed regular weather notes (reproducing those in the journal)  and occasional nature notes, also featuring items from the journal.

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1893 Judging the Judge

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

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

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

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

Philippe de Champaigne / public domain

1882 The Minera Works

The images in this post are taken from a report in the Wrexham newspaper The Leader, on 13th February 2019 by Jamie Bowman. No copyright infringement is intended.

Volunteers working on restoration of the Minera Works, 2019

Thomas’ employer Henry Breyer Robertson owned or part owned a number of industrial, mining and rail enterprises over a wide area. Thomas’ sons Thomas Alexander and William were given clerical employment in the Plas Power works. H. B. Robertson’s uncle, Mr Dean, obviously had influence in the Minera Lime works, in the same area. In 1892 Mr Dean invited Thomas to view a newly discovered cave at the works.

Wednesday the 27th I left here by the first train for Minera. On arriving at Plas Power station I first went to see Tom who was in bed with the measles since Saturday. Mr Dean kindly had his trap in waiting for me to take me to Minera. He asked me to go to see the recently discovered cave there, from which he sent me the stalagmites. He said he would send the trap to meet me. I was sorry Tom was laid up, and he was very sorry too, for he would have liked to help me in any way. I was much interested in what I observed all the way to Minera. I passed near a coal pit, and the village. I saw Minera Church; a nice one it is. Minera Hall was close to the roadside; a moderate sized place.

I got to the Lime Works at twenty minutes to eleven o’clock. On getting to the Office, Mr. Lewis the Secretary, and his clerk, Mr. Wilkins got ready to go over the works with me. They first took me to the stone crushing mill: here the limestone is prepared for road metalling and for glass works. It was a noisy and dusty place, but of much interest. I next inspected the lime kilns: there are two large buildings on the Hoffmann principle. The buildings are in the form of a long square with the circular ends. The chambers in which the limestone is burned, are arched over all round the sides of the buildings and the doors are bricked up until the operation is over. The fire never dies out but it keeps travelling from one chamber to another all the year round; small coal (slack) is introduced into the chambers by means of iron tubes so as to feed the fire. There is a huge chimney to one of the kilns; it is 225 feet in height, by 15 feet in diameter. The kilns cost the company £20,000 to construct, but they can turn out an unlimited quantity of burnt lime.

Our next move was to the cave; it was not very inviting, but like an man of science, I wished to explore it. Mr Lewis got me leggings to cover my legs, and coat to cover my body, so as to keep me clean. I doffed my own coat, and with a lighted candle, I followed Mr Mr Lewis and Mister Wilkins into the cave. I had to lie on my right side and drag myself down slope, with scarcely enough room for me to wriggle through. After a few yards of this, I got to a wide passage where I could stand nearly upright. I was then conducted into a large chamber, long and wide and with a lofty roof. Numerous stalactites were hanging from the roof; they were long tubes of transparent calcite. Pillars of stalagmites word dotting the floor, and most of the floor was covered with thick stalagmitic crust. The floor was uneven and slippery, being here and there composed of soft red earth.

I was next taken to another large chamber, but to get to it I had to clamber on my hands and knees over the wet clay floor. In addition to the usual stalactites and stalagmites, the walls of this chamber one much encrusted with stalactites which oozed from the rock. We returned to the entrance to the first chamber and turned to the right where we got to a large chamber by again crawling over the wet rough floor. This was very uneven, the floor sloped much, and was nearly all covered with a thick stalagmitic crust. From this we went up an narrow flue-like passage on hands and knees into a large space with very lofty roof and the floor much encumbered with fragments of rock. There were a good pillars of stalagmites, and a tiny stream flowed over a gravelly bed on one side. The cylindrical tubes of calcite fell from the roof in hundreds in each of the chambers and got firmly fixed in the stalagmitic floor. It was a rough place to explore and our heads received many hard knocks, but the air was nice and cool. There is a great depth of stalagmite and clay all over the floor of the cave, and the whole bears the impress of great antiquity so that if properly explored, important scientific results might be attained. The entrance is too difficult at present, and it would be expensive to widen it. It was quite accidentally discovered when some rock was taken away.

The Minera site is now owned by the North Wales Wildlife Trust to be used as a nature reserve.

1892 Miss Pamplin of Winchester

When I first looked through the chest containing the stored papers of the Ruddy and Pamplin families, I found a small packet of letters, photographs and press cuttings labelled ‘Winchester Pamplins’. After reconstructing the huge family tree compiled by Thomas Ruddy’s elder son by his second marriage, the Revd. Henry Ruddy, I was able to see the relationship between the Winchester Pamplins and Thomas’ second wife, Frances Harriet Williams. Frances Harriet was a second cousin of Ellen Pamplin, whose portrait is shown above. They shared a common great grandfather -William Pamplin of Halstead Essex, born in 1740, a nurseryman.

Frances Harriet’s grandfather, another William, became a nurseryman first in Chelsea and later Lavender Hill, continued in the nursery trade. His beautiful business card was among the contents of the family papers. I was delighted to donate it to the Garden Museum in London, where it is now on display.

William of Halstead’s younger son James, b. 1785, was also a nurseryman, trading in Walthamstow, whilst his son, another James became a bookseller and set up a family business in Winchester. He chose one of the most famous houses on Winchester’s main Street as his shop and home – God Begot House, which after many uses and transformations is now an Italian restaurant, still boasting the wonderful oak beams in the ground floor room, formerly the bookshop, and the upper restaurant, once the living rooms of James and later Ellen Pamplin.

I had often wondered whether these Pamplin families ever met up in Thomas and Frances Harriet’s time. They certainly did when their son Henry began to piece together his huge family tree. Then, transcribing the year 1892 in Thomas’ journal, I found my answer.

Monday the 18th [July 1892] Miss Ellen Pamplin of Winchester (cousin to my wife) and her friend Miss Ord of London arrived here by the 4.06 train from Llandudno where they have been staying for over a week.  We had them in here to tea and supper and escorted them to their lodgings at the Derfel after.  After tea, Frances and Miss Pamplin went to see Mr Pamplin and Francie and I took Miss Ord for a walk round the old bridge, Calethor.

Tuesday the 19th. Rainy all day, but cleared off enough in the evening to allow Francis to go to Bala with Miss Pamplin and Miss Ord.  It was very gloomy, that we went to the Lake on the way to the old station, and along Cae Mawr to road at Eryl Aran. Both were very pleased with their visit to Bala. They had supper here and I went over to the Derfel [hotel] with them after.

Wednesday the 20th Miss Pamplin and Miss Ord left for Winchester. They were highly pleased with their visit; and we were glad to have them with us. Both were free and good-natured.

Did they ever meet again? Four volumes of the journal still remain untranscribed – a thought which leaves me praying for long life! It remains to be seen.

Ellen became a well-known and respected figure in Winchester. The report of her funeral in the Cathedral in 1937 shows her as a supporter of the Cathedral’s work and having a very wide circle of friends and admirers. Passenger lists show her a regular visitor to New York, her brother Ernest having emigrated to the USA with his family.

One pleasurable outcome of researching the Ruddy/Pamplin papers over the last 15 years has been recently to send the ‘Winchester Pamplins’ papers to one of Ernest’s descendants, David Pamplin, a firefighter in Colorado, met on Facebook.

Among them is this photograph of David’s great uncle, Ellen Pamplin’s brother Herbert, who became a Yeoman of the Guard. Some family!

1892 The older children

By 1892 all three of Thomas’ older children were at work, and living away from home, placing less pressure on Thomas’ family with his second wife Frances Harriet.

Tom, now 23, was progressing in his work in the office of the Robertson’s Plus Power coal mine in Wrexham. He was trusted to visit other offices to audit their books: Saturday the 3rd October 1891 Tom came home in the evening to be ready to go to Dolgelly on Monday, to check the books of the coal agent there.  We were all very pleased to see him; the little ones being very excited. Tom appeared at home several times each year in order to go to the Dolgelly office.

Tom was also involved in military interests: Saturday the 8th. August 1891 Tom arrived here at 8 o’clock in the morning.  He took us all by surprise. He had been with his Company of Volunteers camping out for a week on Conway Marsh, and he thought he would come and have Sunday at home. He left at 4 o’clock in the morning and came by Ffestiniog here. We were all very pleased to see him and the children as excited as usual. Henry much interested in the rifle.

Mary Emily, 18, having finished her education at a small private residential school in Chester, began her working life in May 1891: May 4th (Monday) Frances went with Mary Emily to Corwen to get her into lodgings with Mr and Mrs Owen, so that she might begin an apprenticeship with Mr Davies, draper etc at dressmaking and the millinery for two years.  We trust that she may get on, and we have been fortunate to get her into a nice shop and lodgings.

The very next month William, (Willie) aged 19 departed for work: Monday the 29th (June)  Willie off to Brymbo Steel Works by the 9.39 train.  Sir Henry kindly got him a situation there for which I am most thankful, and hope it may be for you is good. Tom was to meet him at Wrexham and go with him to the works. He is to be at a weighing machine for the present. He was very pleased to go, for he has been studying hard to prepare himself for such an opening–I mean office clerk. Tom has got on well and is very steady and good.

1892 Family troubles

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

In May 1892 Thomas and Frances had one of those family crises in which both the older generation and the children need assistance ad care. The death of Frances Harriet’s Mother, also Frances (above) gave Thomas an opportunity to describe in detail a typical Victorian funeral.

Monday the 30th. May 1892. Frances and I had a telegram from her brother to say that her Mother died at 2:50 o’clock a.m. It was sad news for us although we were not unprepared for the news. We had letters from the brother to say that Mother was not well during the week, but it was only on Saturday that is the news was anything alarming. Frances wrote yesterday to say she was anxious to go at once, but it was too late.

Both of us very sorry, Frances of course very much so, for she has lost a good and kind mother; and to me in the loss is quite as great, for she has at all times being kind and most straightforward to me; indeed nobody could have acted in kinder to me when she became aware of the intentions of her daughter and myself. And during our married life, now about 10 ½ years, she has been most kind in every way.

Mrs Williams was a lady of good principles, strictly religious, and had as her brother Mr. Pamplin said to me ’good judgement’.  Frances and I have often said that we were glad her mother lived to see our children; and much pleasure it gave her to see them.  She has been able to come to see us every summer since our marriage, and Frances has always returned  the visit.  It was a very great pleasure to us to see her come to us, and the visit was always looked forward to with much excitement by the children.  The dear old lady has now gone to her rest at the ripe age of nearly 84 years.  She has lived happily during her 25 years of widowhood with her two children; and has been spared to see five grandchildren born to her.

Tuesday the 31st Frances left this morning by the 11.22 train for London. It will be a sorrowful meeting between herself and her good brother, and a strange visit for her this time. But she has had many a happy one.

As so often in family life, one crisis is followed by another: so it was for Thomas and Frances. Thursday the 2nd [June] I am sorry to say that Carrie, then Henry, and now Francie have had to go to bed with the measles.  It is very unfortunate when their mother is absent, and I also have to London. But we are fortunate in having a good and steady nurse for them in Mrs Davies who will be with them night and day.

Thomas set out for London on June 2nd. l was quite fresh on my arrival at Paddington when my brother in law met me. We at once got into a hansom and was at 25 Kennington Park Road by 6.30.  After tea I went to get a silk hat; Frances with me to show me the way. 

Friday the 3rd We were up early to get all ready for the funeral.  The mourners arrived at 12 o’clock and after I light luncheon, we left for Walthamstow in Essex, about 9 miles distant at 1:10 o’clock.  The coffin was of polished elm with massive brass fittings;  the shield also of brass with the inscription–

“Frances Williams, Died May 30th 1892,

Aged 83 years”

The coffin was placed in a covered hearse  drawn by four jet black entire Flemish horses. These horses are truly beautiful; having arched necks, long manes, and tails and go at a half trot all the way if desired.  The horses were covered with velvets and pages with truncheons in their hands walked by their sides for about half a mile at starting and about the same again at Walthamstow; the rest of the way through the city and suburbs at half trot.

We went over London Bridge, up King William Street, then Gracechurch Street then Bishopsgate to Shoreditch and turned it down Hackney Road and on through some small streets until we went through London Fields and Clapton. We crossed the river Lea at Lea Bridge Road and got to the church gate, Walthamstow at the time appointed, 2.40. 

Four pages carried the coffin on their shoulders to the church and from the church to the grave. The service was very impressively read by the Vicar, the Rev W.H. Langhorne; and the service at the grave was just ending when the church clock struck three.  Dear Mother was buried in the grave where her husband was buried 25 years ago (1866)   After the funeral we looked at the graves of the Pamplins; there are several generations of Pamplins buried in the churchyard.

Fortunately, on returning home Thomas found the children recovering well. Frances stayed on in London for some days to assist her brother.

1892 Tutor, adviser, student

The consistent themes running through Thomas’ journals through the years as Head Gardener at Palé are his own family’s events, the developments in the Robertson family, his employers at Palé  and, like a golden thread running through it all, his passionate interest in geology.

Geology had, for a few years in the late 1880s and early 1890s, become less featured in the journal’s pages. I suggest that was for reasons related to all three themes suggested above; his growing family of young children with Frances, together with the older family of his first wife Mary, who were starting out in the world of work, demanded his attention; the death of Henry Robertson, and the succession, marriage and knighthood of his still relatively young son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson needed his attention at Palé.  1889 saw the momentous visit of Queen Victoria, requiring intensive preparations and recovery.

The late 1880s also saw the end of sustained interest from Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes.  The Bala region and its key importance in defining the detail and sequence of Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian had been thoroughly researched, with much practical help from Thomas. Hughes had interests to pursue with his Cambridge Professorship, the ongoing project to fund and build the Sedgwick Museum, and his international contacts resolving ongoing geological questions.  The geologists of the Chester Society for Natural Science had been conducted by Ruddy over the key sites, as had members of several other Scientific Societies. In May they again visited, and Professor Hughes (‘the President’) was in the party.

Wednesday the 25th I went by the first train to Chirk to meet a Chester party for whom I promised to act as one of their guides for the day.   On arriving at share I met my party. The President, Mr. Walker, the Vice President, Mr. Shepheard, and the Hon. Secretary,  Mr G.R. Griffith were there with about 30 members, including a good sprinkling of ladies. The above gentlemen were very pleased to see me, as they were in a fix, the other Guides having failed to come with the train. There were open tram cars ready to take us on the tramway to the New Inn at Glyn Ceiriog.

Members of the Building Committee for the Grosvenor Museum. Messrs Griffiths and Shepheard in the front row.

On arriving at the New Inn, we were met by the vicar of the parish, the Rev R Jennings, and Mr Rooper.  The latter owns a large slate quarry and a stone quarry short distance from theNew Inn.  All of us went with Mr Rooper to see his slate quarry.  He very kindly acted as our guide over the works and explain the working of the elaborate machinery erected for sawing and dressing the slates, and for other useful purposes. I found some specimens of the Graptolithes priodon, but nothing else. 

After leaving the slate quarry, I acted the Guide and conducted most of the members over the Bala beds on the famous Myndd Ffronfrys. We found some good corals and brachiopods, one or two univalves, and some fragments of trilobites.

In 1892 there is evidence of Thomas Ruddy’s continuing interest in geology, and his flexibility in relating to others as mentor and tutor, as assisting colleague, and as a student ever pressing on in his geological understanding.

Mentor

Thomas was always eager to pass on his knowledge to others, and particularly in the context of practical geology.  A notable feature of his mentoring skills was his readiness and enthusiasm for helping women students.  This was in some contrast to the exclusively masculine ranks of the Chester Society for Natural Science at the time.  Thomas had given attention to the adult daughters of his employer Henry Robertson, see 1887-8 The Fossil years


Geologists late 19th century. Note two women at the front, one of whom may be Mary Caroline Hughes.  Prof. Hughes at the far right.

Thomas mentions the lady geologists who were present on his expeditions with the various Scientific Associations for whom he acted as guide, often commenting on their interest and expertise in geology, and giving them help and advice.

In August 1892 a mother and her two daughters, Mrs. Nevins and the Misses Frances and Lettice Nevins came to lodge in Llandderfel village for most of the month.  At the end of their visit writes a little about them.  The two young ladies were serious geologists, and the family was acquainted with a very famous geologist, Murchison.

Mrs Nevins told us she was an Irish lady, and her husband had some knowledge of geology, and was acquainted with Sir R. Murchison.  They are certainly well bred ladies. They went on Monday to see Chester and went to the Grosvenor Museum. I gave them a letter of introduction to Mr Newstead the curator.  They said he acted most kindly to them.  Last Friday  the three of them went to the top of the Arenig.

They relied heavily on Thomas’ advice and guidance throughout their stay: Wednesday the 3rd (August).  Mrs Nevins and her two daughters Miss Francis M and Miss Lettice came heree with Mr Thomas of the shop,  with whom they lodge.  They asked to see my fossils, and as Miss Frances had been studying geology, she took particular interest in them.  Miss Nevins also wished me to mark fossil localities on the Ordnance map for her.

Saturday the 20th. Frances, Henry and I went with the Misses Nevins to Bala by the 2.25 train.  From the station we went to the lake at the lower end, and from there on to Gelli Grin. I found the impression of Bellerophon on a heap of shingle at the lake.

I showed the Misses Nevins the glacial markings at Penygarth in the strophomena expansa zone and also at Gelli Grin.  Indeed we were very successful at the latter place. I got a well preserved eye of an Asaphus [trilobite – Ed.] And what very much resembles Cythere aldensis. We all enjoyed the ramble and the Misses Nevins were highly pleased with their fossils, and the scenery. 

The 22nd The Misses Nevins here in the evening to have their fossils named.

Tuesday the 30th Mrs. and the Misses Nevins here. They brought back some books I lent then, and were much obliged to me for all my kindness to them.   They were very refined and good-natured ladies, and highly intelligent, and eager to learn anything I could tell them. Miss Nevins told me I was the best tutor she had had to teach her practical geology.  

Adviser

On the 7th -8th September 1892 a fellow geologist with whom Thomas had been corresponding visited.

Wednesday the 7th my correspondent, Mr A.C. Nicholson of Bronderw, Oswestry came to see me.  He arrived by the 4.20 fast train.  He had tea with us here and then I took him to the fruit room to see the fossils. Although he knew about them by report, he was very much surprised when he saw them spread out.

On the 8th September, Thomas joined Nicholson for part of a lengthy walk and they returned to Thomas’ home.  After tea we packed his specimens I gave him, also fragments of fossiliferous Silurian rocks which he found in the glacial deposit with marine shells at Gloppa, Oswestry, and which he sent to me some time ago to name for him.

More of Mr. Nicholson in a later post.  He had just published an article on the rocks around Gloppa in the February 1892 Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society.

Student

Perhaps the most important record, late in 1892 was evidence that Thomas himself was embarking on a new phase of geological research, documented in the journal and in a smalltattered notebook found amongst the trunk’s contents.

“Boulder and Glacial Drift Dispersion                                                                       Written by Thomas Ruddy of Llandderfel”