Born: Emil Hugo Oscar Robert Ropner was born on 16th December 1838 in Magdeburg in Prussia. His parents were John Henry Ropner and Emilie Bessel. He was one of ten children. His parents both died of cholera when he was ten.

Educated: He was educated in Prussia, probably in Magdeburg.

Married: On 26th July 1858, Robert Ropner married Mary Anne Craik, daughter of John Craik, an innkeeper, of Newton Stewart in South West Scotland.

Family: Robert and Mary Anne had five sons and five daughters

Home: In 1857 Robert Ropner left Prussia and travelled to West Hartlepool where he settled and found work with Thomas Appleby’s coal shipping company. In 1882, Robert Ropner bought Preston Hall, between Stockton and Yarm.

Known for: In 1875 Robert Ropner founded the Ropner Shipping Company in West Hartlepool. He built it up to be the largest tramp cargo shipping fleet in Britain. In 1888 he took over the North Shore Shipyard of Pearse, Lockwood and Company in Stockton. It became one of the largest shipyards in the country. Robert Ropner was High Sheriff of Durham in 1896. He was a Major and later a Colonel in the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and is sometimes referred to as Major Ropner or Colonel Ropner. In 1867 he was elected to Stockton Council and subsequently to Durham County Council. He was mayor of Stockton in 1893 and later was made the town’s first freeman. Colonel Ropner served as M.P. for Stockton from 1900 to 1910. He was knighted in 1902 and was made a Baronet two years later. He bought the land for Ropner Park in Stockton in 1890 and was made a freeman of the borough in the following year. In 1893 he became mayor of Stockton, although he wasn’t a councillor.

Died: Sir Robert Ropner died on 26th February 1924 and was buried in Rudby churchyard.

Further information: “Who Was Who in 19th Century Cleveland” David M.Tomlin and Mary Williams (1987)

“Dictionary of Business Biography” vol. 4 M-R

“Durham at the Opening of the Twentieth Century” James Jamieson (1906)