Jack Hobbs was one of the greatest batsmen known in English cricket. He was the eldest son in a family of twelve, the children of John Cooper Hobbs and Florence (nee Berry). He grew up in Rivar Place, (near York Street) Cambridge and went to St Matthew’s School. His father was on the staff at the University cricket ground, Fenner’s, and also acted as a professional umpire. When Hobbs senior became groundsman and umpire for Jesus College, his son took immense delight in watching cricket there. During the school holidays he used to field at the nets and play his own version of cricket with the college servants, using a tennis ball, a cricket stump for a bat and a tennis post for a wicket. This primitive form of practice laid the foundations for his skill. Although only 10 years old, Jack tried to produce the strokes he had seen University men employ in college matches.

Hobbs was self-taught and never coached. When he was 12, he joined the church choir team of St Matthew’s and was also ‘borrowed’ by the team of Jesus College choir to bat for them. He helped to form the Ivy Boys Club, and they played both cricket and football on Parker’s Piece. During this time he had to work: on leaving school he became an errand boy for a local baker, before moving on to work for a whitesmith, in premises later demolished for the Lion Yard shopping area.

Hobbs was able to watch the best batsmen of the day at Fenner’s, the University cricket ground, or on Parker’s Piece, and spent all the time he could spare practising himself, getting up at six if necessary to play before he went to work. In 1901 he played a few matches for Cambridgeshire as an amateur and the following year got a job as coach and umpire for Bedford Grammar School, and played sometimes, with success, for Royston.

The same year he was first spotted by the Surrey cricketer Tom Haywood who was fielding his own Eleven against Cambridge Town. Hobbs’ style and talent attracted his attention and the following year he suggested a trial for Surrey. This was not straightforward, for Hobbs senior had recently died, leaving his widow a large family to support. Haywood assisted by organising a benefit match, making it possible for Jack Hobbs to consider leaving home and job. The trial was successful and he was engaged on a contract at 30s [£1.50] a week in the summer and £1 in the winter - more than many Cambridgeshire workmen earned.

While he spent two years meeting the residence requirement to play for Surrey, he had ups and downs, but his best included fine innings of 86 against Guy’s Hospital and 195 against Hertfordshire. In 1905 he made his debut in first class cricket, scoring 88 in has first match and 155 in his second.
The following year he married Ada Gates of Cambridge, and they had in time 3 sons and a daughter.

His career with Surrey and then for England saw him make 61,237 runs, including 197 centuries. Between 1908 and 1930 he played in 61 Test matches. The First World War interrupted regular cricket series, and Hobbs worked in a munitions factory and then in the Royal Flying Corps as an Air Mechanic.

Throughout his playing career, cricketers were divided into ‘gentlemen’ who could afford to play without pay and ‘professionals’ who couldn’t. This carefully observed distinction mirrored the social structure of the time, but after the Second World War it became impossible to maintain.
In 1949 Hobbs was amongst the first professional cricketers to be made life members of the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) and in 1953 he was the first professional cricketer to be knighted.

Frank Woolley: ‘Jack was one of the greatest sportsmen England ever had, a perfect gentleman and a good- living fellow respected by everyone he met.’