A BUSINESS which was founded in York more than 170 years ago, showcased its wares at the Great Exhibition and counted Queen Victoria’s son among its customers, is closing.

Long-standing leather specialist Robson & Cooper, in Lendal, will be closing its doors for the final time on August 9.

Founded in 1840, the business, which started life as a saddlery and harness maker, before evolving to include luggage repairs and retail and later sports equipment and trophies, is ceasing to trade following the death of co-owner and manager George Myerscough in May this year.

Jacqueline Young, the granddaughter of the original co-owner Thomas Robson, and the last member of the Robson family to be involved in the business, said: “George’s assets to the business were his connection with youth clubs and sport, mainly cricket and football, making him a well known and respected businessman.

“It is with great sadness that Robson & Cooper is to cease trading. It is a renowned business which has been in York for the entirety of people’s lives. Many a solicitor has purchase their first briefcase from us, and many a doctor has come to the shop for their first doctor’s bag.”

In its early days the business was operated by York Saddler Matthew Cooper, whose display at the Great Exhibition of 1851 was described as “the best in the building”, attracting the attention of the King of the Belgians and the Indian hierarchy, and winning Mr Cooper several awards. By 1890 Mr Cooper was working out of premises in Railway Street, followed by a move in 1911 after former apprentice Thomas Robson and Mr Cooper amalgamated the business and relocated to 14 Lendal, where Robson & Cooper still trades today.

Records show that in the First World War the cavalry regiments ordered their equipment from Robson & Cooper, with other customers including Queen Victoria’s son Prince Arthur, the late Duke of Gloucester, and other members of the royal family and well known names of the era, such as the Rothschild family.

Following Mr Robson’s death in 1920, at the age of 57, his widow managed the business with support from saddler and long standing employee Ernest Pinder, who became her right-hand man in the business. The business then passed to Mr Robson’s daughters. His youngest, Marion Greaves, bequeathed her share to Mr Myerscough, who had joined the firm in 1947, while his second daughter Doris Young, passed her share on to her daughter Jacqueline Young.

Mrs Young said: “Heartfelt gratitude is extended to the faithful customers who have entered these doors, whom with the staff, past and present, their friendship, trust and loyalty, have made it a pleasure to serve the citizens of this noble city of York.”

Mrs Young paid tribute to long serving members of staff Douglas Norton, who after retiring having joined the business aged 15, still returned to carry out repairs, Pat Bowness and Linda McEwan, who served 47 and 37 years with Robson & Cooper respectively.

Plans are being put in place for Miss Bowness to continue the trophy engraving side of the business following the closure of Robson & Cooper.


Building with links to York’s high society

FOLLOWING the closure of Robson & Cooper, its premises in Lendal will be put up for sale.

The building, known as Fitzwilliam House, was built on the site that formed part of the Priory of the Augustine Friars, an important conventional house in York.

After the suppression of the Augustinians a mansion was built early in the 17th century and became the town residence of Sir Richard Osbaldeston, and later the residence of Sir Thomas Widdrington, the Recorder of York in the time of King Charles I, and the Speaker of the House of Commons during 1664.

A later occupier of the house was Sir Thomas Rokeby, a judge known as Lawyer Rokeby who married and settled in York soon after the Restoration of Charles II. He lived in Lendal until about 1688.

The old mansion was taken down by Alderman Henry Baynes, who was Lord Mayor in 1717 and 1732. He built two houses on the site, and occupied the one nearest the chapel until his death in 1735.

The house now occupied by Robson & Cooper was for several years the residence of Sir William Wentworth, Baronet of Bretton in the West Riding.

His wife Lady Wentworth, who was the daughter of Sir William Blackett, a Northumberland baronet, died in the house in 1742, and was buried in St Martin’s Church, Coney Street.