Robert Chaloner

A gentle breeze this morning on Great Ayton Moor leading to a slight increase in visibility. In the absence of a stunning view, I had to resort to another of the many boundary stones that scatter the moors.

This one is inscribed ‘R C’ so it is likely to refer to Robert Chaloner, but is undated so which one, father or son?

Robert Chaloner senior was born in 1776 and inherited the Gisborough Estate on the death of his father, William, in 1793. He became the MP for Richmond (1810-1818), for York (1820-1826), Lord Mayor of York in 1817, a Justice of the Peace, and the Deputy Lieutenant for Yorkshire. He was also a director in the young Stockton and Darlington Railway Company and a senior partner in the York banking house of “Wentworth, Chaloner and Rishworth”.

However, in 1825, the bank went bust and Chaloner had to declare bankruptcy. With the help of his wife’s cousin, the Earl of Fitzwilliam, he was saved from losing the Gisborough estate by placing it in a trust. He then had the indignity having to work for the Earl as his land agent on his 85,000-acre Coolattin estate in Ireland.

In Ireland, Chaloner became adept in land clearances and the forced emigration of ‘surplus’ peasant families, a role which was taken up by his son, Robert junior, on his death in 1842.

Robert junior proved even more able than his father. In 1847, he drew up an “Emigration Book” recording 2207 people that were to be evicted and 1271 the following year. He struck a deal with the New Brunswick/Quebec railway company to supply 100 able-bodied men for three months work on the railway, Chaloner would pay the wages and receive company shares in return. The arrangements were made but instead of just 100 workers, Chaloner sent their families as well, 383 men, women, and children.

By the time the first of the lucrative leases for the ironstone royalties was signed in 1854, Chaloner was back in Guisborough managing the estate. He died the following year leaving the estate to his brother, Thomas, who with the help of these royalties put the estate on firmer footing.

One final note, in these days of heightened public awareness of the legacies of the British slave ownership, it is conspicuous that Robert Chaloner (senior) was awarded compensation, under The Slave Compensation Act 1837, along with three others as trustees of the marriage settlement of his sister Caroline Cumberbatch for the slaves of two estates in Barbados. The sum, £6,363 14s 7d, amounts to over £717,000 in today’s money. This claim must have been made when he was in Ireland.

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