Henry Fuller Hobden

The literary Hobden

"DOWN STREAM : A trip in quiet waters" a story by Henry for the Boys Own magazine published in 1899

Henry Fuller Hobden 1861-1935 was the brother of the artist Frank Hobden and a fellow resident of Benfleet.  He was an editor and a major contributor to the Boys Own magazine. Like his brother he was a keen sailor, but unlike his brother he was married.  His wife Florence Surmon was born in 1857, married in 1884 died in 1925. As mentioned in the Frank Hobden piece under category Art and Artists they shared accommodation, latterly in Vicarage Hill. The year of their arrival in Benfleet is unclear but various directories give us the clue that it was before 1908. An example of his writings for Boys Own is reproduced here  –  to view a larger print click here .

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  • I first came across HF Hobden’s work in the Boy’s Own Paper some forty years ago when I read his series of articles “The Boy’s Own Gas Engine and How to Make It” in the 1895 volume. I have recently re-read and studied the articles with a view to making one of these engines, but have hit a snag. Some of the essential information was not in the articles, but was in a full-size drawing available by post from an address in High Street, Brentford, as was a complete set of castings.

    Not surprisingly, I have been unable to track the drawing down, but I wonder if HF Hobden had a copy in his personal papers. I know it’s a long shot, but does anybody have any idea what became of his papers after he died? Did they go to a family member, or on the fire? I’m sure there must be a copy languishing in a cupboard somewhere, but the saying about needles and haystacks comes to mind.

    As for HF Hobden himself (he always published under his initials in the BOP, unlike many of the other contributors who used their first names) he wrote about a surprising range of topics. His writing was lucid, though his Victorian style is a bit heavy for modern tastes, and he was obviously a talented designer and practical engineer. He had considerable artistic talent and drew the title blocks for his own articles, and sometimes for others. They are identifiable by the initials HFH incorporated in the design.

    If all else fails with my project I can fill in the missing details from my engineering imagination, but I would really love to consult an original drawing first!

    By George Barrett (19/09/2017)

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