Joseph Armitage Robinson

Joseph Armitage Robinson K.C.V.O. was Dean of Westminster from 1902-1911 but he has no memorial in Westminster Abbey. There is however a bronze bust and portrait of him in the Deanery. He was appointed Dean of Wells cathedral in 1911 and is buried in the cloisters there. 

Joseph was one of 13 children of the Reverend George Robinson and his wife Henrietta (Forbes) and was born at Keynsham in Somerset. He was educated in Liverpool and at Cambridge university, as were his brothers Forbes (died 1904), Arthur, John Alfred, Charles, Edward and Frederick. His sister Cecilia also died while he was at Westminster. After serving as domestic chaplain to the Bishop of Durham, he took various posts including prebendary of Wells from 1894-1899. He was then made a Canon at Westminster and was Rector of St Margaret's Westminster for a short time from 1899-1900. In 1902 he was promoted to Dean, and was a chaplain to the King and Lord High Almoner. He was an eminent New Testament scholar, prolific author and preacher. A contemporary described his voice as the "cawing of rooks". He did much to improve services at the Abbey and was keenly interested in many aspects of its history and the monastic period. While at Westminster he had several theology and other students staying with him called his "Young Gentlemen". He resigned in 1911 and in 1914 married Amy Faithfull but they had no children. In 1932 he was knighted but clergymen do not take the title of "Sir".

Several photos of him are kept in the Abbey archives as well as the day to day journal kept by his secretary the Reverend R.B. Rackham (called Anecdota Westmonasteriensia) and family letters and papers. Also an unpublished short biography by L.E. Tanner.

He composed a prayer which is often used at memorial services in the Abbey "O everlasting God, with whom a thousand years are but as one day, and in whose Name are treasured here the memorials of many generations of men: Grant to those who labour in this place such measures of thy grace and wisdom, that they may neglect no portion of their manifold inheritance, but so guard and use it to thy glory and the enlargement of thy Church, that the consecration of all human powers may set forward thy purpose of gathering up into one all things in Christ; through whom to thee be glory now and evermore. Amen".

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Joseph Armitage Robinson - eccentric, scholar and churchman" by T.F. Taylor, 1991

See the National Register of Archives for a list of his papers in the Abbey collection

Joseph Armitage Robinson
Joseph Armitage Robinson

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Joseph Armitage Robinson
Bronze bust

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster