Charles William Hobley, C.M.G., was born in 1867 at Chilvers Coton in Warwickshire. Educated at King Edward VI School, Nuneaton, he enrolled in 1882 for a three-year engineering course at the Mason Science College, Birmingham, and spent the next five years in the shops and drawing offices of engineering firms at Nuneaton and at Dartford in Kent. He was admitted as a student in 1888 to the Institution of Civil Engineers, to which body he was elected an Associate Member in February 1894.
In March 1890 he was appointed geologist to the Imperial British East Africa Company, which was trying with pitifully inadequate resources to administer and develop the British sphere in East Africa, for which it had been granted a charter by the British government. Like most of the handful of trained members of the Company's staff, Hobley had to carry out a multitude of duties outside the scope of his appointment, among them surveys for the ill-fated Central Africa Railway, road building, improvements to water supplies on the Uganda road, and exploratory surveys. During the course of these duties he devoted some time to investigating the mineral resources of the coast and hinterland. The most important exploratory survey was the journey in the stern-wheeler Kenia up the Tana River as far as Hameye, whence Hobley and a companion marched across country to the slopes of Mount Kenya and Machakos, and back to Mombasa along the Uganda road. After a period as Transport Superintendent at the coast, Hobley left East Africa in September 1893, at a time when it was becoming obvious that the Company could not long continue to meet the obligations imposed on it by its charter.
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