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ROBBERDS, JOHN GOOCH (1789–1854), unitarian minister, was born in Norwich on 18 May 1789. His mother, whose maiden name was Harrell, was of a Huguenot family. John W. Robberds, the biographer of William Taylor [q. v.] of Norwich, was his second cousin. He was educated at the Norwich grammar school. In September 1805 he entered Manchester College (then at York) to study for the unitarian ministry. Among his fellow students was Joseph Hunter [q. v.], who entered on 26 Nov. 1805. Hunter says that Robberds parried a plea for reverence to antiquity, ‘De mortuis nil nisi bonum,’ by translating it ‘Of dead things nothing is left but bones.’ In 1809 Robberds acted as assistant tutor in classics. He began to preach at Filby, Norfolk, during the summer vacation of 1809. Leaving York at midsummer 1810, he preached for a few months at the Octagon chapel, Norwich, and was invited to settle there as colleague to Theophilus Browne [q. v.]; but on 19 Dec. 1810 he was called to Cross Street, Manchester, in succession to Ralph Harrison [q. v.], and as colleague to John Grundy [q. v.]

He began his ministry in Manchester in April 1811, and maintained it for over forty years with great freshness, combining in his pulpit the written sermon with extempore utterance. His colleagues were, from 1825, John Hugh Worthington (1804–1827), the betrothed of Harriet Martineau [q. v.], and from 1828 William Gaskell [q. v.] For some years Robberds kept a school. In Manchester College he held the offices of secretary (1814–22), and public examiner (1822–40); and on the return of the college from York to Manchester he filled the chairs of Hebrew and Syriac (1840–5) and pastoral theology (1840–52). His friend, Edward Holme [q. v.], left him (1847) an estate in Westmoreland. He died at 35 Acomb Street, Greenheys, Manchester, on 21 April 1854, and was buried on 26 April in the Rusholme Road cemetery; there is a brass to his memory in Cross Street chapel. Dignified in person and genial in spirit, Robberds, who always avoided controversy, did much to conciliate opposite tendencies in his denomination. He married, on 31 Dec. 1811, Mary (b. 24 Feb. 1786; d. 10 Jan. 1869), eldest daughter of William Turner, dissenting minister, of Newcastle-on-Tyne. His eldest son is Charles William Robberds, who retired from the ministry in 1869; his second son was John Robberds (1814–92), minister from 1840 to 1866 of Toxteth Park chapel, Liverpool. He published sixteen single sermons (1820–1850), a few tracts and lectures, and a memorial ‘Sketch’ prefixed to the posthumous ‘Sermons’ (1825, 8vo, 2 vols.) of Pendlebury Houghton (1758–1824). Posthumous was his ‘Christian Festivals and Natural Seasons,’ a volume of sermons, with memoir, 1855, 8vo. He wrote at least one hymn, of some merit.

[Funeral Sermon by Gaskell, 1854; Memoir by T. (William Turner) in Christian Reformer, 1854, pp. 342 seq., reprinted with posthumous sermons, 1855; Inquirer, 1854, pp. 258, 271, 284; Taylor's Hist. of Octagon Chapel, Norwich (Crompton), 1848, pp. 54 seq.; Roll of Students, Manchester College, 1868; Baker's Memorials of a Dissenting Chapel (Cross Street, Manchester), 1884, pp. 52 seq.; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, 1892, p. 1197; Nightingale's Lancashire Nonconformity [1893], v. 105 seq.; Hunter's notes on Manchester College alumni, Addit. MS. 24442.]

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