THOMAS ROBLEY (1833 -1902)

Thomas was born at Howbank Farm to the north of the market town of Egremont in West Cumberland on the14th. February 1833. He was the youngest child of Thomas Robley, yeoman farmer, formerly of Marlborough farm ,St. Bees and Isabella Mossop of Blackbeck, Haile. Thomas Robley (senior) moved with his family to Howbank Farm in about 1829 although he continued to farm at Marlborough and continued his close association with the Robley family property of Crown Farm at Hesket in the Forest and with the common land grazing leases, (25 acres) at Lazonby in the Forest of Inglewood.

We know this as there are records of his eldest son, William, assisting his father at Marlborough and on Thomas' gravestone in Egremont he is described as 'Of Howbank and formerly of High Hesket' and Howbank. Thomas and Isabella had two other children, a son, John, born in 1833, and a daughter, Isabella, born in 1830.

Isabella, the wife of Thomas Robley, died on 19th.Feb. 1857 and her husband ten years later on 31st.May 1867. They are both buried in the cemetery in Egremont and their names recorded on the rather magnificent Robley family monument situated on the south side of the Chapel building.

When Thomas Robley died in 1867 he left his estate to three of his children, John, Thomas and Isabella. Son, William, considered by the family to be rather wild, was left a small annuity and his adventures are described elsewhere on this website. Isabella was left all the property of her mother Isabella, and John and Thomas shared the remainder, including his interests in the farms of Marlborough, Howbank, the Crown Inn Estate (Crown Farm) and the Lazonby leases as well as all his furniture and books. The brothers continued farming based on Howbank for a further eight years.

Then in 1875 came the enormous financial windfall from the estate of their wealthy Uncle,John Robley, who died in Manchester. This was the signal for both John and Thomas to cease farming and to realise any interest that they had in the West Cumbrian Farms, although the Crown Inn Estate at High Hesket which was leased to Henry Nicholson, was retained.

There is little evidence that the brothers engaged in any joint ventures other than to purchase shares in a barque, trading out of Whitehaven, 'The Egremont Castle'. The ship, three masted and clinker-built barque was engaged in the lucrative West Indian trade out of Whitehaven. It seems, however, that she was lost at sea with all hands and was never heard of again. The brothers lost 440 pounds on the venture which in those days was a very large sum of money!

Although still young men in their forties, both decided to retire to the nearby village of Beckermet, about two miles away to the south, and to build themselves beautiful mansion houses in the 'Art Deco' style. Isabella used a part of her inheritance to buy a clock for the new church tower of St. Mary and St. Michael in Egremont.

John Robley was married to Mary Ann Burns of Egremont before moving to Beckermet and into his new mansion, completed in 1884 and named 'Yourity' after the field in which it was built. John died at the age of 63 years in 1991. John's wife, Mary Ann Burns, continued to live at Yourity until her death circa 1912.

When Thomas Robley moved to Beckermet he took with him his sister, Isabella to keep house. They moved into Holly How, a pleasant house, although small, standing at the junction of the main street and the Mill Lane.

While in Egremont, Thomas had belonged to the Egremont Rifle Volunteers, a Cumberland Yeomanry Company and became a crack shot with his muzzle-loading rifle. For many years he was a member of the Egremont Rifle team and won a lot of prizes.

Thomas Robley, second from the left.

Two of his trophies remain; a silver teapot inscribed, 'Presented by A. Hodgett Esq. And finally won by Colour Sergeant Robley' and a silver cup inscribed, 'Won by Colour Sgt. Robley Oct 10th. 1870. Rifle competition 1st. Prize. Presented by Henry Mossop Esq. St. Bees.'

Thomas was also a highly skilled angler and it seems that in retirement he did little other than indulge himself in fishing and shooting.

On the 29th. of May 1894, at the age of 61, he married Elizabeth Smith, the daughter of John and Elisabeth Smith of Midtown Farm, Beckermet. The farm is about 50 metres down the village street from Holly How so Thomas had little distance to travel to do his courting! The couple were married in St. John's Church, Beckermet. Following their marriage they moved a further 100 metres up the main street to a larger house called 'Coneygarth' and there started to raise a family. His sister, Isabella continued to live at Holly How.

The Robleys had four children, Isobel born in 1895, John born in 1896 and Elizabeth born in 1898, all at Coneygarth, and Mary born at Ingleberg in 1901. Thomas, wishing to cater more adequately for his expanding family built the magnificent mansion of 'Ingleberg' on a hill to the west of the village with wonderful views to the West Cumberland fells, the Isle of Man and the Irish Sea.

Unlike Thomas, Elizabeth, his wife, was a woman dedicated to good works and service to the community and it is a little difficult to appreciate that as well as these outside interests she was able to raise her family! The beautiful gardens at Ingleberg, amounting to a little over an acre in extent, were to her specifications and she was well qualified to do this planning as she was a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. Her interests were largely with the disadvantaged and she was always willing to take a leading role as follows:

She was keenly interested in charities supporting Missionary work, was an excellent woodcarver and amateur photographer.

On the 29th of August 1902 Thomas went fishing to a favourite place on the River Ehen near to the village of Braystones. He left home about 9am. In good health and by midday had caught 8 small fishes. He then hooked a large salmon which took him about 70 yards downstream where Thomas collapsed and died. Other fishermen and local farmers carried him about a mile back to his home 'Ingleberg' on a farm gate.

The funeral at St. Johns Church was very large, as Thomas was a popular man with many friends. He had only recently completed building Ingleberg and, like his brother, John, had little opportunity to enjoy his new home.

The Vicar of Beckermet, the Reverend Gabbott, in his eulogy described Thomas as 'much respected for his kindness of heart, his gentleness and his absence of ostentation and pride not withstanding that wealth fell his lot which in some instances spoils character or develops objectionable traits therein'.

John Robley, Lesmurdie, Western Australia. January, 2003