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Sir John Berry HOBBS

Sir John Berry HOBBS

Male 1882 - 1963  (81 years)

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  • Name John Berry HOBBS 
    Prefix Sir 
    Nickname Jack 
    Born 16 Dec 1882  8 Brewhouse Lane, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Census 1 Apr 1891  4 Rivar Place, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Occupation 1901 
    Smith (Gas Fitter) 
    Census 1 Apr 1901  4 Rivar Place, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Occupation From 1905 to 1934 
    • Hobbs, Sir John Berry [Jack] (1882–1963), cricketer, was born on 16 December 1882 at 8 Brewhouse Lane, Cambridge, the eldest of twelve children (six boys and six girls) of John Cooper Hobbs (d. 1901), a slater's labourer, and his wife, Flora Matilda Berry. He had a childhood deprived of material benefits and often close to poverty but enriched by family warmth and an upbringing on the fringes of first-class cricket. His father became a net bowler at Fenner's, the university cricket ground, and proudly styled himself in Kelly's Directory as ‘J. Hobbs, cricketer’. When John Hobbs senior went on to be groundsman at Jesus College, Jack—as his son was universally known throughout his life—played in his first proper match. The choirboys of Jesus College were one short and the twelve-year-old was called upon. Nevertheless, he was already aware of the distinction between town and gown. John Hobbs knew better than to let his son play in the college nets except in vacation. Town, for the Hobbses, meant cricket on Parker's Piece, a public playing ground. Gown meant watching Ranjitsinhji batting for the university.

      Surrey début
      After leaving St Matthew's church school, which he attended from 1888 to 1896 (and where he had played in the cricket team), Jack helped his father at Jesus College for 7s. 6d. a week and played on Parker's Piece at a match fee of a penny. There he was noticed by Tom Hayward, against whom he batted for Cambridge town against the Surrey player's own eleven in 1901. Hayward became the most important influence on Hobbs's early career. A century for Ainsworth brought him two appearances for Cambridgeshire and his début in Wisden as ‘Mr J. Hobbs, junr’ (Wisden, 1902, 377). Sadly, when that Wisden was published, he was no longer ‘junr’. His father had died, leaving the family more impoverished than ever. Hayward organized a benefit match for Mrs Hobbs and, of more significance, secured a trial for Jack with Surrey. Its successful outcome brought him a Surrey contract, 30s. a week, with £1 in winter, and the need to qualify by residence over two years. He played for Surrey club and ground and for Cambridgeshire before his first-class début in 1905. Against the Gentlemen of England, captained by W. G. Grace, he opened the batting with Hayward, scoring 88 and proving ‘an emphatic success’ (Wisden, 1906, 139). In his second match he made 155 and was awarded his county cap on the steps of the pavilion. Essex, who had declined to give him a trial two years earlier, were Surrey's opponents. W. G. Grace had witnessed his most accomplished successor. Not even Donald Bradman, against whom Hobbs would play in the 1930s, would eclipse him as a batsman for all conditions.

      For Surrey, over ten seasons, Hobbs and Hayward would share forty opening partnerships of over a century, four of them in five days in 1907. Hayward was the only one of the four great players with whom he opened the batting in his career to whom Hobbs played the junior role. He remained in awe of the older man, learned much from him in the art of looking for runs and in mutual understanding, but, as a ‘modern’, evolved his own technique. Not for Hobbs the classical front-foot, off-side style of Hayward. He was quick-footed, able to make a very late decision on whether to play forward or back. He had the full range of strokes and could control the pace with which he dispatched the ball. To all this was added a mental awareness of the position of fielders and the state of a game. After three seasons in first-class cricket Hobbs was selected to go to Australia in 1907–8 with MCC: a shade lucky in that others, such as Hayward, had rejected the terms offered, but well earned in a period of strong batting.

      In 1906 Hobbs married Ada Ellen Gates of Cambridge. They would have three sons and a daughter. In the years before 1914 his overseas tours were clouded both by the absence of his wife and by his own unrelenting seasickness. After 1919 she often accompanied him and he travelled overland through Europe as far as he could.
      Test cricketer in the ‘golden age’
      It was on new year's day 1908 that Hobbs made his test début at Melbourne, scoring 83, and he remained an England player (never ‘dropped’) when available until his retirement from test cricket. He and Hayward opened the batting for England only once—at Lord's in 1909—and it would be Wilfred Rhodes who would be his partner in eighteen test matches up to 1914. The two players came together on MCC's 1909–10 tour of South Africa. Rhodes was already an established all-rounder and Hobbs momentarily bade fair to become one as well, opening the bowling in three of the tests and securing his only wicket at that level in his career. As a batsman, he alone mastered the South African googly bowlers on their matting wickets and his average of 67.37 was more than twice that of anyone else. Two years later, in Australia, it was his domination of the spinners which helped England to a 4–1 victory. He and Rhodes established a new first-wicket record when they put on 323 at Melbourne.

      There were no visitors in 1914 and Hobbs played in every Surrey match to help the county win the championship for the only time in his association with them. His 2499 runs included ten centuries. ‘Among all those brilliant innings, it would be difficult to pick out any better than the rest’ (Wisden, 1915, 4). But his double-century against Yorkshire in August—with a partnership of 290 with Hayward—conferred a valedictory benediction upon the ‘golden age’ of cricket. In the twenty-five days after war had broken out, Hobbs scored 585 runs at an average of 73.25 as if buying time from Armageddon. Those who saw him play either side of the First World War believed he was at his peak in 1914. ‘He can make strokes off balls that anyone but a genius would be content to play’, recorded World of Cricket , and declared that a worldwide poll would make him ‘first among the batsmen of the day’ (ibid.).

      Hobbs at first worked in a munitions factory during the war before joining the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. He played some cricket in the Bradford league and, as Air-Mechanic Hobbs, made 86 at Lord's in a charity match in 1918. In the following year Surrey gave him a benefit against Kent—rearranged from one in 1914. He was rewarded with £1671 and the spectators with a swift 47 runs in 32 minutes in bad light to give Surrey victory. With the proceeds he bought a shop at 59 Fleet Street, London. Jack Hobbs Ltd prospered through his own business acumen and his courtesy and personal presence. There he worked to within weeks of his death and the firm, which transferred to Islington in 1974, continued to flourish. The years which followed brought him financial independence beyond the dreams of the average county cricketer. Together with the shop, his income from Surrey (with another benefit of £2670 in 1926), bonuses, overseas tours, several books, and advertising brought him probably £1500 a year. His books were all ‘ghosted’ and included three autobiographies, two instructional manuals, and two novels. After he retired he did some reporting for the press in a style more descriptive than analytical. He allowed his heart to rule his head in judging players. In the field of advertising he was in the forefront of cricketers being identified with products, and gave his name to Waterman's pens and to cricket equipment. The prosperity which came his way was reflected in such modest displays of wealth as buying an Austin 12 car and financing his wife's passage on overseas tours. In achieving affluence he retained a concern for his family's security denied in his own childhood.
      Post-war records
      Hobbs, in 1919, was ‘just as great as ever’ (Wisden, 1920, 84), scoring a century in all three matches for the Players against the Gentlemen and making 700 runs more than anyone else in the season. In 1921, however, he was taken ill during the test match at Leeds and his life was saved by an emergency operation for an ulcerated appendix. In 1923 he became only the third player to make a century of centuries. Two years later, against Somerset at Taunton, he both equalled and beat W. G. Grace's record of 126 centuries. For three weeks previously he had been pursued by the press and the motion-picture crews while billboards carried the heading ‘Hobbs fails again’ (after a mere half-century). He ended the season of 1925 by making 266 not out for the Players against the Gentlemen, the highest score in that historic fixture. In all, he made sixteen centuries that year and he headed the English averages with 3024 runs (average 70.32). Throughout these years his regular Surrey opening partner was Andy Sandham, the pair sharing sixty-six opening stands of over 100. Against Oxford University in 1926 they put on 428, with Hobbs making 261. Later in the season he scored 316 not out against Middlesex at Lord's. This proved to be his own personal highest score and remained a ground record until 1990. An earlier 176 not out against Middlesex brought him an undefeated aggregate against that county of 492 runs. He topped the national batting averages (77.60), with Herbert Sutcliffe coming second.

      In the twelve years after the war, it was Sutcliffe, replacing Rhodes, who was Hobbs's greatest test partner. ‘Hobbs and Sutcliffe’ became almost a synonym for English stability. The two came together against South Africa in 1924 with successive stands of 136 and 268, a performance even bettered when their initial partnerships against Australia in 1924–5 were ones of 157, 110, and 283. In all they achieved fifteen century opening stands. Two of them instance the ability of both men to bat in difficult conditions on a turning or ‘sticky’ wicket. At the Oval in 1926 England regained the Ashes after fourteen years, with Hobbs making exactly 100. In Melbourne in 1929 their batting made possible an England three-wicket victory against all the odds. Hobbs's 49, with only one four, was to be measured not by figures but by footwork. Eight weeks later, on the same ground, he became the oldest player to score a century in an England–Australia test match. Indeed, apart from two tests in 1928 (when he averaged 106.00) against the West Indies, all his runs in test cricket were made against Australia or South Africa. His final test appearance, at the Oval in 1930, saw him go quietly from the scene. After fielding out 695 runs, he batted in the evening light and was dismissed for 9. He had played in sixty-one test matches (1908–30), making fifteen centuries and scoring 5410 runs (average 56.94).

      Hobbs continued to play for Surrey. Not a man who pursued records, he would nevertheless have liked to have made 200 centuries. But by 1934 he was limiting his appearances and in that season his solitary 100 was made against Lancashire in George Duckworth's benefit match at Old Trafford. He was content with his 197 centuries in first-class cricket and he would have no truck with those who set store by some he had made in India on a private tour. Wisden has enshrined both his number of centuries (at 197) and his career figures of 61,237 runs (average 50.65). Neither will ever be eclipsed. Hobbs was a good enough medium-pace bowler to take over 100 wickets. In 1920 he had been second in the English batting averages and top of the bowling. As a cover point, he had few equals and an affected lethargy lured many a victim (fifteen in Australia in 1911–12) to his doom.
      Honoured retirement
      In 1934 Surrey named their gates at the Oval after Hobbs and in the following year made him a life member. In 1949 he was among the first band of professionals to be made life members of MCC and four years later he became the first professional cricketer to be knighted, an honour he accepted with surprise and even embarrassment. There had been earlier ‘firsts’. In 1926 he had become the first professional to serve on a test match selection committee and, during that season, he captained England in the fourth test after A. W. Carr became ill. His playing career had effectively ended with his retirement but there would be a century in the fathers' match (he was a grandfather) at Kimbolton School in 1941. The statisticians credited him with 244 centuries at all levels.

      Hobbs's biographers and obituarists could strike no discordant note. He was a man of moral probity, religious conviction, and personal commitment. And he was humble enough to see himself as an ordinary person blessed with one extraordinary talent, which he put into its proper perspective. It was an attitude of mind which tempered the sternness of his approach with an engaging humour and a delight in playing practical jokes. He ended his days at Hove, occasionally watching cricket and devotedly caring for his ailing wife, who predeceased him by nine months. Jack Hobbs died at his home, 23 Furze Croft, Furze Hill, Hove, Sussex, in his sleep on 21 December 1963. He was buried in Hove cemetery. He belonged, said The Times, to the golden age of cricket. He ‘was the gold standard itself’.

      Gerald M. D. Howat

      R. Mason, Jack Hobbs (1960) · J. Arlott, Jack Hobbs (1981) · P. Landsberg, Jack Hobbs (1953) · J. Hobbs, My life story (1935) · Wisden (1964) · The Times (23 Dec 1963) · The Cricketer, 45 (1 Feb 1964) · W. A. Bettesworth, ‘Surrey batsman’, Cricket, 25 (1906), 54 · World of Cricket, 1/18 (1 Aug 1914), 385 · J. Hobbs, Playing for England (1931) · J. Hobbs, My cricketing memories (1924) · Wisden (1902–35) · P. Bailey, P. Thorn, and P. Wynne-Thomas, Who’s who of cricketers, rev. edn (1993) · C. Martin-Jenkins, World cricketers: a biographical dictionary (1996)


      Surrey HC, letters to F. S. P. L. Gridlestone, 3035/11  
      BFINA, ‘Hobbs scores his 124th century’, Topical Budget, 20 July 1925 · BFINA, ‘Life of Jack Hobbs’, 1925 · BFINA, advertising film footage · BFINA, documentary footage · BFINA, news footage · BFINA, sports footage


      photograph, 1906, repro. in Bettesworth, ‘Surrey batsman’, 54 · Hawkins of Brighton, photograph, 1914, repro. in World of Cricket · W. S. Broadhead, oils, 1920–29, Surrey County Cricket Club, Oval, Kennington, London [see illus.] · photographs, 1922–39, Hult. Arch. · Central News Agency, photograph, 1925, repro. in Wisden (1926) · A. P. F. Ritchie, cigarette card, 1926, NPG · cigarette card, colour, 1932, NPG · cigarette card, colour, 1934, Lord's, MCC collection · R. S. Sherriffs, ink caricature, 1936, NPG · W. Stoneman, photograph, 1953, NPG · H. L. Oakley, silhouette, NPG · photographs, repro. in W. A. Powell, ed., Surrey CCC (archive photographs) (1996), 41–65 · photographs, Lord's, MCC collection · photographs, repro. in World of Cricket

      Wealth at death  

      £19,445: probate, 24 Feb 1964, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

      © Oxford University Press 2004–11
      All rights reserved: see legal notice

      Gerald M. D. Howat, ‘Hobbs, Sir John Berry [Jack] (1882–1963)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 [, accessed 28 March 2011]
      Sir John Berry Hobbs (1882–1963): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33900
    Occupation 1911 
    Professional Cricketer 
    Census 1 Apr 1911  'Edgemont', Graham Avenue, Mitcham, Surrey Find all individuals with events at this location 
    John Hobbs & family
    John Hobbs & family
    1911 census
    Died 21 Dec 1963  Hove, Sussex Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Sir John Berry Hobbs
    Sir John Berry Hobbs
    Person ID I21101  1. Essex Ennevers
    Last Modified 5 Jun 2012 

    Father John Cooper HOBBS,   Born:  1857, Dullingham, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  1902, Cambridge District, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 45 years) 
    Mother Flora Matilda BERRY,   Born:  1859/60, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Yes, date unknown 
    Family ID F6519  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family (spouse) Ada Ellen GATES,   Born:  1883/4, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Yes, date unknown 
    Married 1906  Cambridge District, Cambridgeshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Jack Douglas HOBBS,   Born:  1907, Camberwell, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Yes, date unknown
     2. Leonard Edward HOBBS,   Born:  1908/9, Battersea, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Yes, date unknown
     3. Vera F J HOBBS,   Born:  1913, Wandsworth District, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Yes, date unknown
     4. Ivor H HOBBS,   Born:  1914, Wandsworth District, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Yes, date unknown
    Family ID F7286  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 16 Dec 1882 - 8 Brewhouse Lane, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus - 1 Apr 1891 - 4 Rivar Place, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus - 1 Apr 1901 - 4 Rivar Place, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 1906 - Cambridge District, Cambridgeshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus - 1 Apr 1911 - 'Edgemont', Graham Avenue, Mitcham, Surrey Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 21 Dec 1963 - Hove, Sussex Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photographs
    Jack Hobbs
    Jack Hobbs

    Family histories
    Well-known family members
    Well-known family members
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