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Robert Ropner

Robert Ropner came to the Tees Valley from Germany as a young man. He went on to develop one of the most successful ship building companies in Britain. The story goes that, at the age of 19, Robert Ropner and a friend decided to leave their home and seek their fortune in Australia. At the dock in Hamburg, only one job was available on a ship bound for Australia, and a twist of fate brought Robert to Hartlepool. He arrived penniless, unable to speak English and knowing no-one. Despite being so seasick on the voyage that he vowed to never set foot on a ship again, Robert went on to make his fortune in shipping, opening shipyards in Hartlepool and Stockton.

Photographic portrait of Robert Ropner
Robert Ropner

Robert took full advantage of the economic situation it was a time of boom. This meant that the demand for ships to transport coal, iron and steel along the Tees, around the country and the wider world was high. Like others in the area, Ropner’s ship building company not only made him very wealthy, but provided jobs for the local people and became an essential part of the Tees Valley’s industrial story and identity. His contribution to British industry earned him a Baronetcy in 1904 – one of the highest honours awarded by the British Crown.

Robert lived in Preston Hall in Stockton, which is now Preston Park Museum & Grounds. In the 1890s he gave the land which makes up Ropner Park in Stockton to the place and people who had welcomed him as a penniless teenager.

Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum and Grounds

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