Sir Thomas Robinson, 1st Baronet - Summary
'Long Sir Thomas'
Date of Birth: 1702
Date of Death: 03/03/1777
Sir Thomas Robinson, architect and collector, was probably born at Merton, Surrey. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, and he entered the Royal Society in 1727.
In 1723, Robinson set about rebuilding the family seat at Rokeby and laying out its park. Despite the 3rd Earl of Burlington's offer to provide plans, Robinson created a Palladian house and work was probably well under way by the summer of 1729.
The same year, Robinson made a tour of the continent with his new wife Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the 3rd Earl of Carlisle (of Castle Howard, Yorkshire). He was critical of Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh's designs for the mausoleum at Castle Howard.
Robinson served in Parliament for Morpeth between 1727 and 1734. In 1742, he was appointed governor of Barbados on a salary of £2000. On his arrival, he ordered large-scale alterations to his residence, Pilgrim House, and its stables. He was recalled in 1747 and was made deputy lieutenant for the North Riding of Yorkshire in 1758, although he held no further office.
When he returned to England, Robinson acquired shares in Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea, London and became its manager and master of ceremonies. Under him the pleasure gardens reached their height of fame and status. On a site adjoining the gardens he built a house called Prospect Place. He later aquired the lease of another London house in Whitehall overlooking the Thames which he rebuilt to his own designs in 1749. He also made additions to Rokeby. His most significant projects, however, were at Castle Howard (from 1753), and Claydon House, Buckinghamshire (from 1768). He later put Rokeby up for sale and sold it for £47,500.
Robinson died at his house in Chelsea on 3 March 1777. He was buried in Merton Church, Surrey where a monument in the chancel commemorates his life. In accordance to his will a second monument was erected to Robinson in Westminster Abbey, London, with busts of himself and his wife, by John Walsh.
Colvin, Howard, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, 3rd edition (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 829-831.
National Archives, National Register of Archives, Person Details, 'Robinson, Sir Thomas (? 1700-1777) Knight Colonial Governor, GB/NNAF/P136326'
National Portrait Gallery, Search the Collection, ‘Sir Thomas Robinson, 1st Bt (1702?-1777), Colonial governor and amateur architect'
Worsley, Giles, 'New Light on "Long Sir Thomas"', The Georgian Group Journal, 9 (1999), pp. 1-16.
‘Robinson, Sir Thomas, first baronet (1702/3-1777)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008)