Hull City AFCorigins and early history


Richard Henry Hobbs

In his 1913 account of the formation of the club published in the Hull Sports Mail, Ernest Morison (one of the sixteen founders and a long time director) writes: “….I believe, I am quite correct in saying Messrs Emmerson, Hobbs and Wrightson never attended any meetings.”

Emmerson and Wrightson appear to have had no meaningful practical involvement with the club, save in its legal and administrative formation. Hobbs, on the other hand, was an acquaintance of some of the other founders and his ties are more apparent and discernible.

The son of smack owner Jabez Hobbs, of Kingston Street, Richard Henry Hobbs was 41 years old in 1904 and working for the Humber Steam Trawler Company as a manager, comfortably established in a highly-successful business . Hobbs senior was born in Ramsgate, and was one of many fishermen from Kent and Devon who had migrated north to Hull for the better prospects offered by its proximity to the bountiful Dogger Bank and Silver Pits fishing grounds.

Given his father’s profession, it seemed inevitable that he would become involved in the then booming Hull fishing industry. The late nineteenth-century was a pivotal time in the development of the scale and nature of the trade, as the steam-powered trawlers were rendering the sail-powered smacks increasingly redundant. These developments were helping to fuel the relentless growth of housing development in the Hessle Road and Dairycoates district, as that part of the city demanded more and more workers, onshore as well as offshore.

In 1891 the partnership he had with brother Harry as ’smack-owners, wholesale fish-merchants, and sail-loft and smack store proprietors’ was dissolved -a wise move given the advent of faster motorised vessels which was revolutionising the industry. By 1893 Hull possessed 300 smacks and 150 steam-trawlers, of which Hobbs’ employers, the Humber Steam Trawler Company, owned twenty seven. By 1899, there were only a handful of smacks left, as the bigger and faster steam trawlers proliferated.

He continued to work on the Fish Dock in a managerial capacity, moving away from involvement with the catching and sale of fish, and towards the management of the company’s fleet of vessels and the men who sailed in them.

He attended and chaired the East Riding FA’s first social event –a ‘smoking concert’- at the Manchester Hotel in George Street in December 1903. (Fellow City founder John Bielby is recorded as being a hard- working and enthusiastic seller of tickets for the event.) The then ERFA president Alfred Spring, and future City director and manager Fred Stringer were also mentioned as being present at this social event.

But this appears to have been either a one-off or a very rare appearance by Hobbs in connection with a football-related event, the fact that he chaired the meeting demonstrates that he was trusted and known by important local football figures. He was involved with the Arts and Sports social club (George Street), being appointed its President and director, which would have drawn him into contact with a plethora of local sports teams and participants in many activities.

His own sporting interests extended to that other popular Hull outdoor activity of the late nineteenth century – cycling, and in particular, he had been associated with the St Andrews Cycling Club (another product of enthusiastic Fish Dock workers) .

Hobbs, like Bielby, also had links with the Albert United Cricket Club, and in 1899 is listed as having been present at a smoking concert at the Criterion public house on Hessle Road in his capacity as a vice president of the club. Work and play were closely linked, both physically and socially, for the duo.

Another City founder, John Ramster, organised the popular annual Albert United cricket club fete the previous July which aimed to raise funds for the Spring Bank orphanage. Hobbs was one of the stewards for the day.

Hobbs , Ramster and Bielby were known to each other over several years and strove towards the same ends for their local Hessle Road cricket club.

Hobbs’ involvement in several local networks (professional, cricketing and footballing) was not an uncommon occurrence for the period, and it seems likely that his long-standing cricketing acquaintances drew him into the orbit of the ambitious football club that was forming in the summer of 1904.

His practical involvement with City at the time of their foundation was minimal and short-lived, but he epitomised the type of transient and peripheral figures, who were involved with the running and administration of team games in the city at the turn of the last century. His activities with Albert United also decreased and he increasingly focused on his work in representing the interests of his employers, who formed part of the Hull Trawler Owners’ Association. His died in the mid Thirties, having completed a highly successful and well-remunerated career, but having had no recorded involvement with the football club since its formation.


Please contact me using the form on the contact page:
Contact me