Home | History


Roberson has a long and interesting history. The business was started in 1810 in London. Charles Roberson chose the central London location of Long Acre because of its proximity to the artistic quarter of London and to the home of the Royal Academy, in Somerset House. The company went through a few location changes in the first half of the 19th Century but remained in Long Acre until 1937, when the business moved to new premises in Camden Town. Roberson moved to its present location in Holloway in 1987.

The company was in family ownership until the 1970's, was then sold to a distribution company, and subsequently bought by the present independent owners in 1986. It now thrives as a trade-only supplier supplying many of the products for which the company was famous in the past.

Roberson was one of the most important colourmen in London. Among its customers were artists such as Turner, Whistler and Sargent, designers such as William Morris, William de Morgan and Walter Crane and the royal and famous including Queen Victoria, Lady Randolph Churchill and Winston Churchill.

The company prepared its own paints and manufactured a wide range of materials to recipes that were kept secret and actively protected. Some of these recipes are still used today.

These exciting facts are known because Charles Roberson and Co retained most of the records of the company from its past and these now form the largest artists' colourman archive in the UK. The period of the archive covers 1819 to 1985. It is held by the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge and has been catalogued and researched by Sally A Woodcock. Further detailed historical information is included in copies of magazine and other articles in HISTORICAL DETAIL.

The INSTITUTE can be browsed on-line but none of the Roberson archive is currently accessible. We aim to include elements of the archive as they become available.