London; upholder, auctioneer, warehouseman and cabinet maker (b. 1750–d. 1831)
Addresses given at 28 Chancery Lane, 1776–94, and Warwick House, Beak St, Golden Sq., 1793– 1828. He is also listed at 170 Regent St, 1825–28. Took out Sun Insurance policies in 1776 for £1,200 including £200 on shop, utensils and goods; on 9 January 1786 for £400 on a house in Oxford St; on 6 September 1792 for £3,000 on house and offices at 34 Harley St, and coach houses and stables adjoining; on 23 April 1793 for £1,300, including £450 on warerooms and workshops; on 30 November 1800, 9 August 1809 and 30 November 1809 for £5,000 including £1,000 on house, merchandise and workshops, and £4,000 on stock and utensils. A further policy of 9 August 1809 was for £5,400 on various properties; and another of 30 November 1809 was for £3,600 on houses including £350 on 5 Northumberland St, Marylebone; £450 on 25 Beak (or Northumberland) St; £300 on one in tenure; £500 on one at the corner of Oxford St; £400 on one in Titchbourn (or Titchfield) St in tenure; £100 on a house behind; £500 on 8 Weymouth St, and £1,000 on 50 Wimpole St. The same properties were insured on 25 June 1812, with the addition of £1,000 on his house, warehouse and warerooms, and £4,000 on stock and utensils, giving a total of £8,600. Robins was recorded in the ‘Liberty of the Rolls, Chancery Lane’, when admitted freeman of the Upholders’ Co. by redemption on 2 April 1788. Took app. named George Perring, 1789–1803. Named in Sheraton's list of master cabinet makers, 1803, and is probably the John Robins snr, cm, who subscribed to the Cabinet Dictionary. His son's death was reported in Gents Mag., February 1806. He is probably the John Robins named in the accounts for Croome Court, Worcs. on 27 February 1777 charging £12 10s for ‘The Use of a Sett of Tables fitted to the Parlours with forms for Do in the Ball Room Cover’d with Green Beze, Japan’d Chairs Table Candle Stands &c.’ He and Sir John Soane had a mutually beneficial professional and personal relationship. Soane was involved in designs for Robins’s premises on Regent Street, his home in London and his country retreat, Norwood Hall, Ealing (1801-03). Robins in turn supplied him with many items for 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Pitzhanger Manor as well as general maintenance and furniture repairs of Soane’s London home. The furniture for Lincoln’s Inns Fields included a library table in 1804 (illus. Dorey, Furniture History (2008), cat.38 and fig.22) at a cost of eighteen guineas, a drop leaf table probably by him (illus. Dorey, cat. 252), a set of 12 bamboo and japanned chairs for the front floor drawing room in 1807 of which three survive (illus. Dorey, cats 172-174), a set of 16 mahogany 'Trafalgar' chairs for the South Drawing Room in 1810 (illus. Dorey, cats 135-150), a pair of mahogany pedestal bookcases for the Breakfast Room in 1813 (illus. Dorey, figs 78 and 83) the bill for which was £25, four mahogany bookcases for the North Drawing Room, (a cellaret of 1813 is possibly by him (illus. Dorey, cat. 68). In 1814 he invoiced Soane for two pairs of scarlet morine curtains for Dining Room and Library for £1 5s (illus. Dorey, fig. 36) and for 4 pairs of yellow curtains the South Drawing Room in March 1815 (illus. Dorey, fig. 88), in 1816 a table of mahogany, brass and ivory (illus. Dorey, cat. 37), in 1821 a set of eight mahogany trellis-back chairs costing 24 guineas (illus. Dorey, cat. 25), as well as a pair of trellis-back armchairs (although possibly made by David Bruce) for the Library and Dining Room (illus. Dorey, cats 19-20 and fig. 31. He supervised the installation of set of low mahogany bookcases for the Picture Room in 1824 and a plain rectangular table of c.1834-5 may be by him (illus. Dorey, cat.90). At Pitzhanger Manor he supplied Soane with a set of black spindle-back chairs with cane seats in 1804 (illus. Collard, Furniture History (2008), fig. 86), bedding, beds and kitchen furniture. He also provided two sideboards and a writing table for the Bank of England, designed by Soane. The table, which cost £32 8s, is fitted with a rising desk in the centre, with antique lion masks with ring handles at the angles, fluted, tapering legs and lion-paw feet. In 1827 Robins made for the Bank ‘A large Partner's Chair with high back and sides round stuffed and covered with black Spanish leather tuffed and finished with brass nails for Lobby’ costing £9 9s. John Robins submitted a bill to J. H. Leigh of Stoneleigh, Warks., dated 13–30 May 1818, totalling £30 15s 6d and receipted by J. Nash. He valued Lady Penryhn’s furniture for Soane in 1818. Robins supplied a ‘Mahogany enclosed washstand with hinged top in centre rising Glass, Drawers & Door in front fitted up with Wedgwood Ware & Glass tumbler’; ‘A High Music stand formed of East India rosewood three heights of Shelves with a Drawer underneath, turned legs brass knobs socket castors’; and a ‘Mahogany Childs Crib with turned stump feet framed Walls strained with ticken lath bottom on brass socket Castors’. Bedding for the crib included ‘A Bordered white Irish Mattress filled with Wool & hair tufted’; ‘A fine white Swandown Pillow’; ‘A white Irish upper Mattress filled with wool & hair tufted’; ‘A Pair of fine flannel Blankets bound with white Silk Lace’; and a ‘white cotton Marseilles Quilt’. A late George III mahogany library bookcase recorded, with a dentil cornice and a pair of fifteen-panel glazed doors enclosing adjustable shelves; the projecting lower part with a pair of panelled cupboard doors also enclosing adjustable shelves. The underside of the cornice bears the printed label of ‘John Robins cabinet and upholstery manufactory, Warwick House, Regent Street, London’, which is addressed to the ‘Rt. Hon. Lord Heniker, Mojor House, Stonham, Suffolk’. In 1827 Robins organised Lord Berwick's sale at Attingham Park and bought Soane objects at the sale. The Museum holds a receipt from Robins for £279 for the funeral arrangements of John Soane junior.
Source: DEFM; Beard, ‘Decorators and Furniture Makers at Croome Court’, Furniture History (1997); Collard, ‘Soane and Furniture’, Furniture History (2008); Dorey, ‘A catalogue of the Furniture in Sir John’s Soane’s Museum’, Furniture History (2008).