Mary Hobbs, B.A. Ph.D.
Mary Ruderman was born in Sunderland in 1923 and read English at Westfield College, London, when it was evacuated to Oxford during the war. She taught at schools in Cambridge and Clifton and married Keith Hobbs, a naval officer she had met at Oxford, who was subsequently ordained. For sixteen years he served St Stephen’s Church in Gloucester Road, Kensington, at which T. S. Eliot prayed every morning. A dedicated parson’s wife, who helped her husband in his parochial duties, Hobbs nevertheless found time to pursue her own interests and further her career while also caring for their three children. She resumed her English studies, her work on aspects of seventeenth-century English literature earning her a doctorate from London University, and interest in her children’s reading led to research into the history of children’s books. Hobbs soon found an outlet for her talents in lecturing for NADFAS, which she continued to do until shortly before her death; the subject of her lectures always reflected the preoccupations of the moment. In the sixties to late-seventies it was book illustration and her popular topics were `Thomas Bewick’, `Illustrations of Aesop’s Fables’ and `Nineteenth-Century Children’s Book Illustrators’, but when, in 1978, the Hobbs moved to Chichester on Keith’s appointment as domestic chaplain to the bishop, Mary immediately embarked on research into the life of Henry King, a seventeenth-century Bishop of Chichester. Permission to consult material in the Cathedral library was readily granted by the librarian, Francis Steer, who died soon afterwards and, by the end of the year, Hobbs was appointed to take his place. Dr Steer had been a dedicated servant of the Cathedral and Hobbs continued and extended his work in rescuing the library from years of neglect, a task she laboured at for twenty years, resigning only a month before her death. Her favourite NADFAS lectures were now `Chichester, the Growth of a Cathedral’, `A Study of the History of Memorials’ and `Looking into Old Books and their Care’. In 1992 she published a critical edition of The Sermons of Henry King and in 1994, Chichester Cathedral: a history. She was known for her public work throughout the Chichester diocese, which she represented on the General Synod for fifteen years. She was involved with the Council for the Care of Churches, a member of the panel of chairmen of the General Synod and for many years a member of the council of Chichester Theological College. Her disciplined life as a Franciscan tertiary helped her to accept the loss of two of her children and the onset of her own and her husband’s cancer. She died on 29 December 1998. Her requiem in Chichester Cathedral was conducted by the Bishop, a friend from her student days, and attended by eight other bishops as well as a congregation of hundreds.