THe History AND FUTURE of Hobbiton
During the celebrations of VE Day (Allied Forces victory ending WWll) on 8 May 1945, Miss Betty Chew conceived of a fairy-tale holiday camp in Hogsback for orphans of the war. She organised the first camp for 16 10-year-olds at the Hydro (Hogsback Inn) on 30 September 1945.
The Women’s Volunteer Air Force established Hobbiton, driven by the Chair, Mrs Adriana Kohler, who started development on the Outspan below the Kettlespout Falls at Hogsback.
The name, Hobbiton, was first used at a fundraiser in East London in 1945. According to Peter Bowden, Jack Press suggested the name while he was reading J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit to the children. They so love the idea of the safety and tranquility of the Shire, the home of the little people in the novel, that they asked ‘Uncle Jack’ for permission to change the name from the Outspan to Hobbiton. Hobbiton-on-Hogsback was thus created.
The founding Superintendent, ‘Uncle Jack’ Press (1947-66) pioneered the holiday camp, supported by Rotarian David Smith. He was succeeded by Peter Bowden (1968-81). James Kantor (1984-96) followed on as superintendent after which Peter Bowden returned to take over the reins again serving until 1998. Josh Paton took over as Centre Director and CEO in 1998 and served until 2018. Tonya Burton, our current COO, has worked at Hobbiton for more than 20 years and is now tasked with the daunting task of steering Hobbiton through the difficult times of Covid-19.
Approximately 11 000 children have been hosted on sponsored holiday camps at Hobbiton over the years. This legendary adventure site was built by service clubs and various donors. Loyal staff, with the help of local and overseas volunteers, have helped create a dream adventure camp for children who may otherwise not have had this opportunity.
Paid visits by school children and adults have contributed to covering the costs of camps for less privileged children. Many volunteers, particularly from Germany, have assisted with camp duties during their ‘gap’ time at Hobbiton.
For more than 75 years Hobbiton has been an iconic refuge in the mountains of Hogsback for children whose financial circumstances would usually prevent them from experiencing such a holiday and not just for those able to afford adventure and educational camps.
The Hobbiton-on-Hogsback Association (1945-2021) is a non-profit organisation with PBO status (107-254-NPO 930044696 PBO), serving the Eastern Cape through catering for both self-funded and sponsored children.
Hobbiton has suffered tremendously during recent times as a result of Covid-19 lockdown regulations. Bookings, and therefore income, came to an abrupt halt when schools were no longer able to hold their annual camps at Hobbiton.
The leadership of Hobbiton acted swiftly: temporary staff were reduced, workdays limited, voluntary salary cuts made and facilities put to alternative uses. The budget was reviewed and expenditure substantially decreased.
Leadership commitment, staff sacrifices and financial support from local Hogsback residents have ensured that Hobbiton has not collapsed during the Covid-19 crisis. However, Hobbiton will need R350 000 to tide it over to the end of 2021 until such time as schools are sufficiently confident to allow their children to attend camps once again. We are optimistic that this will happen and that Hobbiton’s vision – to develop self-confidence through self-discovery in an outdoor environment – will continue into the future.
We appeal for your help to bridge this challenging time!
The Story of Hobbiton
In 2015, Trevor Webster, our local historian and member of our current Board, was tasked with recording the history of Hobbiton.
In his book, you will find the priceless memories of young Hobbiton guests who are now leaders of society. It narrates the Hobbiton experience from the unique point of view of the volunteer. Webster also explores the leadership journeys of the various people entrusted with looking after this legendary adventure facility.
If you want learn more about this incredible institution, you can order this 70th birthday celebration book (R70 excluding postage) and support our fundraising drive.
Tell your own Hobbiton Story
With an estimation of over 200 000 guests who have stayed at Hobbiton over the years, there must be many wonderful stories that we need to capture.
Share your Hobbiton story with us and be featured in our story blog.
We would be delighted to share any photographs or videos you may have!