Hercules Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead

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Not to be confused with William Robinson, 11th Governor of Hong Kong.
The Right Honourable
The Lord Rosmead
Governor of Hong Kong
In office
9 September 1859 – 11 March 1865
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir John Bowring
Succeeded by Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell
13th Governor of British Ceylon
In office
16 May 1865 – 4 January 1872
Monarch Queen Victoria
Preceded by Himself
acting governor
Succeeded by Henry Turner Irving
Acting Governor of British Ceylon
In office
21 March 1865 – 16 May 1865
Monarch Queen Victoria
Preceded by Terence O'Brien
acting governor
Succeeded by Himself
14th Governor of New South Wales
In office
4 March 1872 – 24 February 1879
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by The Earl Belmore
Succeeded by Lord Augustus Loftus
8th Governor of New Zealand
In office
27 March 1879 – 9 September 1880
Monarch Victoria
Premier Sir George Grey
John Hall
Preceded by The Marquess of Normanby
Succeeded by Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
Personal details
Born (1824-12-19)19 December 1824
Died 28 October 1897(1897-10-28) (aged 72)
London, England, UK
Alma mater Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Religion Anglican

Hercules George Robert Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead, GCMG, PC (Chinese name: 羅士敏勳爵 or 羅便臣) (19 December 1824 – 28 October 1897), was a British colonial administrator who became the 5th Governor of Hong Kong and subsequently, the 14th Governor of New South Wales. From June 1859 until August 1896, he was known as Sir Hercules Robinson.

Early life and Government career[edit]

He was of Irish descent on both sides; his father was Admiral Hercules Robinson, his mother was Frances Elizabeth Wood, from Rosmead, County Westmeath, from which he afterwards took his title. From the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the 87th Foot as a Second Lieutenant on 27 January 1843,[1] he was promoted Lieutenant by purchase on 6 September 1844,[2] and reached the rank of Captain. However, in 1846, through the influence of Lord Naas, Robinson obtained a post in the Board of Public Works in Ireland, and subsequently became chief commissioner of fairs and markets.

His energy in these positions, notably during the famine of 1848, and the clearness and vigour of his reports, secured for him at the age of 29 the office of president of the council of the island of Montserrat on 14 February 1854.[3]

Service in St Kitts and Hong Kong[edit]

Subsequently, Robinson was appointed lieutenant-governor of Saint Kitts on 6 November 1855,[4] serving until 1859. On 17 June 1859, Robinson was appointed as Governor of Hong Kong,[5] the youngest in Hong Kong colonial history, as which he served until March 1865. On 28 June 1859,[6] he was knighted in recognition of his services for introducing coolie labour into the territory.[citation needed]

During his tenure, Robinson secured the control of the Kowloon Peninsula from the Imperial Chinese Government, thus expanding the size of the territory. Up to this point, the Colony of Hong Kong only consisted of Hong Kong Island. Also, Robinson ordered the construction of the Pokfulam Reservoir, which would provide a steady supply of water for Hong Kong people for years to come. Robinson was also credited with establishing Towngas, the territory's premier gas provider (a position it still holds today), for lighting the streets.

During Robertson's administration, HSBC, along with Standard Chartered, were established in Hong Kong. Both were given the responsibility to print banknotes on the behalf of the Government, a responsibility both banks still hold today.

Service in Ceylon and New South Wales[edit]

On 6 March 1865, Robinson was appointed Governor of Ceylon.[7] On 30 June 1869, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).[8]

From 4 March 1872 to 24 February 1879, he served as the Governor of New South Wales.[9] Before his arrival in the colony, the Australian Town and Country Journal apprised its readers of Robinson's "high reputation for administrative ability" and provided biographical details.[10] During this governorship, Robinson was involved in the successful efforts to annexe the Fiji Islands to the British Empire, and his services were rewarded on 28 January 1875 by promotion to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).[11] He temporarily served as Governor of Fiji from 10 October 1874 to June 1875, while concurrently Governor of New South Wales. On 24 February 1879, Robinson was transferred to New Zealand,[12] and on 21 August 1880, in the wake of the Anglo-Zulu War, he succeeded Sir Henry Bartle Frere as High Commissioner for Southern Africa (George Cumine Strahan was also appointed as interim administrator to act until Robinson could arrive from New Zealand).[13]

Service in South Africa[edit]

Robinson arrived in South Africa shortly before the disaster of Majuba, and was one of the commissioners for negotiating a peace and determining the future status of Transvaal.[14] The job was known to be personally distasteful to him, for it left him with the task of conciliating on the one hand a Dutch party elated with victory, and on the other hand a British party almost ready to despair of the British connection.

In 1883, Robinson was called home to advise the government on the terms of the new convention concluded with the Transvaal Boers, and was appointed a member of the Privy Council. On 27 February 1884 Robinson signed the London Convention for the British government, with Paul Kruger, the new state president of the South African Republic, S.J. du Toit and N.J. Smit signing for the South African Republic.

On his return to South Africa, Robinson he found that a critical situation had arisen in Bechuanaland (today's Botswana), where Boer commandos had seized large tracts of territory and proclaimed the republics of Stellaland and Goshen. The commandos refused to retire within the limits of the Transvaal as defined by the new convention, and Robinson, aware of the necessity of preserving this country – the main road to the north – for the British Empire, determined on vigorous action.

John Mackenzie and later Cecil Rhodes were sent to secure the peaceful submission of the Boers, but without immediate result, partly owing to the attitude of the Cape ministry. Robinson's declaration that the advice of his ministers to patch up a settlement with the filibustering Boers was equivalent to a condonation of crime, led to the expedition of Major General Sir Charles Warren and the annexation of Bechuanaland early in 1885.

The difficulties of Robinson's position were illustrated by the dispute which arose between him and Warren, who declared that the high commissioner's duties to the home government were at times in conflict with the action which, as governor of Cape Colony, he was bound to take on the advice of his ministers in the interests of the colony. Sir Hercules Robinson succeeded in winning the confidence of President Kruger by his fair-mindedness, while he seconded Rhodes' efforts to unite the British and Dutch parties in Cape Colony. His mind, however, was that of the administrator as distinguished from the statesman, and he was content to settle difficulties as they arose.

In 1886, Robinson investigated the charges brought against Sir John Pope Hennessy, Governor of Mauritius,[15] and decreed his suspension pending the decision of the home authorities, who eventually reinstated Hennessy. In 1887 Robinson was induced by Rhodes to give his consent to the conclusion of a treaty with Lobengula which secured British rights in Matabele and Mashona lands.

In May 1889, Robinson retired. In his farewell speech, he declared that there was no permanent place in South Africa for direct Imperial rule. This was interpreted to mean that South Africa must ultimately become independent – an idea repugnant to him. He explained in a letter to The Times in 1895 that he had referred to the "direct rule of Downing Street over the crown colonies, as contrasted with responsible colonial government."

Robinson was created a baronet on 6 February 1891.[16] Early in 1895, when he had entered his 71st year in below average health, he yielded to the entreaties of Lord Rosebery's cabinet, and went out again to South Africa, in succession to Sir Henry Loch.[17]

Second Term as Governor of Cape Colony[edit]

His second term of office was not fortunate. The Jameson Raid produced a permanent estrangement between him and Cecil Rhodes, and he was out of sympathy with the new colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, who had criticised his appointment, and now desired Robinson to take this opportunity of settling the whole question of the position of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal.

Robinson answered that the moment was inopportune, and that he must be left to choose his own time. Alarmed at the imminent danger of war, he confined his efforts to inducing the Johannesburgers to lay down their arms on condition that the raiders' lives were spared, not knowing that these terms had already been granted to Jameson. He came home to confer with the government, and on 10 August 1896 was raised to the peerage as Baron Rosmead, of Rosmead in the County of Westmeath and of Tafelberg in South Africa.[18] The new Lord Rosmead returned to South Africa later in the year, but was compelled by ill-health, in April 1897, to quit his post.

Personal life[edit]

Robinson married the Honourable Nea Arthur Ada Rose D'Amour, fifth daughter of the ninth Viscount Valentia in 1846. Lady Robinson was described as "a majestic-looking woman", "fond of gaiety and society".[10]

Their daughter, Nora, (born in St Kitts in 1858) married Alexander Finlay in St James' Church, Sydney on 7 August 1878. The wedding of Nora Robinson and Alexander Kirkman Finlay attracted great interest from the populace and press. A crowd of up to 10,000 onlookers was reported and the guest list included many of the most important people in the colony.[19][20]

Robinson died in London on 28 October 1897,[21] and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. His son, Hercules Arthur Temple Robinson, succeeded to the title of Baron Rosmead.[21]


In Hong Kong, Robinson Road, Rosmead Road, and Robinson Island (Chinese name 鴨洲) were all named after him. There was a Robinson Road in the Kowloon Peninsula that was named after him. However, the name was changed to Nathan Road on 19 March 1909.

In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Rosmead Place was named after him.

In South Africa, there are two Rosmead Avenues in Cape Town, one in Claremont/Kenilworth and the other in Oranjezicht, a suburb of Cape Town proper. South Africa also includes two small towns named Rosmead, one near Kimberley in the Northern Cape and one near Middelburg in the Eastern Cape.

In Australia, a building in Crown Street, Sydney includes a couple of terraced houses named for Hercules Robinson. A monumental bust of Sir Hercules sits atop the facade. On Sydney's General Post Office at 1 Martin Place, on the Pitt Street side arches of the building, there are carvings of four of New South Wales governors including Sir Hercules.



  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20190. p. 291. 27 January 1843. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20380. p. 3077. 6 September 1844. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 21521. p. 427. 14 February 1854. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 21621. p. 3363. 7 November 1854. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 22275. p. 2361. 17 June 1859. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 22280. p. 2514. 28 June 1859. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 22946. p. 1376. 7 March 1865. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 23512. p. 3750. 1 July 1869. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 23837. p. 1312. 5 March 1872. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  10. ^ a b "Sir Hercules Robinson.". Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW: 1870 - 1907) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 3 February 1872. p. 9. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24175. p. 347. 29 January 1875. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24684. p. 932. 25 February 1879. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24876. p. 4623. 24 August 1880. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24960. p. 1734. 8 April 1881. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25630. p. 4784. 1 October 1886. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 26132. p. 680. 6 February 1891. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 26614. p. 2131. 9 April 1895. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 26767. p. 4571. 11 August 1896. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  19. ^ "Mr. and Mrs. Finlay". Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW). 17 August 1878. p. 17. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Marriage of Mr A.K. Finlay and Miss Robinson". The Queanbeyan Age (NSW). 14 August 1878. p. 1. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  21. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 26935. p. 696. 4 February 1898. Retrieved 21 November 2008.

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Administrator of Montserrat
Succeeded by
Edward Everard Rushworth
Preceded by
Edward Hay Drummond Hay
Lieutenant Governor of Saint Christopher
Succeeded by
Benjamin Pine
Preceded by
Acting William Caine
5th Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Acting Administrator William Mercer
Preceded by
Terence O'Brien
acting governor
Governor of Ceylon

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Governor of Ceylon
Succeeded by
Henry Turner Irving
acting governor
Preceded by
The Earl Belmore
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Lord Augustus Loftus
Preceded by
Governor of Fiji
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
Preceded by
The Marquess of Normanby
Governor of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
Preceded by
Sir Henry Bartle Frere
High Commissioner for Southern Africa
Governor of Cape Colony
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Brougham Loch
Preceded by
Sir Henry Brougham Loch
High Commissioner for Southern Africa
Governor of Cape Colony
Succeeded by
Sir Alfred Milner
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Rosmead
Succeeded by
Hercules Arthur Temple Robinson
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Robinson Baronet
Succeeded by
Hercules Arthur Temple Robinson