Memorial to John Cobb's family

Christ's Church, Esher, Surrey, UK.

Inscriptions on the memorial record the names of all four immediate members of the family. John's mother, Florence Cobb, suffered the personal tradgedy that her husband and both sons died before her.

  • Rhodes Hawtyn Cobb 1930
  • Rhodes Stanley Cobb 1934
  • John Rhodes Cobb 1952
  • Florence Harriet Cobb 1963

John Cobb held the World Land Speed Record for a piston-engined vehicle, driven through the wheels. This record, 394mph, was achieved in 1947. John Cobb died in 1952, while attempting a World Water Speed Record. Considering his position in British and World history, I was surprised to find his grave neglected. I cleared grass, weeds and cobwebs from it before taking these pictures. John Cobb holds the lap record for the Brooklands outer circuit. He drove a Napier-Railton special and lapped at an average speed of 143.45 mph, achieving 165 mph on the railway straight.

To find this memorial, walk a few yards north from the centre of Esher. Enter the churchyard via the first gate - that used by vehicles. The memorial is just to your right.

The name 'Hawtyn', shown above, suggests to me that the Cobb family may have been Huguenots or married into a Huguenot family.

The photo to the right shows big John, aged 24, near the start of his racing career, and does him more justice than some later photos.

An introduction to the Cobb family

John Cobb's grandfather lived in Kingston Upon Thames in considerable style, at Surbiton Lodge, set in four acres of ground that ran from the Portsmouth Road to the junction of Surbiton Road and Penhryn Road, the land now occupied by the T.A. Centre and various flats and houses. St Raphael's Church is situated on that plot. He was influential locally and once owned a share in Raven's Ait. His son, Rhodes Hawtyn Cobb, was born there, later moving to Croydon Road Beddington, when he married Florence, who had been born at Hackbridge, nearby. Their famous son John was born at Beddington in 1899, the family moving to the mansion at Esher before 1901. John had various addresses before marriage. His first wife died and, in the early fifties, he and his second wife were living at "Culford" near the Kingston University Campus, Kingston Hill, John, of course, dying almost immediately. Raven's Ait was classed as a training ship during the war and the German's claimed to have sunk it using torpedoes!

I haven't given the location of the mansion as I am concerned lest hoards should descend on the site. I know three ways to find that place and there should be at least one more, so those determined to find it, will.

the old driveway Sadly, the old drive that once led around the mansion now leads nowhere. I understand that the house was demolished after being destroyed by fire. I had expected to find it in corporate use. Instead, I found nothing, though I was able to chat to a chap who had met Florence Cobb.

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