John Robb, parliamentary agent

I’ve found it difficult to find out what happened to John Robb, the youngest son of Charles Edward Stuart Robb, and younger brother of my 2 x great grandfather William Robb. William’s note about his brother in his memorandum of 1880 reads as follows:

John who I believe is now living, born 3rd March 1816.  I say I believe he is living but have not seen him for 3 or 4 years nor would he ever let me know where to find him. I believe he is London as I am told he has been seen.

This suggests that John was still alive in the late 1870s, and possibly later. The reason for the breach in the relationship between the two brothers can only be guessed at, but it seems to have been a mystery to William.

It’s highly likely that John is the John Robb mentioned on the January 1847 death certificate of one Charles Edward Stuart Robb. I found this record when searching for information about John’s and William’s father, also Charles Edward Stuart Robb (my 3 x great grandfather). But this Charles was a child who died at the age of 10 months and whose cause of death is given as ‘Cerebro spinal 6 weeks Meningitis’. The boy’s father is John Robb, described as a parliamentary agent, living at 16 Lambeth Road in Southwark. As I’ve noted before, the fact that the child was given exactly the same names as my 3 x great grandfather leads one to conclude that this is the ‘right’ John Robb.

I now have a copy of the birth certificate for the short-lived Charles Edward Stuart Robb. He was born on 21st March 1846 at the address mentioned above. His father John is described as a parliamentary clerk, rather than agent, and his mother’s name is given as Mary Ann Robb, ‘formerly Downes’.

Using the LDS Family Search website, I’ve found a record of the marriage of John Robb and Mary Ann Downes, on 10th March 1844, in Lambeth, Surrey. Mary Ann was the daughter of George Downes, and John’s father is named as Charles Edward Robb, thus more or less confirming that this is ‘our’ John Robb. If I can obtain a copy of the marriage certificate, this should give details of Charles’ occupation at this date, as well as that of George Downes’ family, which will make it possible to trace their family through the census records.

Charles Edward Stuart Robb died in 1853 and was buried at St. John’s, Waterlood Road, Lambeth. From his will, we know that he was living at 40 Tenison Road, off York Road, Lambeth, when he died, thus identifying him with the Charles Robb mentioned at this address in the 1851 census. It seems likely that, following the death of his wife Margaret in 1843 and the departure of his surviving children, Charles moved to Lambeth to be close to his son, John, though it’s unclear why he was not actually living with him. Of course, Lambeth would have provided an ideal base for John, travelling to work in the Houses of Parliament just across the river.

John is mentioned in his father’s will of July, 1853 (the main beneficiary is William, with the ‘surplus’ being divided between John and his surviving sisters, Matilda and Elizabeth), but that is the last piece of information (so far) that we have about him – apart from William’s note that he was still alive (but where?) in the 1870s.

Update

I now have a copy of the marriage certificate for John Robb and Mary Ann Downes. They were married on 10th March 1844 in the parish church of St.Mary’s, Lambeth. John is described as being ‘of full age’ while Mary Ann is said to be a minor – which I understand to mean that she was under 21. Their residence at the time of the marriage was Kennington Lane. 

Mary’s father George Downes is described as a shoemaker – there seems to be no escape from this trade on both sides of my family! John’s father, Charles Edward Robb, is said be a solicitor’s clerk, thus more or less confirming that this is ‘our’ Charles Edward Stuart Robb, my 3 x great grandfather.

There is one detail on the certificate that surprised me. John’s occupation is given as ‘mariner’. On his son’s birth certificate two years later, John would be described as a ‘parliamentary clerk’ and on the death certificate of the following year as a ‘parliamentary agent’. Clearly, a change of profession had taken place since the wedding. The nature of John’s seafaring exploits remains unknown, but it perhaps explains why his name is absent from the 1841 census record of the Robb household in Charing Cross.

I was also slightly surprised that Mary Ann signed her name with a ‘mark’, since John was clearly quite well educated. However, since writing the above post I’ve done some research on parliamentary agents, and discovered that rather than Westminster functionaries, these were in fact firms of solicitors who specialised in parliamentary work. So a clerk in one of these firms would have been comparable to a solicitor’s clerk – like John’s father Charles. The later use of the word ‘agent’ by John may indicate a promotion, or it might be a slight exaggeration of his status.

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One Response to John Robb, parliamentary agent

  1. Pingback: A new addition to the Robb family? « Martin Robb’s Family History Blog

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