Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomlinson, Robert

THOMLINSON, ROBERT (1668–1748), benefactor of Newcastle-on-Tyne, the youngest son of Richard Thomlinson of Akehead, near Wigton, Cumberland, of an old Durham family, was born at Wigton in 1668, matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, on 22 March 1685–6, aged 17, and graduated from St. Edmund Hall, B.A. in 1689, and M.A. in 1692 (he was incorporated at Cambridge in 1719, and graduated D.D. from King's College in that year). In 1692 he held for a time the post of vice-principal of St. Edmund Hall, and in 1695 he was appointed lecturer of St. Nicholas (now the cathedral), Newcastle-on-Tyne. After some lesser preferments, which he probably owed to a family connection with Dr. John Robinson [q. v.], afterwards bishop of London, he was in 1712 inducted to the rectory of Whickham, Durham, upon the nomination of Lord Crewe, bishop of Durham. In 1715 he became master of St. Mary's Hospital, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and four years later Robinson appointed him to a vacant prebend at St. Paul's. Between 1720 and 1725, as executor of his brother John, rector of Rothbury, Thomlinson erected at Wigton a hospital (the ‘College of Matrons’) for the widows of poor clergymen, he himself contributing part of the expense, as well as a schoolmaster's house for the parish. In 1734 he contributed liberally to the rebuilding of St. Edmund Hall, and shortly afterwards he made over some sixteen hundred books to form the nucleus of a public library for Newcastle-on-Tyne. A building was provided to receive the books, and the library was opened to the public in October 1741. The librarian's salary having been provided for by an endowment from Sir Walter Blackett, Thomlinson purchased a perpetual rent-charge of 5l. to be expended annually on the purchase of books. Of these some eight thousand were included in 4,870 volumes, when they were made over to the public library committee of the Newcastle corporation in 1884. Thomlinson's other benefactions included a chapel-of-ease at Allenby in Cumberland, the charity school at Whickham, and considerable bequests to Queen's College, Oxford, to the Society for Propagating the Gospel (of which he was one of the earliest members), and to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He died at Whickham on 24 March 1747–8, and was buried in the north aisle of Whickham church. He married, in 1702, at East Ardsley, near Leeds, Martha Ray, who survived him. They appear to have had no issue.

[Notes kindly given by W. Shand, esq. and the same writer's elaborate Memoir of Dr. Thomlinson, to which is prefixed a pen and-ink portrait, ap. Archæologia Æliana, new ser. x. 59–79, xv. 340–63; Foster's Alumni Oxon. early ser.; Surtees's Durham, ii. 240; Yorkshire Diaries (Surtees Soc.), ii. 43 sq.; Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 187.]

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