Fredrick Hobley (1833-1908): An Introduction

Fredrick Hobley’s Autobiography ‘The Autobiography of Fredrick Hobley, Written at the Special Request of his Children, Octover 1905’ caught my eye as I figured it was particularly interesting to see what it was like to be a teacher and school-master during the 19th Century. We learn about Hobley’s upbringing, his education, and how he got involved with education himself. It was an ‘unpublished autobiography privately communicated by Miss C. Hobley’, his daughter. It is interested to see the lengths in which family would go to discover and express more about their close relatives lives. We learn about Hobley’s entire life. Being born in Thame, Oxfordshire, the extract provided by his daughter goes into detail about his education at a Dame’s school and National School. As well as his teacher training courses, which resulted in him taking charge of a school in Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

A visual representation of what a Dame’s school would have looked like.

Born in 1833, Hobley was one of 10 children. He got married in 1858 and after his school-master years, he became a commercial traveler and book-keeper before retiring in 1899. At the beginning of the autobiography, the narrator tells us about his earliest memory at just three years old. Hobley expresses how he ‘[distinctly remembers] of the teacher giving me a needle and thread and a piece of rag to pass away my time during one of the afternoons’. It is interesting how Hobley remembers something so trivial as his earliest memory. This is during the time he was sent to a Dame’s school. Dame’s schools are very small privately run schools for young children. Apparently there was little control in terms of teaching and some were run by almost illiterate teachers. In many Dame’s schools, only spelling was taught at a very minimal level.

When Hobley was four years old, he began to attend National School for a more sophisticated education. This was around the time Victoria was made Queen of England, so Hobley’s memories of this time with revolve around this moment. He talkes of ‘large numbers of people [parading] the street’. Hobley talks of his memories of growing up in a church setting, it was very normal for everyone to go to church during this time period. Fredrick Hobley’s memories of National School are what intrigued me the most. It is interesting to read how one’s memory of being a student relates to their memory of being a teacher, and headmaster. Hobley vividly describes the appearence of his schoolmaster whilst he was in National School. With ‘one leg being shorter than the other’ and ‘[always carrying] a stick in his right hand’. We also learn of the sort of discipline which was appropriate for teachers to use on students, predominantly physical.

After his own education, we learn about Hobley’s personal experience as a schoolmaster. In around 1849, Hobley tells us that he was asked to return to Oxford to learn to be a schoolmaster himself. In 1851, he was offered to take charge of a school of his own, which he accepted.

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