To Crown the Year – 1889

The Kingsley Memorial Medal of the Chester Society of Natural Science

The years 1888 and 1889 had brought both sorrow and honour to the Robertson family of Palé. Henry Robertson whose talents and acumen had brought the family fortune and honour died suddenly in March 1888, and it would seem that the family’s finances were immediately somewhat diminished as Thomas Ruddy reports having to lay off some men from his gardening team. Only just over a later Henry’s second daughter Annie Sherriff, née Robertson had died after a short but distressing illness. The young Henry Beyer Robertson, only 25 at his father’s death, immediately after the death of his sister had shouldered the not inconsiderable task of hosting Queen Victoria and her entourage for a 5 day stay at Palé Hall in August 1889.

Thomas Ruddy played an important role in the visit in a number of ways (see earlier posts) and had been rewarded with the gift of a pearl scarf pin from the Queen. In September 1889, therefore, the Robertson and Ruddy families must have been anticipating a quieter and more settled few months to end the year. However, Thomas was about to receive a shock.

Sunday the 22nd  [September]. To my very great surprise, I had a letter on this day from Mr. G. R. Griffith to say that at a meeting last Friday of the committee of the Chester Society of Natural Science, I was awarded the Kingsley Memorial medal, and that he, Mr Griffith as Secretary personally congratulated me.  This was an honour I little expected, and although I have done some good work, it has all been done as a labour of love.

It would seem that Thomas initially declined the offer (although he does not state this in the journal) giving as his reason his nervousness at the thought of receiving the medal personally in public, and his concern at leaving Palé during the absence of Mr. H B Robertson, who was to visit the Paris Exhibition at that time – although he might also have scruples at the slight of hand Mr. Griffith proposed to give Thomas the residential qualifications enshrined in the bye-laws – the counties of Chester and Flint – Thomas did not in fact ever stay at Llantysilio Hall.

It took a further letter from Mr. Griffiths and one from a third party, Thomas’ friend George Dickson, nurseryman and member of the Chester Society, to persuade Thomas to accept.

Mr. Griffiths’ second letter

By September 23rd Thomas was ready to write a gracious and self-deprecatory reply, accepting the honour.

Thomas’ acceptance letter part 1
Thomas’ acceptance letter part 2

And so it was arranged, that Thomas Ruddy, geologist, entirely self-taught and without academic qualification or membership of a learned society, became the 12th recipient of the Kingsley Memorial Medal.

The next post will describe the occasion when he received it from the Countess of Grosvenor.

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The sad story of Annie Robertson

Annie Robertson (1855 – 1889) was the second daughter of railway engineer Henry Robertson.  Her elder sister Elizabeth was four year older, then came Henrietta in 1858 and finally brother and heir Henry Beyer in 1862.

Annie was born in Shrewsbury, and in the 1861 census, when Annie was 6, the family were already living in some elegance. The household then consisted of the parents and three daughters, Mrs. Robertson’s mother, Ann  Dean and Mrs Robertson’s brothers Charles, also a civil engineer and Joshua, Secretary of a railway company, also 17 year old nephew John. They were supported by a Governess, Coachman, Cook, Nursery Maid and three housemaids.  Clearly a family on the up.

A Georgian house in St Mary’s Court, Shrewsbury, possibly the Robertsons’ home?

During the census of 1871 the Robertson family, parents and children were living at 13 Lancaster Gate, London, a home which they retained during the rest of Henry Robertson’s lifetime.  Henry, aged 55,  is by now described as Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant – presumably of Merionethshire, not London.  The Dean family no longer lived with them.  As well as Governess, Housekeeper, Cook and three Housemaids there were a Ladiesmaid, Butler and Under Butler.

Some time before this, Henry Robertson had acquired the Welsh estate of Crogen, and then bought the Palé estate and had Palé Hall built.  The family moved in on September 18th 1871, the carriage in which they arrived being pulled up from the Lodge to the Hall by the estate workmen. The 16 year old Annie must have been delighted by the splendid and luxurious house and its beautiful grounds.  The family maintained the ownership of Crogen, renting it out.  The Robertson family continue to live at Crogen.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress from 1840. Victoria set the fashion for white wedding dresses

Only just over a year later, in December 1872, Annie Robertson married Alexander Sherriff. This was somewhat surprising, since her elder sister had not yet married, and there would have been an expectation that the eldest married first. Since Annie was only 18, it is likely that this was a love match. Alexander was 8 years older than Annie. He had been born in Leeds, but in 1871 had been living with his extended family at Prospect House, Sunbury. His father was M.P. for Leicester, other relatives were members of the Stock exchange, so it is likely that Annie met her future husband through her father’s network of city and political friends.

In May 1878 Annie, Mrs. Sherriff, was visiting Palé Hall with her sisters in law. A visit to see Thomas’ fossil collection led to several days’ expedition with Thomas, and including Henry Beyer Robertson when some enthusiastic fossil hunting took place and Mrs. Sherriff also did some water colour painting. This shows the degree of trust and respect existing between the Robertson family and their Head Gardener.

May 3rd Miss Robertson brought Miss Sherriff, and Miss Alice Sherriff to see my fossils and general collection; they were very much pleased. After seeing them we went together in the wagonette to Garnedd [SH896355]to see the Bala beds and to collect fossils. Mr. H.B. Robertson went with us. We got several nice fossils and walked back together.

May 18th I went with the Misses Sherriff & Mrs. Sherriff [nee Robertson]to Gelli Grin, to geologise. The first two worked uncommonly hard at stone-breaking. –I never saw more enthusiastic ladies fossil hunting. Mrs Sherrif was painting a sketch. They all enjoyed themselves very much and were very courteous.

May 21st. The above party went went with me to Cynwyd, where I first showed them Cynwyd falls. I next led them up to the fossil ground, but it was raining, so that it was not very encouraging, but the ladies were cheerful and willing to proceed. When we got up two miles, the rain suddenly ceased, and it turned quite a fine day. On looking back we could see the Arenig white with fresh-fallen snow. We got several interesting fossils at the first ground. After luncheon we went to work at the upper beds at Bwlch-y-Gaseg, where we were unusually successful. Miss Sherriff was continually calling out that she was getting fat ones–that is large shells. We got Trilobites, shells and corals. Mrs. Sherriff sat sketching the distant view. They were very free, courteous and kind, and we got home well pleased with our trip, although it was a hard day’s work.

Just over eight years after their marriage, which was childless, Alexander died on the 8th February 1880 at the Robertson London family home in Lancaster Gate, leaving Annie a widow at 26. It is difficult to know how Annie spent the few remaining years of her widowhood. From Thomas’ journal of 1887 we can see that she spent some time on the Continent at Nice, and that her regard for Thomas and memory of his collections remained in her mind:

Tuesday the 29th [March 1887] Mrs. Sheriff, who has been staying at Nice for a time, very kindly brought me a Roman tear bottle; it is a small glass vessel bulb shaped, with a longish neck. Mrs Sheriff saw it dug up in a Roman cemetery at the town of Ventimiglia, in the north of Italy, and in the ancient province of Liguria. Many other curious articles were found in the same place.

The next mention of Annie is in March 1889 when she falls ill:

March Monday 4thMrs Sherriff ill, was at church yesterday, and in the garden with me on Saturday, but seems to have caught a chill. 

Mrs. Sherriff very ill during the night, her old malady erysipelas has again got hold of her.

Sunday 10thMrs. Sherriff so very ill that I had to stop the turret clock. Everything done inside and outside the Hall to keep down noises. 

Wednesday 13 Mrs Sherriff has been very ill day and night, Dr Waters of Chester and Mr Williams of Bala with her all night.  Everybody about it very anxious about her, and great sympathy felt with Mr Robertson and all of them.

Wednesday, April 3  Mrs. Robertson told me that Mrs Sherriff was taken into Mr Robertson’s room, which is over entrance hall; she is now watched night and day by three nurses, who take it in turns. I am sorry to say that her mind seems to be unhinged.

Saturday the 20thMrs Sherriff taken to Eryl Aran near Bala I am sorry to say that she is no better; bodily she is, but mentally she is not. I put on the turret clock again after Mrs S. left here.

Sadly, in July Annie died at the private nursing home in Bala where she had been since her illness affected her mind:

Wednesday the 24th July Mrs Sherriff who has been unwell since her severe illness in March), died at Eryl Aran this morning at 3:30 o’clock.  Mrs Sherriff has been of late much better, but was taken very ill two days ago, and suffered severely yesterday and during the night from suffocation with sore throat. We all deeply sympathise with Mr Robertson and his sisters, for they have had a large share of trouble since Mr Robertson died. Mrs Sherriff has been very confidential with me about their troubles, and ready to assist me in any way possible since I had to reduce the men. Mrs Sherriff also was ever ready to lend me books, and it was very pleased with my success in Natural History, and was at all times interested in any additions to my collection. Very few ladies were so talented as Mrs Sherriff herself, she had splendid abilities, and worked hard; painting being her special study, and at this she was very successful. I fear that she overworked her brain, and thought herself to an untimely end.

Mourning angel, Cookham churchyard, Berkshire

So Annie was buried at Llandderfel, a few months after her 34th birthday, and only just over a year after the death of her father. Thus it was with these two family deaths still fresh, that the young Henry Beyer Robertson had to plan and take responsibility for entertaining the Queen and her extensive household just five weeks later.

1889 A Welsh rural portrait


A page from Thomas Ruddy’s Commonplace book  – from the handwriting written after his retirement

One of the reasons I have been able to continue transcribing and editing Thomas Ruddy’s journals for over 12 years, is the quality of his extended writing, as well as the liveliness of his intellect and curiosity.  As well as the attention to the natural world around him, and to family events and the life of the family and visitors at Palé Hall, he shows a keen interest in the people living around him, sometimes painting vivid pen portraits of his neighbours.  This often occurs when they die.  A particularly noteworthy example is his portrait of the tombstone engraver Robert Edwards known as ‘The Derfel’ – a significant nickname as the village name, Llandderfel springs from its patron saint, St. Derfel (see here)

‘The Derfel’ was one of three elderly men to die:

Friday the 18th.                           three of our oldest inhabitants have died within the last fortnight, namely Thomas Hughes of Pantyffynon, aged 74, John Williams the oldest tailor in the village aged 74 and Robert Edwards (The Derfel) a tombstone engraver of the village, aged 76.  The Derfel has been quite an eccentric character; he passed off as a poet, painter, political writer and an engraver, the engraving was his strength, for he could claim that little merit in the other three.  As a tombstone engraver, he is well known all over Merioneth, Denbigh, and Carnarvonshire, for like old mortality he seldom stayed long anywhere, he was ever on the move, and when at work his usual haunts were among the dead. He was very irregular in his working habits, for he would idle sometimes for days, or spend his time writing letters to the newspapers published in Welsh, and at other times he would work from daylight too dark at the tombstones. People had great difficulty to get him to engrave for them, for he was of a very independent mind; a relative or peers told me he would rather half starve than ask people for his money; he would, when straightened for food, go to some of the neighbouring farmers for a meal, Brynmelyn being always a house of refuge.

The Derfel married when about 30 years of age, his wife did not live long, and he had no children, so he has lived a widower ever since, and seldom had a woman to do for him; when at home he did all for himself, and in a very eccentric fashion; if he put the kettle on to boil, he could not stay in the house until it boiled, that would walk to the river bridge and back, a distance of half a mile each way. He has kept the file of the Banner Welsh newspaper for over 40 years, but his household goods would be the better of a good dusting. As he was seldom at home, his house was mostly locked up with newspaper in the window as blind. He had a considerable share of self esteem, so that his neighbours seldom got on well with him, he thought all should acknowledge his superior judgement.

In religion, he belonged to the Independent, or Congregational body but owing to something [72] which displeased him at the Village Chapel, he very rarely went to it, he would rather go to distant chapels on the Sunday. The Derfel has one brother living in the village, and who has been the Parish Clerk for some years, and is by trade shoemaker; his name is David Edwards. The wife of David is living, and he has two sons grown-

The page from Thomas’ Commonplace Book, shown above, indicates his wide-ranging literary knowledge and tastes.  The fact that some quotations are given page numbers suggests that Thomas himself owned the books from which the quotations are taken.  Thomas seems to enjoy the work of Coleridge and Southey from among the Romantic poets.  In browsing the Commonplace book I have come across little Wordsworth, but his witty, insightful and sympathetic portrait of The Derfel has something in common with Wordsworth’s Old Cumberland Beggar:

.......
Many, I believe, there are
Who live a life of virtuous decency,
Men who can hear the Decalogue and feel
No self-reproach; who of the moral law
Established in the land where they abide
Are strict observers; and not negligent
In acts of love to those with whom they dwell,
Their kindred, and the children of their blood. Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace!
--But of the poor man ask, the abject poor;
Go, and demand of him, if there be here
In this cold abstinence from evil deeds,
And these inevitable charities,
Wherewith to satisfy the human soul?
No--man is dear to man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been,
Themselves, the fathers and the dealers-out
Of some small blessings; have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart.
...................

Part of Llandderfel village photographed by John Thomas

A

International Contacts 1888

The fourth International Geological Congress was held in London in September 1888

Despite living in a relatively remote area, Thomas was able to share his geological expertise with a range of people not only from Britain, but from across much of the northern hemisphere, thanks to the Chester Society for Natural Science, and its President Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes of Cambridge.  The growth and efficiency of the railways expedited this intellectual exchange.  Thomas also had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time.

After the close of the fourth International Geological Congress, held in London, delegates visited a number of areas of particular interest to geologists of the time, including North Wales.  This led to a fortuitous opportunity for Thomas:

Saturday the 22nd[September 1888] I have been asked by the committee of the Chichester Society of Natural Science to meet the members of the International Geological Congress at the Conversazione in the Town Hall, Chester, on the 24thinst. The International Congress met in London this year and as the members were to make an excursion into North Wales, passing through Chester en route.  The Chester Society’s Conversazione was fixed so as to suit the visit of the foreigners.  As I was asked to take as many specimens of my Bala fossils as possible, I have been busy all week in arranging a selection from my collection.

Thomas travelled to Chester with his wife Frances, taking the opportunity of meeting his elder son Thomas ‘Tommy’ en route at Wrexham station. They were to stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Shrubsole, Mr. Shrubsole being an official of the Chester Society.

During the afternoon Mr Shrubsole went to the Town Hall with Frances and myself, and after a look over the room, I began to unpack. Francis helped me and I met my old friend Mr Williams of Blaenau Ffestiniog in the hall and he kindly assisted me.  I found my specimens in fine order, just as I packed them. This space allotted to me was close to the seats set apart for the foreigners in the Assembly Room.  After arranging my collection, I went to see the collection of Llandeilo fossils which Mr Williams brought; it was upstairs in the Ante Room. I met in with several of my old friends in the room set apart for the microscopes such as Mr. Siddall, Mr Shepheard, Mister G R Griffith and others all of whom I introduced to Frances.

We had tea at Mr Shrubsole’s, and then got ready for the Conversazione. We found the room very full of people, ladies and gentlemen. We went to look at the microscopic objects, many of their most beautiful and curious.  There were rock sections, diatoms, fresh water Polyzoa, the Cristatella and Plumatella being especially beautiful. We saw a beautiful rotifer too, and cilia vibrating round the mouth, gave the object the appearance of having wheels rotating round the mouth.  

Thomas and Frances looked closely various exhibits of insects, stuffed birds, etc. and Thomas introduced his wife to a number of his friends and acquaintances from the Society.  Soon the main events of the evening commenced.

We next went to the Assembly Room, and got near my fossils during the speeches by the Chairman Mr Walker and others. The mayor in his robes was on the platform, accompanied by some of the foreigners the Countess Grosvenor and her husband, Mr Wyndham, Secretary to Mr Balfour, the chief secretary of Ireland.  Some of the foreigners spoke a little in English. Prof Capellini, rector of Bologna University was the first, and was followed by Dr Hicks, then Prof  Szabo, Buda Pesth (sic) spoke, and prof Lapparent of Paris gave an address in French.  Mr C. D. Walcott F.G.S. from Washington gave a short address, and then prof D.K.  Von Zittel of Munich gave us a short address in which he praised English hospitality.  The Bishop, Dr Stubbs, gave a short but amusing address, in which he said he was an old fossil, he hoped the impression he would leave on the coal measures would be a pleasant one.

Among the international geologists whom Thomas met that night, undoubtably the most interesting and significant was Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850 – 1927)   Walcott was in 1888 a member of the US Geological Survey.  He was to become its director in 1894, President of the Geological Society of America in 1901 and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1910.  Walcott’s primary interest was in the fossils of the Cambrian era (immediately underlying the eras of Ruddy’s main interest).

After the speeches, Mr Griffiths bought Mr Walcott and introduced him to me, and several of the foreigners were examining my fossils.  Dr. Frech of Halle University was highly interested and told me my collection was beautiful and interesting. Mr Walcott and he said they never saw such a series of the Orthisena. In the midst of our examination the lights were turned down for a magic lantern exhibit of photographic scenes.  This is stopped further examination. Dr F and Mr W wished they could  come here and go over my collection quietly, for it was so crowded in the room that it was impossible to do much. Mr Walcott knew my American friend Prof. Brownell of Syracuse, New York State.

Walcott’s most significant discovery came in 1909 -1910 when he discovered the fossils of the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, Canada. He continued examining this area until his death in 1927.   The fossils preserved here are some of the oldest examples of the the preservation of soft parts of organisms, whose full significance was only realised long after Walcott’s death.  

1888 Naturalists, rain and goldmines

Gwynffynydd mine
Gwynffynydd gold mine taken in 1983 by Malcolm Street (Creative Commons licence)

 

We return to the year before the visit of Queen Victoria, and the months following the unexpected and regretted death of Thomas’ employer Henry Robertson.  Fortunately, his son, Henry Beyer Robertson and his sisters were happy to follow their father’s precedent of encouraging Thomas in his geology and botany, and so in June 1888 Thomas fulfilled his promise to the Severn Valley Field Club to lead an expedition in the Dolgelly area.  Unusually for his expeditions, there was bad weather to contend with, but Thomas and his group of amateur natural scientists managed to enjoy a successful, if curtailed expedition over two days.

Thomas was initially to meet his contact from the Society, Mr. Wanstall in Barmouth, and so took advantage of spending the first part of his day there with his wife and daughter.

Tuesday the twenty sixth [June 1888]. Francis and I went by the first train to Barmouth for the day. Some time ago I promised to Mr Wanstall, vicar of Condover, and secretary to the Severn Valley Field Club, that I would act as the guide to the members during a three days visit to the neighbourhood of Dolgelly; and as the members were to visit Barmouth first on this day, I promised to meet them there. I thought as I had to go that I might as well get Frances with me for an outing, and we took Francie with us to be a little companion.

I left my luggage at the Royal Ship Hotel at Dolgelly when passing in the morning. The tide was low when going, so that I could see the salt marshes covered with sea pink and other plants.  I also saw the sea aster, and there were flocks of ducks very like teal ducks swimming on the estuary.  I also saw the greater black backed gull, several curlews, the Shieldrake  and other birds.

……………………..

Frances and I went to the station to meet the 12.30 train, by which the Severn Valley people were to arrive.  My friend Mr. Wanstall was very pleased to see me on the platform and then introduced me to the principal members of the club.  I first met Mr. Wanstall at Dolgelly three years ago, when I acted as guide to the members of the Caradoc Field Club and Mr. Wanstall was one of the party.  The most scientific members could not get to Barmouth but were to be at Dolgelly in the evening, so Mr Wanstall said the best thing I could do would it be to collect the interesting plants of Barmouth for the evening.

I parted with Francis and Francie at Dolgelly, they came home and I stayed with my friends at the hotel. We all dined together, and I was introduced to those who stayed at Dolgelly, namely Dr Callaway, the President, and the Reverend J A Panter, Vice President. I was very kindly treated  by all of them, and we spent a very pleasant evening together. I had to name all the plants collected at Barmouth and also a few collected by Mr Panter at a Dolgelly. Mr Panter and the ladies tried to puzzle me with the flower of a potato which I named solanum tuberosum, which puzzled them in turn, for they did not know scientific name.

I was very pleased to have Mr Panther with me, for he was the best botanist I had the pleasure of guiding for some years. Dr Calloway has been devoting most of his time for a few years to the Precambrian rocks. I was very much delighted to be in his company, and he gave us a short address on the geology of the Wrekin and Cader Idris. Mr Hodgson Is also a geologist and FGS. We had five parsons with us namely Mr RC Wanstall, Rural Dean and Vicar of Condover,  Mr. John Arthur Panter, Vicar of Saint Georges near Wellington, Mr Thomas Owen, vicar of Christ Church Wellington, Mr John Hodgson, rector of Kinver, Stourbridge, Mr R. Woods, Victor of Malinslee Shropshire.  Dr Calloway has his title from Dr of science. Dr Calloway is so short stature (about 5 foot seven), sallow complexion, Dark hair, thoughtful, but has much quiet humour. Mr Wanstall, about same height, but full of talk and fun. Mr Owen, same height, full of wit and talk. [28]  Mr Panter is about 5ft 9inches, very pleasant, amiable and a devoted botanist. Mr Hodgson, about same height, evidently a forcible character, and energetic. Mr Wood (the brother-in-law of Mr Wanstall) about 5‘8“ dark complexion, quiet and thoughtful.  Mrs Wood, amiable and witty. Mr Knowles, very highly respected solicitor of Wellington, tall five ft 9 inches, bulky quiet but shrewd.

Wednesday the 27th   The programme for this day was to go to the Torrent Walk, then onto Minfford, from here some of the ladies and gentlemen were to ascend Cader Idris under my guidance, those who did not wish to do mountaineering, were to go on to Talyllyn, and return the same way. But rain and mist stopped the Cader part of the programme. I got up early and went for a ramble up the lane leading to the abbey, and passing at the back of the mansion Hengwrt, but I only went to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful sunny morning, very warm and liked it to be fine, but appearances in the weather are deceptive.

Indeed, Thomas’ day was to be very much curtailed by rain, and although those of his party who wished to ascend Cader Idris were still hopeful of doing so, but Thomas had to dissuade them for safety reasons, and plan an alternative  visit on lower ground.

It was about 10 o’clock before we started in two brakes. I sat on the box with Mr Wanstall on the first brake, and the others followed. We entered the Torrent Walk near Dolserau, and followed the stream, plant hunting and admiring the cascades and gorges till we arrived at the top; here it unfortunately began to rain, which rather upset our plans, but we pushed on to the Cross Foxes, and got out and had our luncheon there, so as to wait to see if the rain would ease.  The rain kept on, and great masses of mist shrouded the tops and flanks of the mountains. There was a little sunshine, and as the rain got lighter, we again pushed on towards Talyllyn.  It was pleasure hunting under difficulties, but we kept going. On passing the lake of the three pebbles, I pointed out the pebbles, which the Giant Idris cast from his shoes. The said pebbles are large angular fragments which had fallen from the neighbouring rocks, or else pushed down with the ice in early times.

The pass called Bwlch Llyn Bach is shut in on both sides with great bosses of rock, those on the south side being overhanging, and broken up into pinnacles and pillars. The rock is composed of columnar feldspathic ash, some of the overhanging masses seem to be almost detached. Going to the rain there were several pretty cascades gliding down the rocky masses and the rocks and Cader being partly shrouded in moving mist, had a curious weird-like appearance.

On arriving at Minfford, Those who were to ascend a Cader alighted and took bearings but I strongly stood out against the attempt, for it would have been madness, and indeed highly dangerous. I could never keep them together in the thick mist, and someone might fall over the rocks, and there would be no view from any part.  The botanists were much disappointed, especially Mr Panter. There was nothing for it but to go on to the hotel at the outset of the lake of Talyllyn, so we went in the rain, skirting in the south margin of the lake until we got to Tyn-y-Cornel hotel.  This is snuggly situated a short distance from the outlet, and at the base of a steep green sloping hill called Craig Coch. It is a plain rambling building, very much frequented by anglers, for whom every preparation is made. I saw five boats there, and there are long shelves in the room on which the rods, full mounted can be placed. 

Thomas then explored Tallyllyn Church and churchyard, and as usual, found items of interest there.

Tallyllyn Church is just opposite Penybont, the stream dividing the hotel and church. The church is very plain, built of local shale, rock and the weather has eaten out all the mortar in the west end which allowed ferns and cotyledon to find root hold in the spaces between the stone courses. The Cotyledon was in flower, and nearly covered the end. There are two very curious Lytch gates covered over as usual, and having seats fixed on each side. The houses are few and far between in the district, but the churchyard is choked full of tombstones, which seems strange.            

I copied the following from a memorial cross over the grave – “I will never leave nor forsake thee” Jenny Jones, born in Scotland, June 17 89, died Talyllyn April 11, 1884.She was with her husband of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Battle of Waterloo, and was on the field three days.  Jenny Jones must have travelled much and must have witnessed many harrowing scenes; after all hardships and dangers go to her eternal rest quiet out of the way place like Talyllyn.  There are slate slabs left into the churchyard wall in two places to form steps, so that access can be gained to it without unlocking gates.

Tallyllyn Church, photograph by Nice McNeil via Geograph

After an exploration of a small part of the lake, the party headed for the warmth and dry of the Ship Hotel, where they spent a convivial evening.

The rain scarcely ever ceased, so we started for Dolgelly between three and 4 o’clock.  It rained most of the way, so that we were glad to get to the hotel. We were rather wet, but after a change we sat down to an excellent dinner, which comforted us very much.  Two English South Africans had dinner with us, and talked much about gold mining. They knew much about it, and were going to visit Mount Morgan or the Gwynfynedd mine on the following day. Both had gold bearing rock on their estates in the Transvaal, and as they were in England, on business, they wished to see the much talked about Mount Morgan mine.

After dinner all the Severn Valley folks returned to the drawing room, and were tolerably comfortable with a fire. Dr Calloway gave us an interesting Address on the geology of the Wrekin and Cader Idris, some business was transacted, and a vote of thanks giving to their late President who had resigned through illness. Dr Calloway very kindly referred to the valuable assistance I gave them. We spent a most agreeable and instructive evening together, and then retired to rest.

 Thursday the 28th.  I got up early as usual, found the South Africans at breakfast, so as to make an early start for the gold mines.  It was after 8:30 before we had breakfast, and as the weather was still dull and threatening, we were slow and undecided about starting for the waterfalls and gold mine, this being our programme. I was asked by Mr Wanstall to have a look out and to decide about going.  I concluded that the day would be tolerable, so the brakes were got ready and we started off at 10 o’clock.

We soon got up our spirits, the weather clearing up as we went on.  We first pay it paid a visit to Cymmer Abbey as the Caradoc party did three years ago.  ……..From the abbey we went straight to Tyn y Groes Inn.  Some of us got out at Tyn y Groes and walked on,  Mr Hodgson and Mr Panter walked on with me to Rhaiadr Ddu, got some plants on the way and saw the cascades. We got into the brakes again and went on to Pont yr Eden, here we all had to get out and walk to the gold mine and waterfalls. The distance is about 2 miles, but the route is so beautiful and interesting that we did not think the way long.  We got to the gold mine at midday, or rather the gold mill; this is situated on the corner between the junction of the rivers Mawddach and Cain.

When I was there three years ago, the old crushing and washing works were all in ruins, now all was bustle, and there was going a large waterwheel, and all the machinery for crushing and washing the  gold bearing rock. Perhaps the present buildings and machinery may be all in ruins in three years after this again.  Such is the usual rise and fall of Welsh gold mining. We examined the machinery with a much interest, but we only saw three or four specks of gold, although we examined much quartz.  The specks we saw were on a show block at the office door. We asked the men if they could show us any gold in courts; they said they never saw any, and one man said he thought Mr Prichard Morgan must be ‘salting’ the rock with foreign ore, for they could see none in the rock.

I next conducted the party to the foot of the beautiful cascade of Pistyll y Cain.  The previous day’s rain made the Cascade much more beautiful than I ever saw it before.  All of the members were delighted with it, and watched the foaming waters fall from the heights above into the deep dark pool at the bottom, and then rush on between walls of rock in an narrow passage until they united with the Mawddach.  We next examined the Mawddach fall; this is not of much height, but there is usually a large volume of water, and there is a very deep and wide circular pool at the foot of the fall.

We next visited the hill where the gold quartz is found; here some levels are driven into the hillside, and the quartz is taken nearly a mile in trucks to tramway to the crushing mill, where it is crushed and washed.  There were heaps of quartz about which we examined with much care, but we could only see a little lead and blende ore, and some iron pyrites, the latter was shining like gold, and would easily deceive any bad experts. We soon came to the conclusion that all was not gold that glittered. The mine has been so puffed in the principal London newspapers, and other journals, that it has quite set in a gold fever as it did some years ago, which many have rued, and no doubt many will rue investing in the present Gwynfynydd or Mount Morgan mine.

A mining “Captain” said to me once, there is gold in North Wales, just sufficient to tempt people to spend capital in working it, it will take 25 shillings to extract 20 shillings from the rocks. This is quite true.  *(added later by TR) The late Sir W.W .Wynne said the same to the Rev CH Drinkwater of Shrewsbury as he told me, May 20, 1908

We had a pleasant drive all the way back to Dolgelly where we had a good luncheon, I had a chat with the South Africans in the hotel. They were pleased to see them mine, and said they went into the underground workings where they saw wonderfully rich gold, but still they had no great faith in the affair

.After luncheon, I assisted Mr Wanstall in preparing a report of the excursion for the Wellington Journal, and after that I arranged with him to send him some notes for a report for the Shrewsbury Chronicle.  I dined with the members, and then prepared for returning home. One and all of them were most amiable and kind to me, and I felt quite at home with all of them. Mr Wanstall did everything he could for my comfort and hoped I did not find any of the party “starchy”.

I got home here safely and found all well, I had much pleasure from my outing.  Mr Robertson and his sisters made many enquiries about my outing, and wished to know if I enjoyed myself. Indeed they were very kind to me over it all. I was indifferent about going until they strongly urged me to go, saying that as I seldom met educated people in this part, I ought to go as it would be a nice change for me.

1889 Queen Victoria’s visit – retrospective

 

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Photograph of Queen Victoria displayed in the Victorian Schoolroom, Milton Keynes Museum

Insights are interesting and sometimes amusing – the Queen’s preference for whisky rather than wine with meals; the request of the Indian servants for flowers in their railway carriage, somewhat contributing to the suggestion that other members of the Household thought that they gave themselves undue airs and were over indulged by the Queen.  Also the picture of Thomas being allowed by the head housemaid Miss Reynolds to sit in the Queen’s chair.

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Queen Victoria’s statue in Bangalore, erected 1906, 5 years after her death. Photograph Rajesh Dangi GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the volume of Thomas’ journal he has pasted newspaper reports concerning some of the people he had met during the visit.

It must be acknowledged that the Queen worked hard while at Palé, for she was out to somewhere every day. I learned that her Majesty keeps very regular hours; she get up at 8 am, has breakfast at 10, but takes a cup of tea when she gets up.  The Queen gets through a good deal of business before 10 o’clock. The Queen is fond fruit and has usually a plate of fruit on her breakfast table; she is more fond of peaches than grapes. If the weather is at all favourable, her Majesty is very fond of having her breakfast in a tent on the lawn; the weather was  unsettled for that here. Luncheon time is at 1 o’clock,, and dinner at 9 o’clock, rather a late hour. Her Majesty’s usual dinner beverage is whisky, either in seltzer or Lithia water, she never drinks beer and seldom wine.

Her Majesty usually sat up writing until one or 2 o’clock in the morning. When her Majesty dined upstairs, she always had the Princess Alix with her, sometimes Lady Churchill, sometimes the Hon. Harriet Phipps, at other times Sir John McNeil, Sir H. Ponsonby, or any other to make up a party of four with her, including Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, making five with the Queen. The chief Indian helped the Queen down the stairs, the Queen taking hold of his arm, and holding onto a thick cord put up for the purpose with the right-hand. Her Majesty had to be carried upstairs, an Indian and a Highlander always carried her Majesty upstairs on a chair kept for the purpose; whichever of them went before her Majesty, had to walk backwards. The Queen’s maids are called “dressers” and not ladies’ maids. When they retire from the Queen, they bow to her Majesty by bending the right knee and wheel around and away. When Lady Churchill all the Hon. H Phipps retired, they bent the knee and made a graceful bow. When Mr. Robertson was presented by Mr Raikes to her Majesty, he went down on his right knee and kissed Her Majesty’s hand. I was told that the Queen asked Mr Thompson, her page, at a dinner where the fruit for her table was from, because she remarked that it was very beautiful fruit.  Indeed her Majesty is in the habit of making enquiries into things, and takes much notice of the servants of her household.

There was a master cook (Mr Feltham), a meat cook,(Mr Tustan) a pastry cook (Mon. Ferry), and a roasting cook (Mr. Goring). There was a kitchen maid with the Queen, Miss Lamond, a Balmoral Lassie, and a head housemaid, a native of Suffolk, named Miss Reynolds. Mr. Bishop was the Queens upholsterer.  Then there was a tapissier, a cellar man, several tall strong looking footmen, some in scarlet and gold liveries.   The four Indians being Mahometans, cooked for themselves, and would not eat any meat except it had been killed by themselves.  They only have fowls while they were here. The chief Indian came with the one Mr Clark introduced to me, the evening they were going to leave and wanted a few flowers to put in their carriage when in the Royal train. Both were tall, about 5’10” live and very active men. They were natives of Agra. They were dark brown in colour, but a little man who acted as Cook was rather darker in colour. I got them to give me their names; the chief wrote for both, because he was able to write in English, and he learned since he came over in the year of the Jubilee.  The chief wrote his name as follows – “Mūnshi Hafiz Abdul Karim, Indian Clerk to the Queen Empress”.  Both were very pleased with me for showing them the flowers and fruit. The chief Indian was belonging to a lancer regiment when in India, and he often amuses the Queen by going through the tent pegging on and Arabian horse.

A sanitised version of the swift despatch of the Munshi following Queen Victoria’s death, as depicted with some historical accuracy in the film Victoria and Abdul. Note the assertion that he had been well provided for!

Mr. Schoberth acts as a factotum in looking after indoor supplies, and general management. He is shrewd German. The dressers were elderly ladies; they did not go out with the Queen to any place while here.  They dined with the upper servants. The Queen brought a couch and an easy chair with her, both were upholstered in figured damask. There were two little pillows on the couch, one at each end. The chair was a low, very comfortable one to sitting, for I sat in it ( by the request of Miss Reynolds) and looked nice in its crimson and gold damask.  The Queen always takes a bedstead and bedding with her wherever she goes. It is her travelling bed. It was a plain half tester mahogany with curtains of figured white muslin, and green satin hangings. The counterpane was a beautiful work of art; it had figures of squirrels, butterflies, foliage and fruit worked all over it in raised work, and most beautifully done. The material of it was all fine soft satin. The Queen also brought an inkstand with her it is made from the hoof of the favourite horse, which Prince Albert used to ride out on, and on which Her Majesty used to ride too.  The hoof was gold mounted and had an inscription on it to say it was the hoof of Prince Albert’s horse.

The Queen brought a large quantity of massive silver plate to Palé; the articles were heavy. The glass was also very good cut glass ornamented with the crown. Her Majesty had peas, French beans, cauliflower, etc. from the garden. I had plenty of vegetable marrows but her Majesty is not fond of them.  Prints and Princess Henry of Battenberg are fond of fruit, the Prince is fond of white grapes. I had the pleasure of packing the Queens fruit box, the one she takes with her when travelling. It is a moderate size square silver box, about 10 inches long seven wide and four deep I put a good little bunch of grapes into it, two peaches, and two pears I had from Mon. Ferry.  The Queen was to take it with her for use on the way to Scotland.

 Wednesday 28th The Queen’s horses, carriages, stablemen, police, pages and Mr and Mrs Manning left at 10 o’clock forenoon in a special train for Windsor and London. The Queen had 15 horses, and 10 men in the stables; in fact I may say we had all the Queen’s horses and all the Queens men to put Humpty Dumpty up again. The carriages were travelling carriages, and the horses were useful roadsters, but nothing much to look at. The pony for the garden chair was 26 years old, strong and bulky. The little carriage was very comfortable one on four wheels. The men in the stables cooked their own food in the saddle room. Carriages were plain but comfortable. The men were very civil and allowed me to take any friends through the stables to see the horses, and to look at the carriages.

Many people called here during the day to see Palé and the grounds. I went through with the Fronderw family, Mrs Jones and young ladies. Mr and Mrs Edwards of Liverpool were here also, and had tea with us.

Thursday the 29thMany people here today and again to see through the house and grounds. The Queen’s Cooks left for Windsor. I brought out all of my plants and vases again for fear of getting injured.

Both Highlanders at Palé, Hugh Brown and Francis Clark were related to John Brown.

Alix

27th August 1889 afternoon

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Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)

27th AUGUST 1889

AFTERNOON

At 4.30 the Queen accompanied by the Princess Alix and Lady Churchill passed out at my house on the way to see Bala Lake. Mr. Savage told us to expect the Queen to pass out at the above time. Frances (TR’s wife) got the three little ones (Frances Harriet, Caroline Elizabeth and Amelia Agnes ) to stand in a group with Amelia in the middle on the table in front of the parlour bow window to see the Queen pass. The three were not close to the window for fear it might be offensive to Her Majesty, but they could easily be seen, and they looked a pretty group with their smiling faces. When the carriage was passing the Princess saw them and smiled at them, and then pulled the Queen by the sleeve so as to call her attention to them; when the Queen saw them she smiled at them and nodded to them very pleasantly. We all had a good view of her, and we thought it very gracious of herself and the Princess to take such notice of the children.

After tea, Frances took Henry as far as Tyndol for a walk, on returning the Queen’s carriage passed them, Frances bowed, and Henry touched his cap, Her Majesty acknowledged them by bowing to them. During the afternoon, Mr. Robertson told him the Queen had been talking with him in the morning, and that she asked him about me,and was very pleased to hear him say I came from Scotland.  Mr. Robertson also said that when the Queen glanced at the fossils on entering the fruit room and before I got there, she remarked how very like an Ammonite my specimens of Lithuites were – a remark which shows Her Majesty has a good eye when looking at such things. Mr. Robertson also added that he was very pleased to see the Queen take such deep interest in my collection, and he said he did not think the Queen was much of a geologist but that she was certainly much interested.

At 6.30, Mr. Hugh Brown, Her Majesty’s Highland attendant came to me and giving me a small brown case, said “The Queen bid me give you this”, on opening it I found it to contain a very beautiful gold and pearl scarf pin. I was highly pleased with my present, and asked him how I was to thank Her Majesty, at which he said, “I am to do that for you, for I know the lassie gie weel.”  I felt most grateful, and will all my life value it and treasure it as a precious relic, given to me by the best Queen who has occupied the throne of England for centuries, and perhaps the best that ever occupied it.

Hugh Brown was the brother of the more famous John Brown.  See a letter from Queen Victoria to Hugh Brown here 

Thomas left the scarf pin in his will to his eldest son by his second marriage, The Revd. Henry Ruddy. I do not know what then happened to it thereafter, but it was not amongst the objects left in the will of Henry’s only son Denys.

Her Majesty would have given it to me from her own hand if there had been time to do so, and I understand it is her usual custom to do so if at all convenient. The pin is heavy, of very good gold, horseshoe shape,* [*footnote Mrs. Wilson (Mr. Robertson’s sister) told me that the Queen is fond of giving horse-shoe articles, because it is thought they bring good luck] and is studded with nine large and beautiful pearls. It has quite a striking and handsome appearance. I learned from one of Her Majesty’s attendants that the Queen had been reading the chapter on the Silurian rocks of the Dee valley, which Mr. Darlington of Llangollen got me to write for insertion into his Guide to the Dee Valley.  The queen remarked to the attendant that it was written by the gardener here, and added “And he comes from Scotland.”

Mr. Francis Clark told me that I got through my interview with the Queen very well, considering I came from Scotland!  Both Highlanders are evidently valued and faithful servants of Her Majesty, and both were good natured and free in manners. Mr. Grant, a Queen’s Messenger was also very good nature, and so were nearly all the attendants.

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 Tuesday Evening  At 9.30 we went to the station to take our places so as to witness the departure of the Queen and her suite. There were 400 or 500 persons present some of them from Bala. The Llanderfel choir were on the stand in their costumes, and had Chinese lanterns. Banners were everywhere to be seen, and when the time for the departure was near, the heather arch near the station was illuminated, but the wind was rather high for it to look well. All the houses in the village and neighbourhood were illuminated, which had a very pretty effect. On Moel Calch there was a bonfire which burned brightly and added very much to beautify the scene. A little before ten o’clock an outrider came up and shortly after theQueen came in an open carriage with the Prince and Princesses. The people were most enthusiastic and cheered loud and long and the Choir sang the National Anthem. The Queen bowed to the people and was evidently well pleased. The members of her household were also cheered, and when the Queen alighted from her carriage, she walked with the aid of the stick which she accepted from the Llanderfel people. There was a mottoe (sic) spanning the way to the train which said “Come again!”

The Royal train left the station two or three minutes past ten, the Queen put her head out at the carriage window and said “I Thank you all very much”.  The people cheered again and again, the choir sang on until the Royal train went from sight, and nothing could be nicer than the whole scene, a scene which all can never forget.  The loyalty and behaviour of the people could not be better, and after the Queen left, all dispersed quietly to their homes.  Crowds of people cheered the Royal train at every station on the way to Chester.

Queen Victoria’s Journal here