Ropner was born in 1838 in Magdeburg, Province of Saxony, Kingdom of Prussia, the son of Johann Heinrich Röpner and Johanne Christiane Emilie Bessel. He emigrated to England and worked for a coal export concern before building up a fleet of colliers and founding the Ropner Shipping Company in Hartlepool in 1874.
In 1888, Robert Ropner acquired a shipyard at Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham. Ropner established a successful shipbuilding firm, which built many trunk deck ships. No longer limited to hauling coal, Ropner also established a company to operate tramp steamers. Although the shipyard went into liquidation soon after what was then known as the Great War, the shipping company continued to operate through both World Wars, despite heavy wartime losses of vessels.
Robert Ropner served as High Sheriff of Durham in 1896 and from 1900 to 1910 represented the constituency of Stockton-on-Tees in the House of Commons. He was President of the UK Chamber of Shipping for 1902.
Having been knighted in 1902, he was created Baronet of Preston Hall, Stockton-on-Tees, in the County Palatine of Durham, and of Skutterskelfe Hall, Hutton Rudby, in the North Riding of York on 20 August 1904.
Ropner died 26 February 1924, aged 85, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son John. His third son William Ropner was the father of the Conservative politician Sir Leonard Ropner, 1st Baronet of Thorp Perrow. Robert Ropner is buried in the family vault at All Saints churchyard, Hutton Rudby, North Yorkshire.
- Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 3390. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
- Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1500-1971
- Tramping to Success
- Owning and Building Ships
- Ropner Shipbuilding
- "Shipping Subsidies". The Times (36907). London. 24 October 1902. p. 3.
- "No. 27510". The London Gazette. 30 December 1902. p. 8967.
- "No. 27696". The London Gazette. 15 July 1904. pp. 4555–4556.
- Burke's Peerage. 1949.
- Tramping to Success and Ropners, Owning and Building Ships, Shipping Lines. PortCities Southampton. Retrieved on 2007-11-18.
- "Ropner Shipbuilding". The Best of British Engineering 1750s - 1960s. Grace's Guide. 16 September 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2007.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Robert Ropner
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Stockton-on-Tees
1900 – January 1910
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|
|New creation|| Baronet
(of Preston Hall and
John Henry Ropner
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