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Restored painting of Thomas Hobson to be unveiled in new home at Guildhall

News release from 13/12/2018

A RESTORED painting of one of Cambridge’s most significant historical figures is set to be unveiled in a new location at The Guildhall.

The 17th Century portrait of Thomas Hobson, which formerly hung in the Large Hall at the Guildhall and was in a poor state of repair, has undergone restoration work lasting two years thanks to public donations of more than £10,000.

Thomas Hobson was a carrier who worked between London and Cambridge in the early 1600s. He hired out horses to the public, with customers obliged to hire whichever horse was next in line at the stables – giving rise to the popular phrase ‘Hobson’s choice’.

He is perhaps best known in Cambridge for having financially endowed Hobson’s Conduit and the fountain in the market place, which provided clean water in the city centre for the first time in the 17th Century, and so helping to significantly improve public health.

Much of this watercourse can still be seen along Trumpington Street, Brookside and beyond.

He established several charitable trusts to help needy people in Cambridge, and his name also lives on through place names including Hobson Street in the city centre and Hobson House, which until recently was used as offices by Cambridge City Council.

The portrait of Hobson on a horse was brought to the city in 1787 after having been hung in a London inn for the previous century. Over the centuries it developed a layer of grime, many cracks and was overpainted badly.

The restored painting will be unveiled at a ceremony and reception on Friday 14 December, in its new home of the Szeged/Members’ Room at the Guildhall, which overlooks the market square.

Local resident Nigel Grimshaw, who is writing a book about the life of Thomas Hobson, will give a talk during the reception about how the painting relates to the life of Thomas Hobson.

Members of the public wishing to view the portrait after 14 December can ask at the Guildhall Reception during council office hours.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We are delighted that the portrait of Thomas Hobson, who did so much for Cambridge, is returning to the Guildhall and would like to thank all those people who made such a good choice, in contributing to restoring a wonderful painting of one of Cambridge’s most celebrated citizens.”

Anthony Hopkinson, who organised the appeal to raise funds for the restoration project, said: “As well as adding my thanks to our generous donors I’d like to pay tribute to the conservator Raquel Ramos Ramos, for her skill and hard work. We also received invaluable advice from Rupert Featherstone of the Hamilton Kerr Institute.”

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