ROBINSON, Thomas (?1702-77), of Rokeby, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. ?1702, 1st s. of William Robinson of Rokeby by Anne, da. and h. of Robert Walters of Cundall, Yorks.; cos. of Matthew Robinson. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 22 June 1721, aged 18; M. Temple 1722; Grand Tour. m. (1) 25 Oct. 1728, Lady Elizabeth Howard (d. 10 Apr. 1739), da. of Charles, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, wid. of Nicholas Lechmere, 1st Baron Lechmere, s.p.; (2) 31 May 1743, at Barbados, Elizabeth Booth, wid. of Samuel Salmon of Barbados, ironmonger, s.p. suc. fa. 1720; cr. Bt. 10 Mar. 1731.
Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1727; res. 1731; commr. of excise Nov. 1735-Feb. 1742; gov. of Barbados 1742-Apr. 1747.
Robinson was descended from a London merchant, who bought a Yorkshire estate in 1610. An amateur architect, he completely rebuilt the family seat at great expense, improving its name from Rookby to Rokeby. Returned for Morpeth in 1727 on the interest of George Bowes, for which he paid £1,200,1 he voted regularly with the Government, sending valuable accounts of debates to his father-in-law, Lord Carlisle. His first speech, 11 Mar. 1731, was against a proposal that common soldiers should be entitled to obtain their discharge after a certain period of service. In 1732 he introduced a petition from the sufferers of the frauds in the Charitable Corporation, becoming chairman of the committee set up by the Commons to investigate the affair. He spoke for the Government on the army in 1732 and 1733, observing that he was the only ‘Member out of employment’ who had done so.2 In 1733 he spoke for the excise bill, according to his brother-in-law, Charles Howard, ‘so fast nobody could hear him, and towards the last, the House not being very silent, he was a little out’. However, in the debate on the repeal of the Septennial Act in 1734 Howard reported that Robinson’s speech had ‘gained the approbation of everybody, and I hope will be of real service to him, so that he will make a voyage to Cornwall, or have some employment’.3 The voyage to Cornwall referred to the fact that, having no prospect of being re-elected for Morpeth, his only hope of returning to Parliament was by way of a government seat in that county. He did not obtain a seat but in 1735 he was made a commissioner of excise at £1,000 a year. In 1736 he asked the 1st Lord Egmont to put him up for a trusteeship of the Georgia Society but when Egmont proposed him several objected on the ground that ‘he would give us a great deal of trouble’, so it was decided to tell him that no trustees were being elected that year.4 Having ruined himself by his improvements at Rokeby, he was appointed governor of Barbados in 1742 with a salary of £2,000 a year. Next year he married a West Indian heiress, who refused to accompany him when he was recalled in 1747 at the request of the local house of assembly, who complained, inter alia, that he had been diverting defence funds to rebuilding Government House. He was never employed again but in 1750 he obtained a pension of £500 a year.
A noted pest to persons of high rank or office, he is said to have been very troublesome to the Earl of Burlington, and when in his visits to him he was told his lordship had gone out, would desire to be admitted to look at the clock, or play with a monkey that was kept in the hall, in hopes of being sent for by the Earl. This he had so frequently done that all the household were tired of him. At length it was concerted amongst the servants that he should receive a summary answer to his usual questions; and accordingly, at his next coming, the porter, as soon as he had opened the gate, and without waiting for what he had to say dismissed him with these words, ‘Sir, his lordship is gone out, the clock stands, and the monkey is dead’.
Before his death, 3 Mar. 1777, his extravagance forced him to sell Rokeby.5