Robert Robson was the son of a Cumberland yeoman, who served as Cocking’s curate for 16 years from 1753 to 1769. More than 30 years after he took holy orders, he was finally rewarded with the benefice of Stedham with Heyshott, but died four years later.
Robert Robson was born in about 1721 in Sebergham, Cumberland, 11 miles south of Carlisle, the oldest son of Robert Robson (c.1695–1757), described as a “yeoman” and his wife, Mary née Jefferson.
Robert Robson matriculated on 20 October 1737, aged 16, and studied at Queen’s College, Oxford from where he graduated as Bachelor of Arts in March 1742.
On 24 February 1746, he was ordained as a deacon at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury by Matthias Mawson, Bishop of Chichester. On the same day, he was licensed as a curate to serve at East Dean and Woolavington (now East Lavington) near Chichester, where Robert Smith had been vicar and rector respectively since October 1730.
Robson was ordained as a priest at the Bishop’s Palace, Chichester by Bishop Matthias Mawson on 2 October 1748, although this was not reflected in his career as a church minister for many years.
On 5 July 1751, Robert Robson married Jane Allen (three years his senior) at St Mary Magdalene & St Denys Church, Midhurst. The couple’s only child, Jane, was born the following spring, and baptised at St Mary’s Church, Pulborough on 7 April 1752.
It is not known when Robson left East Dean (his successor James Maidlow was appointed in 1755), but on 25 July 1753, he was licensed as curate at Cocking by Bishop Matthias Mawson. At this time, the vicar at Cocking was Thomas Hutchinson, who was also vicar at Horsham, where he preferred to spend his time.
Robson’s name first appears in the Cocking parish register on 13 November 1754, when he officiated at the marriage of John Martin and Mary Sowter. He continued to officiate at weddings (one or two each year) until August 1769 (about the time that Thomas Williams had been installed as vicar), although he did return to the church (described as “curate on this occasion”) at the marriage between Charles Rogers and Ann Gill on 17 February 1775.
Alongside his curacy at Cocking, Robert Robson was also curate at Selham, where he was also licensed on 25 July 1753. He served Selham in conjunction with nearby Lodsworth, where he became “de facto” minister in 1761.
By 1769, Robson was desperate for a benefice of his own, and on 19 December he wrote to William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland asking the duke to assist him in obtaining a preferment in the diocese of Durham; Robson claimed that he had supported the duke’s political interests in the north. Nothing seems to have come of this request, as Robson continued as curate at Lodsworth until 1778.
On the Episcopal Register of the then Bishop of Chichester, William Ashburnham for 1775, Robert Robson is recorded as rector at Merston (south of Chichester), and as curate at Lodsworth, Selham and Easebourne. It is not known when he took up the appointments at Merston and Easebourne.
In 1778, 32 years after he was ordained, Robert Robson was appointed as rector at Stedham with Heyshott (then a united benefice). Unfortunately, there is no record of his actual induction at either church.
Robert Robson died in Midhurst on 4 November 1782, aged 61, and was buried at Midhurst church three days later. On the north wall (since removed) of the church, there was a memorial plaque inscribed:
Sacred to the Memory of the
Rev. Robert Robson, Rector of
Merston, Stedham, and Heyshott,
in the Diocese of Chichester,
who died Nov. 4th, 1782,
Robson’s daughter, Jane died on 21 February 1786, aged 33, followed by her mother in January 1793. Both were interred in Midhurst, and their names were added to the memorial plaque.
Robert Robson’s youngest brother, James (1733–1806), was a prominent bookseller in Bond Street, London.
England, Extracted Parish and Court Records, 1399–1795
Oxford University Alumni, 1500–1886
UK, Extracted Probate Records, 1269–1975
Bouch, Charles Murray Lowther (1961) A Short Economic and Social History of the Lake Counties, 1500–1830 p.185
Challen, W.H. The Parish Register of Cocking, Sussex (1558–1837) pp. 62, 90–92, 111–112
Clergy of the Church of England Database: 65250. Robson, Robert (1746–1775)
The Gentleman’s Magazine:
October 1803. p.922 Epitaphs at Midhurst and Petworth
December 1803. p.1021 Revd. Robert Robson
GravelRoots: Heyshott Clergy
Lodsworth Heritage Society:
Lamb, Wilfred. Notes for a History of Lodsworth p.18
Timperley, Charles Henry. (1839) A Dictionary of Printers and Printing p.825 (Obituary: James Robson)
The Topographer: May 1791. pp.277–278 An Account of Midhurst…
University of Nottingham archives: Letter from Rev. Robert Robson, Midhurst [Sussex], to [W.H.C. Cavendish-Bentinck], 3rd Duke of Portland; 19 Dec. 1769