John Robley, the son of John and Ann Robley of Burthwaite and the grandson of Thomas Robley of 'Newlands', lived and farmed at Woodhouse, a farm on the northern outskirts of the village of Wreay. The farm appears on the 1857/67 Ordinance Survey, sheet 5 and in two Cumberland Directories dated 1847 and 1895 as being farmed by Robert and Walter Irving respectively. Both are described as Yeomen.

The lands are now a part of the 'Losh' Estates. The name of the farm has changed and is now known as 'Woodside Farm' and is currently occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.

Marian Foster (Robley) reported the relevant initials, professionally carved, on a wall at the property and dated 1730.

Woodhouse Farm Wreay

In the late 1600s the community of Wreay (Wreah) consisted of 21 families, 60 males and 54 females. It was located in the parish of St. Marys',Carlisle being a chapelry founded in 1319 by Bishop Holton. It lies about 4 miles to the South-East of the City of Carlisle. It became a parish in its' own right in the mid 1700s.

In 1849 the house and farm is described as being ' a comfortable house and farm about half a mile from Wreay.'

John was born at Burthwaite in 1672 and in 1702 married Ann Dixon of Wreay. Together they had a family of five children, John, born in 1704, Thomas, in 1706, Isaac in 1708, Mary, in 1710 and Jacob who died as an infant, in 1713. He was a Churchwarden representing the 'Wreah' Quarter of the parish of St. Cuthberts, Carlisle in 1733. In his Will, written in 1742 and executed seven years later in 1749 at the time of his death, he describes himself as a 'Maltster' ie. a person who makes malt by steeping barley and other grain in water, allowing it to sprout and then drying it in a kiln. The resulting malt was used to brew ale. All his children were beneficiaries of his Will including his 'malting' kettle which was left to his son-in-law Joseph Scott of Brisco Hill. Small gifts were made to two of his nephews who worked for him at Woodhouse, Peter and Isaac Bele (Bewly).

His wife, Ann, was provided for during her lifetime including a requirement on his son, John, his Executor, to provide a milk cow for her use, year round. For the times, a Will made about seven years before death is quite remarkable. Normally these were drawn up only days beforehand. Together with the detail in the will it may indicate that John was a careful and meticulous person.

Of John's four surviving children, Mary married Joseph Scott and lived at Brisco Hill, described as a fine farm. As he inherited Johns' kettle it can be assumed that he continued to practice as a maltster.

Briscoe Hill

The couple had a son Isaac born in 1744 who lived at Brisco Hill also and died at the ripe old age of 92. He is buried at Wreay. His wife, Jane, died in 1834 at the age of 89 years.

Johns' eldest son, John, did not marry and continued to farm at Woodhouse until his death in 1771. The peculiar conditions include in his will regarding the future of the farm are described in a later chapter and caused considerable consternation among some of his relations just prior to his death.

Son, Thomas, married Margaret Hewetson of Hesket-in-the-Forest in 1734 and initially lived at Wreay before moving to continue farming at Scarrowmanwick in the Croglin, Kirkoswald parishes. He eventually returned to Wreay and finally ended his days living at Woodhouse presumably assisting his brother, John. Thomas died in1765 and left the farm at Scarrowmanwick to his son William. John died in 1771.

Thomas' eldest son, William, was born in Wreay in 1734 and married Joanna (Hannah) Slack in 1765. They had eleven children! William died in Wreay in 1827 at the age of 93 years. William inherited Woodhouse from his uncle, John, and continued to farm the property until his death.

Margaret, his eldest child, was born in Croglin in 1767 and married Robert Longrigg in 1787. They had 5 children and lived at Pettrill Bank, Hesket-in-the-Forest. On the death of Robert in 1799 she remarried John Thompson of Springfield and had a daughter, Ann in 1801. John Thompson died before his daughter was born.

The second child, Thomas was born in Wreay in 1769 and married Elizabeth Dixon of Wreay Hall, Hesket-in-the-Forest in 1796. Later they were to live at Scarrowmanwick, Saffield nr. Croglin where he was a farmer and victualler and a Cumberland and Westmoreland Style wrestler of note.


The old farmhouse was once called the 'Ship Inn' and it may have been a fairly common practice in those days for farmers to double as innkeepers to tide them over the winter periods when farm income must have been almost non-existent. The farm is now called ''The Croft'. 'Scarrowmanwick' was the name of an old fortification used in ancient times as a refuge from marauders who attacked from the mountains.

Third child, John was born inWreay in 1771 and married Hannah Penrith circa 1800.

Child number four, Joseph, was born in Wreay in 1773 and in 1802 married Mary Rutherford of

Burgh-by-Sands east of Carlisle in 1802. Mary died in about 1805.

Joseph married a second time in 1810, this time to Mary Glaister also of Burgh-by-Sands.

Child number five, William was born in Wreay and died young in 1775.

Son Isaac was born in Wreay also in 1777 and died in Brisco in 1828.

Daughter, Ann, was born in Wreay in 1778 and married John Dixon in 1798.

Son, William, was born in Wreay in 1778 and daughter, Hannah, in Castle Sowerby in 1781. She later was to marry Robert Lancaster in St. Marys', Carlisle.

The tenth child, James, was born in Wreay and died the same year.

The eleventh and last child, Richard, was born in 1789, married Mary Gill in 1821 and farmed at 'Woodhouse' and 'Birkthwaite', a farm on a hillside on the outskirts of Wreay. He farmed 'Woodhouse for a while after William's death but died at Birkthwaite. In his will he left his household effects to his wife and the remainder, apart from legacies, to his wife and unmarried daughter, Fanny. Fanny was his youngest child and was born at Chapel Hill and it is possible that Woodhouse was sold to the Irving family sometime between 1832 and 1837.

Richard had seven children altogether and is recorded in the register of his death in1863 as being of 'Birkthwaite'. His family consisted of one son, Richard, and six girls and this lack of a male heir may account for his being the last Robley recorded as living at 'Woodhouse' In his will, he makes provision for money to be made available to start his son, Richard, in any trade or business. Clearly he did not anticipate that his son would follow him as a farmer nor is there any mention of 'Woodhouse' in his will.

Daughter, Mary had an illegitimate son, William Robley before she married and became Mrs. Story.

Thomas' second son, John, was born in Croglin in 1737 it is recorded in notes written by a Robley in Keswick circa 1850, that he was lost at sea, presumably drowned, a casualty of the American War.

Son Isaac was born in Kirkoswald in 1739 and at some stage in his career moved to live in London where he was apprenticed to a man called Mr. Martin. He was later to achieve some success in the oil trade. It can be assumed that this related to oil or kerosene for lighting. While living in Bermondsey, he married his mentors' daughter, Jane Martin. At some stage in the late 1760s he became involved in the rather untidy and divisive arrangements with his Uncle, John, regarding the future of the family farm at Woodhouse.

Isaac and Jane had six children. The eldest, Henry Robson, was born in Gun Alley, Bermondsey, London in 1774 and went on to become a very rich man. He married Ann Davidson of Wapping, London circa 1794 and died in St. Johns' Wood, London in 1847

He died intestate and his estate was the subject of letters between Henry Robley of Bristol and John Robley of Manchester as London Lawyers searched for an heir.

The remaining five children were all born in Cumberland, Ann in 1776, Joseph in 1777, Mary in 1778 (she died young), Mary in 1782 and Jane (DOB unknown).

Thomas' eldest daughter, Ann was born in Kirkoswald in 1744 and died young. Her sister Mary was born in Wreay and married George Hetherington in 1768.

They had two children, James and Mary.

Isaac Robley, the son of the original John Robley of 'Woodhouse' was born in 1708 and was appointed the Curate of St. Johns'-in-the-Vale and schoolmaster of Crosthwaite, Keswick in1732. There he remained until his death in1772. Isaac was educated at Queen's College Oxford from 1727 to his graduation as Bachelor of Arts in 1731. He was ordained Priest on Sunday the1st. of July 1733 in the Bishop's Chapel, Rose Castle, Dalston.

Although the family and descendants of the Revd. Isaac begin to be a trifle remote from our branch of the family, they are, nevertheless, of interest as they lead to people of great interest in the United States of America and to others in Madeira and New Zealand.

It is of interest also that my father, John, corresponded with a number of Robleys from this branch of the family during the 1930s but without actually being able to establish any close connection.

Copyright John Robley 2001