Hobbs, Mrs May Elliot


Collection date: Jan 1899

Area: Oxfordshire

Mrs May Elliot Hobbs (1877-1956): Mrs Hobbs helped Janet Blunt to collect some of the Adderbury morris dances in 1916, having already joined the EFDS (English Folk Dance Society) in March 1912. 

Mrs Hobbs had met Sharp in 1908 and attended Summer schools at Stratford, appearing as a dancer in photos with Sharp and his demonstration dance teams in 1912, when she was 35. She became involved with EFDS committee work and corresponded with Sharp in his later years of ill health.

She was born Adeline May Isabella Elliot on 7 February 1877, eldest of 3 children of Walter Elliot,* farmer of 5000 acres in Selkirkshire, Scotland, and his wife Jessie. She was brought up on the songs and dances of her native Scottish Border. She went to Germany to study piano under a pupil of Liszt and undertook performances in Britain and Europe.**

She was still in Scotland in the 1901 census, listed as a 'musician' but when her father died in 1904, she moved to London and on 28/11/1906 she married Robert Hobbs, stock-breeder and farmer at Bradshaw's Farm in Kelmscott village nr Lechlade (24 miles W of Oxford). They had one son Robert (b1907). May Hobbs lived in Kelmscott for the next 50 years.

It was Robert Hobbs's father who had let Kelmscott Manor house to William Morris, writer and designer, from 1871 until the latter's death in 1896. But the manor house continued to be lived in by his widow Jane Morris, who eventually purchased the house from the Hobbs family in 1913. Jane’s daughter May Morris (b1862) lived there until her death in 1938. May Morris was a friend of Mrs May Elliot Hobbs, as they were neighbours. May Morris herself joined the EFDS in October 1912 and there was actually a Kelmscott branch for a time. 

May Elliot Hobbs believed strongly that rural communities must retain their livelihoods, skills and way of life. During WW1 she worked at the Ministry of Agriculture, becoming involved at the start of the Women's Land Army in 1917. In 1916 she formed the Kelmscott Women's Institute, one of the first in the country. In 1919 May Elliot Hobbs conducted a lecture tour in the USA and continued in public service to support rural community life. She  died on 30 Dec 1956.

*Walter Elliot was previously married to Jane (White) and they had had three sons. Walter was an eminent Scottish agriculturalist.

**Further information on May Elliot Hobbs's life is at the University of Iowa Library website: https://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/islandora/object/ui%3Atc_24337

Thanks also to Liza Hobbs, May's great niece for information.





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