The Robinson Family
On the 1st March 1882, Joseph Robinson, on behalf of G. & J. Robinson of Littlehampton, Sussex, acquired ‘Atossa’ from William Bedford. The details were recorded in the Customs and Excise Register at Sunderland on the 9th March 1882 by the Registrar, Henry Lindsay. ‘Atossa’s port of registration transferred from Sunderland to Littlehampton. Her registration number there became 1/1882. William Bedford’s address was given as 3, Grace Terrace, Sunderland.
Joseph Robinson was born in 1820 at Pagham, West Sussex, the second son of Edmund and Martha Robinson (nee Bacon). He was baptised at Pagham on the 15th September 1820. Joseph’s elder brother, George was born in 1815, and their younger siblings were Ruth, born in 1828, and Edmund, born in 1833.
By 1826, Joseph attended the National School at Pagham and worked part-time at nearby Bowley Farm, South Mundham. He went on to work full time at the farm between 1829 and 1835.
The following year (1836) he became a bound apprentice, for a four-year term, to Edward Love of Littlehampton, and served mainly on the schooner, ‘Active’.
Between 1840 and 1845, Joseph served as Mate on the brig ‘Michelgrove’ and on the schooner ‘Active’, then as Master of the schooner ‘Lady Emma’ and the brig ‘Atalanta’. In 1843 he took the ‘Atalanta’ to the Orkneys, Elsinore, Cronstadt and St Petersburg.
In 1845, Joseph Robinson bought one-quarter share in the brig ‘William Skinner’ and became its Master. Between 1845 and 1849 he sailed the ship to Ireland, North America and the eastern Mediterranean.
In 1849, in partnership with his elder brother, George, he bought a snow (a type of brig) named ‘Brothers’. They operated under the ‘White Horse’ flag.
George Robinson was born on 6th April 1815 and baptised at Pagham on the 12th November 1815. He married Ann Heward at St. Mary’s Church, Littlehampton on the 22nd July 1845. They had three children; Ann (born: 1847), George (born: 1851), and Walter Heward who was baptised at St. Mary’s, Littlehampton on the 18th March 1860.
On the 14th December 1849, Joseph Robinson married Emma Love, daughter of Edward Love at St. Mary’s Church, Littlehampton. They had six children: - Emma Jane (born: 1855), Anne (born: 1857), Kate (born: 1857) Edward Joseph (born: 1858), Maurice Edward (born: 1862) and Alexander (born: 1863).
Joseph Robinson
Joseph Robinson
Painting by George W Baldry
Courtesy of Littlehampton Museum
During the 1850’s and 1860’s, G. & J. Robinson acquired at least ten ships, including ‘Dexterous’, ‘Isabella’, ‘Sisters’ and ‘Viscaya’.
In the spring of 1869 Emma Robinson died aged 47 years. On 22nd September 1869 at St. Mary’s Church, Littlehampton, Joseph married his second wife, Harriet Day. They had five children: - Arthur (born:-1870), Sidney Day (born:-1873), Harriet (born:-1874), Louis (born:-1875) and Benjamin (born:-1878).
During the 1870’s, the Robinson’s purchased at least another seven ships, including ‘Alroy’, ‘Lion’, ‘Lioness’ and ‘Trossachs’, a 553-ton barque built by the Harvey yard in Littlehampton during 1877. Her maiden voyage, under Harry Batchelor of Arundel, was to the Falkland Islands, carrying Scottish sheep and shepherds.
George Robinson died on 27th July 1876 and Joseph bought up his brothers’ interests and continued in sole charge of the fleet. During the 1880’s, he acquired at least a further nine ships, including ‘Adela’ and ‘Robert and Mary’.
Joseph gained membership of the Littlehampton Board of Guardians, the Littlehampton Board of Health and became the first Chairman of the Littlehampton Urban District Council.
The 1881 Census showed Joseph Robinson as a 60-year-old shipowner, living at 12, River Road, Littlehampton, with his wife, Harriet (45 years) and seven children; Anne (24), Maurice E. (19), Arthur W. (10), Sidney D. (8), Harriet M. (7), Louis H. (5) and Benjamin  (2). The only employed member of the family was Maurice, who gave his occupation as ‘Sailor’.
Joseph (left) & Edmund Robinson
Joseph Robinson (left) and his younger brother, Edmund
Copyright unknown - Please contact
Robinson’s ocean-going ships appeared, from details contained in his memoirs, to have been insured against total loss but not against other risks. There was no mention in his papers, of insurance against damage to the fabric of a ship. Insurance against damage or loss to a cargo was taken out by the charterer. The shipowner only became involved in insurance issues if it could be proved that the ship was not seaworthy at the time of the damage or loss. At some point (the date is unknown) Joseph Robinson decided to stop insuring his ships, because premiums had become unreasonably high due to unwarranted claims mainly by steamship owners. Whether it was only his coastal-trade ships, or his ocean-going vessels too, that sailed uninsured is not clear. His decision prevented him from developing into the steamship business.
Joseph’s second wife, Harriett, died aged fifty-one.
During the 1890’s an additional five ships were purchased, including ‘Constance Ellen’ and ‘Ebenezer’.
On 23rd January 1893 George Robinson’s son, Walter Heward Robinson described in the National Probate Calendar as a Master Mariner, died at sea.
On 11th July 1910, Joseph’s youngest son, Benjamin, drowned aged 31 years, at Teignmouth, Devon. Probate records show that he left £1,143 9s 9d to his father.
In 1915, 'Ebenezer', the last ship to be owned by the Robinson shipping business was sold. During his time as a shipowner, Joseph Robinson had owned forty-two vessels.
Joseph Robinson died in 1917, aged 96 leaving an estate valued at £24,042 19s 10d.
Point de Galle, Colombo and New York > >
The Story Begins Absent Crew and Flying Jib 1872-1873 Rio De Janeiro, Barbados & Wilmington
The Construction of Atossa Swansea to Valparaiso and return 1873 James Grevett
The Shipbuilding Thompson Family The 1874 and 1875 Voyages The Caribbean 1889
The Mercantile Navy List 1864 A Change of Master 1876 Grevett as Master
The First Master and Crew New Owner and New Ports 1877 The 1890/1891 Survey
Dover to Valparaiso 1863-1864 Sugar and Onboard Offences The Final Voyage
Peru and Wales Demerara and London 1878-1879 Places Index
Chile and back 1864-1865 The Far Side of the World 1879-1881 Place Connections
Clements becomes Master South Africa and India 1881-1882 Surnames Index
Official Log Entries 1866-1867 The Robinson Family Ships Index
Return to Chile 1867 Ceylon and New York 1882-1883 Map of Chile
Chile Again 1868-1869 Brazil and India 1883-1884 Sources
Swansea to Coquimbo return 1869-1870 Cape Verde and the West Indies 1885  
Chile and New York 1870-1871 October 1885 to October 1886  
South America and Europe 1871 Twenty-One Months Away © 2020
Page 24