The Robertson family moved into Palé Hall in September 1871. Their home in Wales until this point had been the Crogen Estate. However, when the census was taken on Sunday 2nd April that year, the family were residing at their London home, 13 Lancaster Gate. The census return gives a good opportunity to see who comprised the family at this important date.
Henry Robertson, born in Banff, Scotland, was 55 at the time, and described in the census as Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant, with ‘engineer’ added as something of an afterthought. His wife Elizabeth, daughter of a London solicitor, was 49 and according to the census born in ‘Surrey, Bermondsey’. Their children were Elizabeth, 19 (‘Miss Robertson’) Annie, 16; Henrietta, 13; and Henry B. 8 (‘Master Robertson’) Henry’s second name was Beyer, in tribute to his father’s engineering partner and mentor, Charles Beyer. On his death, Beyer left the use of his home, Llantisilio Hall not far from Palé for the use of Henry Beyer and his sister Annie.
“ I devise all that my messuage or mansion house known as Llantysilio Hall in the County of Denbigh with the lands…. .. to the use of my Godson Henry Beyer Robertson” “To the use of my god daughter Annie Robertson, daughter of the said Henry Robertson for her life without impeachment of waste for her sole and separate use independently of any husband with whom she shall intermarry and of his debts control and engagements and from and after the decease of the said Annie Robertson” [via Wikipedia]
All the children were born in Shrewsbury
Nine live-in servants are recorded at the Lancaster Gate House, some originating in London, others in Shrewsbury or Corwen, near Crogen and Palé.
Earlier Census returns
In 1861 Henry and Elizabeth are recorded as living at st. Mary’s Court, Shrewsbury, with their three daughters. Also living in the same house were Elizabeth’s mother, Ann Dean ‘Solicitor’s wife’, her sons Charles ‘Engineer’ and Joshua ‘Secretary of Railway’ and a nephew John Dean 17, ‘scholar’ as well as a Governess, Coachman, Cook, Nurserymaid and three Housemaids. This demonstrates Henry’s rise in fortunes as within the next 10 years he owned the Lancaster Gate house, Crogen, which he rented out on removing to Palé and Palé itself.
In 1851 Henry and Elizabeth are found living in Richmond Place Chester, Henry designated ‘Civil Engineer’ with several additional words including [indecipherable] Hereford, Shrewsbury [indecipherable] Coal and Iron Master. Charles Dean and nephew John Dean are also living there, with a Cook, Housemaid and Butler.
It is clear from Thomas Ruddy’s successive journal entries over the 37 years of his service at Palé that Henry Robertson and the whole family were amiable and considerate employers, and Thomas an energetic and conscientious Head Gardener. Henry seems to have offered Thomas’ advice to many of the local landowners, resulting in Thomas visiting surrounding estates to advise their owners on horticulture and design. As Thomas became increasingly noted for his geological collections, Robertson seems to have been proud to allow him to demonstrate his collections to callers, and in due course to Queen Victoria herself. Henry’s brother in law Joshua Dean was frequently at Palé and was often a companion to Thomas in various excursions. The Robertson family continued to spend time at Lancaster Gate during the year, thus giving Thomas more latitude to undertake his geological expeditions during their absence.