Joseph Robson family of early Victoria

Joseph Robson 1798-1879 and Jane nee Hudson 1800-64 arrived Victoria, Australia August 1853 from Brazil, ship Bore, with six children and three grand-children.

Joseph and Jane originally were from Durham county, England, married 1820 Heworth, Joseph a merchant. He was born 1798 probably at Hebburn (known locally as "Hebron"), near Heworth, where his parents had settled. They were John Robson 1775-c1861 and Hannah Thompson c1776-c1846 married 1796 Houghton-le-Spring. John, born Houghton-le-Spring, was a coal miner at Hebburn, by 1851 Thornley colliery, 1861 seemingly with daughter Jane Howey at Pittington. He was son of an earlier Joseph Robson born East Rainton and Jane born West Rainton died 1794, married 1775 Chester-le-Street. Hannah was born Ovingham, Northumberland, daughter of Peter Thompson and Hannah Waugh, married 1769 Ovingham

Jane Hudson was born 1800 Sunderland, parents William Hudson, mariner, and Elizabeth Burnside, married 1788 Sunderland.

Joseph, Jane, children Hannah and probably William went to Brazil about 1826 where Joseph worked 7 years on the Gong Soco mine then 18 years at Morro Velho for British company St. John d'el Rey Mining - i.e. Mina São João del-Rei, both these in state Minas Gerais, about 200 km north west Rio de Janeiro. He possibly worked also at Curapaity, Amazon basin. Children including Joseph, Jane, Elizabeth and John were born Brazil.

In Victoria, a Gold Rush was on. Joseph's employer Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Company was controlled by British interests under J.D. Powles as had been his Brazil employer. Established 1852, it brought contract miners from England whose attempts at Forest Creek, Bendigo and Fryer's Creek 1852-3 ceased after little success and opposition of small independent miners. Attempts at Forest Creek 1854-5 and Ovens 1855 met resistance. From 1853-9, it had a public gold smelting and assay office at Flinders Lane, Melbourne where it is likely Joseph worked for a time. In 1856-7 the company under resident director Rivett Bland had three quartz gold ore mines at Ballarat where Joseph Robson erected and worked crushing batteries.

In 1857, company attention went to private land at Clunes. Joseph Robson settled there 1857 with Jane and some of the family. He was stamp and amalgamating manager at what became one of Australia's largest quartz gold ore processors and an industry leader.


Woodland, John
Sixteen Tons of Clunes Gold
A History of the Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Company
Clunes Museum 2001 and
R. H. Bland and the Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Company
thesis M.A. La Trobe 2002 download at

Both refer to Joseph Robson here compiled and edited

Machinery for quartz mining by the company arrived in Melbourne June 1856, selected on the best advice by the London directors. Around October, Joseph Robson supervised installation at Dead Horse Gully, Ballarat. A second plant was erected shortly afterwards at Black Hill, Ballarat.

Capable of crushing 20 tons of ore per day, the Dead Horse Gully plant consisted of a 12 head stamp battery driven by a portable steam engine. Ore was "burnt" in a kiln before being crushed to make the quartz more brittle. Using a similar gold recovery method to that of the St John Company (probably introduced by Joseph Robson), pulverised ore leaving the stamp battery was washed over "strikes" (a series of inclined wooden tables) covered with blankets, which caught most of the gold. The ore then passed through two mercury-filled amalgamating troughs to recover very fine particles.

Joseph Robson

picture from
Methodist Spectator 1908

Both Ballarat sites came to a standstill in January 1857 due to poor gold grades and shortage of water because of drought. The plants were dismantled March 1857 and most of the machinery transported to Clunes where the first crushing of quartz was May 1857.

The Mining Institute of Victoria was instigated late 1857 to promote the advancement of the mining profession and mining technology, and to stimulate investment. Chaired by the Chief Secretary of Victoria, Joseph Robson was a member.

The constant experimentation and improvement for which the Clunes works was becoming renowned continued throughout 1859 under the watchful eye of Joseph Robson as battery manager. In 1862, a working model of one of his stamp batteries was sent to London for an International Exhibition. It incorporated his improvements including cast-iron cam barrels, wrought iron stamp shanks, removable bed-plates and amalgamating troughs below the battery box discharge.

Works manager Henry Thompson and Joseph Robson began experimenting in 1861 on the pyrites problem, traces of base metals that often accompanied the gold and trapped it. In 1862, Joseph Robson designed his "arrastra" machine with trials carried out. Thompson and company chemist George Latta developed a solution; damp, roasted pyrites was ground in the presence of mercury to ensure that each "flake "of gold had sufficient contact with mercury to be amalgamated. Joseph Robson experimented with improving the amount of pyrites recovered from the tailings. In early 1864, there was constructed a buddle which was a circular wooden basin 18 feet in diameter relying on a current of water to separate lighter particles from those of greater density, improved that year by the company's John Munday.

book pages 25, 28-30, 43, 46, 63-66, 71-4.



Nordstrom model of Port Phillip Co mine at Clunes

Carl Nordstrom was commissioned by the Victorian Mining Commission and the National Museum of Victoria to create models depicting Victorian gold mining scenes. Made on location between 1856 and 1859, one depicts the mine and crushing works of the Port Phillip Co at Clunes in 1858 and underground workings. Several enlargeable images of the model can be seen linked here at

Daintree photos of Port Phillip Co mine at Clunes

Taken 1861 by Richard Daintree, these 5 photos can be seen at State Library Victoria site by search



Stephanie Dew
descendant of Joseph and Jane Robson, via their daughter Hannah Johns and grand-daughter Mary Jane Curnow, made an extensive study of the Joseph Robson family history and kindly provided much of the information and photography from which this site has been developed. Stephanie published (2004)
Joseph Robson A Life On Three Continents
a book of 143 pages being her version of the story of Joseph Robson and his family.



some notes from
Stephanie Dew
provided for this site


The Years before Coming to Victoria

John Robson and Hannah Thompson, parents of Joseph Robson 1798-1879, were married 1796 at Houghton-le-Spring, Durham. John Robson ch 1775 was one of several children of an earlier Joseph Robson born East Rainton m Chester-le-Street 1775 Jane born West Rainton d 1794; they lived at Stots Pasture and their other children included Joseph Robson ch 1780 m Jarrow 1802 Margaret Chicken from Ryton, Mary Robson ch 1782, Henry Robson ch 1785, Jane Robson ch 1788, William Robson ch 1792. Other children of John Robson and Hannah nee Thompson included Peter Robson b 1796, Jane Robson b c1801, John Robson c1802-08, Henry Robson ch 1805, John Robson b 1810, Hannah Robson ch 1812. [note by site author 2021: records now available show Jane Robson lived 1800-02, Jane Robson born 1815 appears also to have been their child, she married 1839 Thomas Howey].

These places had existed since the middle ages. Most of the people worked on the land but at Ovingham parish there was a flourishing dyeing industry and parts of Houghton parish were exploited for coal mining from Tudor times. The village of Heworth, where Joseph Robson and Jane Hudson married 1820, changed very little until the 1800's brought steampower, railways and new factories springing up along the shores of the river.

In 1826, Joseph Robson and Jane had a son baptised at Heworth 5 January 1826 (as Thomas but probably the child known in family as William). Joseph was said in the parish register to be a "'merchant" of High Heworth. This was a pit village. In 1834 Heworth (which consisted of Low Heworth and High Heworth) had "one corn mill, three public houses, and a few shops" (see Hair, P.E.H. Coals On Rails Liverpool UP 1988). On Heworth Shore, there was an "iron manufactury" (referred to in Northumberland & Durham Family History Society Journal 2003). Given that Joseph's working life was spent designing, constructing and operating mining machinery, and that he did later own a foundry in Clunes, an "iron manufactury" would seem a likely place for him to have worked while in Heworth. It changed owners in 1828, the seller being at Tynemouth, probably too far away to have actually been running the business on a day to day basis.

There was a disaster at the High Heworth pit in 1826, which may provide a clue as to why Joseph Robson left the area. It was considered to be a well-ventilated and safe pit, and this may have saved lives as the death toll was only three (thirty-four died at Jarrow in the same year, and in the Stargate explosion at Ryton, also in 1826, thirty-nine died, of whom eleven had the surname Robson).

On the Brazil background, useful reading is Eakin, Marshall C. British Enterprise in Brazil: The St. John d'el Rey Mining Company and the Morro Velho Gold Mine, 1830-1960 (Durham, U.S.; Duke UP; 1989).


The Early Years in Victoria

In Victoria in 1853, the Port Phillip Company was shedding employees. There is evidence of attempt in 1854 at larger scale mining at Forest Creek near Castlemaine. Henry Thompson, of the company, visited in late 1854 when some people there were trying to get a lease for a larger area. There is evidence that a large claim in the vicinity, held by a few, was jumped. Family members were probably in the group at Forest Creek in 1854-55, and may have had some Port Phillip Company support. Joseph Robson's son-in-law, James Johns (see below) died in suspicious circumstances at Forest Creek on 10 June 1855, two days before the Legislative Council passed new mining regulations providing for leases for companies.

When his daughter Hannah Johns remarried at Richmond, Victoria on 30 October 1855, Joseph Robson was said to be a gold-assayer. Joseph Robson is not mentioned in connection with Port Phillip Company mining until July 1855, when Rivett Bland had him supervise the making of a kind of Dolly Tub for the company operation on the Ovens region in north-eastern Victoria. He probably never got there as the company's land was jumped July.

The Port Phillip Company's 1856 Annual Report (in Melbourne University archives) gives a history of affairs mainly explaining lack of success.

Joseph Robson in a letter (in State Library Victoria) to Rivett Bland from Ballarat in 1856 mentioned Black Hill and Dead Horse Gully. There was a third un-named site, which was probably Long Gully - the Port Phillip Company crushed quartz there in March 1857.


The Years at Clunes

Creswick & Clunes Advertiser 21 September 1860 reported the inauguration ceremony that day of the Victoria Company battery at Clunes by Joseph Robson discharging a bottle of spirits. The whole affair passed off with much cheering. "A more substantial piece of work has not been erected on Clunes". Joseph Robson had supervised erection.

Creswick & Clunes Advertiser 9 December 1862 reported that Joseph Robson and William Lancashire [son-in-law, see below] had applied for a patent for "An Invention for grinding, extracting, arresting and amalgamating gold from sand tailings and pyrites". Their letter to the editor published 5 June 1863 headed "THE ARASTRA" stated that the quantity of gold which had been obtained from their machine was not from common tailings but from blanket sand which the Port Phillip Company had for some two or three years been saving.

Reports in Creswick & Clunes Advertiser show Joseph Robson a leader in the local Wesleyan Church, also from 1860 a trustee of the Clunes General Cemetery: 27 April 1860, 24 January, 5 December 1862; 7 December 1864. Pictured is stone he laid 1870 at the church.

In 1866, Joseph Robson was in Clunes Voters' Roll as living in the Port Phillip Co. paddock. In his later years, he lived in Smeaton Road, Clunes next door to the store of William Curnow, husband of his grand-daughter Mary Jane: see further below.


Creswick & Clunes Advertiser 16 May 1870 reported the formal starting of an additional 20 head battery at the New North Clunes Company which had just been finished. A large number of persons had assembled on the occasion. The machinery having been set in motion, Mr Robson, of the Port Phillip Company, broke a bottle of wine against the fly wheel, named the battery "Amelia Lewis" in honour of the wife of Mr John Lewis, the able and much respected manager of the company, and gave the toast.

Joseph Robson was apparently a generous person. He had lent money to just about all the family and stipulated that it need not be repaid. The amounts were to be deducted from each person's share of his estate.

Jane Robson nee Hudson died 17 April 1864 at Clunes, cause gastro enteritis 6 years, described as gentlewoman, age 63.

Joseph Robson died 15 May 1879 at Clunes, funeral Wesleyan (Methodist) Church.

Creswick Advertiser described him as "one of the oldest and most respected residents of Clunes".

The Methodist Spectator said that Joseph Robson of Clunes that was "an old and veteran saint" and that his "manner of life was so cheery and joyous". He had been about 27 years in Brazil. Some nine years ago the infirmities of age had led him to withdraw from the active engagements of every-day life, yet he had still continued to take his appointments as a local preacher until his failing strength precluded him. He was at time of death senior trustee of his church and chairman of the Clunes Cemetery Trust. He was revered as a father in Israel, and respected by the whole community.
photo: headstone at Clunes

Some descendants of Joseph Robson and Jane nee Hudson

Hannah Robson 1823-1907

born Sunderland, England, died Bulumwaal, Victoria married Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1841 James Johns 1810-55 born Cornwall. James was a carpenter employed at the Morro Velho mine. He died June 1855 in Victoria at Forest Creek near Castlemaine: reports 1.3mb suicide, accident, nature or S. Dew book suspects killing by some hostile party. Hannah remarried in 1855 when she was living in Richmond, Vic. She and husband Edward Taylor soon lived at Mount Blackwood, by 1869, Clunes. By 1880, as had numerous of their extended family, they settled about 60 miles north of Clunes in area of Charlton, a growing farm and town sector.

children, born Brazil, father James Johns

1. Joseph Hudson Johns 1844-1917 m 1868 Elizabeth Delbridge Hosking. Joseph lived with his Robson grandparents after Hannah remarried. Later he became a storekeeper at Clunes. Some time after 1876, he went to Glenloth in the Charlton area, later to Melbourne where he had an accommodation house at South Yarra. When he died 1917, he was a tea merchant, residing South Melbourne. (from Stephanie Dew).

2. Mary Jane Johns 1846-1919
pic* m 1870 William Curnow 1843-1919. Mary Jane lived with her Robson grandparents after Hannah remarried. William Curnow had a general store in Smeaton Road, Clunes. Born Cornwall, he had arrived Victoria 1863 and been a miner at Ballarat and Clunes before being injured. In 1876, the Curnow family moved to Charlton to farm. They remained there, by 1878 William again a storekeeper. Mary Jane was great grandmother of Stephanie Dew.

3. Charles William Johns 1852 - before 1907.

children, born Victoria, father Edward Taylor

4. Edward Robson Taylor 1857-1938 school teacher.

5. Elizabeth Alice Taylor b 1859.

6. Amy Georgina Taylor b 1865.

pic c1900-05 Hannah, Mary Jane, Stella m Procter (dau of Mary Jane), Gladys (dau of Stella)

pic Mary Jane & William Curnow 1*

pic Mary Jane & William Curnow 2

pic Curnow family c1891

pic Curnow family 1902*

Early 1880's, moved to Charlton
click to enlarge

from descendants, above pics* Don McLennan, Johns Inquest reports from Georgina Makaroff, others Stephanie Dew





2. William Robson 1826-c60

Whatever happened to William after arrival in Victoria, his father had his silver watch and in his will left it to Hannah. (Stephanie Dew).




3. Joseph Hudson Robson 1829-1909

born Brazil, died Victoria, married Clunes 1860 Annabella Campbell 1841-1907. Joseph was a carpenter at Clunes. Later he and family went to vicinity of Charlton, more specifically Coonooer district, family members eventually leaving mainly for Melbourne although by 1909, he and his son John resided Toora in eastern Victoria (from Stephanie Dew).

1. Jessie Jane Robson 1861-1955 m 1888 Walter Brown. m2 1897 William Mayfield 1873-1961.

2. William Campbell Robson 1863-1939 m 1893 Sarah Ann White 1866-1945.

3. Jane Hudson Robson 1864-1913 m 1887 John George Bennett 1860-1944. George was a farmer in Coonooer district also a Methodist preacher, child of Samuel Bennett 1828 Cornwall - 1886 Bendigo, Vic, farmer, m Hannah Spittlehouse 1839 Sheffield - 1909 St Kilda, Vic. The Bennett family had close ties to Wesleyan Methodism back to its origins; George's grandfather and great grandfather also were preachers. (from Bron Bennett of WA, e-mails to site author 2003.)

4. Agnes Robson 1866-1941 m Walter John Turner.

5. Hannah Robson 1864-70.

6. Joseph Hudson Robson 1870-88 drowned 1888 in the Avoca River on a fishing excursion a few miles beyond Coonooer Bridge despite rescue efforts of companion Alfred Bennett (from Stephanie Dew).

7. John George Robson 1873-1946 m Lilian Bamford 1885-1977.

8. James Duncan Robson 1875-1909.

9. Annabella Wilson Robson 1878-1951 m 1904 Charles Haack 1872-1956.

10. Thomas Ralph Burnside Robson 1881-1943, by 1909 res New Zealand known also by surname Burnside-Robson.

11. Archibald Robson 1885 d same year.




4. Jane Robson 1832-1914

pic born Morro Velho, Brazil, died Melbourne married Ballarat 1857 Pelham Ambrose Saunders 1829-1914.

1. Jane Saunders 1858-1938 m 1909 Thomas Dreweatt 1856-1919 b Portarlington Vic. Thomas, as youth, at Clunes with parents (Stephanie Dew book).

2. Anne Elizabeth Saunders 1859-1946 pic 1912, pic c1940, school teacher (certificated) commencing Nov 1880 at Sunbury School; amateur botanist known as Bot; m c1886 Hermann Charles Just 1866-1953. Great grandmother of site author, more

3. Isabella Louisa Saunders 1861-1948 m 1890 Charles Kempson 1854-1917 b Melbourne, father Peter Kempson in 1862 set up first school at Clunes. Son was Howard Doric Kempson 1897-1959.

4. Mary Hannah Saunders 1862-8.

5. Eveline Saunders 1864-1901.

6. Stella Saunders 1866-8.

7. Henry Pelham Saunders 1869-70.

8. Pelham Alfred Saunders 1871-2.

9. John Frederick Saunders 1873-1929 clerk, res with parents until 1914, later elsewhere Albert Park region where died consequence of being passenger in motor accident.

10. Catherine Saunders 1874-1953 school teacher, res with parents until 1914, later elsewhere in Albert Park region.

11. Ethel Saunders 1877-1945 school teacher.

  • Pelham Ambrose Saunders 1829-1914 m Ballarat 22 April 1857 Jane Robson. This was period that Jane's father was engaged supervising Port Phillip Co mining work at Black Hill, Ballarat.

  • Pelham (P.A.) Saunders was born 16 July 1829 Bombay, India, to parents married at Bombay having separately come from England (see further below). Leaving Bombay with them at an early age, he was brought up probably in England and France, his father dying 1837. By 1851 he was a Russia merchant lodged at Liverpool. Aged 22, he left Liverpool 20 Feb 1852 barque Collector second class cabin arriving Melbourne 16 June 1852. The departure date was same as that of the Port Phillip Co party under mining engineer Evan Hopkins sent to establish operations in Victoria which arrived from Singapore Fatel Oheb 5 June 1852. It is likely that P.A. Saunders at that time had link with the gold companies recently floated in London, or their personnel. Henry T. Prinsep of a family long associated with the Saunders family (see below) had in London been a co-director in other businesses with J.D. Powles and his brother William Prinsep was by 1854 in London a director of the British Australian Gold Mining Co.

  • The whereabouts of P. A. Saunders from arrival in Australia 1852 until his marriage 1857 are now uncertain. The Port Phillip Co was generally reducing its workforce in that period. Huge numbers of people were privately following the Gold Rush locations and P. A. Saunders probably became one of them especially since March 1853 a Melbourne newspaper ad sought him as missing friend, late 1854 he was listed for unclaimed mail at Melbourne and February 1856 a newspaper ad asked that he attend an address in Melbourne to hear news from home. At time of marriage 1857, P. A. Saunders was a gold miner residing Ballarat but soon went to Clunes where for many years he worked for Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Co as miner and stampman to about 1860, then clerk, accountant and office manager.

  • 1860 newspaper notice named P.A. Saunders as Secretary to a Working Committee of New North Clunes Co. This was an enterprise in difficulty which the Port Phillip Co was assisting under an agreement of partnership. By 1863 he was secretary of this company.

  • In 1862 P. A. Saunders was secretary to a committee for the building of a parsonage at Clunes and 1863 was gazetted a trustee of the land reserved for Church of England purposes there. By 1877 he was a trustee and spokesperson for the Wesleyan property at Clunes.

  • By 1888, the Port Phillip company fortunes were in decline and within a few years the mine closed. On 28 November 1888, Mr P.A. Saunders was farewelled at a dinner "about to leave the town for the metropolis" having been "so long connected with the Port Phillip Company in the office of the general manager, of which mine he has held a position of trust and responsibility" and in his speech, Mr Saunders referred to his 31 years connection with the mine: Clunes Guardian & Gazette 30 November 1888.

  • From late 1888 for several years, P.A. Saunders was for Public Works Department government auditor to the borough of Horsham and shire of Wimmera, Victoria.

  • From late 1888, Pelham Saunders, accountant, and later retired, resided with Jane at locations in Albert Park and South Melbourne, by 1914 at 20 Madden St, Albert Park where Jane d 15 July 1914 and Pelham 7 August 1914, age 85, in Victoria 63 years; both bur Melbourne Gen Cem.

  • On 15 August 1914, Clunes Guardian & Gazette reported the death of Mr P.A. Saunders whom it said came with others to Clunes from the old country to work at the Port Phillip Company's mine, and his duties were that of an accountant in the office of the manager R.H. Bland; he was of a very charitable disposition and of affable manners, and much respected by the hundreds of men who were then working in the mine; many friends in Clunes well remembered him.

  • Family and ancestry of Pelham Ambrose Saunders 1829-1914

    Pelham Ambrose Saunders 1829-1914 who m Ballarat, Australia 1857 Jane Robson was b 1829 Bombay, India, child of John Saunders 1800-36 pic East India Co merchant at Bombay from 1821 where m 1823 Ann Jones 1795-1867 pic. Ann had gone to Bombay presumably because about 1822 her step-sister/cousin Mildred Onslow nee Jones 1792-1865 had done so. John Saunders was in partnership Prinsep and Co with George Alexander Prinsep, dissolved 1826 notice Bombay Gazette. George Alexander Prinsep 1791-1839 at Bombay by about 1822 was son of John Prinsep 1746-1831 see below. By 1830 John Saunders was insolvent and gaoled for debt. Ann and probably John with children returned c1832 to England and probably at times France. In 1837 John and Ann took ship Royal Saxon for Manila, Philippines. John died 24 Sept at Singapore, java fever, age 36. Ann went on to Manila where child born. By 1851 Ann was at Sunderland, co Durham. Other children: Richard Thomas Saunders 1824-52 b Bombay, ironworks clerk, d Sunderland; John Prinsep Saunders 1825-44 b Bombay, army, d Madras; Anne Catherine Saunders 1827-1906 pic b Bombay later returned there where m 1850 Benjamin Robert Whittaker 1827-99 Bombay regiment, by 1881 Jersey, Channel Is; William Saunders b 1831 Bombay; Mary Louisa Saunders 1833-1920 b East Wickham, Kent m 1859 Francis Fane Yeatman 1821-94 customs officer, res Sunderland; Isabella Mary Saunders 1836-1916 pic b Manila 10 Dec 1836 m Wigan 1868 Charles Prattman Douglas 1837-1910, engineer, of Consett later Darlington, co Durham.

    John Saunders 1801-37 was second son of Thomas Saunders 1765-1848 and Esther c1775-1855; pic.

    Thomas was child of Thomas Saunders 1736-1821 pic merchant of London, by 1768 res Highgate, Middlesex, later Yateley, Hampshire, m 1762 Sarah (Sally) Pickersgill 1741-98 whose father Joshua Pickersgill 1711-81 b Leeds was a silk merchant of London. Thomas Saunders 1736-1821 in decades around 1790 was business partner with brother-in-law Joshua Pickersgill c1740-1804.

    Thomas Saunders 1765-1848 joined 1787 the firm of his maternal aunt Jane's husband Anthony Francis (Antoine Francois) Haldimand 1741-1817, of Swiss descent, merchant and banker of London, Turin, Yverdon etc specialising in silk. A 1793 advertisement in Calcutta Gazette announced a business partnership of John Prinsep with Thomas Saunders junior, of London, which must refer to Thomas Saunders 1765-1848. John Prinsep 1746-1831 pic, originally from Buckinghamshire, had returned with family to England 1788 after 17 years in Bengal India at Calcutta and to its north east conducting businesses in chintz textiles, indigo production and copper mining. Prinsep and Saunders included business as East India merchants, silk merchants and c1800 in providing international ships to India and Australia. Prinsep became an MP, a London alderman and from 1817 bailiff of Southwark. The eldest child from his 1783 marriage, Sophia Charlotte Prinsep 1783-1861, m 1809 George Haldimand 1765-1851 cousin and close associate of Thomas Saunders 1765-1848. By 1816, Thomas Saunders 1765-1848 seems associated with Garras mines Cornwall (in which his father held an interest referred to in his will) since a son was born nearby. From 1817 Thomas Saunders was British vice-consul at St Valery sur Somme, near Abbeville, France. John Prinsep's will made 1826 London was particular that the children to which it referred were those of his marriage: it had as a witness Thomas Saunders 1795-1873, son of Thomas Saunders 1765-1848.

    Ancestry of Esther, wife of Thomas Saunders 1765-1848, remains intriguingly uncertain. She was in the midst of social circles where ancestry and family origin were strongly overt yet never for her, itself a hint of exotic origin. She was at St Valery sur Somme by 1817 until death 1855, said age 84, will in England. Later accounts, circuitously reliant, often give her family name as Barton; this is supported by marriage 1812 St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, Thomas Saunders bachelor Esther Barton spinster both of parish, because the groom signature is strikingly similar to that of witness Thomas Saunders to marriages of Maria Saunders 1825, Esther Saunders 1828, Elizabeth Saunders 1837. Perhaps it was belated or renewed marriage. At time of her birth, there were Barton in Bengal but there is no known evidence of association with them. There was an Irish-French Barton family much later with association to Bengal and its published history does not place Esther. She possibly came to England from Bengal associated with John Prinsep above, perhaps his daughter; children of John Prinsep recorded at Calcutta Bengal include Henrietta Prinsep baptised 1778, mother unrecorded (presumably Indian). Calcutta Gazette notice 1793 has Harriett Prinsep nominee in private fund for children subscribed by Lambert and Ross for John Prinsep, maturing. References above show the later long and intricate association of Prinsep and Saunders families.

    An unlikely account is that of Saunders descendant Anthony Glyn in his work about his maternal grandmother and Saunders descendant Elinor Glyn: A Biography (1955) according to which the wife (whom he does not name) of Thomas Saunders was of French aristocratic family and hid in Abbeville all through the Terror, presumably meaning 1793-4.

    Eldest son of Thomas Saunders 1765-1848 and Esther was Thomas Saunders 1795-1873 East India merchant London c1823-8, m Dublin 1828 Lucy Ann Willcocks 1803-77 of Anglo-Irish ancestry, to Bombay 1828 where child Lucy Saunders 1829-50 born, at St Valery sur Somme in France c1831-2, settled 1833 Guelph, Ontario, Canada, farmer, soldier, clerk of the peace pic with wife Lucy, daughters Louisa Saunders m Shanly 1836-1910 and Frances Saunders 1831-1912. Other children included Thomas Willcocks Saunders 1833-1919 pic; Maria Saunders 1834-72 m Webster pic; Henrietta Saunders 1838-1918 pic; Elinor Saunders m1 Sutherland m2 Kennedy 1841-1937 pic (mother of Lucy Duff Gordon 1863-1935 pic fashion designer and Evelyn Glyn 1864-1943 pic writer); Julia Octavia Saunders 1845-1937 pic. A descendant Guy Le Fanu Saunders 1908-2002 made extensive family research and picture collection much of which is on-line by search at Wellington County Archives Canada, also collections of earlier family members. A descendant Darryl Saunders also has much assisted site author: see his

    Third son of Thomas and Esther was Ambrose Edward Saunders 1816-84 pic, b Cornwall, lt-col Army Bombay where m 1845 Eliza Clemons 1822-70 m2 1872 Lucy Ann Burton Conyngham who d 1874, by 1881 Ambrose of Jersey, Channel Is, son Macan William Saunders 1851-1932 and grandson Macan Saunders 1884-1956 army officers.

    Daughters of Thomas and Esther included Esther Saunders pic 1797-1863 b Upton, Essex, m Paris 1828 John Seaton, b 1791, navy, 1841 res Yorkshire, 1851 Kent, 1861 Jersey, Channel Is; Maria Saunders 1801-82 b Upton, Essex m Paris 1825 Henry Berners; Elizabeth Saunders b 1802 m Paris 1837 Augustin Pierre Blot a Paris banker; Anne Saunders c1809-43 m Dover 1830 Richard Jones 1792-1875 brother of Anne nee Jones 1795-1867 (> Richard Jones 1833-1913 pic of East Wickham, Kent, barrister; Matilda Jones 1834-84 pic; Henry Jones 1838-1921 army officer India, ornithologist, bird artist later of Brit Mus; Louisa Jones 1841-1919 pic.)

    Thomas Saunders 1765-1848 had brothers Joshua Saunders 1768-1853 insurance underwriter London, James Saunders 1769-1838 ordained Oxfordshire, John Saunders 1775-1805 merchant London and William Saunders 1781-1849 merchant London. Two later family members were famed in botany and entomology, another in sociology. Sidney Smith William Saunders 1836-96 who settled New South Wales 1854 and has many Australian descendants was grandson of William Saunders 1781-1849, see tribalpages Rob Freestone. Another grandson, Alfred Chapman Rolleston Saunders 1846-1910, settled Guelph, Ontario.

    This Saunders family has been traced back to 1400's Amersham, Buckinghamshire; Pitchcott manor Bucks was until 1852 owned within the family. Thomas Saunders 1736-1821 inherited the half part of his father Thomas Saunders 1691-1749 of Rickmansworth and in 1775 became an executor and trustee of the interest (seemingly by then the whole) held by distant cousin Thomas Saunders 1729-1775 of Brill, former Governor of Madras. Many old family papers are at Centre for Bucks Studies archives.

    The name Pelham was from the family of Ann Jones, mother of Pelham Saunders, for generations landed at East Wickham, Kent. Her parents were Richard Stayner Jones 1749-97, col 1st foot guards, d West Indies, m London 1782 Catherine Hester Reed 1764-1836 (who m2 1801 John Pelham Jones 1750-1831, brother of deceased husband); paternal grandparents Thomas Jones 1713-66 originally from Portsmouth, comptroller of laboratory Woolwich, m c1738 Martha Pelham 1713-71; maternal grandparents Edward John Reed 1735-1767 surgeon of Durham city m London 1762 Anne Borrett (who m2 1769 Middleton Onslow 1732-1801). Thomas was child of Evan Jones m London 1708 Anna Reed (who prev m Portsmouth 1697 Richard Holford 1675-1703). Martha was child of Charles Pelham b 1684 who like his father was clerk of the survey royal dockyard Woolwich, m 1710 Mary Smith of family from that region, she d 1742. Charles was child of John Pelham, d 1719 of Deptford, landowner in vicinity and elsewhere, m 1673 Martha Lake.




5. Elizabeth Robson 1834-1901

born Brazil - died Sedgewick, Vic married Clunes 1860 William Lancashire 1833-94.

1. William Joseph Lancashire 1861-2.

2. William Robson Lancashire b 1863.

3. Joseph Hyde Lancashire 1865-1929.


  • William Lancashire, whom Elizabeth Robson married, was an engine fitter. By 1859, he ran an iron and brass foundry amongst the various businesses at Clunes Iron Foundry, Main Street. Until April 1860, it was in partnership with Henry Thomas.

  • By advertisement 24 February 1860 Creswick & Clunes Advertiser, Thomas & Lancashire, Engineers, called to the attention of Quartz Crushing Companies their having made improvements in the manufacture of Stamp Heads so that they were harder and more durable than any hitherto manufactured or brought to the Goldfields.

  • According to information provided by Clunes Museum, William Lancashire was next with the Port Phillip Company, probably until 1866, with a house and foundry in the Company Paddock; from 1866 to 1869, a partnership of Cooper and Lancashire had the Victoria Foundry in Purcell Street; in 1869, he took over the Clunes Foundry of Henry Thomas then in Templeton Street; he was a Clunes councillor in 1869 and 1870; he was also musical - a conductor and a singer.

  • Some of William Lancashire's work was in association with Joseph Robson: see above.

  • In August 1870, during a thunderstorm, the boiler used in the Lancashire Foundry works burst, throwing the town into the greatest consternation by a very loud report, and doing an immense amount of damage. A portion of the boiler, weighing 15 cwt, was blown right over Fraser Street, a distance of 400 yards.

  • In 1874, when Joseph Robson wrote his will, Joseph owned the foundry and was selling it, there was a clause in the will that the sale was to go ahead even if Joseph died.

    above 6 notes from Stephanie Dew including also reliance on Creswick & Clunes Advertiser 3 June 1859, 15 August 1870.




6. John George Robson 1841-1905

born Brazil, probably at Curapaity, died  Boulder, Western Australia, married Clunes 1872 Jane Ann Remfry Hosking. John was an engine fitter. He left Clunes after 1892 when mining had ceased. After being in South Australia, he was by 1897 in Western Australian goldfields. Jane Hosking was sister of Elizabeth who had married Joseph Hudson Johns. (from Stephanie Dew book).

1. Mary Annie Robson 1872-1959 m 1899 Ernest Tarrant 1871-1954, of Hawthorn, Vic.

2. Lilian Jane Robson 1875-1956 m Eustace Harold Northey 1875-1938, of Kalgoorlie.

3. Blanche Emblyn Robson 1877-1948 later at Boulder, c1921 tailoress, later teacher at Koroit, Vic.

4. Joseph Ernest Robson b 1880.

5. Ethel May Robson 1882-1954 later at Boulder, then by 1920 Kalgoorlie. By 1930, accountant, residing Como in Perth WA.

6. Evelyn Daisy Robson 1884-1957 music teacher, at Boulder, then by 1920 Kalgoorlie. By 1939 resided at Como with Ethel.

7. George Alfred Robson 1886-1954 m Ethel May McLoy d 1960. George and Ethel initially at Boulder, George c1913 fireman. By 1930 at South Guildford in Perth, George a contractor.

8. Winifred Hilda Remfry Robson 1892-1959, by 1913 teacher, residing Boulder, then by 1920 Kalgoorlie, m Rangoon then in India 1926 Raymond Robson Millen 1898-1949 b Boulder, both later res WA, eventually NSW




Niece and two nephews of Joseph Robson also came to Victoria

Annie Taylor nee Wraith c1836-90, arrived Victoria 1858, was child of Joseph Robson's sister, Hannah, and William Wraith, (coal) trimmer, who 1841 were at Jarrow, co Durham. Annie m William Taylor at Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1856. The family lived Ballarat district until about 1872 then Eaglehawk district. Children: William Taylor 1857, Robert Taylor 1859, Mary Hannah Taylor 1861, John Robson Taylor 1864-1903 d Kalgoorlie WA, Thomas Taylor 1867, James Taylor 1869-1908, Samuel Taylor 1872, Joseph Taylor 1874, Anne Isabella Taylor 1877, Sarah Jane Taylor 1879.

William Wraith c1843-1902, another child of Joseph's sister, Hannah, and William Wraith arrived Victoria 1865. By 1881 he had settled in Eaglehawk district near Bendigo where with Hannah Cuthbertson nee Naylor, whom he married 1885, there were children Mary Hannah 1881 (d as child), Hannah 1883-96, Violet Jane Wraith 1886-1947, Amy Isabella Wraith 1889-91 and William Norman Wraith 1892-4. Jan Glasby informs that William was a miner and had the All Nations and Sebastian hotels at Sebastian near Bendigo in the 1890's.

Thomas Wraith 1853-1919 b Jarrow, co Durham, d Eaglehawk, Vic m Margaret Watson 1852-1925. Children Hannah Wraith 1877-1901 b Harton, co Durham d Vic, William Watson Wraith 1877-1937 b Harton, d Vic m 1906 Ethel May Scattini 1886-1956, Ninnis Arthur James Wraith 1912 b Eaglehawk, Vic m 1936 Eileen Mary Thiesz 1911-69, Arthur Wraith 1886-1953 b Raywood, Vic, Thomas Watson Wraith 1890-1970 b Eaglehawk, Vic m Beatrice Frances Hallinan 1896-1951.

For above in this section, acknowledgment to Stephanie Dew,
also emails 2003 from Jan Glasby,
descendant of Hannah's sister Annie Naylor who
married Thomas Oughton Taylor 1876 at Sebastian
also email 2010 from Geoff Hall for details concerning
Thomas Wraith 1853-1919 and other help.

In 1851, Annie Wraith, age 15, was housekeeper to her widowed grandfather John Robson, age 75, coal miner, father of Joseph Robson. They resided Thornley Colliery, Durham.

this is

commenced 29 July 2002 latest 17 November 2021
site author Don Just at Melbourne Australia
Corrections, comments, additional information and images invited