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History of the Robson Family Name

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The name Robert gave rise to the northern surnames Robertson and Robson, Robertson in Scotland originally and Robson in the northeast of England.  Robert became popular in Scotland through Robert the Bruce. 

Robson in the northeast may have an older Anglo-Saxon origin - from Hroethbert, the name found on a stone cross in the Robson heartland at Falstone.  Meanwhile the Highland origin of the name Robson may have been Robb Gunn of the Gunn clan.

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Robson is very much a name of the northeast, with a concentration in the old counties of Northumberland and Durham.  The earliest Robson record was in 1371 when three Robsons were reported as murdered at Falstone in Tynedale.  By the 16th century, these Robsons - together with the Charltons, Dodds, and Milburns - formed one of the principal clans of North Tyne.  They were described in a London play in 1654 as:

"a wight good riding surname, good honest men and true, saving a little shifting for their living."

The leading Robson of Falstone was the acknowledged figurehead, a kind of chieftain labelled as the "heidsman" or "laird."  The border was a lawless area in those times.  Border families like the Robsons were raiders or "reivers" or, less complimentarily, "the Tynedale thieves."  The Robsons had ongoing feuds with families across the border lsuch as the Armstrongs and, most notably, the Grahams of Liddesdale.  

By the early 17th century the area became more lawful and many in the clan disbanded.  The Robson name is still common in nearby villages such as Bellingham and Birtley (a Robson family has been living in Pitt House in Birtley for nigh on two hundred years).  But there was a drift southward to Durham and Yorkshire in order to find work.

Robsons were linen manufacturers and grocers in Darlington in the early 1700's and, from a slightly later date, fishermen and herring curers at Flamborough on the Yorkshire coastline (their history is described in Peter Robson's 1991 book, The Fishing Robsons). 

But the main jobs were to be found in Durham coal mining.  The Robson name crops up frequently amongst the miners of Durham coal towns such as Bishop Auckland, Hetton-le-Hole and Houghton-le-Spring; and also amongst the fatalities in various Durham mining disasters - from Murton in 1848 to Easington in 1951. 

The coal mining era has now ended and Robsons are better known for their football. 
Bobby Robson, the former England football manager, and Pop and Bryan Robson, both England footballers, are all from this area.

Scotland.  The border was practically non-existent during reiver times and there was some spillover of Robsons into Roxburghshire and Robesons into Berwickshire.   The earliest mention was a Richard Robson as abbot of Kelso in 1464 and the Robson name is to be found in Border towns such as Jedburgh and Hawick.

Many Robsons left the Borders in the early 19th century, such as:
  • John Robson - from Roxburgh to Canada in 1821 (son John, born three years later, headed west and became Premier of British Columbia province).
  • Hugh Robson, a Barthill ploughman and his family - from Dumfries to Argentina in 1825.
  • William and Christina Robson - from Roxburgh to Australia in the 1830's (they became one of the early settlers in Hunter Valley, NSW).
Ireland.  The Robson name, of English or of Scottish origin, could be found in counties Armagh and Antrim from the 17th century.  English Robsons were part of the Quaker community in Sego, Armagh in the 1680's.

Gunn Clan Tartan

Crest badge suitable to be worn by members of Clan Gunn

AUT PAX AUT BELLUM - translated means

Either Peace or War