Great response to Michael’s appeal for information

Houghton House
Houghton House

THE Hartlepool Mail has led to a family history fan unearthing some fascinating information – and new relatives.

Michael Godfrey Bell appeared in the Together Again in March asking for anyone with links to his family to get in touch.

He is the great-great-grandson of Thomas Robinson, who became the sixth Mayor of West Hartlepool in 1892.

Thomas was born in 1840 in Yorkshire and rose to be a successful merchant.

Dad-of-two Michael, who lives in Hastings, East Sussex, wanted more information on his ancestry to publish in a book he will give to family members, hopefully at Christmas.

Margaret Hedley, who runs the Past Uncovered family history research company, alongside Wheatley Hill History Club, is helping Michael’s research.

She said that since the article appeared in the Hartlepool Mail, five people had been in touch with Michael, including another great-great-grandson of Thomas Robinson, who lives in Hull, getting in touch after reading the story at

Margaret added that a man from Hartlepool, who knew about the Robinson family and the houses and ships they owned, had also contacted Michael, whose grandmother Madelaine Robinson was Thomas’s granddaughter.

Another local man also got in touch through another source to firm up what Margaret and Michael knew about the Robinsons’ estate.

She added that a descendant of the Reverend Bennett, of All Saints Church, Stranton, who married Thomas’ daughter Edith Mary Robinson, had been in touch from France. Margaret said: “We had one or two local people get in touch, but the best one we had was the one who saw your paper online – he was another great-great-grandson of Thomas, from Hull.

“Of course, the family relocated to Hull after they left Hartlepool.

“The other great-great-grandson filled in the gaps regarding the other branches of the family.”

She added that the Robinson family’s homes included Houghton House, which was to become Foggy Furze library, which was recently demolished, as well as Tunstall Court.

Margaret said the respondents had confirmed this information, which she knew.

“Michael was absolutely delighted with the response,” she added.

Thomas Robinson was the third son of Thomas Robinson senior, a blacksmith, and Mary Ann Atkinson.

His brothers were Atkinson, Robert, William, George and Samuel.

Shortly after Thomas’ birth, the family moved to Haverton Hill, near Billingham.

Thomas started his working career as a broker’s clerk, probably in the shipbuilding industry in Middlesbrough, where he and his family were living in 1851.

He married Alice Houghton, a farmer’s daughter from Lancashire, in 1854 in Bingley, Yorkshire.

At the time of his marriage, records show he lived in Seaton Carew and was an ironsmith.

He went on to be a provisions merchant, running a family business, Thomas Robinson & Sons of West Hartlepool and Hull, a major importer of foreign produce.

Thomas died in 1907 in Egton, near Whitby, at the home of his daughter, Esther. His other children were Charles Houghton Robinson, Edith Mary Robinson (married to the Reverend Bennett of All Saints, Stranton), Edward Osborne Robinson, Constance Robinson, Thomas Alexander Robinson, Alice Ada Robinson, Esther P Robinson and Bessie Robinson.

Charles Houghton Robinson and Constance Robinson both married into the wealthy Furness family.

Houghton Robinson, the son of Charles Houghton Robinson and Averill Furness, and his wife Vera, emigrated to New Zealand during the 1920s.

Anyone who thinks they have links to Thomas Robinson can get in touch by emailing: or ringing 07977 546332.