Monday, June 28, 2010

Choices, choices...

At the junction of Lensfield and Trumpington is placed this monument to Thomas Hobson - a carrier delivering mail between London and Cambridge, operating a livery stable outside the gates of St Catharine's College. When they were not needed to deliver mail, Hobson's horses were rented to students and faculty from the university. "Hobson's Choice" as we all know is a phrase meaning no choice at all and it's gratifying to know that the story of its derivation is not proverbial but true:

The Spectator, No. 509, 1712, shows clearly how the phrase came into being:

"He lived in Cambridge, and observing that the Scholars rid hard, his manner was to keep a large Stable of Horses, ... when a Man came for a Horse, he was led into the Stable, where there was great Choice, but he obliged him to take the Horse which stood next to the Stable-Door; so that every Customer was alike well served according."

The monument stands over Hobson's Conduit which he had built to convey springwater from Nine Wells, near Shelford, into the city centre.