Memorable Manitobans: Wilfrid Ernest “Bill” Hobbs (1887-1982)

Surveyor, engineer, planner, civil servant.

Born at Brighton, Sussex, England on 12 March 1887, he attended Framlingham College and articled as a surveyor prior to immigrating to Canada. He moved to Winnipeg in 1907, gained accreditation in 1908, and worked as a Dominion Land Surveyor, Manitoba Land Surveyor, and civil engineer as a member of the firm Bayne & Hobbs. In 1912, he worked on a project to build a canal from Portage la Prairie to Lake Manitoba.

In 1916, he worked at Camp Hughes before enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in March 1917, serving as a camp and construction engineer with the Canadian Engineers and Forestry Corps overseas in France and his native England. He was promoted to Lieutenant of the No. 1 Independent Forestry Company (Canadian Engineers) in March 1917 and was demobilized in 1919 with the rank of Captain. Returning to Winnipeg, he joined the provincial civil service in July 1919 as an assistant engineer and, in July 1921, was a surveyor for the Good Roads Board. He was Comptroller of Town Planning (1921-1924) during which time he held signing authority for plans and schemes of sub-divisions for towns and villages in adherence with the Town Planning Act. He also wrote a series of lengthy articles on town and suburban planning for the Town Planning Institute of Canada (TPIC) which were republished by the Manitoba Free Press as a six-part series in 1922.

He was Deputy Provincial Secretary [Deputy Minister] of the Public Utilities Commission (1923-1924), Committee Secretary of the provincial investigation into conditions in suburban municipalities (1924-1925), and Chairman of the Winnipeg Suburban Board (1925). He then joined the Canadian Pacific Railway, working in their Engineering Department (1927-1928), then was a town planning engineer for the City of Winnipeg (1928-1929), and northern Manitoba town site engineer for the province (1929-1930) overseeing development of Flin Flon, Sherritt-Gordon, Cranberry Portage, Fort Churchill, and other northern sites. He then left for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Lands Department, where he worked from 1930 to 1952, retiring as Assistant Manager (1948-1953) of the Rupert’s Land Trading Company. Though formally retired, his work for the company on matters of property administration and development spanned a further decade. During the Second World War, he enlisted as a construction engineer for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in the Air Training Command No. 2, building airbases and training school stations. He retired as an Assistant Staff Officer with the RCAF in November 1944, holding the rank of Wing Commander.

He was active in the Greater Winnipeg Area, serving on the City of Winnipeg Board of Revision (1950-1956) and Traffic Commission, and was professionally involved in Royal Commissions. He was a member of the Professional Engineers of Manitoba, Winnipeg Town Planning Association, American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Appraisal Institute of Canada (1946-1948; Vice-President 1947-1948), and Association of Manitoba Land Surveyors (President).

On 6 December 1913, he married Agnes Williston “Nan” Bayne (1892-1981, daughter of George A. Bayne) at the Kildonan (East Kildonan) residence of her parents. The couple had two children: Dr. James Arthur Hobbs (1914-2011) and K. Margaret Hobbs (wife of Walter Eugene Swayze) and lived in what would become North Kildonan. A charter member and Superintendent of Sunday School at John Black Church, he was also a layman at St. Andrews Elgin United Church and North Kildonan United Church.

He died at the Middlechurch Home on 5 September 1982.


Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.

“Successful candidates,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 April 1908, page 10.

“Many Kildonan improvements,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 October 1912, page 18.

“Canal to Portage,” Manitoba Free Press, 23 October 1912, page 7.

“362 pass exams as three fail in officers’ course,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 April 1916, page 5.

“Hobbs named Lieutenant,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 March 1917, page 5.

“Town planner is appointed,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 August 1921, page 5.

“Town Planning Comptroller is appointed for Manitoba,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 October 1921, page 15.

“Acts as Controller of Town Planning,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 August 1921, page 4.

“Town planning is everybody’s business,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 28 January 1922, page 11.

“Zoning of buildings under town planning,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 14 February 1922, page 17.

“The Suburban Problem of Greater Winnipeg,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 30 August 1922, page 14.

“The Suburban Problem of Greater Winnipeg,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 31 August 1922, page 15.

“The Suburban Problem of Greater Winnipeg,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 1 September 1922, page 21.

“The Suburban Problem of Greater Winnipeg,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 2 September 1922, page 33.

“The Suburban Problem of Greater Winnipeg,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 4 September 1922, page 15.

“The Suburban Problem of Greater Winnipeg,” by W. E. Hobbs, Manitoba Free Press, 5 September 1922, page 15.

“W. E. Hobbs new Asst. Secretary,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 January 1923, page 1.

“Land surveyors hold annual convention,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 January 1923, page 15.

“Suburban Federation appoints committees,” Manitoba Free Press, 26 April 1924, page 1 and 9.

“Merging of departments in Provincial Government,” Manitoba Free Press, 3 June 1924, page 12.

“Suburban Board collapse feared; Chairman resigns,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 May 1925, page 18.

“Suburban Board on verge of collapse,” Manitoba Free Press, 19 May 1925, page 1.

“W. E. Hobbs to take charge of northern towns,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 April 1929, page 3.

“No decision reached to fill portfolios,” Manitoba Free Press, 25 April 1929, page 4.

“Hobbs - McKenzie,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 July 1940, page 7.

“Civics Bureau elects Atkins as Chairman,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 February 1941, page 22.

“Winnipeg congregations hear of busy year in churches [John Black Church],” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 January 1944, page 3.

“3 retiring Air Officers honored at banquet,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 November 1944, page 3.

“Elliott elected Appraisal Institute head,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 February 1946, page 3.

“Pattern for parking,” by W.E. Hobbs, Winnipeg Tribune, 9 May 1947, page 6.

“Sees Russian “fist” driving nations to totalitarianism,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 July 1947, page 1.

“Trade Board,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 October 1947, page 9.

“Basis for taxation outdated, says Hobbs,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 March 1948, page 13.

“W. E. Hobbs to address Kiwanians on taxation,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 July 1948, page 3.

“218 assessment appears before Board of Revision,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 April 1950, page 3.

“Community planning,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 February 1951, page 3.

“HBC Property Executive, W. E. Hobbs retires,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 March 1952, page 7.

“United College appointments announced,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 May 1953, page 3.

“Board of Revision gets 119 appears against assessment,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 March 1955, page 3.

“Named member of Revision Board,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 December 1955, page 3.

“Manitoba to set up Municipal Committee,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 June 1953, page 6.

“Anniversaries [Mr. and Mrs. Wilfrid Hobbs],” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 December 1978, page 31.

Obituary [Agnes Williston Hobbs], Winnipeg Free Press, 22 May 1981, page 36.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 9 September 1982, page 34.

Obituary [James Arthur Hobbs], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 October 2011, page B17.

Winnipeg estate file PR12-01-90037, James Arthur Hobbs, Archives of Manitoba.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 3 July 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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