Sir Thomas Robinson & Lady Lechmere
In the south transept of Westminster Abbey is a memorial to Sir Thomas Robinson, architect, and his wife Elizabeth, Lady Lechmere. The monument incorporates two busts. That of Sir Thomas is by Filippo della Valle and that of Lady Lechmere is by Edme Bouchardon, both busts having been modelled in Rome in 1730. Permission to erect Lady Lechmere's memorial was given by the Dean and Chapter in 1749 and Sir Thomas paid the fees in 1753 but guidebooks do not mention it being in place by the 1760s. The inscription reads:
Sacred to the memory of ELIZABETH Dowager Baroness of Lechmere eldest daughter of Charles Howard third Earl of Carlisle and widow of Nicholas, Lord Lechmere; She afterwards intermarried with Sir Thomas Robinson of Rockby [Rokeby] Park in the county of York Bar. [Baronet] on 28 Octob. 1728 and dyed on 10 of April 1739, aged 44. By an order of his last will dated 13 Nov. 1775, this monument was erected to perpetuate his grateful sense of the pleasure he had in the conversation of an accomplished woman, a sincere friend, and an agreeable companion; with particular directions that his own bust should be placed by hers. Sir Thomas was Member of Parliament for the borough of Morpeth in Northumberland during the first Parliament of King George the second and after the dissolution thereof was appointed one of the Commissioners of Excise in which office he continued till January 11 1741 when his Majesty was pleased to appoint him Governor of Barbadoes, in which Government he continued near five years; and tho' he did several eminent services to the Island, yet upon some complaints sent home he was recalled; tho in justice to his memory it must not be concealed, that the complaints were afterwards, substantially acknowledged to be groundless. He passed the rest of his days after his return in quiet retirement from publick business, and departed this life on the third of March 1777, aged 76
The fee for erecting Sir Thomas's bust was paid in 1778. The wall monument, with busts and several kinds of veined marble, was designed by John Walsh. On the base is a shield of arms which includes the Robinson arms "vert, a chevron between three stags or, an escutcheon of Ulster" (a green shield with a gold chevron between stags). The top was curtailed when the memorial to Jenny Lind was erected above it in 1894.
He was probably born at Merton in Surrey, one of several sons of William Robinson (d.1720) of Yorkshire and his wife Ann (Walters). Educated at Exeter college Oxford he later travelled widely on the continent and was elected to the Royal Society in 1727. He was very tall and was known as Long Sir Thomas to avoid confusion with another Yorkshireman of the same name. When he came of age he rebuilt his family seat at Rokeby (Rookby) and laid out the park. Elizabeth had married Lord Lechmere in 1719 and after his death married Thomas in 1728. They had no children. His second wife, whom he married in Barbados, was widow Sarah Booth. His other significant architectural works were his London home (demolished) and Claydon House in Buckinghamshire (later re-designed). He sold Rokeby and died in Chelsea, being buried with his mother at St Mary's church in Merton. His illegitimate daughter was Anne, by Elizabeth Nicholson. His brother William succeeded to the baronetcy.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
A biographical dictionary of English Architects... by H.M. Colvin, 1954
Passive tranquillity: the sculpture of Filippo Della Valle by Vernon Hyde Minor, 1997
Claydon House is open to the public, administered by The National Trust
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster