Mary Hobbs, (1923-1998)

It is with great sadness that we record the death of Dr Mary Hobbs, a member of our Sussex Record Society Council since 1980. Mary was a distinguished scholar who was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and Westfield College, London (evacuated during the war to St Peter’s Hall, Oxford), where she read English and encountered famous dons like C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. She graduated in 1945 and moved back with her college to London to take a teaching certificate. While on the staff of Clifton Girls’ School she married Keith Hobbs, a Lieutenant Commander in the navy who later entered the Church and trained at Wells Theological College. The couple worked for many years in London at what was then known as Borough Road College, later the West London Institute of Higher Education. During this period, Mary found time, not only to bring up a family, but also to pursue her studies on the seventeenth-century poet and bishop, Henry King, for which she gained her doctorate from London University in 1971 (and whose biography she happily completed for the New DNB only weeks before her death). She also became known as a great expert on early children’s books and built up a substantial collection of her own. Mary and Keith suffered the loss of one child in infancy and their daughter died of cancer in 1985, but they bore their losses with great fortitude and their home was always open to others as they loved to socialise.

Mary and Keith came to Chichester in 1978 when Keith was appointed chaplain to the Bishop. In 1981 he became Archdeacon of Chichester and they moved into palatial accommodation in Canon Lane, where their house became a hive of intellectual activity as they supported the work of the nearby Theological College and Mary took charge of the Cathedral Library. The Cathedral owes Mary a great debt, for she was a natural bibliophile with a keen eye for detail and set about the task of sorting and cataloguing the library, a task made the more congenial by the presence of the Henry King collection. She wrote many articles for learned journals and her definitive edition of The Sermons of Henry King (1592-1669), Bishop of Chichester was published by Scolar Press in 1992. The work for which she will be most remembered in this region, however, will undoubtedly be her Chichester Cathedral; An Historical Survey which was published by Phillimore in 1994. Mary was an inspirational editor of this volume of essays and presided over several entertaining soirees as the contributors fought over the best way to present the Cathedral’s history. She was an indefatigable worker who was always getting involved in good causes, ever happy to give lectures locally and nationally for all sorts of organisations (most notably NADFAS). She was a prominent member of the General Synod, where she was for three years on the panel of chairmen. Mary not only served on our Council, but also as a member of the management committee of Pallant House Gallery, the Diocesan Advisory Committee, and as a co-opted member of the West Sussex County Council Library and Archives Committee, and the Council for the Theological College. It is little wonder that Mary was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in recognition of these achievements in 1996.

This Society has lost a highly valued member of Council, a lady with an infectious chuckle, an impish grin, ever a glint in the eye and boundless enthusiasm. We have also lost a widely read and meticulous scholar with a keen eye for inaccuracies whether of facts or grammar – a perfect member of a Record Society.

Andrew Foster