Between June 1841 and March 1843 Susannah Divall had a relationship that culminated in the birth of Louisa Frances Robson at the end of December 1843 in Lewisham Village. Louisa was baptised on the 31st January 1844 and her birth was registered on the 8th February 1844. On Louisa’s baptism her parents are named as John and Susannah Rosina Robson, and Susannah, who registered the birth, names herself as Susannah Rosina Robson formerly Divall. On both occasions it says that Louisa’s father is John Robson, a coachman. Which is all perfectly as it should be, except that there does not appear to be any marriage for Susannah and John. Going through a pile of old notes, I came across some I made the last time I was investigating the supposed husband of Susannah Divall and the father of her daughter Louisa Frances Robson. As Louisa was born at the very end of 1843 it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the adult parties concerned in the 1841 census. Susannah shows up in Lewisham, aged 18 (actually 20) and unmarried, living with her grandfather and uncle, both called Henry Grubb, and her brother John and sister Maria. A suitable John Robson is far more elusive. John Robsons are ten a penny on Tyneside, as I’ve discovered while researching my Hopkins, but not so in Kent or Surrey, so it is an unlikely name for Susannah to have plucked out of the ether both for Louisa’s birth registration and her baptism. As for the occupation of Coachman, again used consistently, it could be a useful way of explaining an absent father, or true. Louisa repeats all these facts on her marriage to Isaac Catt in 1861, though possibly well-schooled by her mother. It is possible that Susannah is telling the truth about the father of Louisa, just omitting the fact that they never actually married. There is no sign of Susannah and Louisa on the 1851 census, but they show up in Deptford in 1861, where Susannah is claiming to be a widow. So why Deptford? Louisa was baptised, presumably from the family home, in Lewisham where the Grubbs and Divalls would have been well- known as shop and inn-keepers. With her sister Fanny married into another well-known local family, the Ingersolls, you would expect Susannah as a single mother (probably) to have stayed locally for family support. Did the families close ranks around Susannah to maintain the myth that she was married? Deptford is not far to the north of Lewisham, but was also at this time, crucially home to two Robson families, both of whom had sons called John, of about the same age as Susannah.   Josias Robson and his son John appear in the 1841 census living in Grove Street, Deptford. They are both Thames watermen, and John was apprenticed to his father in 1837. John was baptised on the 20th October 1822 at St Paul Deptford as John Goodridge Robson to parents Josias and Elizabeth. He had four brothers and three sisters all baptised at the same church between 1812 and 1831. John’s grandfather was also called Josias: he was born in about 1745 and was apprenticed in 1761 to John Prentice a shipbuilder of Ipswich. He became free of Ipswich by servitude in 1772 and that same year married Frances Richards at St Nicholas Deptford where he worked as a shipwright and in 1774 took on his own apprentice. In 1799 his son Josias was apprenticed at Rotherhithe to John Holloway, a Thames Waterman, and his son James followed in his father’s footsteps as a shipwright at Woolwich.  Josias senior married three times; his second marriage was to Margaret Carver a widow, in 1796, and his third was to Ann Hayes, again a widow, and both these marriages took place at St John Horseleydown. He died in 1833 describing himself in his will as a “Gentleman of Grove Place, Grove Lane, St Paul Deptford”. Josias junior married Elizabeth Longhurst in New Shoreham in Sussex on the 28th February 1810 and they went back to live in Deptford where their first child Mary Ann was born in 1812. So it is Josias and Elizabeth’s son John Goodridge Robson who is one of the candidates for Louisa Robson’s father. He is a lodger in Grove Street, Deptford in 1861, unmarried and still a Waterman; he died in Maidstone in 1870. The other John Robson was the son of John Robson and Martha Booker. They had married at St Paul Deptford on the 16th April 1806 and immediately set off for Sunderland where they had four children baptised: George in 1807, Robert in 1808, Ruth in 1810 and Sarah in 1811. Durham records online is very useful in giving full transcriptions of their parish records, and for George it says : 23 Aug 1807 George Robson, born 28-Jul 1807, 1st son of John Robson (baker, native of Easington) & Martha Booker (native of Brampton, Derbyshire). I imagine John Robson was in Deptford and Sunderland as a baker in the victualling yards, how Martha got there is anyone’s guess, but probably through coming to London to go into service perhaps in a maritime merchant’s household. Her father Peter appears in the Old Brampton records as a collier mostly, though he’s a pauper on her baptism in 1785. By 1813 John and Martha were back in Deptford when their twin sons Edward and Peter were born.  They were followed by Patty Louisa in 1817,  John in 1820, twins Jane Martha and Esther in 1822 and Charles Robert in 1825. Between 1820 and 1823 the family focus appears to have moved from Broomfields in Deptford to Cold Bath Gardens in Greenwich when their parish became St Alphege. George was buried there on the 24th September 1832 and that is the only record I can find of the four children born in Sunderland apart from their baptisms. John was baptised at St Alphege on the 15th February 1820, and while the twin girls were baptised at St Paul in Deptford in 1822, they were buried at St Alphege, one in 1823 the other in 1826. Charles Robert was baptised at St Alphege in 1825. Through all this time their father John remains a Baker. There’s a gap of fifteen years then till the 1841 census, which finds John senior, without his family, in Bromley High Street living and working with a team of other bakers. Martha is in Wright’s Alley in Deptford with their son Charles: she is a charwoman, he is a fisherman. Their other children don’t seem to appear on this census. John senior died in 1848, and Martha probably in 1854 though her age has been overestimated by ten years, and I haven’t found her so far in 1851. Peter signed up for the Merchant Navy - and was last heard of in Colombo with a fractured skull in 1855;  his brother Charles also signed up briefly. Edward followed his father and became a baker, and Patty Louisa married Charles Powling in 1843. He was a carpenter in Deptford dockyard who was sent to Ascension Island for three years from 1845 to 1848 with HMS Tortoise. Louisa dropped the “Patty” and in the British Royal Navy Allotment Declarations her address is Grove Lane, Deptford; in 1851 she is living at  26 New King Street, Deptford St Paul, while Charles is an in-pensioner at the Greenwich Hospital. So was Susannah’s daughter Louisa Frances Robson named for her aunts Patty Louisa Robson/Powling and Fanny Divall/Ingersoll? The only snag here is that this John Robson doesn’t make any appearance in any record after his baptism in 1820, there’s not even a likely burial unlike those of his siblings. Moving over to Southwark where the Grubbs and Divalls had a history of marriages, there is another Robson family with a John born in about 1820. These Robsons - brothers George, John, Thomas and Charles - are wheelwrights and coachmakers with the Southwark branch in Red Cross Street. It’s not clear how the 20 year-old John in the 1841 census fits into the family, but at least he could potentially have the word “coach” in his occupation! However he seems to be a smith in 1851, and a wheelwright’s smith in 1861. Looking further afield - and I realise that I am limiting my search, perhaps naively, to unmarried John Robsons of about Susannah’s age - there are two John Robsons employed as Male Servants in London in 1841, one in the household of Lady Astley, the other in that of Edward Davis, a tea dealer. Now Male servant could cover anything from butler and valet to stable boy, but could also include a domestic coachman …
Murray families: John Robson, Coachman … or not
^