Thomas Hobbs (1835-1907) and Emma Hobbs (1830 - 1896)

THOMAS HOBBS was born in 1835 in Kensington London and was a Smith at the time of his marriage to EMMA in 1854.They were married on 10th September 1854 at Trinity Church which is situated in the Parish Of St Marylebone. His place of residence was given as Buckingham Place whereas Emma's was given as the Trinity District

His father was also called THOMAS HOBBS and on the marriage certificate of Thomas and Emma he gives his occupation as Contractor. This I believe formed the basis of the business was based in wharves 14,15 and 17 Wharf Road, Paddington, London which was adjacent to Paddington railway station.


The above photograph was taken from an  commissioned oil painting and shows Thomas aged 50. The painting was signed by a Raymond Lynde and dated 1885. I do not know any further details of the artist

Thomas died in 1907 and is buried in High Barnet Cemetery, London.

My great great grandmother EMMA HOBBS died at the age of 65 on 14th February 1896 at 35 North Wharf Road Paddington.

In November 2000 I received information and supporting evidence in the form of birth and death certificates that indicated that my great grandfather James was the ADOPTED son of Thomas Hobbs. On James' marriage certificate of 1882 he gave his age as 27 which would have given him a date of birth of 1855 one year after the marriage of Thomas and Emma in 1854. However James' death certificate and the inscription on his grave clearly states that he was 81 years of age when he died in 1934. He would therefore have been born in circa 1852 i.e. before the marriage of Thomas and Emma.

A birth certificate from 1852 (Registry no 23 in the Sub-District of Tottenham Court) reveals that an EMMA BELL nee DAY gave birth on 8th November 1852 to a boy called EDWIN FREDERICK and that the father was a wheelwright by the name of JAMES BELL. The place of birth was given as 47 John Street St Pancras London and that the informant was EMMA herself. These dates would tie in with the details on James' death certificate and meant that James had his name changed from EDWIN FREDERICK BELL to JAMES HOBBS. I had always thought that this was done at the time of his mothers (Emma) marriage to Thomas Hobbs in 1854.

However in the 1861 Census, there is an entry for a EDWIN HOBBS and so even though his surname had changed to Hobbs, he still retained his Christian name. I was told that the name change was done by deed poll but to date I have no written proof of this

5 Hall Place West, Paddington, London (GRO Reference RG9/4 Page 96 Entry65)



Rel Occupation Place of Birth
Thomas HOBBS 27 Married Dust Contractor Kensington, Middlesex
Emma HOBBS 28 Wife   Barnet, Hertfordshire
Edwin HOBBS 8 Son   St Pancras, London

There is no doubt that my great grandfather JAMES HOBBS was born EDWIN FREDERICK BELL and that he changed both his Christian name and surname so that he would bear the surname of his stepfather rather than his real father.

I did receive information that  JAMES BELL and EMMA married in 1849 when they were both in their teens. The birth certificate clearly states that EMMA was married. However in May 2006, research into 1851 and 1861 Census led to believe that EMMA may not have been married at the time of my great grandfather's birth. I have never been able to find a record of any marriage between a JAMES BELL and EMMA. The 1851 Census taken on 30th March clearly shows that EMMA was a 19 year old unmarried servant working in a Victorian household in London. (REF H0107/1493 13 Folio 434 No 236).

Name Emma Day
Age 19 Estimated Year of Birth 1832
Relationship to Head of Household Servant
Occupation Servant
Address Upper Albany Street
District Saint Pancras, Regents Park
Parish Saint Pancras
Administrative County Middlesex
Birth Place Barnet Birth County Herefordshire

And so if EMMA did marry JAMES it would have to be in the period April 1851 - November 1852. The birth certificate of 1852 shows that EMMA herself registered the birth which seems to indicate that the father was not present or in the vicinity at the time of birth. Admittedly this is a supposition but it does give credence to the belief that EMMA was an unmarried mother and she choose to conceal this fact on the certificate by saying to the Registrar that she was married to JAMES BELL.   

The birth certificate of 1852 indicates that James Bell and Emma were married at the time of Edwin's birth (James) but the 1854 marriage certificate states that EMMA was a spinster and no mention is made of the surname BELL. I now believe that the 1854 marriage certificate is correct and the 1852 birth certificate misleading.

There is also the distinct possibility that EMMA "adopted" the baby i.e. agreed to bring him up in return for a financial payment from the real mother and father. (see note 1) This theory does have a basis - both the DAY and HOBBS family came into money. In the 1851 census Emma's father John Day was listed as a "Day Labourer" which is about as precarious an existence as was possible in Victorian London. Three years later he is listed as a "Cab Proprietor" on his daughter's marriage certificate. A marked improvement in his status! Similarly Thomas Hobbs in 1854 at the time of his marriage is a "Blacksmith" but by the time of the 1861 census he is a contractor and ten years later he is the head of a thriving business based in Paddington. 

Another salient point is that the birth was registered on the same day as Edwin (James) was born which is unusual. But what is even more unusual is that the person who registered the birth was no other than the mother of the baby EMMA. I am sure that very few mothers register their baby's birth on the same day as it was born. The address that Edwin was born at - 47 John Street St Pancras London - also poses a question. The 1851 Census shows that a family lived there that as far as I can ascertain had no connection with EMMA. Just over eighteen months later EMMA is giving birth there  - it is not mentioned on the 1854 marriage certificate. Puzzling to say the least  

Furthermore, far from being stigmatised, Emma was able to marry THOMAS in a church two years later. (see note 1)    

However the most pertinent fact that leads me to these conclusions is the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Hobbs which was published after his death in March 1907.  THOMAS HOBBS outlived his wife EMMA by 11 years. He was 72 years old when he died on 2nd March 1907 at his home at 35 North Wharf Road Paddington London. He was still working as a "Dust Removal Contractor". The cause of death is given as "Gall Stones 8 years and (more fatally) Cerebral Apoplexy".

Critically there is no mention whatsoever of my great grandfather JAMES HOBBS in the the Will. The beneficiaries and the executors of the Estate are his two sons William and John and his daughter Susannah Emma. His bequests refer to his three natural children and not to James. The inference is that although Thomas had adopted James he was not his "natural" child and so would not benefit under the terms of his Will. However this is not to say that Thomas disowned James. His marriage certificate of 1882 and my grandfathers birth certificate of 1894 both state that James worked as a Wharf Foreman at the family business of "Thomas Hobbs and Sons" and so they both must have accepted the situation to a certain extent.

The two sons who inherited the business wasted no time in dissolving it. The Essex Newsman carried this notice from a local auctioneers. The paper is dated Saturday 6th April 1907


The auction was scheduled for Monday 8th April 1907 barely five weeks after the death of Thomas. The other interesting point is that the auction was conducted "without reserve" which seems to indicate that the beneficiaries of the will had no interest whatsoever in continuing the business

On the balance of what I now know I would state that my great grandfather JAMES (EDWIN) was "adopted" by EMMA in return for payment. EMMA did not start a family with THOMAS HOBBS until 1867 a full 15 years after JAMES (EDWIN) was born. Of course there could have been a number of miscarriages, stillbirths and infant death in the intervening period, but a gap of that length adds to the mystery.

Further confirmation of this arrangement is given in the 1871 and 1881 Census

For further details of JAMES BELL and EMMA please follow the link

Note 1

Baby-farming was a term used in late-Victorian Britain to mean the taking in of an infant or child for payment; if the infant was young, this usually included wet-nursing (breast-feeding by a woman not the mother). Some baby farmers "adopted" children for lump-sum payments, while others cared for infants for periodic payments. Though baby farmers were paid in the understanding that care would be provided, the term "baby farmer" was used as an insult, and improper treatment was usually implied. Illegitimacy and its attendant stigma were usually the impetus for a mother's decision to put her children "out to nurse" with a baby farmer, but baby-farming also encompassed foster care and adoption in the period before they were regulated by British law. Spurred by a series of articles that appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1867, Parliament began to regulate baby-farming in 1872 with the passage of the Infant Life Protection Act. A series of acts passed over the next seventy years, including the Children Act 1908 and the 1939 Adoption of Children (Regulation) Act, gradually placed adoption and foster care under the protection and regulation of the state 

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This page was last updated on 04/01/16 16:15