Hobson Cutlery

The Hobson Knife

In the summer of 2016, Leamington History Group received a message asking for help from Alberto Guido Chester, a knife historian and researcher in Argentina who had acquired a “gaucho” knife probably made in the 19th Century and stamped ‘Hobson Cutler Leamington’ (right).

Alberto had not been able to find much useful information about ‘Hobson’, but further searches turned up a John Hobson, Cutler, at 164, Parade, Leamington in 1881 and so, given that there was a ready source of basic material in the flourishing iron foundries in contemporary Leamington and Warwick, he automatically assumed that John Hobson was manufacturing cutlery in the town, and was looking for confirmation.  What Alberto did not know was that most Leamington iron masters made domestic products such as cooking ranges, and door furniture, or industrial items such as drain covers, water pipes and gutters, iron fencing, balcony railings and gates. At that time, British cutlery was made largely in Sheffield, and often bought wholesale by traders who then stamped the items with their own imprint.

On further inspection, Alberto concluded that his knife was a repurposed blade, originally probably a carving or bread knife, transformed for rural use.  He went on to discover in the Leamington Spa Courier online archives two items about John Hobson: John Hobson, Cutler, who advertised a dozen knives for a guinea, announcing a move to 63 Regent Street in October1882, and a year later, also in October, the same John Hobson fined for riding his bicycle during the evening without a lamp!

John Hobson Cutler & Gunsmith

Further local searches showed that John Hobson was born in Wellington, Shropshire in 1853, and married Sarah Anne Williamson at All Saints Church Leamington on 27 April 1887. They had four children, Robert John, (1888) Elizabeth Mary, (1891), Eleanor Marjorie (1893) and Elsie Catherine (1897). By the time of the 1901 Census, John Hobson advertising himself as “Gun Maker and Cutler”, was widowed and Sarah’s sister Catherine was taking care of the family with the help of a 14-year-old servant named Gertrude Bayliss.  Ten years on, and Catherine had become the second Mrs Hobson, Robert was an Electrical & Mechanical Engineer,  his two older sisters were Students and Elsie was still at school.

John Hobson’s business prospered: the family moved from their home over the shop at the corner of Bedford Street and Regent Street, to a substantial property in Sherborne Place, Clarendon Street, where they remained until John’s death in 1945, aged well over 90.  After Catherine’s death, Marjorie and Elsie, the two unmarried sisters still living at home, moved to 27 Arlington Avenue, where they lived comfortably on their investments for the rest of their days, attending services at the Parish Church and supporting a Coventry “Grey Lady” (an Anglican religious order), who lived with them as their companion.

However, there still remains an unanswered question, – how did a Leamington knife find its way to Argentina?

Margaret Rushton

Sources: Leamington Spa Courier, various dates; National Archive Census returns; All Saints Parish Registers courtesy of Ancestry.  Photographs Copyright Aberto Guido Chester