When Matthew Robinson inherited the title of Lord Rokeby in 1793 he was already 81 years of age, As an ex Member of parliament he had strong views on just about everything.
He was a fervent believer in the health giving properties of fresh air and exercise. He walked everywhere, and rather considerately took along a carriage for the servants who did not share his stamina.. At home he never lit a fire and the windows were always left open.
He also maintained that England was quite capable of existing on home produce without importing any food at all. So at Mount Morris, his 800 acre estate in Kent, there were no fences, no gates and nothing to be planted or cultivated unless it grew naturally. The land was turned over to sheep and cattle and amazingly enough, this haphazard approach to farming paid off. The sheep and cattle that roamed freely on his land grew fat and the tenants prospered.
Rokeby`s own appearance was equally odd. He had a beard that reached his knees and his moustache was long enough for him to be able to tuck the ends under his arms.
His diet consisted of “beef, over which boiled water had been poured” He would not touch tea or coffee and believed that the eating of “exotics” such as wheat was wicked. He experimented with burnt peas and beans instead of coffee. He always ate standing up at a tiny table designed just to take one plate.
The other obsession he had was the use of water, which he recommended everyone should drink a gallon a day. He built drinking fountains across his estate and would reward his tenants with a sixpence if he saw them drinking from them.
Every morning he would bathe his eyes in salt water and then spend the rest of the day immersed in the stuff. Before he built himself a bath house, he would be frequently found in the many ponds around the estate. On many occasions he had to be dragged out to dry land unconscious from the cold.
The bath house when built was fitted with a glass front which allowed “the water to be rendered tepid by the rays of the sun” The neighbours and servants got used to seeing him dart from his house, down the garden towards the bath. The sight was something to behold. He was always naked, his beard tucked under his arm, followed by his barking dogs. From here he would sit up to his neck in his favourite liquid whilst eating his meals, entertaining visitors and writing wonderfully odd political pamphlets.
His dislikes were equally strong. He had no time for doctors- his cure for just about everything seems to have been never light a fire and open all the windows. He was also convinced that the Bank of England would collapse at any moment so he kept all his money at home, He was so convinced that this would occur that he wagered £10 on this happening. Part of his will stated that the bet would continue on through his heirs. So after over 200 years this is perhaps the oldest, continuous running bet ever.