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AMERICAN BOYS IN LONDON



When Andrew Robertson left the USA in 1782, he traveled with just three of his sons, John, Alexander and young Daniel. The rest of his children remained in the US. His eldest son William Robertson (1763-1832) was a lawyer and family man in Charleston; his son Alexander Robertson (1804-1888) built a house in North Carolina called "Struan" at Fletcher near Asheville and his last descendants died thereabouts in the 1950s. William's last granddaughter died in Charleston in 1932; her bequest of portraits is at the Gibbes Art Museum there. The two other Robertson brothers who were in America after 1790 both died in Savannah 1803; the children of James had died by the late 1850s. Their house was on the corner (or so) of State Street and Bull Street at the edge of downtown 'historic' Savannah. It survived the fire of 1820 but whether it survived the likely destructions of 1854-65 (or subsequent fires) is not yet known. I personally visited the corner of State and Bull Street with Austin Sullivan in March 2018 and I can conclusively say that the site is now either a CVS Pharmacy or a clothes shop called Harper, both buildings being modern constructs. Wright Square on which the house stood was known back then as Percival Square after John Percival, 1st Earl of Egmont, a founding father of Georgia.

Back in England, Andrew Robertson and his two sons settled on a farm in Streatham in Surrey. He had a Loyalist pension until his death in Streatham, recorded in the Gentleman’s Magazine, on 18 February 1791. It is also to be noted that the name 'Andrew Robertson' is listed in the Adam & Co. accounts at the Drummond Bank archives in Edinburgh as a recipient of funds in 1784, just when the American returnees would have required such funds.

Streatham was also home to William Adam (1738-1822), the youngest son of the eminent Scottish architect William Adam (1689-1748) and his wife Mary (nee Robertson). In 1758, young William started a decoration and furnishing business in Lower Grosvenor Street, London, with his older brothers Robert Adam and James Adam. As well as pioneering a new style, the Adam brothers developed a reputation for excellent attention to detail. After Robert's death in 1792, James came into his own, designing a number of important buildings in Glasgow, as well as Portland Place in London. However, following James's death in 1794, William became the last of the firm of Robert Adam & Co. Both James and Alexander practiced cattle farming - James in Hertfordshire and William in Streatham. During the difficult summer of 1798, William became an Ensign in the Streatham Voluntee. In 1804 he was promoted to captain and Daniel was, in turn, appointed Ensign.

In 1817, Alexander Robertson would recall how 'Miss Adam mothered him at Streatham thirty years ago.' In 1800, William Adam went into partnership with 'my young friends' Alexander and Daniel. ‘William Adam, Alexander Robertson and Daniel Robertson, [of] 27 Old Bond Street, timber merchants and builders’ are identified in the Sun Fire Office documents of November 1810. Sadly things do not appear to have fared well for Alexander Robertson who (like William Adam in earlier years) was a contributing member to the Society for Encouragement of Arts &c. He continued to fall into insolvency and bankruptcy after 1817 when, in the correspondence with William Adam, he refers to his 'starving children'. His last traced address to date was Grosvenor Place, Pimlico, and he disappears in about 1820.


Linked toDaniel Robertson

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