The Robinson Story

I -Chris -have highlighted my direct ancestors in this story and also adde a few comments in italics

The Robinson story is a complicated one - there are a lot of inter-family marriages, based around the hamlet of Chilson in west Oxfordshire, about 15 miles north-west of Oxford.

Chilson is on the edge of the Cotswolds, in mixed arable and pasture land on the slopes of the valley of the River Evenlode, overlooked by the remaining fragment of the once-great hunting forest of the Wychwood. In medieval times, the forest was as large and important as the New Forest. Henry I used to keep a menagerie there, and in Tudor times hunting parties met in Burford. The forest gives its name to villages such as Shipton-under-Wychwood and Ascott-under-Wychwood. Wychwood (Hwicce wuda) refers to a large pre-Norman forest, home of the Hwicce people. Shipton comes from Sheep-tun, and Ascott (Est-cota) means East Homestead. [See History of the Wychwood]

The local chapel for Chilson is at Shorthampton, a hamlet about a mile east of Chilson, down the hill from the northern edge of the Wychwood. Shorthampton consists of a farm (Shorthampton Farm), two cottages, a building that may have once been a school and the chapel. All Saints' Chapel is of Norman origin (12th Century) and has wall paintings dating from around 1460 depicting the Miracle of the Clay Birds, a legend from the apocryphal Infancy of Christ. Other paintings show the St Sytha; a Doom; a depiction of demonic delight (including a hell cauldron and a demon playing a horn); and the legend of St Eloy. All of the paintings are fragmentary, some are quite clear; others are very difficult to interpret. The chapel has box pews and a 12th Century tub font.

Shorthampton is a chapelry of Charlbury, and covers the hamlets of Chilson and Pudlicote as well as forest parishes such as Walcot, Fawler and Finstock. It was looked after by the Curate from Chadlington. Burials are not recorded until 1773 - perhaps internments were at Chadlington.

Chilson is also in the valley north of the Wychwood, and has about a dozen cottages, Richard Norton's old Primitive Methodist Chapel and two farms - Boulter's Farm (now a private house) and Chilson Farm. Most of the buildings are on one street, Pudlicote Lane.

Up the hill and across the main road is the hamlet of Chilson Hill, where a lot of our ancestors seem to have come from. Nowadays, there are only two houses in Chilson Hill. One of them, a strange collection of buildings which have been added to over the years, was the home of George Robinson and also his cousin Rosetta Biles. Parts of the house may date back to Elizabethan times. The house was extended by Richard Norton in 1858. The Wychwood was enclosed at around the same time, and the Robinsons lost their forest rights of "lop and top", being compensated by a small piece of land at Chilson Hill, just outside the forest wall.

Pudlicote is about a mile north of Chilson. There is a large county house, Pudlicote House, and a couple of farms. Shipton-under-Wychwood and Ascott-under-Wychwood are quite large villages dominated by their churches, Holy Trinity in Ascott and St. Mary's in Shipton both being of Norman origin.


The minister church in Charlbury was probably founded in the 7th Century and covered Cornbury, Finstock, Fawler, Chadlington, Pudlicote, Chilson, Shorthampton and Walcot as well as Charlbury itself, with chapels at Chadlington and Shorthampton.

Charlbury is described in the 1830 Pigot's Directory :
Charlbury, a decayed market-town, is watered by the river Evenlode, which passes at the bottom of the town, and in its course turns some corn-mills. The manufacture of locks employed at one period many of the inhabitants; this branch is now nearly lost, and the making of gloves to a small extent has taken precedence of the former trade. The country around here is generally allowed to possess great attractions; it abounds with pleasing views, and seats of the nobility and gentry interspersed amongst hill and dale, covering a soil rich and fertile. There is a pleasure-fair held within a mile of the town, in Whichwood forest, generally about the middle of September.

I have found a Walter Robinson marrying an Ursula Wickins in Charlbury on 4th October 1591, in the reign of Elizabeth I. I am not sure which village they lived in. I think that Walter and Ursula are my 9x great grandparents.

I believe that one of their children was John Robinson, born in the 1590's, who had married and started having children by 1618.

In 1625, Walter Robinson, the son of John, was baptised in Charlbury. He lived at Chilson Hill. Now we get to a confusing event - Walter is shown in the Parish Register of Charlbury marrying Elizabeth Major on 5th October 1668, then less than 4 weeks later, on 2nd November 1668, he is shown again marrying Elizabeth Pit ! Perhaps the first date was the proclamation of banns, and Elizabeth Major / Pit were the same person, one surname being her maiden name and the other being a previous married name ?

Walter would have been about 43 when he married Elizabeth - perhaps he had been married before ?

Walter seems to have had at least six, possibly seven children, before dying in 1688. In Walter's Will of 1688 ("in the third yere of the Reign of our gracios Sovaran Lord James the second by the grace of God of England Scotland France and Ire Land King defender of the faith"), he left "foure score pounds" to his son John (about £8000 in today's equivalent), and £20 each to his daughters Sarah and Elizabeth. There was also an inventory of his house taken at the time of his death (26th December 1688). The rooms mentioned are the Hall chamber (bedroom), the Hall (living room) and the Buttry (kitchen). In the buttery there were "three barrils to kittles three puter dishes with other lumber", value £1. The Hall contained "one table one fire shovell one pair of andirons with other things" value 8s 1d. When his wife Elizabeth died 20 years later, the Hall contents were still the same, and they were still worth 8s 1d.

Walter's first child was John Robinson, born about 1669. John married a woman known as Margit (Margaret ?) about 1703 - I have found a John Robinson marrying a Margery Sadler at Oxford St.Peter in the East in 1703 - this might be them. Farm labourers tended to move around, as they would attend hiring fairs each year, where they could find work with farmers from far and wide.

Anyway, John and Margit had at least ten (possibly thirteen) children in the Chilson area. We are probably descended from two of these children : Joshua Robinson, born about 1722, and Mary Robinson, born in 1718.

In John's will of 1742, he leaves £10 to each of his children, except for his eldest surviving son William, to whom he leaves "my Little House and Garden as Michael Topping lives in and Five pounds of Lawfull money of England."

Joshua Robinson married Mary Matthews in Shorthampton in January 1759. This is where things start getting very complicated. Joshua and Mary had at least eleven children between 1759 and 1780 - the first, William Robinson, being baptised two days after his parents' wedding - although he may not have been Joshua's son - he is referred to in Joshua's Will as William Mathas (Matthews ?)

It is from this point that Colin's ancestry differs from mine -Chris Lyons : I am only desended from Richard Robinson 1775.

We are descended from the eldest son, William, and the youngest son, Richard Robinson - but William's wife and Richard's wife are also ancestors of ours in their own right !

Joshua Robinson left a Will in December 1780, a month before he died. He is described as a Yeoman (small landowner) and as being "Weak in Body but of Sound Mind Memory and Understanding thanks be to God." He left 5 shillings each to his children, and to his wife he left "my Stock and Crop and Horse Kine and Sheep and all sorts of Corn Hay Waggons Carts and all other Things belonging of Appurtaining to me ... as long as she Contains a Widow" . Basically, if she remarried, everything would then go to the children. She didn't remarry and wrote her will in December 1809, dying in April 1811, 30 years after her husband.

The Hands Family

We now have to go back to Mary Robinson, daughter of John and Margit, who was born in 1718. She apparently married a Mr.Wells, and then married Samuel Hands in 1750, when she was 32 and he was 20.

Samuel Hands, who I'll refer to as Samuel Hands II, as there were at least five of them, was born in 1729, the son of Samuel Hands I and Jane Licence. I believe Samuel Hands I was born in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, the son of Willy and Annie Hands.

Samuel Hands II was a higgler (an itinerant trader). He and Mary Robinson had two sons - including Samuel Hands3 1751 - and two daughters - both daughters married Robinsons. The youngest daughter, Mary Hands, married William Robinson, son of Joshua Robinson and Mary Matthews, in 1783.

Samuel and Mary and all four of their children are mentioned in the Oxford Quarter Sessions between 1774 and 1818 - they obviously had an ongoing feud with the Arthers family, which seems to have started when the Arthers family lost most of their lands and the Hands family gained some land, not having had any before.

Records of : The Oxon Court of Quarter Sessions ; Depositions,
Recognizances & Indictments :

1774 Mich.
(7) 20 Sep Jno Arthers of Chilson yeom. £20 to prosecute Sam Hands
sen & w. Mary, Sam Hands jun., Mary & Jane Hands for assault.
(8) Sam Hands sen of Chilson higler £20 Wm Harris of Burford victler
& Jno Davis of Ascott u Whychwood contr. £10 for Sam Hanns sen. w
Mary & dau Mary to answer for an assault on John Arthers & w Ann.
(9) Jury present Sam Hands sen. Mary his wife, Sam Hands jun yeom.
Mary & Jane Hands sp all of Chilson 22 Aug viciously assaulted Jno
Arthers (& w. Ann) Court there in exectn of his office - plea not guilty.

1779 Mich.
(4) 24 July Sam Hands of Chilston [sic] husb £ 10 to prosecute Jno Arthur
husb for killing his ewe.
(5) Jno Arthur of Chilston husb £20 to answer (the above)

Easter 1809
(10) 21 Feb Jas Hands dealer £40; Sam Hands £20 both of Chilson for
peace with Mary (nee Arthers) wife of Jno. Bartlet labr.

1818 15 Aug
Sam Hands jun of Charlbury labr assaulted Mary Grimmett sp wits : Fres Waterman & Elizabeth Grimmett

The eldest son of Samuel and Mary, Samuel Hands III, married Ann Knibbs in 1781.

The Knibbs familywere saddle and horse-collar makers from Deddington, who we have traced back to Thomas Nibs, a collar maker, born about 1600.

Surely the longest continual service in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry must belong to William Knibbs of Deddington, a saddler, who enrolled when the first troops were formed in 1798 and had achieved the rank of Troop Sergeant Major by the time of his death in 1853 at the age of 75. Several other members of the Knibbs family were also long-serving members.

Samuel Hands III and Ann Knibbs had six children - two of them married Robinsons. Their eldest daughter, Charlotte Hands, married Richard Robinson, son of Joshua and Mary, in 1801.

Thus William and Richard Robinson (brothers) married Mary and Charlotte Hands (aunt and niece, and descendants of John Robinson themselves) !

Mary and William Robinson lived at Starveall Farm, between Lineham and Shipton-under-Wychwood. The farm may be still there. They had ten children between 1786 and 1805, including twins Caroline and Rachel. Caroline was a servant, and, around 1827, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Rachel Robinson, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, one of the nearest big towns to Chilson.

Richard Robinson and Charlotte Hands had at least four children, the eldest of whom was Samuel Francis Hands Robinson, known as Francis Robinson, who was born in 1801.
Richard, a farm labourer, died of apoplexy at the age of 65 in 1840. His wife Charlotte died 12 days later, of ulceration of the stomach.

Francis was a farm labourer, then a carrier, then a cow and calf dealer. Farm hands often turned to carrying during slack periods, transporting local traders' goods by horse and cart or packhorse. Francis married Ann Treadwell, from Pudlicote, in 1821 and they had seven children. By 1826, they were living at Thorngreen Farm, on the north side of the River Evenlode, a little way west of Pudlicote House.

Thorngreen Copse is shown on the 1885 map as being to the north of Ascott corn mill, but there doesn't seem to be a copse or a farm there now, possibly a barn. Perhaps Thorngreen was where the Treadwells lived.

One of the sons of Francis and Ann, Walter Robinson, married Rachel Robinson (the daughter of Caroline Robinson) in Oxford in 1851. They were 2nd cousins. This marriage means that we are descended from John and Margit Robinson by three different lines !

Another son was Francis Robinson 1834 from whom I -Chris Lyons - am descended

Before we leave Chilson, there are a few more stories of our relatives worth telling :

1) In the 1776 Will of William Robinson, a brother of Joshua and Mary, he leaves "all my Bees" to his brother Benjamin. In country lore, bees will swarm when their master dies and need to be told the name of their new owner, hence the mention in the will.

2) In the 1762 Will of John Robinson, another brother of Joshua and Mary, he leaves to four of his brothers and three of his sisters "One shilling Apiece of Lawfull Money of Great Britain" and he leaves the rest of his Estate to his "Dear Brother Joseph Robbinson". Presumably, he didn't get on with the others ! He left them a shilling each, because if they hadn't been mentioned at all in the Will, they could have disputed it.

3) George Robinson, born 1794, a descendant of John and Margit, fought in the Yeomanry in the Napoleonic Wars and took part in the Retreat to Corunna, where he suffered a broken leg.
As this took place in 1809, he can't have been very old, about 13 !

George married Ann (Nancy) Milton in Ascott-under-Wychwood in 1817. Nancy was very active in promoting Primitive Methodism in Chilson, and their house was used as a meeting house, until the chapel was built in the 1860's. The chapel was built by Richard Norton (who is buried in Shorthampton churchyard). Richard was a stonemason and builder who was married to Nancy's niece Lucy. Richard extended the house at Chilson Hill, where George and Nancy lived. Nancy is commemorated on a plaque in the chapel. The Primitive Methodists broke away from the Wesleyans in 1810, to try and get back to the roots of Methodism. George was known as Georgie Whacker after his habit, even in his old age, of hitting his wife with a broomstick !

4) Joshua Robinson, a son of Joshua and Mary, married Mary Kearred in 1801. They lived at Finstock. Mary was buried in 1812 by Coroner's Warrant, which said "hanged herself from a beam in her house in low depression and desponding for some time before. Verdict - lunacy."
This was a common verdict for suicides, as if they were of sound mind, they couldn't be buried in consecrated ground.

Back to Walter and Rachel Robinson. Rachel had been living with her uncle, a William Robinson, land proprietor, in the village of Ramsden, a couple of miles south-east of Chilson. Ramsden is a small village centred round the church and the Royal Oak pub. It lies at the heart of the ancient Forest on the line of Akeman Street, the Roman road constructed to link St Albans and Cirencester.

Walter and Rachel married at St.Mary Magdalen's in Oxford, and their first child, William Robinson, was born a couple of months later in Ramsden.

Walter was a cattle dealer. The family then moved to Summertown, a northern suburb of Oxford, where they had four daughters, two of whom (both called Fanny) died in infancy.
By 1854, Walter was described as a beer retailer of The Swan, Woodstock Road in Summertown. The Swan was in a group of tenements known as Seal's Buildings (also known as Swan's Yard). The Swan was probably a small beer house rather than a pub, and the area was apparently a squalid slum. They were still there in 1861, with their three surviving children, Walter's parents (Francis and Ann), Walter's younger sister Isabella (a bar maid) and Walter's 2nd cousin Eliza Hands (a servant).

By 1871, the family was living at the White Hart pub in Wolvercote, just west of Summertown, where they were joined by Walter's parents, Francis and Ann Robinson. Walter was now described as a licensed victualler and farmer of 53 acres, employing 1 man. His son William and his father Francis were both described as dealers.

The White Hart is probably the oldest pub in Wolvercote, with a documented history from 1695, but in use for 50 years before that. It was bought by the Hall family in 1815, and remained a Hall's pub for the rest of the 19th Century at least.

Walter's wife Rachel died of epilepsy and paralysis in 1874 - she was only 48.

In 1875, Walter's mother Ann died from gangrene. She had had an ulcerated leg for many years. Francis Robinson died in 1879, of bronchitis, old age and exhaustion.

Walter himself died in 1880. He was only 54, 'dealer & innkeeper' and left less than £800 in his will. He died of phthisis (consumption). Pulmonary tuberculosis was a common cause of death for people in the cattle and milk industry.


In 1877, Walter's son William married Fanny Saxton [see the Saxton story], who lived at the Red Lion pub across the green, which was run by her parents.

William and Fanny lived at a farm on Village Street, Wolvercote, now known as Myrtle Cottage. By 1881, William was a cattle and horse dealer and a farmer of 56 acres, employing 2 men.

In about 1888, the family moved to Wytham (pronounced White-um) in Berkshire, a couple of miles south of Wolvercote. Wytham is now in Oxfordshire. They lived at Linch Farm, now owned by the University and used as Halls of Residence. Wytham consists of three farms, the church, the White Hart Inn, some cottages and "Wytham Abbey" (actually a country house).

At some time in the 1890s, William suffered head injuries when he was thrown out of his cart when returning home - he had hit his head on the carriage lamp. The horse and cart returned home without him, and he was found in a ditch. The injury affected his memory and he could no longer run his business (William is described in the 1901 Census as "feeble minded"). William's sister Bessie and her husband James Hedges took over the business, but soon lost the lot. By 1901, James and Bessie were corn merchants in Oxford.

William's other surviving sister, Annie, married Henry Wren, also a relation of ours, but died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis. The burial service was taken by the Chaplain of Oxford Gaol.

In 1901, William and Fanny and 6 of their children were living at Manor Farm, North Hincksey, Berkshire, about 4 miles south of Wytham. He was still working as a farmer at this time.

William and Fanny moved to 143 Marlborough Road, St.Aldate in Oxford, where William died in 1908 of phthisis (consumption) and exhaustion - he was 56. The story goes that he had galloping tuberculosis and died within two days. Fanny moved to her daughter Agnes' house at 44 Norreys Avenue, St.Aldate, where she died in December 1918 of fatty degeneration of the heart and acute congestion of the lungs - she was 65.

William and Fanny had nine children, seven being born in Wolvercote and the last two in Wytham.

The children were Therese (known as Triss), Amy Elizabeth, Walter Stephen, William Arthur (Arthur), Agnes Eliza (Ag), Alfred Reginald (Alf), Florence Ann (Flo), Selena Alice (Lena) and Henry Francis (Harry).

Triss was a ladies' maid, living in Malta for a time. She married Harry Turpin, who was head coachmen on the Lidford estate in Northamptonshire. When cars were introduced, Harry had some crashes, so ended up working in the estate "factory". They had one daughter, Marjorie, who lived at Moreton Pinkney, Northants. Marjorie was deaf, and was a teacher of deaf children. Triss died in 1976 at the age of 98, and Marjorie died in 1999 at the age of 85.

Amy married Frank Wale, a woodwork teacher. They apparently lived in a very damp house in Lowestoft, where she caught tuberculosis. They then moved to Brighton, but Amy died about 1926, and her husband remarried. Amy and Frank had had a son, Ken, who was a Sergeant wireless operator / tail gunner in 48 Sqdn., RAFVR, and who died in a crash landing in 1942. He had married a girl from Hove, where he is buried.

Walter trained as a chef at Brasenose College, Oxford; worked as a kitchen porter in Harrogate and worked as a chef at the House of Commons. He married Alberta Langman in 1909, and they lived in Barnet. He served in the Infantry in the First World War, until he was shot in the ankle at The Somme. After that, he couldn't march very well, and joined the Tank Corps.

In 1925, they were living in Tottenham when Alberta died of pneumonia and heart failure. They had one child, Amy, in 1910. Later on in 1925, Walter married Florence Lethbridge. She died about 1938.

Walter took on two farms at Weston Turville in Buckinghamshire, and his aunt Annie Saxton was his housekeeper there until her death in 1943. Walter died of stomach cancer in 1962 - he was 82.

In 1901, Arthur seems to have been working in a grocer's shop in Oxford; but by 1902 he was working as a shop assistant in Leytonstone Road, London, and later that year joined the Metropolitan Police at Vine Street (C Division, no.166), carrying out traffic duty in Piccadilly Circus. He was commended for arresting a burglar who was breaking the window of Mappin & Webb, and received one of their fountain pens as a reward. I believe he was involved in the Siege of Sidney Street, 1911 (where a handful of anarchists in a terraced house held off a large body of police and soldiers).

He moved to Peckham, Rotherhithe and Amersham Vale Deptford (M Division, no.28) during his service, and finished as a Station Sergeant (three stripes with a crown above).
He retired after 26 years rather than 25, to improve his pension.

He is described on his Retirement Certificate as :
Age 46, Height 6ft 1in, Build medium, Complexion fair, Hair fair, Eyes blue, Shape of nose straight, Shape of face oval, Peculiarities nil.

According to family memories, the police had sent him to a gym to increase his height !

He was in the Stuart Lodge of the Freemasons (no.1632) and the St.Olive's Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons (no.2764), and was a Steward of the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls. The Stuart Lodge used to meet at the Frascati Restaurant in Oxford Street and the St.Olive's Chapter met at the Metropole in Northumberland Avenue.

Arthur married Ellen Roper [see the Roper story] in Caversham in 1913. They had three sons, William, Reg and David, born in Peckham (at different addresses) in 1914, 1916 and 1918.

After retiring from the police, Arthur was the manager of an off-license in Brixton, south London. This was at 233, Coldharbour Lane, where the Robinson family was living by 1928. Arthur died in 1947 of lung cancer at the age of 65, and his wife died of heart failure on 1st January 1963.

Agnes Robinson was a tailoress, who married James Greenwood, a postman. They lived in Botley, Oxford and had two sons, Aubry and Eric. Agnes died in 1969 of pneumonia.

Alf also went to Brasenose College to train as a chef, but didn't like it and left. He then joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1902, where he was a dispenser, radiologist and masseur, serving in West Africa, the Middle East and India. He was in France during the Great War, and was awarded the MSM. He finally left the Army in 1924, becoming a civil accountant with the Air Ministry in Ascot and then Chester.

He married Lucy Peek, and they had one daughter, also Lucy, who married her cousin, Eric Greenwood (son of Agnes). Lucy and Eric adopted two children. Alf died in 1969 after suffering an embolism (a blood clot). Lucy and Eric have since died.

Flo was an assistant teacher and then a tailoress. She married Len Foster, a removal man. They lived in Oxford and had one son, Leslie. Flo died about 1956 after having a stroke.

Lena was a ladies' maid, and married Harry Webb, who was a tailor. Lena died of a heart attack in 1972.

Harry was a wine waiter at St.Pancras' Hotel. He married Mabel Martin, and they had two sons, Stanley and Reg. Mabel died of multiple sclerosis about 1939, and Harry married a girl called Lucy soon afterwards. They had a son, Robert, about 1943. They lived in Brixton and then Wood Green. Harry died from a heart attack.

Colin Robinson March 2007 (version 5.17)

Earlier Robinsons