J W Hobbs was a director of a firm of builders from Croydon who developed the area in the late 19thCentury. Edward Marjoribanks describes him in his book The Life of Sir Edward Marshall Hall as “a thorough rogue and speculative builder”. J W Hobbs and Co was one of many companies associated with Ilford’s first developer, the infamous financial fraudster, Jabez Spencer Balfour, whose Liberator Building Society, bought the Ilford Lodge Estate for £52,000 in September 1882. A few months later Balfour’s Lands Allotment Company sold the estate – which included a late 18thCentury yellow-brick mansion and 173 acres – and some adjoining lands to Hobbs and Co for £74,000 who started laying out housing. Hobbs was insolvent when he was approached by Balfour with a deal that would save him from going under: “They bought vast properties at hugely inflated prices from the Balfour companies to ‘make profits’ for them, their cheques to the company being cancelled by corresponding cheques from another of the companies, given to them by way of a loan. For these ‘loans’ they would nominally pay a high premium, which again would be put down as money in the till of the lending company, though not a penny ever passed.” In other words rather than lending to home buyers, Balfour’s building society had been lending to property companies to buy his properties, with little hope of it being repaid. When the scandal came to light in 1892, the directors, including J W Hobbs served jail sentences for fraud and the the builders were wound up. In 1895 the Ilford Lodge Estate was put up for sale, under the name of Ilford Park Estate.
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