Robson, William

Submitted by edpope on Tue, 21/11/2017 - 21:45

AMENDMENTS TO OXFORD DNB unfinished entry not yet sent to ODNB

William Robson (1785/6-1863) author and translator and William James Robson (b.1822? d. in or after 1862) swindler

I've put these two together as (unbeknownst to the ODNB) they were father and son.

William Robson was baptised 8.11.1786 St Andrew Holborn son of William and Mary Robson. His grandfather, Adam Robson was a gardener and seedsman, and member of the Leathersellers Company who left his business to a younger son, John. Their wills (Adam PCC 30.12.1797 dated 20.3.1793 and John PCC 21.1.1811 dated 20.6.1794) both mentioned William Robson senior and his son William and left them small legacies. William Robson senior may have been a watch case maker, but that may have been a different William Robson, and I couldn't find his marriage or burial or his wife's burial. The will (PCC 12.1.1818 dated 17.3.1803) of John Harris Wicks, whose school William Robson attended, mentioned his friend John Robson of London.

William Robson's membership of the Philological Society was asserted by Robert Gittings in his introduction to The Old Playgoer without giving a source but he claimed access to papers which were about to be dispersed. The source may still be in the letters of John Taylor at Derbyshire Record Office (D504/144) which I haven't been to see. From 1813 to 1837 William Robson appeared in London directories as a hay salesman in St John Street and active at Smithfield Market, at one point in partnership with James Wherlings, who had married William's aunt Mary in 1782. Their partnership was dissolved in 1822 (London Gazette 16.3.1822). Robson's aunt Mary Wherlings died in 1807 and in 1812 James Wherlings married Ann, the widow of Robson's uncle John. In 1824 Robson was fined for selling clover short of weight (Morn Chron 18.3.1824). William Robson of St Sepulchre bach married at Lambeth 10.10.1817 Susannah Wilson otp sp by lic. She was the daughter of Martin Wilson, a brewer of St Botolph Aldgate. Their first child was William James, bapt 15.12.1819 St Sepulchre, then John Sutcliffe bapt 1821, Susan bapt 1822, Mary bapt 1824, George bapt 1825, all at St Sepulchre giving their father's trade as salesman or hay salesman, except for John Sutcliffe who was baptised at Tottenham son of William Robson gent. There was also a youngest daughter named Ellen born about 1830 but I couldn't find her baptism.

In the 1841 census Robson, his wife and 6 children, 33 male pupils and 3 servants were all at Hyde Side House Edmonton. A girls' school listed in directories at nearby Winchmore Hill was kept by Mrs and Miss Robson in 1811 and by Mrs Robson in 1839 (which may be just coincidence of name). The Morning Chronicle of 9.1.1847 reported the death in her 56th year of Susanna the wife of William Robson Esq of the Hyde, Edmonton. By then two of her children had married. On 2.9.1845 at Edmonton Mary Robson married Henry Charles Johnson, of Sekforde St, London, and on 9.11.1845 at Salisbury William James Robson Esq of Myddleton Square, Islington married Isabella Graham, youngest daughter of the late David Winzar, surgeon of Salisbury (Morn Post 12.11.1845). In her divorce petition of 1864, Isabella Graham Robson listed all the places they lived together, viz. Myddleton Sq / Calthorpe Road, Grays Inn Road / Edmonton / Woodford, Essex / Albion Square, Dalston / near St Helier, Jersey / Exeter, Devon / Pelham Villas, Brompton / Lloyd square, Pentonville / Little Ormond Street / Vincent Square, Westminster (where they appeared in the 1851 census, his profession given as Clerk in public office) / Westbourne Park Road / Wood Green / Carey Street / Holloway / Hackney / Sydenham, Kent / Alpha Road / & 11, Greville Place, Kilburn (also known as Kilburn Priory where he was living when his forgeries were didcovered). In addition to his position in the Crystal Palace Company, by 1856 he was running a business smelting antimony at Bowling Green Mews, Kennington Oval, and only a month before he was forced to flee, an advert had listed him (Morn Post 8.8.1856) as one of the 4 directors of the Timber Bending Patents Company. In her divorce petition his wife stated that there was no issue of their marriage.

Meanwhile his widowed father William made an attempt to become a farmer. In 1841 and in 1847 he was listed on the electoral register at Hyde-side House, Edmonton as a tenant of £85 p.a. Along with his second son John Sutcliffe Robson, he was listed in 1849 on the electoral register at Great Greenford, Middlesex, as tenants of more than £50 p.a. of Benjamin Way, Esq, of Denham, Bucks. On 20.10.1849 at All Saints, Knightsbridge, George Robson, labourer, son of William Robson, market gardener married Mercy Margaret, dau of Samuel Middleton, sawyer, and on 26.12.1849 at St Luke's, Old Street, John Sutcliffe Robinson married Elizabeth, dau of Joseph Nicholas, labourer.  John Sutcliffe and his wife set sail on 9.1.1850 for Durban, South Africa, and their first son was born 26.3.1850 during the five month voyage. By the time of the 1851 census, George Robson was living in Greenford described as "formerly farmer now out of employ" between two households of his wife's Middleton family, all agricultural labourers, and near the Nicholas family of his brother's wife, also all labourers. William Robson their father was a visitor, along with his daughter Susan, at the house of James Gossip, a gardener born in Scotland, at 23 Paradise Row, Lambeth. Henry Johnson, Robson's son in law, was listed as a builder, and from the birthplaces of his children, had moved in 1849 from Woodford, Essex to Heston (3 miles south of Greenford). The youngest Robson sister Ellen was living with the Johnsons at Heston.

In the 1861 census William Robson was a lodger at 5 Beaufort Terrace, Camberwell, the house of Agnes & Mary Walker, unmarried sisters and fundholders in their 30s, and was described as "General litterateur & linguist". His son George was a hop merchant's clerk living on Rye Common, Peckham. The Johnsons were in Hornsey, having moved from Heston to Islington and then to the West Midlands (perhaps to avoid the scandal his brother-in-law had involved him in) before returning to London. On 15.9.1863, two months before his father's death, William James Robson married bigamously at Perth, Australia, Elizabeth Bell, widow, his profession was given as schoolmaster. On 22.4.1864 Isabella Graham Robson of 1 Retreat Cottages, Hackney, filed her petition for divorce and (once it had crossed the ocean) presented the bigamous certificate as evidence. The divorce was granted.