Harriett Dench: in Memoriam

First extant letter from Harriott to William Pamplin Sen. who was working for Richard Crawshay at Cyfathfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil. Dated September 1792

Harriott or Harriett Dench was the grandmother of Thomas Ruddy’s second wife, Frances Harriet neé Williams. When papers were passed down first through the Pamplin family, and then through the Ruddy family, they finally arrived literally at my door, when I became Executor to Denys, the last surviving member of Thomas Ruddy’s second family with Frances Harriet. Her letters, which commence in September 1792 were some of the oldest items in the trunk of family journals, letters and memorabilia. They detail the relationship between Harriett (1774-1837) and William Pamplin (1768 – 1844) during their long-distance courtship and engagement.

Harriett lived with her mother Sarah and father John Dench (1748-1798) and elder sister Elizabeth in Walthamstow. Her future husband William also born in Walthamstow was by the time the letters were written working as Gardener to the Ironmaster Richard Crawshay in his increasingly industrialised works. Distance strained the relationship between the couple, as the first two letters indicate. The first – outside posting surface displayed above – (none of the letters has those latecomers to the postal service an envelope or stamp) is sharp in tone as Harriett has obviously been charged with displaying affection for another. That first letter written in September 1792 was nevertheless kept by William, and evidence shows how much handling it received from him.

It was not until February 1793 that Harriett wrote again to William. She goes into details about her acquaintance with the supposed suitor, whom she refers to as ‘that Gentleman’ Her letter reads like an extract from a Jane Austen novel, but this was real life. All the capitals are Harriett’s own.

I really did repent writing to you and joined with a little natural impatience I had almost given over the thoughts of an answer to my letter but as I wish to be candid and inform you of all my acquaintance with that Gentleman alluded to in your letter You must summon all your Patience to your Aid to hear the tiresome Story. I went to a Dance at Money’s. Mr . Stock was dancing with me, Mrs Hedge with that Alan who was an Acquaintance of hers. He called a dance which Mrs Hedge was ignorant of and it was agreed by all parties to change partners. It was agreeable to me as he danced very well. And we danced the rest of the evening together. He called the next day and in about a Month after he came down to see Mrs Hedge. She happened to be out and he drank tea at our house that evening you were there since which time I have never seen him. He behaved in a very polite manner but no more that ever I observed nor till I received your last letter had I the most distant idea of the kind.

That there are those capable of such an Untruth is plain from the above now as you are Credibly informed it is but a reasonable request that you will with inform me who told you this. I hope it will be complied with for my satisfaction.

Despite the sharp words, Harriett concludes Yours Affectionately H. Dench. And so the correspondence continues, with 24 more letters from Harriet over the years until their marriage in February 1801.

William and Harriett met only once or twice during those years. Harriett visited William in Wales once, but their wedding arrangements were conducted by letter. Richard Crawshay kept William hard at work during his employment, and several times a visit to London by William was apparently prevented by Crawshay’s demands on his time.

During his work there, William produced two pencil sketches of Crawshay’s works, which are now given pride of place in Merthyr’s Cyfarfa Castle Museum, having been donated from the Ruddy papers in the 1930’s.

Cyfathfa Works and Water wheel by William Pamplin. The only extant depiction of the mechanism

I suspect the drawings were intended for Harriett as a Christmas gift, as her letter of December 30th 1799 indicates: I fear you have been that much trouble and Expense to procure those things you have sent to me, for which be assured I feel myself very much obliged to you. I think them all very Handsome, particularly the Inkstand. The drawings I must acknowledge I am sorry to lose, had I been fortunate enough to receive I should have prized them very much, as it is I can only wonder how a man of Mr. Crawshay’s rank in Life can behave so much unlike a Gentleman. Crawshay may have been worried about industrial espionage, as the wheel was famous and unique.

By December of the following year, William had left Crawshay and taken a post as Gardener at Royal Fort House in Bristol. It seems that there was an intention for the couple to marry and live in Bristol. Harriett writes: My Determination I trust you will not at this time expect, the house when you wrote to me not being furnished, will take some time and I hope you will have the goodness not to hurry me too much in an affair which I feel is of so much consequence to us both. I am glad to hear the house is a good one, will you inform me if Linen is allowed for its use.

However, by June of that year plans had changed, and William had decided to return to London, where he would set up in his own Nursery in Chelsea, then a small village just outside London. Harriett was not convinced: The frequent mention you have made of your intention to settle near London has prevented me from entertaining a thought to the contrary, and I found myself equally concerned and surprised at the change which has taken place in your determination. It appears giving up too much of the comfort of life for the prospect of getting forward. Tho’ I am not obstinately attached to any place, yet to what factors which will deprive me of the Society of every friend (Yourself excepted) it would be very far from being pleasant or even comfortable to me, but as it is your wish I should be sincerely glad to think other ways of it.

William Pamplin’s business card. Note the offer of fashionable Pineapple plants.

Despite the chilliness of Harriett’s letter, it seems that by December 1800 the relationship had grown, although William was not a regular correspondent: … as nothing particular appears to have prevented you, it occasioned much alarm to your Friends, they with myself began to think you were unwell. Tellingly, however, Harriett’s final greeting changes at this point from ‘Yours affectionately’ to ‘Most affectionately Yrs.’ it seems Harriet had decided to link her life to her absent, hard-working but sometimes negligent suitor.

The marriage between William and Harriett would be arranged via letters, he in Bristol, she in Walthamstow. It seems that William had stepped up the frequency of his letters, and Harriet had got down to practicalities! Your Letter was so quick a return that I was indeed much surprised by it. Respecting the Furniture you propose to buy I can have no Objection to. The Bed it will be necessary to have someone with you who understands buying unless you can depend on those who sells as there is great deception in things of this kind. My mother will give me a pair of good Sheets and Blankets which I think will be as much as we shall want for the present.

This long distance approach to marriage caused some tension, both as to when the event might take place and in particular with the purchase of that ‘Bed’. Freud would have something to say. On January 17th, 1801, Harriett’s tone is tense: The request in my last was, that if the time I proposed there, was any material difference to you I should wish an answer by return of Post. As you did not write I suppose it would not interfere with any Business which you were engaged in. Excuse me therefore from consenting to your coming sooner than the last week in February. I feel assured I shall not be thought unreasonable, the Bed, I think it will be much better to purchase when I come, for what you have bought no doubt you must be much better Judge. Poor Harriett, like so many before and since, Bridezilla has taken over!

Tension continues on the 19th January, Harriett having received a letter from William later in the same day that she sent her letter. Although there is some regret at having sent her snappy letter, the ‘Bed’ remains an issue: Our friends all think it will be most advisable to buy a Bed at Bristol … on this account I write early as I can that you may have the opportunity of asking the Upholsterer’s advice on it and getting him to go with you when you buy.

By the 30th January, the Bed issue is on hold: I think you had better not trouble yourself further about it at present, as we can put up with what you have till I come and can get one. However, a new issue is the length of time William will stay in London after their marriage, before returning to work in Bristol – without Harriett: I should be very sorry if you thought you could not stop week when you do come as remember that you proposed the Time Yourself and as I found it would be of no use to complain reconciled myself to it but you will now give me fresh cause if you don’t keep Yr Word with me. She does assure him of her love: My Dear Friend, I remain Most Affectionately Yours H. Dench.

St George, Hanover Square

Despite all issues, and with the date of William’s departure still an issue: I was extremely sorry to find that you think to set off for Bristol so soon in the week as Thursday , William and Harriett were married at the fashionable St George, Hanover Square on the 23rd February 1801. They were not in fact parishioners, but used the address of Harriett’s aunt as a convenient residency. This was useful, as the marriage appears to have taken place on the very day of William’s arrival from Bristol by coach: Our friends all think the time will be so very short it will be better for me to meet you in Ranelagh Street the day you propose coming to London I imagine you have not wish to ask anyone but your father who with Robert [her brother] could come to London early Monday morning.

In the same letter The Bed I think you had better buy at Bristol. Hope you will be careful to have it well aired before you sleep on it.

One more letter remains from Harriett to William. Written in October 1801, three months after their marriage, it finds William still in Bristol, while Harriett is in Kings Road Chelsea working on their new project together, the Nursery whose business card is shown above. Her spirit demonstrated in the earlier letters made her a determined project manager.

Mr Gibbs called on me the beginning of the week with the bricklayer they looked over the repairs and Mr G valued the bedsteads, sent a man to repair the Tiling which he finished before the afternoon and left. Mr G promised to send his men to begin which he has not done nor sent those Locks for the Gates which I mentioned to him but I will call on him tomorrow or the beginning of next week and tell him what you have said of it. Lenny has housed all the Green House plants. He is very steady and indeed very obliging to us.

Harriett and William went on to have five children, Harriet in 1803, Sarah in 1804, William in 1806, Frances in 1808 and Robert in 1811. William became a noted botanist and botanical bookseller, first in Chelsea, and later moving to Llandderfel, Wales, where he met and befriended Thomas Ruddy.

William Pamplin, son of William and Harriett, in old age.

Through William Pamplin, Thomas Ruddy met and married William’s nice, Frances Harriet Williams, daughter of William’s sister Frances. Their family preserved the letters and the last of their descendants in the line handed them on to me.

In due course the village outside London, where William from time to time saw King George III ride past on his horse, was developed and William and his family moved to Lavender Hill. The information contained with the papers is now in the care of the Garden Museum.

And there it would have ended, until fresh material became available on line, adding a final and devastating chapter to Harriett’s story. This was the publication of the written records of Bethlehem Hospital – ‘Bedlam’.

Feisty, patient, practical and loving Harriett ended her days in that dreaded and pitiful place, having been admitted several times.

Transcription: Harriet Pamplin Admitted June 26th 183[?]. At 61 A married Woman. ( See Curable Patents Books) Left this hospital on the 10th of October 1834 as has been out at Mrs. Bradbury’s Earls Court latterly. At present in a very excited state occasionally refusing her food and obliged to be fed with the Stomach Pump. Oh Harriet!

1837, August 9th died of Exhaustion after great Cerebral Excitement and the refusal of food. The body was not Examined Anatomically.

Poor, poor Harriett and William. I have lived with them through the letters for 15 years as I have transcribed and researched the related papers. She is not my ancestor, but I feel I love her and honour her life, and mourn her sad last years. So it was with enormous pleasure that I recently entrusted her letters to the Garden Museum, where her husband’s journals and business card are now preserved. You may have died in Bedlam, Harriett, but your life is not forgotten.

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!

Marriage Congratulations October 1881

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

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

 

IMG_4569

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

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

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

Llandderfel, Corwen, North Wales

October 19, 1881

My very dear Friend and Kinsman,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Walking and waiting 1881

The White Lion Hotel, Bala
The White Lion Hotel, Bala

Thomas had lost his first wife Mary in June 1879, and by 1881 he was drawing nearer to the Pamplin family, and in particular, to Frances Harriet Williams, niece of his friend William Pamplin.  In particular he refers to a significant visit from Frances H and her mother Frances Williams, nee Pamplin, in February 1881.

Walking was always central to Thomas’ life, and several walks are recorded in the journal of the first half of 1881.  His friends, made mainly via the Chester Society and further acquaintances recommended by  friends from the Society seem to have been central in his rehabilitation following Mary’s death.

A Bank holiday walk on April 18th with Mr. Jebb, whom he met on the highest summit of the Berwyns, took him on a 20 mile round trip, ending with a meal at the ‘smartest’ hotel in Bala, the White Lion. Thomas’ friends were usually from a ‘higher’ echelon of society, as discerned by the scrupulous social order of Victorian Society, but his geological and botanical knowledge gave him the edge in any expedition into the hills.

On May 4th the Vicar of Runcorn, the Revd. William Preston arrived, introduced by a letter from Mr. Shrubsole of the Chester Society, to view Thomas’ fossil collection, and be taken on a fossil hunting expedition.

The full text of these walks here.

On May 10th Thomas walked with Mr. Dean, the brother of Mrs. Robertson, wife of his employer.  Thomas quite frequently spent time in the company of John Dean, who seems to have shared his interest in the countryside, and who no doubt relied on Thomas as guide and interpreter of the environment.

Text of this walk here

On Tuesday 4th June  Thomas set out from William and Margaret Pamplin’s house with Mrs. Williams, mother of Thomas’ future second wife, for a lengthy walk to Pont y Glyn.  William was at this time 75 years old, and Frances Williams 73.  It is interesting that Frances, who had been a widow since 1866, was visiting alone, since the friendship between Thomas and her daughter had become so close.  Was she perhaps visiting to enable Thomas to ask her permission to propose marriage to Frances Harriet?

The walk was about 7 miles, over testing mountainous country, to a height of 430 metres (400 ft)  Thomas comments on the sprightly nature of his companions (Margaret Pamplin was younger – only 43 at the time.)  From Pont y Glyn they returned by ‘a conveyance’.  Would it be necessary to book this in advance, I wonder, or could one find a conveyance in the village, or stop one passing on the road?

To end an exciting day, Thomas records feeling a sizeable earthquake in the evening.  his own world was certainly in the process of change.  I wonder whether he regarded it as an omen?

Text of the walk here

 

The Pamplin Heritage

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From a letter to Thomas Ruddy complimenting him on his marriage to William’s niece Frances Harriet

Link to *new website* dedicated to Thomas’ friend William Pamplin and his family: http://williampamplin.co.uk/

When Thomas Ruddy married Frances Harriet Williams,  niece of William Pamplin (see here) he was marrying into a family proud of its antecedents, and who kept a great deal of memorabilia from several generations of the family.  These eventually passed into the Ruddy family, probably on the death of William Pamplin in 1899.  Thomas’ son, the Revd Henry Ruddy curated them, and used his position as a clergyman to draw up an extensive family tree, often writing to fellow clergy, in the 1930’s to verify parish records.  Henry registered the papers with the National Archives, and donated certain significant objects to relevant museums, such as the two drawings made of Cyfarthfa house and works in the 1790’s by William Pamplin (1768-1844) the elder.

They have now come into my possession and I hope to share online some of the material treasured by Thomas and Frances Harriet Ruddy and passed on by them.

Introducing Miss Williams – 1880

Few photographs exist of Frances Harriet Ruddy, neé Williams.  this is apparently taken when she was a young woman.
Few photographs exist of Frances Harriet Ruddy, neé Williams. This is apparently taken when she was a young woman.

Sept 17th Friday. I went with Mr. & Mrs. Pamplin and his niece Miss F.H Williams to Dolgelly.

This is Thomas’ first mention of his future wife, Frances Harriet.  It is unclear to what extent there was a degree of matchmaking on the part of her uncle William Pamplin.  William himself had been widowed in 1876 when his first wife Caroline died from cancer.  William married Margaret Parry, a local woman considerably younger than himself, two years later in 1878.  One interesting point is that Frances’ mother, Frances Williams did not join the walk, although she was usually included in later walks.  It is likely that she had accompanied her daughter to Wales, but the party consisting of Mr and Mrs Pamplin, Thomas and Frances encouraged an opportunity for conversation on a walk of some length.

We went with the first train to Bontnewyd. On our route we could see the effects of the great floods – the debris of bridges strewn in the bed of the rivers; riverside meadows covered with large stones, sand and gravel. There were plenty of signs of destruction all along the line from Llanwchllyn to Bontnewyd [SH771 201]. From Bontnewyd we went up past the village of Brithdir [SH767188] to the head of the Torrent Walk. The village is scattered about; the bulk of the houses being covered with creepers; the tropaeoleum speciosum being very conspicuous. There was an Independent Chapel in the village, and a school a little further on. From the village we had beautiful and extensive views. South of us stood Aran, on the north conspicuous were the cone of Moel Offrum and the high Rhobell-faur. West of us stood Cader Idris in all its beauty, its east side showing the steepness of it. The walk by the torrent was most pleasing; numerous cascades or steep slopes of rock, down which the water rushed; deep gorges when the water disappeared, overhung with lichen covered trees; the rocky slopes of the torrent being covered with moss, ferns or flowers. The little filmy fern (H. Wilsonii) being most beautiful and abundant.

We lunched by the torrent, and strolled down leisurely until we arrived at Dolserau gate. We next went through the grounds of Dolgûn [SH747184] which pleased my friends very much. I showed them the old smelting work, the beautiful trees of Dolgûn, and rare ferns, especially the Ceterach and a branching, fronded Asplenium trichomanes. We were all delighted with the walk, and as it was all new to my friends, they were full of admiration. On our way to Dolgelly we found the Tutsan St. John’s wort by the roadside. We crossed the river Aran which runs down from Cader, and got into Dolgelly by 3 pm. We had a substantial meat tea at the Talbot Hotel, where we were most comfortable.

After tea we walked out to Cymmer Abbey. On the way we passed the young ladies’ school, Dickson’s Nursery and the mansion of Hengwrt – once the residence of a noted antiquary Robert Vaughan. My friends stayed on the road in sight of the abbey while I went to see it. On my way down I saw fine walnut trees in the grounds. I entered the ruin which is a long nave with three windows (lancet) in the east end, the entrance being at the west end. The walls were built of shale except the coigns and mouldings. A great quantity of Asplenium trichomanes and the pellitory of the wall grew on the walls. The garden is a square attached to the abbey, but it has no very old trees. Along the south boundary wall there is a ditch full of water cress, showing that the monks cultivated it. The abbey is situated, as abbeys usually are, in a beautiful spot at the entrance to Llanelltyd valley, and close to the river Mawddach. We returned to Dolgelly at the back of Hengwrt, where we got charming views. While waiting until train time, we had a stroll about the town, which is famed for short, crooked streets, houses with entrances by outside steps, and everything in confusion. We returned home in good spirits and delighted with our very interesting and pleasant trip.

For both Frances Harriet and Thomas the walk was something of a test of their mutual suitability.  Frances had been brought up in a town, but seems to have sustained two walks, the first about four and a half miles,  partly over rough terrain,  the second at least two and a half miles.  This must have seemed satisfactory to Thomas, who was to lead her on many such demanding expeditions for the rest of her life.  On her part, Frances appears to have relished Thomas’ commentary on all things botanical, geological and historic encountered along the way.  This is not surprising as she was the grand daughter of a nurseryman and botanist, and the niece of a botanist and botanical bookseller.  No wonder Thomas returned delighted and in good spirits from what was to be a very significant expedition.

Loss of a friend 1876

 

Caroline Pamplin
Caroline Pamplin, nee Hunnemann

1876  January 30th Sunday. Mrs. Pamplin died. This lady was a most amiable and kind friend to my wife and myself and her death grieves us very much. She was Willy’s* Godmother.

*William Pamplin Ruddy, Thomas’ second son.

Caroline Elizabeth Pamplin, nee Hunneman (19th November 1793 – 30th January 1876) was the daughter of John Hunneman (1760-1839) a botanical bookseller in Frith Street Soho.  See here.  William Pamplin, Thomas Ruddy’s friend, now living in Llandderfel had taken over Hunneman’s bookselling and publishing business after his death in March 1839.  He married Caroline in January 1840, and they continued to live in Frith Street until moving to Wales in 1862.

Later William Pamplin was to introduce the widowed Thomas to his niece Frances Harriet, who became his second wife.  It was through this connection that the papers and photographs which I inherited from the Ruddy and Pamplin families were preserved.

A local expert 1875

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Hibernating doormouse

It is now six years since Thomas became Head Gardener at Palé.  His journal entries are scant for the year, but most are concerned with the various collections and hobbies he was by now pursuing very earnestly.  It is clear that his reputation was spreading far and wide, so that he was brought objects of interest, received invitations as a judge at agricultural events and began to receive the first few of a number of international visitors to see his collections.

January 28 Thursday Mr. Robertson came to see my fossils.

Thomas was very particular about displaying and labelling his fossil collection.  I assume he now had the fossils displayed to his satisfaction, and was proud to show them to his employer.  Later, in 1889 during Queen Victoria’s visit, Henry Robertson’s son Henry Beyer Robertson allowed Thomas to lay out his fossils in the fruit room, and he was able to show them to the Queen herself.

April 29th Thursday I had a dormouse brought to me from Tyfos, the first one I have seen in Wales. It was found rolled up dormant inside a lump of leaves, which were glued together.  I am unable to discover from where the dormouse was brought, or by whom, but Thomas was obviously known as the man who would welcome this rarity.

August 19th Thursday I was at Ruthin as judge at the flower show held in the castle grounds. The show was very good and well attended. Mr More of Dublin here to see me. A [Alexander] .G. More is an excellent botanist and ornithologist and author of a very useful book on birds. He was much interested in my collection of eggs.  Information on A.G. More here.

How did A.G. More come to know of Thomas, and visit him?  The most likely answer lies with his friend William Pamplin, whose contacts as a naturalist continued to be wide-ranging after he retired from London to Wales.

Sept 8th Wednesday Mr. Pamplin, his nephew Mr. Williams and I went to the top of Aran [SH867242] We climbed up from Lanwchllyn along the ridge until we got to the top of Aran Benllyn, from which we crossed over to the other peak, Aran Mawdy [Aran Fawddwy on OS] The day got very foggy when we got to the top so that we got only glimpses now and then. When clear we got splendid views. The top is rough with large square blocks of ash rock. We went down to Drws-y-nant station [SH840259] in a rain which wet us a bit; having some time to stay we went to the inn named Howel Dda for refreshments.  A first mention of William Pamplin Williams, nephew of William Pamplin, who would become Thomas Ruddy’s brother-in-law when William’s sister became the widower Thomas’ second wife in 1881.

December 31st Friday I have been working very hard at the fossils during the summer. I have been to Gelli Grin, Rhiwlas, Aberhirnant Cynwyd and Llandrillo in search of Bala fossils. I found many of great interest

I have made some new friends such as. Davies (D C Davies) who is a good geologist and author. He lives at Ebnal Lodge near Oswestry. Mr. Davies very kindly lent me ‘Davidson’s Brachiopoda’ and ‘Sedgwicks’ book (see here) so as to enable me to name my fossils. Mr Robinson of Shrewsbury who gave me coins and a statuette of the ‘Sybil of Cumaena’ found at Viroconium or Wroxeter; an old Roman city. This statuette is of great interest. Mr Shrubsole, a Chester geologist and Chairman of the geological section of the Chester Society of Natural Science. Mr. Shrubsole has been urging me on strongly to geologize the Bala beds of the district.

Again, it is difficult to verify how Thomas made the acquaintance of these new friends, but the answer may lie with the Nurseryman George Dickson, of Chester who first introduced Thomas to Palé.  George Dickson was a prominent member of the Chester Society of Natural Science.  Thomas never actually joined that august body, but he led many geological and botanical expeditions for them in later years, and won their prized Kingsley Medal in 1889.

Friends, family, gardens and geology – 1873

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The journal entries for the year 1873 are sporadic and mainly brief, but they demonstrate the main features of Thomas’ life and interests in their mix of topics.

Once again Thomas visits a local house with a view to help with the design of the garden.:May 19th Monday Had a trip to Eyarth near Ruthin. Mr Pulestone brother-in-law To Mr. Evan Jones of Bala is having a house built there and I have promised to lay out the place for him. He bought the large farm of Ffynogion for the sum of £9,000, and he is going to have the villa built for a tenant.  We can only assume that this was with the encouragement and permission of his employer at Palé, Mr, Robertson.  It also suggests that the design and upkeep of the Palé garden was well in hand, allowing Mr Robertson to consent to the absence and wider engagement of his Head Gardener at other estates.  In the next year Henry Robertson was to become Liberal MP for Shrewsbury (he had already served in that position between 1862 and 1865).  He would have moved in the circles of those local landowners, and might have been glad to offer an obviously talented gardener and landscape designer to come to their aid.  All thanks to the nurture of Mr Williamson, head gardener at Minto, where Thomas shared a bothy and studied Geometry, French and Latin.

Thomas’ continuing interest in geology is evident:  May 30th Friday My friend Mr. William Owen (of Plasisa, Llandderfel) and I went geologising over the Berwen to the Phosphate mine [See here]. We got a few fossils at the Bala limestone; it was a very warm day and we were very thirsty and tired, but well pleased with our journey.  Throughout his life he made friendships with those in the neighbourhood who had similar interests in the natural sciences.  events were later to lead to wider friendships, visits and correspondence with significant scholars, particularly geologists.  There are over 1,000 of his geological specimens in the Natural History Museum, and he later sent a parcel of specimens to the Smithsonian Museum in New York, at the request of the curator of geology.

An intriguing mention is made of an expedition with ‘Mr. Irvine of London’.  William Pamplin, Thomas’ greatest friend and mentor had collaborated with Alexander Irvine who had lived close by WP in Chelsea in earlier years, and Irvine and Pamplin had made joint botanical expeditions both in Scotland and Wales.  Alexander Irvine had died in May 1873.  Was this a relative whom Thomas met through William Pamplin.  How else did Thomas come to have a London based friend?

Sept 11 Thursday I went to Barmouth with my friend Mr. Irvine of London; we got out at Arthog and botanised all the way to Barmouth. We got several interesting plants. During the year I have added largely to my collection of plants, eggs and fossils.  I have explored a great deal of the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, events moved on in the Pamplin and the Ruddy households, bringing both joy and sadness:

August 30th Saturday Poor Miss Sarah Pamplin died from an accident caused by falling down the cellar steps at Bronwylfa. We were both exceedingly sorry, for she was a most amiable and kind person. It was a terrible blow for her family. William Pamplin’s sister Sarah had come with her sister Harriet; from their family home in Newington, South London and settled near William and Caroline in the village of Llandderfel.  They were 68 and 69 when they arrived, and lived in the home of the local doctor.

While in the Ruddy household, there was a new arrival: Dec 31st Wednesday (in the evening) Our third child born and named Mary Emily Ruddy.[In a later hand] Died on the 15th of June 1897.

Mr Pamplin (1806-1889)

Portrait said to be of William Pamplin
Portrait of William Pamplin by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Thomas Ruddy seemed able to become acquainted throughout his life with people  who could guide, inform, influence and befriend him.  Many of these shaped the course of his life and interests.  Two examples referred to in the early pages of the journal are Robert Daniel, a friend of Thomas’ father who advised Thomas to become a gardener and Adam Mathieson, curator of the Jedburgh museum, and significant amateur geologist, inspirer of Thomas’ geological interest.

None, however, was as significant as his friendship with William Pamplin was to become.  Drawn together by a shared love of botany, ornithology and horticulture, they were later to become related by marriage, when in 1881 the widowed Thomas would marry William’s niece Frances Harriet.  It was for this reason that some of the Pamplin papers passed down with the Ruddy papers, residing in the trunk which I first opened in 2005, and which has so considerably influenced the course of my own life.

William had a remarkable life, and he was already about 64 when Thomas first refers to him in the journal in 1870.  Born in London and living there for most of his life, it was a matter of chance that both men came to live in what was then a fairly remote area of Wales.  I will try in later posts to trace the history of William’s family as well as that of Thomas’.  Meanwhile this link to the Welsh Archives will begin to sketch the man who was to become Thomas’ greatest friend in Wales.  They are buried close to one another in Llandderfel churchyard, the nearest village to Palé Hall.

I am not an expert on William Pamplin – others are better equipped than I to give an account of his life – and I may draw on their expertise for future posts.  His life story, pieced together by Internet research, items from the collection in my care and the researches of other Pamplin enthusiasts, and not least from online census reports, is fascinating and intriguing.  From now on I shall be interspersing Thomas Ruddy’s journal entries with the story of William’s ancestors, and the lives of other members of the Pamplin family.