The Revd Canon (Albert) Edward Robins (1904-1969)

Vicar of Christ Church Epsom Common, 1947-60

Edward Robins in 1951
Edward Robins in 1951
Photograph with thanks to the Robins family © 2019

Although baptised "Albert Edward", he was always (at least in later life) known as Edward, and we follow suit here - not least to avoid confusion with his father.

Edward was born on 10 May 1904 at 19 Oving Road, Portfield, Chichester, the first of four children for Albert George Robins and Emma (née Gale). They had married in Chichester in Q2 1903, having first met when Albert, then serving in the Army, was stationed in the city.

The 1911 Census records the not quite complete family still at 19 Oving Road. 34 year old Albert is listed as a "Bricklayer" and, as usual at the time, no occupation is shown for 29 year old housewife Emma - but she had her hands full with now three children: 6 year old Edward and 5 year old William, both at school; and 3 year old Emma junior. The couple's fourth and last child, Stanley, was born in 1915.

In 1917, the 41 year old Albert went back into uniform as Gunner 212552 in the Royal Field Artillery's 527th Battery of the 56th Brigade. He served in Northern France and was killed in action on 12 October 1918, just a month before the Armistice that ended WW1. He is one of the 435 WW1 casualties buried in the Delsaux Farm Cemetery, Beugny - a little to the south of Arras. When Albert went off to the front, Emma moved to her mother's at 103 St Pancras, Chichester, and lived there running a small tobacconist shop until her death in 1954.

Edward's secondary education was at Midhurst Grammar School. He did well there and went on to study at London University (with some time also at the Sorbonne in Paris), gaining a BA in 1924. He went into teaching but then, in 1929, attended Bishop's College, Cheshunt for theological training. He was ordained Deacon in 1930 and was posted as Curate to St Martin's, Dorking - the church where the Revd Neville Stiff (Vicar of Christ Church from 1921 until his tragic death in 1923) had been Curate 1911-13.

While at Dorking, Edward met a local girl Vera Kathleen Pickford, who was working as a State Registered Nurse, and at the end of Edward's Curacy, they married in St Martin's, Dorking on 29 August 1935, when Edward was 31 and Vera 22.

From 1935 to 1939, Edward was Curate at All Saints Weston Green, Esher and in charge of the daughter church of St Christopher, Hinchley Wood. For 1939-41, Crockford's Directory shows him as "CinC of Hinchley Wood Conv." and then, for 1940-47, as "Minister of All Saints, Onslow Village".

As noted in the separate article, Christ Church's Vicar from 1940 to 1947 - the Revd Hugh McMullan - had fallen seriously ill during his 1943-44 detachment as an RAF Chaplain which led to his being invalided out of the RAF. The illness returned in 1946 and, as no recovery was in sight, he resigned in mid 1947, dying very shortly thereafter.

Edward was appointed as Hugh's successor and arrived in the parish over the summer of 1947, settling into the Vicarage with Vera and their five children:
  • Christopher, born August 1938;
  • Mary, born November 1940 (and who was married to Bruce (Tony) Hall at Christ Church in Q3 1962, shortly after Edward's move to his next parish when he returned to Christ Church to conduct the wedding);
  • Philip, born September 1942;
  • David, born March 1945; &
  • Clare, born January 1947.
The couple had two more children, both baptised at Christ Church:
  • Susan, born March 1953; &
  • Helen, born February 1958.
All the children enjoyed a full and happy family life in Epsom, making the most of the Common and other countryside on their doorstep.

During his 13 years' incumbency, Edward helped steer the parish from post-war austerity into the more confident 1950s - a transition perhaps most clearly marked in Christ Church by the 1952/55 replacement of the East Window over the High Altar which had spent over a decade covered by tarpaulins following 1941 bomb damage.

In 1951, and alongside his duties as Vicar at Christ Church, Edward was not only made Rural Dean of Epsom (an appointment which led to the studio photograph at the head of this article being taken) but also Chaplain of Epsom District Hospital. He held both posts until moving to his next parish in 1960.

One of his great pleasures was music. He was a keen member of the Goldsmiths Choir, with which he sang whenever his duties permitted. At Christ Church, Edward always joined in the Anthems and, when the Organist was not available, would play the organ alongside conducting the service.

A key event during his time at Christ Church was the "Mission" from 1-16 May 1954. While Edward was instrumental in getting this under way, the Mission was led by Father Augustine Hoey of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, assisted by nine others drawn from that Community and elsewhere. Edward worked tirelessly in preparation for this - and during it, until he met with an accident on his trusty motorbike. (He was back at his work almost before he was fit.) The Mission was an unprecedented event for Christ Church, and was hailed as a success leading to a much larger congregation - to the point where, in July 1954, the Christ Church PCC agreed that a Parish Car was a necessity to enable Edward to handle the consequently increased workload.

In recognition of all his work, Edward was, during the 1950s, made an honorary Canon of Guildford Cathedral.

During the late 1950s, Edward did not enjoy the best of health, but it never prevented him from giving his all to the Parish and its needs. In 1960, after 13 years at Christ Church, Edward moved on to become Vicar of All Saints, Fleet - and again, in 1966, to serve as Vicar of St Mary's, Frensham. Sadly, he died in post there on 19 March 1969, aged 64. The widowed Vera never remarried and died on 7 April 2012, aged 98.

Roger Morgan © 2019