Barbara Wreaks was the daughter of Robert Wreaks, a Sheffield manufacturer, brother of the better-known Marmaduke Wreaks, hairdresser, wigmaker, and toy merchant, of High Street.
Barbara was born in 1770, and first achieved local fame in 1795 by a series of contributions to the Sheffield Courant (1793-1797), entitled, ‘Characteristics of Some Leading Inhabitants of Sheffield at the Close of the 18th Century.
In 1796, she married Thomas Hoole, a Sheffield manufacturer, but quickly became a widow, and went to live with her mother-in-law in Attercliffe, where in 1805 she wrote a volume of poems, of which over 2,000 were printed, “By James Montgomery at the Iris office.” The list of subscribers occupied nearly fifty pages of the book, and most of them were Sheffield folk, but whether their large number is testimony to culture in Sheffield in those days, or simply to Barbara’s own assiduous canvassing, it is hard to tell.
With the profits from the book, she opened Grove House boarding school in Harrogate, a forerunner to what is now Harrogate College. Later she married Thomas Christopher Hofland, the landscape painter, and removed to London, where she became well-known as a prolific writer. She published nearly a hundred books, chiefly for young readers. One of her many popular books (as Mrs. Hofland) was The Blind Farmer and His Children (1816). Her most popular children’s book was The Son of a Genius, about an impulsive artist, which may contain autobiographical elements. She died in 1844.
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