Kew

Today at Kew

What do you call it if your wild goose is caught?

Okay, perhaps “caught” is stretching a point in this instance but I now feel fairly confident that my ancestor Philip Robinson was indeed a rigger at Chatham Yard. I found a little time today to get to the National Archives and trawling both Chatham’s “ordinary” and “extraordinary” pay books for the period, I found that Philip was listed as a rigger for the three quarters before November 1783 (when, you’ll remember, he managed to get himself dismissed for attempting to embezzle supplies from HMS Success) and that before this he had been a rigger’s labourer.

The document retrieval system at Kew does not allow for rapid perusal so I can’t say yet when his employment as a rigger’s labourer started, but I did also notice that he was working alongside one Alexander Erith. Further, if slight, evidence in favour of this Philip being right.

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Frustrated and a bit disappointed

The trip to Kew turned up very little at all.

The day started brimming with hope even through the remnants of the rush hour traffic. I arrived at 10am, registered for my readers card and started searching. I had a number of references to look at prepared in advance but as you’ll see below they were frustratingly unrevealing. It was also a very long wait for document retrieval, which I wasn’t prepared for. I ended up leaving just after 6pm not much the wiser. It’s a lovely place though, and everyone was very helpful.

I found no sign of Philip Joseph Robinson’s court martial. I looked through four thick ledgers of handwritten records and found nothing. There were also two ledgers in the catalogue listed as “wanting”, meaning they were supposed to be in the archive but somehow hadn’t arrived from the originating body. This didn’t help the growing sense of frustration. Could he have been in them? Probably never know.

There was no sign of Ralph’s East African birth either. If he was born there it was not registered with the British authorities, which still leaves the possibility of PJR being some part, albeit temporary, of the post-war Afrikaner migration and therefore of a Dutch Reformed Church baptism coming to light. More work needs to be done on this.

I could find nothing to add to James Edwards’ met police record. Too much of this record set is missing – there are very few complete service records available and I couldn’t find any correspondence relating to his dismissal.

One of the things I managed to find was the Will of William Robinson. The reason I was looking relates to the 1820 migration to the Cape. Before some of the parties of 1820 Settlers left England bound for South Africa they would meet up, presumably for updates and questions. The Erith Party, of which Robert Robinson was a member, met on Newington Causeway above the Crown and Anchor public house. Another group, curiously, met at Robinson’s Tobacconist on nearby George Street, which has niggled away as possibly being of importance but of which I can find no trace. There was, however, a Robinson’s Tobacconist on Tooley Street, just round the corner, but I now know at least that this was nothing to do with us, which I suppose is a positive of sorts. It’s proprietor was this William Robinson whose only son it turns out was Thomas. Not a Philip to be seen.

The day’s only faint sliver of hope was a letter

letter

Coming out of Chatham Dockyard on 15th November 1783 it says:

 “We beg leave to acquaint you that we have this day discharged John Brooks and Philip Robinson, Riggers belonging to this yard, for attempting to embezzle the articles mentioned on the otherside [of the letter] out of the Success [a ship], but it is not in our power to place three times the value thereof against their wages agreeable to your warrant of 24th October 1783 by reason that both of them sell(?) their pay…”

Which allows the ever so slight possibility that if this is our Philip (born c.1747), known to be resident in the Chatham area at that time, he may have come to Kent from elsewhere, perhaps even through the Navy. Not that it is possible to prove any link yet, there is no clue as to who his parents were as they are not mentioned on anything yet found. But it’s something and it means the day was not a complete washout.