Hugh Robinson

1735-1802. He was born on 15 July 1735 at Appleby, Westmoreland, a younger son of the successful tradesman Charles Robinson, and of his wife Hannah Deane, the sister of Captain Joseph Deane. His brother John Robinson served as the M.P for Westmoreland and later for Harwich, and was the secretary to the Treasury in Lord North’s government from 1770 until 1782.

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Admiral Robinson’ short career came to an end when his brother, John Robinson, left the Government in 1782.

Robinson joined the Navy in 1750 after satisfying his father’s wish that he take employment for at least two years in a coasting vessel to ensure that he was embarking on the right career. He was commissioned lieutenant on 5 August 1761 and promoted commander on 10 January 1771.

Having been posted captain of the new Proteus 26 on 8 May 1777, he sailed for the Leeward Islands that month before heading for Quebec. During their stay in the St. Lawrence the crew were struck with the flux and the ship was unable to sail for over six weeks. By October the Proteus had arrived back at Antigua from Quebec carrying a fair number of smugglers aboard, many of whom formed the barge crew but who now took the opportunity to desert. Being then sent home to England with a convoy, the Proteus entered Portsmouth for repair.

In February 1778 Robinson recommissioned the Guadeloupe 28, joining Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet that sailed for North America on 9 June. When this force was scattered by stormy weather the Guadeloupe was able to get into Newfoundland before returning immediately to England for repairs. After a refit and coppering at Portsmouth the frigate returned to North America in May 1779, and she captured the rebel privateer Marbois on 9 October 1780. Robinson commanded the Guadeloupe at the Battle of Cape Henry on 16 March 1781, and on 30 August managed to escape up the York River when the French fleet entered the Chesapeake. Here his command endured the red hot shot from the American batteries at Yorktown, but with the French fleet bottling her up after the indecisive Battle of Chesapeake on 5 September there was no other option but to scuttle her on 10 October. Even this was not a complete success, for the French were later able to salvage her and she served briefly in their colours.

Robinson returned to England, but with his brother no longer in government following the change of administration in early 1782 he was unable to secure another command.

He became a superannuated rear-admiral in July 1794 and died at his residence in York on 15 November 1802, being buried in St. Saviours Churchyard in the town.

Robinson married a West Indian woman in his younger days but she was in poor health and despite the money he lavished upon doctor’s bills she died shortly afterwards without issue. On 24 March 1787 he married the 22 year-old Mary Myers of Barton, Westmoreland, by whom he fathered thirteen children, all born in York. Two of his sons, Charles and Thomas, entered the Navy and reached the rank of lieutenant.

He was well regarded by the King, who curiously said that ‘Captain Robinson was well-bred and had as ‘handsome a leg and foot as any man he knew.’ George III also had a great liking for Robinson’s brother John.