Dobbie retires after 24 years at Whiteley  “They always say you should never return to work somewhere, but it’s worked out pretty well for us” said Ann, wife of Dobbie, the longest serving and much-loved member of the Property and Estates Team. Albert Robbins, known to everyone as Dobbie, has worked in the Village twice – first joining in 1985 and then again in 2001. But after a total of 24 years as a plumber and painter & decorator in the Village, he was finally persuaded to retire. Dobbie and his family had lived in a staff house for 16 years, when

Mary Jacob was thrilled to talk to her cousin in Australia

the Trust offered the couple a permanent home in Draper’s Crescent as beneficiaries. Dobbie & Ann were delighted to accept. “Whiteley has always felt like home”, he said. “When I came back to work here in 2001, I remember the great feeling I had when I drove through the gates. Whiteley has that effect on you, it’s such a beautiful place.

Dobbie started his working life straight after leaving school – literally.  “I left school on the Friday and on Saturday morning I started work as a labourer on a local building site’. At 16 he began an apprenticeship with the Gas Board as a gas fitter where he had to cycle as much as 40 to 50 miles a day with his tool bag on the handlebars. But after a few years he tired of all the cycling and returned to construction but this time doing plumbing. His bosses soon found out he was a dab hand with a brush too, and so he was also trained as a painter and decorator.

But in 1985 the firm went bust and Dobbie saw an advert for a plumber at Whiteley Village, where he worked for the next four years before leaving to work at Brooklands Museum. Here he helped restore many of their historic buildings back to their 1930’s grandeur and even got invited to breakfast by HRH Prince Michael of Kent!

“The Prince was a keen supporter of the museum and was often the guest of honour at events. One time we were all lined up to meet him in our (unusually clean!) overalls and while I was waiting, I thought I would roll a fag. Of course, just my luck he makes a beeline for me to shake my hand first! We both laughed as I was pretty embarrassed not having a hand free and he said, “Why don’t you join us for a bit of breakfast then?! I said thanks your Royal Highness but I’m not sure my guv’nor would approve! He thought that was very funny – he was a nice bloke”. 

In 2001 Dobbie returned to Whiteley and later moved into a staff house in Chestnut Avenue with his wife and two of his three children Justin and Roxanne – the oldest Lesley Ann having already married. Ann said: “There were quite a few children living in the Village then as a number of staff and their families lived on site. We had a Village bus service too which used to take villagers into town, drop the kids off at school and pick staff up to come to work.” 

Dobbie recalls the Clubhouse Bar had a rather long happy hour in those days. “On Friday’s we were allowed to clock off at 4.30pm and so we were up at the Bar by 5pm when happy hour started – and finished at 7pm! Everything was £1 too, so it was absolutely packed each week.” 

So, what are Dobbie and Ann’s retirement plans? “Well firstly to get this place sorted”, said Dobbie pointing to some of the remaining boxes. “We had to get rid of so much stuff, as this new place is smaller, so that was hard, but we love it here as there are no stairs!” “It’ll be nice to have some time for us too”, said Ann, “as we’ve always had commitments.”