Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Thomas Robinson (1780–1848)

Mayor of Oxford 1817/18

Thomas Robinson was baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 20 June 1780. He was the son of the Revd Thomas Robinson (who had been an undergraduate at The Queen’s College and was Master of Magdalen College School from 1776) and Rebecca Fletcher. His paternal grandfather was Thomas Robinson of All Saints parish. His four siblings were alsol baptised at that church: Mary (8 May 1777, buried three months later), Catharine Frances (14 May 1778), James Fletcher (30 August 1781, buried four months later), and Rebecca (28 October 1782).

Young Thomas would have grown up in the Master’s house of Magdalen College School, which was then situated at the north-east end of the High Street (Nos. 58/59) in St Peter-in-the-East parish.

Thomas’s father suffered from gout and did not attend the school, but heard the senior boys at their lessons in his house: he was remembered for his harshness. From 1784 he was Rector of Lillingstone Lovell in Buckinghamshire as well as Master of the school. The Revd Thomas Robinson died at the age of 48 on 4 August 1795 when Thomas was fifteen, and was buried inside St Peter-in-the-East Church on 7 August.

92-93 High Street



Thomas’s mother, Rebecca Fletcher, was the youngest daughter of the bookseller James Fletcher and the sister of William Fletcher, one of the two co-founders of the Old Bank in the High Street (who was himself three times Mayor of Oxford). Fletcher, who had no children of his own, made Thomas, his sister’s only surviving child, his heir.

Thomas joined his maternal uncle at 92/93 High Street (left) in about 1800, when it was still a mercer’s shop as well as a bank.

Robinson first came on to the Common Council in 1803. His mother Rebecca Thompson died on 23 November the following year at the age of 56 and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church on 27 November 1804.

In Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 May 1803, the marriage at St Austin’s, London was announced between Thomas Robinson (described as “mercer of Oxford”) and Miss [Margaret] Rivington of St Paul’s Churchyard, London n. They had four children in Oxford:

  • Francis Edward Robinson (born on 29 October 1804 and baptised on 17 December 1804 at St Michael's Church)
  • Rebecca Robinson (born on 11 October 1805 ND baptised on 15 October at St Michael's Church;
    buried inside that Church on 14 June 1806)
  • John Ellill Robinson (born on 11 September 1807 and baptised on 20 September at St Michael's Church)
  • Thomas Robinson(born on 19 June 1810 and baptised on 29 June at St Michael's Church;
    buried inside that church on 2 August 1810).

Robinson was elected Senior Bailiff in 1809.

In 1817 Robinson was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1817/18). He refused to take the oath to the University on his election, and would not attend St Mary-the-Virgin Church for the customary ceremony of penance on St Scholastica’s Day.

By 1817 Robinson had been made a partner in Fletcher’s business. In that year he was appointed Master of the Mercers and Grocers Company in Oxford, and was reappointed in 1829, even though by then the firm of Fletcher, Parsons, Thomson, and Robinson was wholly engaged in banking.

Robinson purchased Kidlington Manor and moved there with his wife and two surviving sons, but the manor house proved impossible to restore, so he moved his family moved to Begbroke, purchasing Begbroke Manor in about 1820.

Both of Robinson’s sons were undergraduates at the University of Oxford: Francis went up to Corpus Christi College in 1819 at the age of 14, and John to Christ Church in 1825 at the age of 17. Both sons eschewed banking and went into the Church: Francis was Vicar of Stonesfield in Oxfordshire from 1834 to 1882, while John was Vicar of Chieveley in Berkshire from 1837 to 1882.

In 1829 Robinson purchased Bayley Manor, comprising land in Kidlington, Yarnton, and Begbroke, and soon afterwards built Parker’s Farm in Yarnton. This was to the north of Sandy Lane and east of Begbroke Hill, and was demolished in the 1960s.

In 1831 Robinson was put up for election as an Alderman, but the Freemen voted against him, because he lived several miles distant in Yarnton and was thus not an inhabitant of Oxford.

In 1835 Robinson’s wife Margaret died at Begbroke at the age of 57 and was buried in a vault inside the nave of its parish church on 18 September 1835. Soon after her death Robinson had Ivy House in Gravel Lane, Yarnton built. It was the largest house in that parish, but the the west wing was removed in 1938 for road widening, along with a carriage drive and lodge.

On the death of Herbert Parsons and John Thomson in 1839, Robinson became the senior partner in the Old Bank and it was renamed Robinson, Parsons & Thomson.

At the time of the 1841 census Thomas Robinson was living alone at Ivy House at Yarnton with three servants. He died at the age of 67 on 1 May 1848 and was buried four days later beside his wife in the family vault in Begbroke Church. There is a memorial window and brass tablet in the church to their memory.

Memorial to Thomas Robinson’s parents

The memorial below in St Peter-in-the-East Church (now St Edmund Hall library) is dedicated to the parents of Thomas Robinson. It reads:

Near this place rest the remains of the Revd. THOMAS ROBINSON, M.A., Rector of Lillingstone Lovel in this County, and Head Master of Magdalen College School. He died 4th August 1795, Aged 48. Also REBECCA his wife, youngest daughter of JAMES FLETCHER, Bookseller. She died 23rd November 1804, Aged 56.

Memorial to Robinson’s parents

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/2077/54 (Will of Thomas Robinson, Gentleman of Yarnton, Oxfordshire, proved 26 June 1848)
  • William Fletcher, Mayor in 1782, 1796, and 1809 (his maternal uncle)
  • L. F. Bradburn, The Old Bank (92 and 93 High Street) Oxford (Oxford, 1977)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (Yarnton), 890/23/4

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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