Tributes have been paid to a Blackburn businessman who headed one of the longest established companies in town.

Peter William Hobkirk died on April 10, aged 83.

His funeral took place on Monday, April 29, at a packed St Mary’s Church in Mellor where his family said his ‘life was celebrated’. 

Peter was the third generation running the family sewing machine company – Hobkirk Sewing Machines, which was originally based in Salford, Blackburn.

The company is now based in Darwen Street and celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2023.

Peter was born in 1940 to Edgar and Lilian Hobkirk. He attended St Silas’s Junior School and then on to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, and from there he went on to study at London University. 

Returning to the north he qualified as a teacher at Chorley Teacher Training College and taught PE and Geography, firstly at Hollins Accrington and then at Witton Park. 

Lancashire Telegraph:

Peter left teaching and took over the family business in the 1960s when his father retired. 

Through his leadership, he expanded the business to the now head office in Darwen Street where he introduced the sale of industrial sewing machines alongside those for domestic use. 

At one point the company had retail outlets in Accrington, Bury, Burnley, Blackpool, Preston and Rochdale as well as Blackburn, where it took over five shops in Darwen Street.

Lancashire Telegraph: Peter Hobkirk with Mark and Christine in the Hobkirk Sewing Machines museum

The iconic business is now in the hands of the fourth generation of the family - Mark Hobkirk - who became managing director in 2012. 

Peter was well known in Blackburn not only for business but also as a keen supporter and promoter of his home town. 

Lancashire Telegraph: Peter opened a museum in 2015 and took an active role in helping inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Lancashire Telegraph:

He was twice president of the local Chamber of Trade and also president of the Sewing Machine Trade Association.

He had become involved in the Blackburn BID and took a keen interest in the Youth Zone initiative. 

Peter was also a collector of antique sewing machines and his dream of opening a museum came to fruition in 2015.

The museum, housed within the Darwen Street site, was opened by Patrick Grant of the ‘Great British Sewing Bee’ fame. 

Speaking in 2017, Mr Hobkirk said people often came in to donate old sewing machines used by older relatives for the museum.

He said: “They might say, ‘It belonged to my mother and it is very much part of our family life’.

“Sewing machines have given me a living but they are very much more than that.”

Always an avid sportsman, Peter played football for the Old Blackburnians, squash at and for East Lancs Squash Club, and golf at Blackburn Golf Club where he served as captain in 2001. 

He also had a love of walking and he and his wife Christine spent much of their leisure time traversing the Lake District hills. 

A faithful supporter of Blackburn Rovers, he had a season ticket for decades until Covid set in and life changed.

Peter travelled extensively for business and also had many sunshine holidays with Christine. 

His family said: “He lived life to the full and did not waste a minute. 

“We have been overwhelmed by the love and support shown to us at our loss and wish to thank all concerned for the messages of sympathy and support, and for donations made to Dementia UK.”