The Robleys and Rablahs of Barnard Castle, Durham.

Robley, Rablay, Rablae, Rublah, Rabla, all appear to be versions of the same name, ROBLEY. The determining factor seems to be the dialect spoken by either or both of the local people and the Robley concerned, or the dialect spoken by the recording clergy and of course,should there be any move to another area or a change of clergy, then more changes were possible. A further possibility is that mistakes were made when the handwriting and the and condition of the original register record was transcribed.

As years went by the alternative spellings may have become the accepted norms as is possibly the case of this Robley family living in Barnard Castle in the 1600s and later in other parts of England and Australia.

The eldest sons of the original Cumberland Robleys were farmers, with the ownership of those farms being passed down through the generations mainly on the basis of primageniture.

Younger sons worked for hire as itinerant farm servants, or else followed the flourishing local weaving trade. From the late 1600s to the late 1700s a number of Robleys moved east from Cumberland to Durham where at least three of them married, probably to other farm servants. Of those who married local Durham girls or else worked in Durham all seemed to have returned home to Cumberland.

Brancepeth Castle

Most worked and married around BRANCEPETH (St. Brandon), a parish, in the unions of Durham, Auckland, and Lanchester, in the county of Durham, comprising the townships of Brandon with Byshottles, Crook with Billy-Row, Hedley Hope or else in GAINFORD a small town between Barnard Castle and Darlington on the River Tees. This was once the centre of a huge parish running for nearly 18 miles along the northern bank of the Tees between Piercebridge in the south-east and High Shipley in the north-west.

"This parish was formerly very extensive, including, as it did, the chapelries of Barnard Castle, Denton, and Whorlton, and occupied, with the exception of the intervening parish of Winston, about eighteen miles of the north bank of the Tees, between Pierce Bridge on the south-east and High Shipley on the north-west.

Gainford lies about 7 miles to the east of Barnard Castle and Brancepeth about 15 miles to the north east.


The early itinerant Cumbrian Robleys included Anne Robly who in 1763 married John Smith on 5th June in Gainford and had five children by him. Thomas Robley married Jane Robinson on the 15 June 1712 in Brancepeth. Thomas was the son of Thomas Robley of Newlands near Wetheral. He died in Wetheral. Also in 1712, a relative, Thomas Robley married Elizabeth Kimber also in Brancepeth. This Thomas was the son of John Robley of Wath Green Wetheral. the two Robleys were related through their great grandfathers being brothers. The two children of this marriage were born in Cotehill, Wetheral.

Jonathon Robley, the son of John Robley of Burthwaite (Burnwhat), married Margaret Garbut in 1729 in Gainford. She was born in Stainton in Cleveland, Yorkshire and was 25 years old at the time. Her husband was aged 33.

On returning to Cumberland, Jonathon farmed at Borrockside, Hesket, a property owned by his cousin Thomas Robley's family since 1708. Ten years later in 1739 , Alice Robley, the daughter of Jonathon was born in Gainford. She was his seventh child.

In 1759 Mary Robley, Jonathon's eldest daughter married John Binks in Gainford. Jonathon himself spent his last days in Durham and died in 1780. It is possible that he was living with daughter Mary Binks and family.

Isaac Robley was born in Barnard Castle in 1677 and there have been members of his family living in that area since. Significantly, from the early 1700s the family name changed from Robley to Rablah. What occasioned the change is not known, but it is likely that the early family members who were not literate had the names their children recorded phoenetically by the clergy and the new spelling was subsequently retained by the family.

Isaac is the first Robley that we can trace who was a permanent resident in this area. He married Phyllas Swainston in 1706. He died in July 1729 and his wife, Phyllas died some 21 years later in 1750. Phyllas Swainston came from a family long established in Barnard Castle.

In those times Barnard Castle was a market town of importance and in the 18th. century was a centre for hand loom weaving. In 1747 the Butter Mart was built in the centre of town as a shelter for the farmer's wives who assembled there to sell dairy produce. To this day it remains a local historic attraction.

Barnard Castle. Market Place.

It is tempting to speculate that the Cumbrian Robleys graduated towards Barnard Castle as they were aware of Robleys already established there. However, despite a lot of research, no direct connection has yet been made between the Cumbrian Robleys and the dynasty of Robley/Rablahs in Barnard Castle.

Nor do we know Isaac's occupation.

Isaac Robley and Phyllas had three children, all boys, William born in November 1707, John born November 1712 and who died in 1758 and Joseph born March 1715 and died in 1782.

At this time the surname of the family is recorded as ROBLEY.

Son, William, turned out to be a bit of a black sheep as in 1731 he fathered an illegitimate son, William, with Isabel Carlton and in the same year married Magret Cotes in Middleton in Teasdale.

Magret and William had two children, Isaac born in 1733 and Phillis born in January 1735. Phillis married Thomas Walton in 1763.

Isaac and Phyllas' third son, Joseph, following the example set by his elder brother, fathered an illegitimate daughter, Mary, with Eleanor Wastil (or Walker) in 1742. This occurred while he was married to Margaret Blacklock whom he had married in 1737. She was a year younger than Joseph being born in 1716.

Joseph and Margaret had six children. The eldest, John was born in 1737, two months after the wedding and died as a child in 1741 aged four years. Their second child, Phillis was born in 1739 and died as an infant. A second daughter, also Phillis, was born in 1741 and survived to marry James Lonsdail (or Lonsdale). Their fourth child, Joseph, was born in February 1744 and married Jane, his occupation is recorded as Innkeeper. Their fifth child, George, was born in August 1746 and died in 1830 in Barnard Castle. Their last child, daughter, Elizabeth, was born in August 1748 and married Charles Jackson in Barnard Castle in 1772.

Isaac, the son of Isaac and Magret, married Rachel Swift in Leeds, Yorkshire, in April 1760. She was the daughter of Joseph Swift and was born in May 1739 in Almondbury, Yorkshire.

This family continued to live in Leeds where their two daughters were born, Rachel in 1754 and Sarah in 1760. Again we see a child being born before marriage. Rachel married Samuel Wade in Leeds in October 1776.

George married Ann Hutchinson in September 1769 in Kirby Ravensworth, Yorkshire, she was four years his junior. The couple continued to live in Barnard Castle where their four children were born.

It is around this time and in this generation that the surname appears as RABLAH rather than ROBLEY in the registers.

The children of George and Ann Rablah were:- James, born October 1770 who died as a child, Ann born 1772, Margaret born 1774 and James born 1777 who died around 1841.

Ann Rablah the daughter of George and Ann married Benjamin Jackson in Barnard Castle in August 1794. He was 2 years her senior and died in 1846. Benjamin owned and managed a Drapers Shop which was burgled in 1803 by John Moses who was subsequently executed for the offence in Barnard Castle.

Benjamin and Ann had two children, George, born July 1795, became a Solicitor and married Elizabeth Maria Lodington in London in March 1823. he died May 1879 in Peckham, Surrey.

Their second child, Thomas Bass Jackson, was born in October 1797 in Barnard Castle.

James, the son of George and Ann Rablah, married Mary Steele in May 1800 in Gainford, Co. Durham. She was the daughter of John Steele and Ann Lowis, born in 1780 in Yorkshire. James was a Grocer in Barnard Castle. The couple had ten children. Daughter, Ann was born September 1801 and died February 1837. Margaret was born December 1802 and died in Bowes, Yorkshire, in May 1885. She married John Stephenson. Phillis was born in January 1805 and died in Pancras, Middlesex in 1837. Mary was born in December 1807 and died in July 1824. Joseph was born in March 1808. Jane Elizabeth was born in October 1809. She married in 1841 but the name of her spouse is not known. Hannah was born December 1811 and died before 1841. She married Whitehead. George was born in Spennymoor, Co. Durham in January 1817. Eleanor was born October 1819 and was listed in the 1841 Census as a Straw Bonnet Maker. John Steele Rablah was born in May 1822. George and Ann Rablah held a group christening in Barnard Castle in March 1808 for their children daughter Phillis Rablah and her siblings, Joseph and Mary.

Phillis Rablah, the daughter of James and Mary married Robert Brown in 1829 in St. George, Bloomsbury, Middlesex. Robert was born abt 1801 and died 1851. He was a plumber by trade.

Phillis and Robert had two children, Robert born 1832 in Bloomsbury and James Mark, born March 1834 in Barnard Castle.

James Mark Brown, the son of Mary Rablah was an adventurous young man. In 1857, aged 23, he stowed away on a ship out of Liverpool and bound for America. On arrival, he was apprehended by the authorities and given the choice of either repatriation or alternatively joining the United States Cavalry. He opted for the latter. He died in Wichita falls, Texas, in January 1908.

George Rablah, the son of James and Mary, became the Sales Assistant Superintendant of Reed Letter Book (London and Durham). in !881 and from 1882 to 1900 he was the Headmaster of Hemsworth School, Barnesley. In 1841 he married Mary in Lambeth, Surrey. She was a Yorkshire girl, born in 1812 in Whitby.

George was clearly a man of some substance as he later presented a new Vicarage to the Parish of Sinnington.

The village of Sinnington is situated on the banks of the river Seven, from which it is said to derive its name. It is about four miles from Pickering, and the same distance from Kirbymoorside. It still retains its maypole on the village green. The church (All Saints), originally in the Norman style, has been much altered and mutilated by successive repairs. A Saxon edifice previously occupied the site, some relics of which may be seen built into the walls of the present structure. One of these is the upper part of a cross on which is carved, rudely but distinctly, the Crucifixion. Beneath the arms is the figure of a serpent. Another is the stone of an ancient sundial, with a peculiar division of the day into eight parts, a system in use in Ireland as well as England 1,200 years ago. The living is a new vicarage, in the gift of G. Rablah, Esq., and worth 100, exclusive of 52 acres of glebe. The impropriator is the master of Hemsworth School, Barnsley. The master of Hemsworth School presented until 1863. Since that date the patronage has been exercised by Mr. J. Proud (186381), G. Rablah (18821900), Mrs. Kendall (190112), and the Rev. W. Kendall, who is the present patron.

George and and his wife, Mary, had four children. James Joseph was born in 1842 in Lambeth, daughter, Maria, was born in 1844 in Lambeth also and Lucy was born 1845 in Nottinghamshire. It would appear that James Joseph did not share the same affluence as his father, George, as sometime between 1845 and 1857 the family migrated to Australia. There in August 1857 a daughter, Emalina Wilford was born in Cobitty, NSW. Cobbitty is a village near the town of Camden, southwest of Sydney. She married James Walter Small in Balmain, Sydney in December 1878. Emalina died in December 1919.

George and Mary's fourth child, Benjamin Wilford, was born in 1860 in Sydney and died in January 1966. He married Annie Jennings in 1892 and three years later, in 1895, purchased land in Hurlstone Park, now a suburb in south west Sydney.

Benjamin and Annie had nine children, Eunice Pamela born July 1897 in Balmain and died in Hurlstone Park in May 1981 and a son, Wilford Thomas , born in Hurlstone Park. In 1929 Wilford Thomas was Fitter in charge at the NSW Government Railways, Penrith. There was a daughter, Irene S, and six other siblings.

Eunice Pamela Rablah married Albert Henry Coleman in April 1922. He was born in 1898 in Botany, NSW and died in Elwood, NSW in January 1980. Eunice Pamela and Albert had a daughter, Eunice Jean Coleman in Sydney in April 1923.

George Rablah's brother, John Steele Rablah, was born in Barnard Castle but moved south to Newington, London, where, in 1841, the census lists him as a Curriers Apprentice. In 1848 he married Pamila Wilford in York Chapel, Newington. The family continued to live in the general London area for at least the next twelve years. Two of their three children were born during that time.

Researched by John Robley & Marian Foster. Written by John Robley.