John Hobbs (missionary)

John Hobbs (22 February 1800 – 24 June 1883) was a New Zealand missionary, artisan and interpreter.

John Hobbs (1800–1883), Missionary in New Zealand

Personal lifeEdit

John Hobbs was born in Thanet, Kent, England, on 22 February 1800. He was the son of Richard Hobbs, a coachbuilder and Wesleyan preacher.[1] In 1827 he married Jane Broggreff of Kent, and had five daughters and two sons. One of his sons was MP Richard Hobbs.[2] He died in 1883 in Auckland and was buried in Grafton Cemetery.

Missionary workEdit

In 1816, John Hobbs joined the Wesleyan Church. He became a lay preacher, like his father, three years later. At the end of 1822, Hobbs emigrated to Van Dieman's land in Tasmania, Australia to do missionary work among the convicts. Shortly after his arrival in 1823, however, he was persuaded to offer his services to the New Zealand Mission instead.[3] He arrived in Paihia, New Zealand, on 3 August 1823, and proceeded to begin his mission at Wesleydale, the Wesleyan mission at Kaeo.

Hobbs' ability to communicate with the Māori people in their tongue made him popular amongst the Māori population and became "unofficial counsellor to several influential chiefs".[3] Even with Hobbs' help, the Ngati Pou chief of Whangaroa, Te Ara (George), found it difficult to protect the mission in Wesleydale. After Te Ara's death in 1827, the missionaries in the area were forced to flee to the Bay of Islands after hostile natives attacked the station. Hobbs returned to Sydney, Australia, and was ordained.

Wesleyan authorities in Sydney were unwilling to abandon their missionary efforts in New Zealand, and established a new mission in the Hokianga district where thriving European businesses already existed. They placed Hobbs in charge of establishing the new station, and he arrived with an advance party in Hokianga on 31 October 1827.[3] He helped establish a mission station at Mangungu, near Horeke. He spent five years in Tonga, from 1833 to 1838, then returned to Mangungu.

In 1848, Hobbs assisted his son-in-law in establishing a new mission station at Pipiriki in the Wanganui district. On the way, the ship Hobbs was travelling on was wrecked in a storm, and from the experience, Hobbs became deafened which later made him incapable of active duty. He spent the years 1855–1856 resting at the Three Kings institution, and then retired from the mission.[3]


John Hobbs was greatly admired for his versatility in mechanical matters. He was called upon to tend to the sick, and his relationship with the Maori population was relatively successful due to his ability to speak their language fluently. He assisted in translating the Book of Job into Māori and was one of the three members on the committee that revised Robert Maunsell's translation of the Old Testament into Māori.[3]


  1. ^ Owens, J.M.R. (1973). "The Wesleyan Missionaries to New Zealand before 1840" (PDF). Journal of Religious History. 7 (4): 324–341. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9809.1973.tb00349.x.
  2. ^ Williment, T. M. I. "John Hobbs". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e McLintock, A. H. (1966). "Hobbs, John". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 25 June 2014.