Robinson family acquired the Rokeby estate in the early 17th
century. Thomas, the creator of the present house, succeeded
his father in 1720, at the young age of 18. Deeply interested
in architecture, 18thC engravings of Rokeby bear the words
'Thos. Robinson, Architectus'.
He was captivated by the designs of the 16th C Venetian architect
Andrea Palladio, whose ideas were becoming fashionable in
England through their publication and promotion by Richard
Boyle, 3rd Earl Burlington (1694 - 1753). Robinson knew Burlington
well and was encouraged by him to build in the new style.
Robinson was also influenced by contemporary antiquarian
interest in the buildings of Roman Britain and in the attempt
by Robert Castell (d. 1728), a protégé of Burlington,
to reconstruct a Roman Villa. It is in this context that the
Architectural Historian, the late Giles Worsley, described
Rokeby as 'a particularly erudite conception'.
Morritt acquired the house from Robinson in 1769 and made
various improvements, constructing a new stable block, by
John Carr of York, further away from the house. In the late
19th C, his grandson R.A. Morritt added a second storey to
the east pavilion to accommodate his large family. The extensions
were carefully designed to be in keeping with the Georgian
Rokeby has had a number of distinguished inhabitants. 'Long
Tom' Robinson, so called because of his lanky build, is better
known as the architect of the west wing of Castle Howard.
In the 1740s he was Governor of Barbados and later proprietor
of the Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens. There is a memorial to him
and his wife in Westminster Abbey.
Morritt (1771 - 1843), who owned the house for over 50 years,
was a close friend of Sir Walter Scott. A cultivated scholar
and lover of the arts, it was he who acquired Velaquez's 'Toilet
of Venus' in 1809. Subsequently famous as the 'Rokeby Venus',
it was sold to the National Gallery in 1906. A copy by WA
Menzies, in the original frame, now hangs in the Saloon (See
Image). In 1794 - 96 he made a Grand Tour which daringly
included Greece and Anatolia.
a detailed history of Rokeby Park as a pdf