yeovil people

Robert william 'Bob' Osborn

Yeovil author and historian



I was born on 4 September 1949, in Brocket Hall, a Grade I-listed classical country house set in a large park at the western side of Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. It wasn't that my family had money, it's just that after the Second World War, the house became a temporary maternity hospital for Londoners. I am the elder son of William Harold Sidney Osborn, known as Bill (1923-1985) and Ellen Annie née Warren (1921-2014), known for most of her life as 'Sis'. We lived in Warwick Road, Enfield Lock, Middlesex, opposite the Royal Small Arms Factory where dad spent his whole career - starting as an apprentice and ending up as the factory manager. We moved to 39 Cunningham Avenue, Enfield Lock, in 1955, where my parents remained until their deaths.

I worked in the London Borough of Enfield's Architect's Department for five years, before moving to Yeovil in 1973 to work in the Architect's Department of Yeovil Borough Council at Telford House. The department moved to the municipal offices in King George Street in 1974 when all the local councils joined to become Yeovil District Council, later renamed South Somerset District Council and now Somerset Council.

After five years in the Architect's Section of the Technical Department, I spent a year as the department's financial cost controller before being asked by the Chief Technical Officer to become the department's administration officer. I introduced computers into the department in 1982 and computers gradually took on a more prominent role in my duties. I eventually joined the council's IT unit and became the webmaster for the council in the mid-1990s. At the same time I was teaching evening website design classes at Yeovil College and running my own website design company, creating some 200 websites.

In 2003, I began working full time for Yeovil College, managing an off-site 'outreach' learning centre in Sherborne, and also working at other off-site centres in Chard, Wincanton, Ilminster, Langport and Yeovil. I taught web design and general IT - chiefly to elderly ladies - exciting stuff!. I retired on my 60th birthday in 2009.

I have been married four times, my present wife Carolyn and I have now been together for 30 years. I have four grown-up children, eight grandchildren and a cat called Alice.

My interests have always been concerned with researching various subjects in great depth and, since retiring, I have tended to concentrate on Yeovil and its history, as I  became ever more involved in researching, giving talks and writing about the town and its past. I have a collection of over a thousand postcards of Yeovil, around a hundred coins, tokens and medallions of Yeovil (mostly from the 1650s, but all before the Great War), several hundred Victorian and Edwardian photographs of Yeovilians by Yeovil photographers, as well as a myriad of Yeovil manuscripts,  'odds and sods', such as bottles, cream jugs, maps and other ephemera. All of my collections are willed to the South Somerset Heritage Centre.

My researches initially led to the creation of a website about pubs of Yeovil which, in 2014, was expanded to become this website - the A-to-Z of Yeovil's History, re-branded Yeovil's Virtual Museum in 2019. The website currently (May 2024) contains over 2,900 pages (equivalent to over 14,500 A4 printed pages) and over 13,500 images. It has been viewed in 136 countries, with total page views currently in excess of 4,377,000. This website will eventually be managed, although not expanded, by Yeovil Town Council.

The 312 pages that make up 'The Fallen' on this website (my 2014-18 project for the A-to-Z) was completed in mid-2018. I am proud that my research for this project discovered over sixty Yeovil men whose names were omitted from the Borough War Memorial and two from the Preston Plucknett War Memorial. I also discovered 46 errors on the most recent panels. Fifty-three names were added to a new set of plaques for the Borough War Memorial (bringing the total to 289 names), commissioned by the Town Council, that was re-dedicated in a ceremony on the centenary of Armistice Day, 11 November 2018.

More recently, in autumn 2021, I carried out extensive research into the Yeovil 1831 Reform Riot in conjunction with Prof Steve Poole and Dr Roger Ball, both of the University of the West of England. I established a timeline for the riot as well as discovering which properties were attacked. I then further researched the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry Cavalry, involved in quelling the riot, (including the names of the 70+ members of the troop as well as their home locations - mostly Yeovil men and from surrounding farms, with only three actually from Mudford) and the consequently proposed Yeovil Infantry Corps of 1832. I have also discovered the long-lost original location of the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary Without the Church.

In 2017, I created the Facebook group 'Bygone Yeovil' on which, as the Admin, I post pictures every day. The group currently (March 2024) has over 14,500 members. I am also the admin of the Facebook group 'Yeovil & District at War', started by my friend Roger McElliott, and I took over the running of the group when he passed away.

I have been writing non-fiction books in a wide range of subjects as a hobby for some thirty years, initially self-published as e-Books. My book count is now over twenty. In 2015, my friend and fellow Yeovil historian Jack Sweet, was considering giving up writing books on Yeovil's history and gave my name to his publishers, Amberley of Stroud. My first book for Amberley was published in 2016 and I have been published twice a year since then. Amberley published seven of my Yeovil history books, but I now publish them myself. I am presently writing my 13th book on the history of Yeovil, which is due for publication in spring 2024.

For my current and forthcoming booklist, click here.




.... and just to prove that I did go to work - this is me at my drawing board. This was upstairs in Telford House in early 1974 when it was the drawing office of the Borough Architect's Department of Yeovil Borough Council.


... and this is me today - older but no wiser.