A winter day in the early years of the 20th century. The trees are leafless and there’s a touch of frost or snow lying on the ground. Eight men with spades, rakes and mattocks, one patient horse pulling a… Well, what is it? Two wooden wheels, fit for a grand haywain, and a low-slung, lidded tank or hopper. Was the arrival of this contraption a special occasion (as the clean collars and ties suggest) or did a photographer just happen to pass by as the men debated how to get the thing out of the frozen mud?
All I know for certain is that the man behind the horse with a mattock over is shoulder is my great-grandfather, George Hobbs. That’s him in the family photo below too, with his wife Kate and sons Arthur and Edward Sidney (always known as Sid). Judging by the ages of Sid and Arthur that photo must have been taken about 1901. George Hobbs worked at Russell Farm, Wendover for more than ten years and the family lived in a farm cottage. My mum remembered being told that her grandfather was a stockman, though according to census returns he was a gardener in 1901 and a farm labourer ten years later. Kate was a dressmaker, though the census records her simply as ‘wife’.
(Click on any photo to view the gallery)
There are just two more photos of Great-Grandpa George in our family collection, both taken in the garden of the terraced house in Chesham to which he and Kate retired. In one, fuzzy snapshot George and Kate stand erect and unsmiling against a background of cabbage plants. My guess is they weren’t too pleased to be photographed in their old gardening clothes. The other (above) is a cheerful family group, admiring a fine crop of tomatoes.
Sid Hobbs, the younger boy in the family portrait, was my grandfather. He was born in 1894, just two years after the Metropolitan Railway opened the line to Aylesbury with a station at Wendover. Sid’s childhood was rooted in the countryside where generations of his ancestors had lived and worked. His grandfather, Jabez Hobbs was a shepherd at King’s Ash, just three miles from Russell Farm. His great grandfather, Marediff Hobbs, a farm labourer, had lived for fifty years at nearby Swan Bottom, where Sid had numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. By the age of fifteen Sid was leaving his country childhood behind him, walking the two miles from the farm cottage to the station each morning and catching the train to work at Aylesbury Town station where he was a goods clerk. He never looked back.
My mum, an only child, remembered her parents taking her for one country walk each year, always on Easter Monday. Each year they caught the train from Amersham to Wendover and walked through the woods to Haddington Hill, overlooking the countryside where Sid grew up. Then back to the station and home to Amersham in time for tea.
Yesterday’s mystery photos were all taken in the courtyard of the Grande Mosquée de Paris, built in the 1920s to a design inspired by the ancient Al Quaraouiyine mosque in Fès. The style has been described as hispano-mauresque so both Sue, who guessed Morocco, and Margaret who saw links to Moorish architecture in southern Spain, were on the right track!