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Dr John Robinson of Helsby - 1837-1915

Dr Robinson crop

Dr John Robinson, a doctor on the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, was also interested in ecclesiastical architecture and his legacy remains.

Someone passing along Alvanley Road near Helsby Quarry, may wonder about an unusual garden decorated with ecclesiastical stone arches. The garden was once owned by Mrs Fanny Robinson and one of the many passions of her eccentric husband, Dr John Robinson, was ecclesiastical architecture. He would build follies and arches on the property, demolish them and then rebuild.

Following a fallout with a local vicar, the doctor constructed his own mini chapel in this garden. In it he kept a lead-lined coffin for his future use. He also had a fear of fire and the garden was full of shallow wells in case of such an eventuality, some of which still remain today.

Dr Robinson was a man of considerable intellect, studying Greek, Latin and History, and had many eccentricities.

He was bowlegged and would remove the heels of his shoes to improve his gait. He was very absent-minded and nearly missed his wedding being too engrossed in his studies. He had a surgery in Runcorn, where he lived most of the week, only visiting his wife on Sundays.

Arriving at Helsby Station, with his long white hair and beard, dressed in semi-ecclesiastical garb, a battered topcoat and carrying a dilapidated umbrella, he was sometimes mistaken for a down-and-out, when in fact he was a large shareholder in the Railway.

Dr Robinson cared little for material possessions and frequently 'forgot' to charge his poorer patients for his services. A health fanatic, he believed in the benefits of fresh air and exercise, ate plain food and took a cold bath every day, but he had a strange fixation about lead. As well as the lead-lined coffin, he lined the floors of his house and surgery in Runcorn with sheets of the metal.

When he died in January 1915, the good doctor was laid to rest near the door of St John's Church Alvanley, next to his wife, Fanny.

Photograph and details relating to Dr Robinson, courtesy of Jim Lloyd, Chapel House

Sue Lorimer (Sandstone Ridge Volunteer)