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Whilst the Hobson name occurs frequently in various Yorkshire records, the branch of the family that has so far been identified as having a direct connection with the Fretwells came from the Dodworth area. Now an outer suburb of Barnsley, Dodworth has a long history as a small village, with settlement being recorded at least as early as 1090 when it was granted to the Monastery of St John by the Norman Ilbert de Lacy. Its viability over the centuries was variously assured by the ironstone mines, timber resources, tanning, farming, linen weaving and coal.

John Hobson

The main focus here is on John Hobson. The date of John's birth has not been confirmed, but he was the grandson, on the one side, of William Fretwell of Herringthorpe (Bramley) and Dorothy Pashley who were married at Braithwell in September 1651, and, on the other, of John Hobson (1620-1705) and Elizabeth Prince(ss) of Woolley. His parents were Helen,  the second child, and only daughter, of William and Dorothy, and a son of John and Elizabeth Hobson, also called John. A memorial to his forebears is referred to in his diary. After the death of his mother, a marble monument was brought from Wakefield and placed inside the Silkstone church on 3 May 1731 by one Josia Hawkesworth, presumably a local mason.

This branch of the Hobson family were of sufficient standing to merit a mention in the publications "The Making of Barnsley" [1] and “Aspects of Barnsley” I[2]. From these we learn that the Hobsons were long standing members of the Dodworth community, and that their principal living came from tanning, a business still carried out by John the Diarist. By the fifteenth century there were four tanyards in Dodworth and the village, together with Cawthorne, was a major centre of the industry. The buildings in the photograph to the left[3] of is part of what is known locally as the Tanyard - exactly the area where Mr Hobson would have had the main part of his business.

The Hobsons were also considerable landholders. In 1540, when the Crown sought to raise revenue by selling off monastic lands, the Hobsons were part of the syndicate of local people who took advantage of the sale. Indeed, the Hobsons were one of the more influential families of Dodworth until at least the mid 1700s.

John, a gentleman tanner, was a sociable man, which enabled him to keep up-to-date with all the "goings-on" - essential for a man in business. His Diary attests to a busy schedule of travel around and beyond his immediate district on matters business and pleasurable. In today's terms, he clearly saw the value of networking. The diary contains a wealth of references to friends, acquaintances, and other notables of the time. John had at least one sister, and one brother, William, and, as far as is known, never married. From the Diary it would seem that his unnamed sister lived with him (also unmarried) and William, in the distilling business, resided in London.

A preoccupation with the state of his health in the later Diary entries indicates that John was in failing health towards the end of his life. He was buried, as were his ancestors, at Silkstone[4] on 15 May 1735. Dodworth, despite its prime location on a major trade route west out of Barnsley, was ecclesiastically within the parish of Silkstone until the building of its first church in 1846.

[1] The Making of Barnsley, Brian Elliot
Wharncliffe Publishing Limited, Barnsley, 1988 ISBN: 0 9507892 6 7

[2] Aspects of Barnsley
Wharncliffe Publishing Limited, Barnsley, 1993, ISBN 1 871647 19 3

[3] Courtesy Peter Hamby

[4] Photograph of Silkstone Church courtesy Mollie Muncie

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This page was last updated on 12 February, 2011