Revd Harold RobinsonHome / Characters / Revd Harold Robinson

the old rectory

The Old Rectory

Revd Harold Robinson was the Rector of Plumtree from June 1926 to October 1936.  He lived in the Rectory on Church Hill (these days known as the ‘Old Rectory’) with his wife and three daughters.

Rev. Robinson was described as a big jovial man with a hearty laugh and a friendly and welcoming personality.

In those days Plumtree was still an agricultural community, most of the men in the village worked on the land as low-paid farm labourers, while their wives looked after their families. Typical accommodation for these families were the cottages at Town End and The Green. These were rows of eight terraced houses, each of which held up to 12 occupants. It was said of the Murdens, who had ten children and lived in one of the Town End cottages, that they must have got the children to sleep and then lined them up around the walls [1].

Despite the relative poverty of the villagers compared to the Rector and his household, the Robinson family were actively involved in village life. The Robinson daughters would sit with village children if their mother was ill or had to go shopping; following the birth of a child, blankets and supplies would be sent; sick children would be provided with calves foot jelly [2] or junket [3] as treatment; children were read to and kept entertained. These and countless other acts of kindness were carried out by the Robinsons without fuss and almost unseen.

The Rectory

The Rectory was open house for the village children, who were often invited to teas in the nursery (which was equipped with a piano) where they were supplied with bread and butter sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.  On Sundays, the Sunday School children would leave the church service before the sermon and visit the Rectory garden where they were given a flower to take home for their mother. Also, when visitors arrived in Plumtree, a tour of the Rectory gardens was always on the agenda.

the robinsons' staff

The Robinson's staff:
Fanny the Cook (centre) and Gladys Coomber (right)

The Robinsons had staff to run the Rectory; but they were more than just employers; they showed a high degree of loyalty to their staff.  For example William Coomber, the Robinsons' gardener, already worked for the family when Rev. Harold was rector of Coleorton in Leicestershire. The 1911 Coleorton census shows Rev. Harold and his family living in Coleorton Rectory [4]; and the Coombers living in Rectory Lodge [5]. So, when Rev. Harold was appointed rector of Plumtree, William Coomber, his wife Annie Clara and his younger daughter Gladys came to Plumtree with him and moved into Rectory Cottage on Church Lane, which was at that time owned by the church.

As well as a gardener, the family had a cook (Fanny, who was a Suffragette [6] and had been in prison) and two maids.

Laundry Cottage on Main Road was also owned by the church; it is so called because that’s where all the Rectory’s laundry was washed.

William Coomber died in 1934 and was buried in Plumtree churchyard. However, following William's death, when Rev. Robinson moved to Eakring two years later, he made sure that Annie Clara and Gladys had somewhere to live and found them jobs as housekeepers to District Nurses living in a three-storey building near the station in Southwell. They later moved into a warden-aided bungalow in Southwell.

Rev. Robinson was the last rector of Plumtree to live in the Old Rectory. The building was sold by the Church of England in 1936 and a more modern Rectory was built further down Church Hill. At this time, the gate between the church and Rectory (used by the Sunday School children) was bricked up, but its outline can still be seen in the wall behind the wheelie bins [8].

Interestingly, central heating and bathrooms were only installed in the Old Rectory after it was sold!


robinson's entry in crockford's clerical dictionaryHarold Robinson was born in Leicester in June 1869, the son of Charles Stephen Robinson and Priscilla Whitmore. From his will [9] it appears that Harold's father was a manager of the family-owned Leicester Gasworks, on the board of directors of the Leicester Savings Bank, and also a director of Parr's Bank.

Harold gained a BA in Law from Christ Church, Oxford in 1892. He was ordained Priest in 1895 in Oxford. Before coming to Plumtree, he had been Rector of St Mary the Virgin, Coleorton [10] (1901 - 1921) and then Vicar of Christ Church, Downside [11] (1921 to 1926). He was appointed Rural Dean of the South Bingham Deanery in 1928. This is all shown in his entry in Crockford's Clerical Directory for the year 1932 (see right, and [12] for an explanation of the terminology).

His Family

On 4th January 1899, Rev. Robinson married Annie Arabella Williams at the Priory Church of St Seriol, Penmon in Anglesey [13].

They had five children including four daughters:

  • Alice Mary Gwenyd (known as "Gwenyd") born in 1902;
  • Isobel Sarah Priscilla ("Priscilla") born in 1903;
  • Marian Amy Muzio Yvonne ("Muzio") born in 1907;
  • Edith Anne Philippa ("Philippa") born in 1909.

The following studio portraits were taken by W W Winter of Derby on April 20th 1918.

gwenyd robinson priscilla robinson muzio and philippa robinson, with their mother annie arabella
Gwenyd Priscilla Muzio and Philippa with Annie Arabella

Sadly Priscilla died in Coleorton in March 1920, aged 18, where she is buried. Gwenyd worked as a nurse missionary and was often posted abroad [14].

Gwenyd, Muzio and Philippa lived into their 90s remaining unmarried and ending their days in a nursing home in Malvern. In their wills, they each left money to Gladys Coomber who died in Southwell in 2009 aged 100.

After leaving Plumtree in 1936, Rev. Robinson became Rector of St Andrew's, Eakring. He died on 4th January 1944 aged 74 [15] and was buried in Coleorton churchyard in a grave next to that of his daughter Priscilla. His wife died in March 1957 at "Rosemary Cottage", Prior Road, East Hanningfield in Essex and was buried with him in Coleorton.  The two graves occupy a position in a sheltered corner of the churchyard, just inside the lychgate [16].

An abridged version of this article first appeared in the December 2015/January 2016 edition of the Plumtree Parish Magazine.
Many thanks to Jennie Phimister who knew the family well and inspired this article.  Additional research by Phil Carruthers.

This article is based on items made available via the British Newspaper Archive. ©The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

the robinson family, outside the old rectoryFinally, A Mystery

The old photos used in this article were given to Gladys Coomber, she passed them on to Jennie Phimister who passed them on to us.

The photo on the right was stored with the other photos. It was obviously taken in the grounds of The Old Rectory, but who is the family posing with their nursemaid?

Is this another rector and his family? Or is it someone who bought the house following its sale by the Church of England in 1936?

Click on the image to see a bigger version.

If you know who they are, please contact us to let us know.


[1] Town End Cottages - Census 1911

The following is taken from a typical census entry for a family living in one of the Town End Cottages in 1911:

  • Arthur Murden (Head), age 52, married. He worked as a Platelayer on the Railway and was born in Plumtree.
  • Mary Jane Murden (Wife) age 54, married to Arthur for 15 years. Her maiden name was Bennett and she was previously married in 1879 to George Dunnett who died in 1891.
  • Beatrice Dunnett (Step-daughter), age 20. She worked as a Domestic Servant and was the daughter of Mary Jane Murden and George Dunnett. She was born in Plumtree.
  • Sarah Murden (Daughter), age 14. She worked as a Domestic Servant and was born in Plumtree.
  • Edith Murden (Daughter), age 8. She was born in Plumtree.
  • George Dunnett (Step-grandson), age six months. He was born in Plumtree.

[2] Calves Foot Jelly from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

Mrs Beeton devotes a whole chapter to 'Invalid Cookery' in her Book of Household Management, which includes many recipes for jelly. Her advice on suitable food for patients states that:

"Savoury jellies are more nourishing when made from veal or calves' feet, for they then contain not only gelatine, but also other extractives of considerable dietetic value. When variety, and not the amount of nourishment afforded, is the chief consideration, jelly may be more easily prepared from isinglass or gelatine, the purest forms of which should alone be used for the purpose." (Beeton, E., 1915 edition, p. 1349)

Calves Foot Jelly is jelly, made by making a stock that includes a calf's foot. This naturally sets when cold, and from Norman to Victorian times used to be popular as nourishment for invalids.

Recipe for calves’ feet jelly


2 calves’ feet,
5 pints of water,
1/2 a pint of sherry,
1/4 of a pint of lemon-juice,
6 ozs of loaf sugar,
the rinds of 3 lemons,
the whites and shells of 2 eggs,
1 inch of cinnamon,
4 cloves.


  1. Wash and blanch the feet, and divide each one into 4 pieces.
  2. Replace them in the stewpan, add the water, and boil gently for 6 hours, skimming when necessary.
  3. Strain and measure the stock, and if there is more than 1 quart, boil until reduced to this quantity.
  4. When cold remove every particle of grease, turn the jellied stock into a stewpan, and add the lemon-rinds, pared off in the thinnest possible strips, the lemon-juice, sherry, sugar, the stiffly-whisked whites and crushed shells of the eggs, and the cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Whisk until boiling, then draw the stewpan to the side of the fire, and let the contents simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Strain through a scalded jelly-bag, or scalded tea-cloth tied to the legs of a chair reversed, and turn into moulds rinsed with cold water.
  7. Turn out when firm, and serve.

Takes 12 hours to make.

[3] Junket from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

Junket is a milk-based dessert, made with sweetened milk and rennet, the digestive enzyme which curdles milk.

Recipe for Junket


1 pint of milk,
junket powder, or 1 dessertspoonful of essence of rennet,
1 teaspoonful of castor sugar.


  1. Warm the milk (the exact temperature should be 98F, the natural heat of the milk), put it into the bowl or deep dish in which it will be served, add the sugar, and stir in the rennet or junket powder.
  2. Let it remain in a moderately warm place until set.
  3. The amount of junket powder required is stated on the wrapper; its use may be recommended in preference to the liquid essence, which, in consequence of its, varying strength, is uncertain in its results.

Takes about 1 1/2 hours to coagulate the milk.

[4] Coleorton Census 1911 - Robinson Household

The following is taken from the census entry for the Robinson household living at Coleorton Rectory in 1911:

  • Harold Robinson (Head), age 41, married, Clergyman (Established Church)
  • Annie Arabella Robinson (Wife), age 43, married to Harold for 12 years
  • Alice Mary Gwenyd Robinson (Daughter), age 8
  • Isobel Sarah Priscilla Robinson (Daughter), age 7
  • Marian Amy Muzio Yvonne Robinson (Daughter), age 4
  • Edith Anne Philippa Robinson (Daughter), age 1
  • Herbert Simon Carey (Sister-in-law's husband), age 54, Assistant Secretary at the GPO
  • Alice Henrietta Carey (Sister-in-law), age 47. Sister of Annie Arabella Robinson
  • Ella Elizabeth Shackleford, age 33, children's governess
  • Ethel Jowett, age 29, children's nurse
  • Frances Adcock, age 20, house parlour maid
  • Millicent Mary Reed, age 15, "between" maid

[5] Coleorton Census 1911 - Coomber Household

The following is taken from the census entry for the Coomber household living at Rectory Lodge, Coleorton in 1911:

  • William Coomber (Head), age 41, married, Groom and Gardener (Domestic)
  • Annie Clara Coomber (Wife), age 40, married to William for 16 years
  • Alice Mary Coomber (Daughter), age 15
  • Gladys Ruth Marjorie Coomber (Daughter), age 2

[6] The Women's Suffrage Movement

In 1928 the Equal Franchise Act was passed which granted women in the United Kingdom the same voting rights as men.  This followed over half a century of campaigning by various groups, among them the suffragists – the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) who favoured peaceful protest – and the suffragettes – who implemented more militant measures (often after peaceful protest had failed).

Among the suffragettes was the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) which was founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst who, having campaigned for women’s suffrage (right to vote) since 1880, was frustrated by the movement’s lack of progress.  The WSPU’s slogan was “deeds not words”, a typical example of which came in 1905 with the arrests of members Annie Kenney and Pankhurst’s daughter Christabel, following their ejection from a Liberal Party meeting when they asked if the Party would grant women the vote.

In 1907 several members broke from the WSPU to form the Women’s Freedom League (WFL). While still a militant organisation, it was non-violent and focused on civil disobedience, such as non-cooperation with the UK census, and resistance to taxation. The group became famous when two of its members chained themselves to the grille covering the Ladies’ Gallery window in Parliament.

The NUWSS became concerned that the WSPU’s radical methods were doing the cause more harm than good because their campaigns involved breaking windows and attempted arson attacks. By 1913, while the suffragettes had perhaps gained more attention, they only had 2,000 members, whereas, the suffragists had 50,000.

Also in 1913 the suffragette Emily Davison famously threw herself under the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby and was killed, an act which still divides opinion as to its intentions and legacy.

Suffragettes were frequently imprisoned as a result of their campaigns, and often went on hunger strike, as a result of which they would undergo painful force-feeding.

Between 1914 and 1918 both the WSPU and the NUWSS suspended their protests to assist with the war effort. In doing so they arguably helped change the public’s perception of the role of women in society, as there were up to two million women performing the jobs of the men who were away fighting.

1918 saw the passing of the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to women over the age of thirty who met certain property qualifications.  However, this did not represent true equality for women, as men gained the right to vote at age twenty one.  This inequality may have been imposed because so many men had been killed in the war that if women were granted the vote at the same age as men, they would have outnumbered them.

Finally, in 1928 the Equal Franchise Act was passed, which granted the same voting rights to men and women.

[7] Laundry Cottage


[8] Gate between the Church and the Rectory

what remains of the old gateThere used to be a direct path from the south door of the church to the Rectory so that the Rector could take a shortcut to and from the church, rather than the more circuitous route onto Church Hill and the west gate to the church.

The path passed from the churchyard to the Rectory gardens via a gate set into the surrounding wall.

Following the sale of the Rectory in 1937, the gate was removed and the resultant hole was bricked up.

However the gateposts remain visible today on the churchyard side of the wall.  The path still leads towards the bricked up gate, but these days the area is used to store the church's wheelie bins.


[9] Charles Stephen Robinson (from Nottingham Evening Post - Friday 22 September 1933)

£82,000 LEICESTER WILL. LATE GAS MANAGER AND HIS CHILDREN. Mr. Charles Stephen Robinson, of Eastfield, Stanley-road, Stoneygate, Leicester, joint engineer and manager of the Leicester Gasworks before being taken over the Leicester Corporation, for 18 years chairman of the board of directors of the Leicester Savings Bank, and also a director of Parr's Bank (now the Westminster Bank), who died on June 23rd last, aged 94, left estate of the gross value of £82,660, with net personalty £65,320.

Probate of his will, with three codicils, has been granted to his children. Miss Edith Emma Robinson and Alfred Whitmore Robinson, both of the above address the Rev. Harold Robinson, of The Rectory, Plumtree, Notts., and Stephen Whitmore Robinson, of Lyndhurst-road, Hampstead.

In addition to family bequests, the testator left the Lord Mayor, alderman, and citizens of Leicester his old Norwegian chairs, bowls, and other wooden articles collected by him on his visits to Norway; £100 to Wortley Searson Lovell, assistant manager of Leicester Gas Department; £100 to William Pingriff, formerly employed in the gas offices; an annuity of £25and a legacy of £25 to his "old and faithful servnt." Jane Ward; an annuity of £52 Emily M. Kenning, widow of his late gardener. William Austen Kenning; £20 to Emily Kenning, daughter of his said late gardener; £5 to each female servant in his regular employ, not under not either given or received; to every servant, male or female, indoor or outdoor, who has been in such service for the period of five years, £5 for every completed year of service; £500 to Katherine Brownlow, spinster, of Dartmouth, "who was engaged to my grandson, Charles Patrick Whitmore Robinson, who died suddenly while he was at Malaya."

The will concludes: "I desire that all persons interested under my will shall know that in providing for my children I have avoided favouritism, as they are equally dear to me, and I have been solely guided by what I consider to be their relative present and prospective financial position and probable necessities." He desired to be cremated.

[10] Coleorton Church

coleorton churchThe parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Coleorton is now part of a team ministry with St Helen's Ashby de la Zouch. It is sited adjacent to Coleorton Hall.





[11] Christ Church, Downside

Christ Church, Downside, in Midsomer Norton, was a parish in Somerset. Consecrated on November 29th 1838 by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Church saw a large congregation. So large, in fact, that parishioners had to fund the building of an additional Gallery to hold them all, as Minister J.W. Watts noted in a letter to the Dorset County Chronicle (see below). He also appealed for funds to fill the £200 shortfall resulting from the work on the church, including the building of the Parsonage. The church served as a chapel-of-ease for the 'mother' Parish Church of Midsomer Norton, until 1841, when Downside became a parish in its own right.  Christ Church sadly closed in 1983, and became amalgamated with Chilcompton.


Letter to the Dorset County Chronicle - Thursday 26 December 1839

In the Parish of Midsomer Norton

THIS CHURCH has now been opened one Twelve-month, during which period it has been attended by a large Congregation, who have earnestly listened to the truth of the gospel of Christ. Through the numbers who have flocked thither every Sabbath, the Church was found incompetent to contain them, and the congregation, though by no means affluent, have erected a Gallery at their own expense. A comfortable Parsonage, for the residence of the Minister, is also completed and occupied, but there is still a debt upon the whole work, amounting to Two Hundred Pounds, and it is with a view to the liquidation of this sum, that an appeal is made to the Christian Public, with an earnest prayer, that He who has all hearts at his disposal, will so incline his people to come forward and to give of their ability to this work of the Lord as to render a more urgent appeal needless.

Messrs. SMITHS, PAYNE, and SMITHS, No. 1, Lombard-street, London; Messrs. TUFNELL, and Co., Bladud Bank, Bath; Messrs, MILES, HARFORD, and Co., Bristol; and Messrs. STUCKLEY, at their several Banks, have kindly consented to receive subscriptions; and the Rev, J. W. WATTS, Parsonage, Downside.

Minister of Christchurch, Downside

[12] Rev. Harold Robinson's Entry in Crockford's Clerical Directory (1932)

* (asterisk)

Elector of University - Many British universities had one or more representatives in parliament; the constituency represented the university rather than a geographical area. Electors were permitted to vote in both a university constituency and a geographical constituency. Oxford University had two representatives in parliament from 1603 until 1950 when the system was abolished.

Ch. Ch. Ox. B.A. (3rd cl. Jurispr.) 1892, M.A. 1895

Studied at Christ Church Oxford and gained a BA (3rd class in Jurisprudence [law]) in 1892 and MA in 1895

Cudd. Coll. 1893.  d 1894, p 1895 Ox.

Studied theology at Cuddesdon College from 1893. Ordained Deacon 1894. Ordained Priest in 1895 in Oxford.
Cuddesdon College was a Church of England theological college in Cuddesdon, outside Oxford. It was founded by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, in April 1853. The college is now called Ripon College Cuddesdon having amalgamated with Ripon Hall, Yorkshire in 1975. It is the largest ministry training institution in the Church of England.

C. of Aylesbury 1894-97

Curate of Aylesbury, 1894 to 1897

St Giles, Reading, 1897-1900

Curate of St Giles, Reading, 1897 to 1900

R. of Cole-Orton 1901-21

Rector of St Mary the Virgin, Cole-Orton (Coleorton), 1901 to 1921

V. of Downside 1921-26

Vicar of Christ Church, Downside, 1921 to 1926

R of Plumtree w Normanton-on-the-Wold, Dio. Southw. from 1926.
(P, E. F. Clements Esq  T.R.C. 188l w 5 a of Gl, val. 10l; Q.A.B. 17l; Eccles. Comm. 540l; Fees 2l; o.s. 9l; Gross Inc. 767l, Net 670l and Ho; Pop, 776.)

Rector of Plumtree with Normanton-on-the-Wold, Diocese of Southwell from 1926.
(Patron: E. F. Clements Esq.; Tithe Rent Charge £188 with 5 Acres of Glebe valued at £10; Queen Anne's Bounty £17; Ecclesiastical Commission £540; Fees £2; income from other sources £9; Gross Income £767, Net Income £670 and House; Population 776.)
Queen Anne's Bounty - a scheme established in 1704 to augment the incomes of the poorer clergy of the Church of England.
Ecclesiastical Commission - money received from the Ecclesiastical and Church Estates Commissioners for England. The commissioners were authorized to determine the distribution of revenues of the Church of England.

Surr. from 1927; R.D. of S. Bingham from 1928.

Surrogate from 1927 (bishop’s deputy who grants marriage licences); Rural Dean of South Bingham from 1928

[13] Marriage of The Rev. Harold Robinson (from Bucks Herald - Saturday 21 January 1899)

MARRIAGE OF THE REV. HAROLD ROBINSON - Many of our readers will remember the Rev. H. Robinson, formerly curate of this parish, and now assistant curate of St Giles, Reading, and will therefore be interested in the following which is culled from the Lady's Pictorial of Jan 14th:-

"On the 4th inst., at the Priory Church of St Seriol, Penmon, Anglesey, by the Rev. Canon T. W. Tuvor, assisted by the Rev. R. O. Williams (brother of the bride), and the Rev. T. Li. Kyffin (vicar of Penmon), the Rev. Harold Robinson, M.A., son of Charles Robinson, Esq., of Eastfield, near Leicester, to Annie Arabella, daughter of the late Henry Owen Williams, Esq., J.P., D.L., of Tre Castell and Tre Arddur, Anglesey.

"The bride, who was given away by her mother, was attired in a gown of white satin trimmed with Brussels lace, and wore a wreath of real orange blossoms in her hair and also on her dress, her veil being of Brussels lace. The bridesmaids were Miss Alice Williams (sister of the bride), and the Misses Edith and Nellie Robinson (sisters of the bridegroom), Masters Dicky and Freddy Burton and Miss Mary Burton, the little triplet children of Mr. J. H. Burton of The Friars, Anglesey, carrying the train. The bridesmaids wore pale blue cloth trimmed with otter fur, with vests of white satin and lace, and hats en suite. Mr Stephen Robinson (brother of the bridegroom) performed the duties of best man.

"After the ceremony, a reception was held at Tre Castell, at which nearly a hundred guests were present, and later in the afternoon the happy pair left for Bordighera to spend the honeymoon, the bride travelling in pale grey cloth with cape and hat in the same shade trimmed with violet."

Excellent photographs of the Rev. H Robinson and his bride are also given.

[14] Gwenyd Robinson - Nurse Missionary

gwenyd robinson in her nurse missionary uniformGwenyd Robinson in her nurse missionary uniform












[15] Rev. Harold Robinson Obituary (from Western Gazette - Friday 14 January 1944)

"The Rev. Harold Robinson, who has died at the age of 74, had held benefices in three dioceses, having been Rector of Cole Orton, Leicester, and of Downside, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, before coming to Southwell [as] Rector of Plumtree in 1926. He became Rector of Eakring, near Newark, in 1936, and had been Rural Dean of Bingham and of Southwell."

[16] Robinson Headstones in Coleorton Churchyard

the robinson gravesthe robinson headstones

The graves of Priscilla Robinson, and Harold & Annie Arabella Robinson lie next to each other in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Coleorton.

Priscilla's headstone
priscilla's headstone

The inscription reads:

daughter of
Harold Robinson
and Anne Arabella
his wife

fell asleep March 27th 1920
aged 18 years

Harold and Annie's headstone
harold and annie's headstone

The inscription reads:

Harold Robinson
beloved rector
Cole Orton from 1901 to 1921
died 4th January 1944
aged 74 years
I know that my Redeemer liveth
Annie Arabella his beloved wife
died 26th March 1957 aged 89 years
Bless the Lord O my soul

sitemap | cookie policy | privacy policy | accessibility statement