|Sir Rowland Hill- a social reformer
"By chance he witnessed a touching scene, a postman brought a letter from London addressed to a young village girl. She examined the letter, but because the postage on it was so great she refused to accept it. Rowland Hill intervened but the girl was clearly embarrassed by his action. Patiently he questioned her and she finally confessed that the letter was from her fiancÚ working in London, but as she was too poor to afford letters from him they had devised a neat stratagem. By various ingenious signs and marks drawn on the covering of the letter the young man was able to let her know that he was keeping well and that he still loved her.
Rowland was profoundly disturbed by this story and he pondered on the problem".6
In 1807 Rowland became a teacher-pupil at Hill Top Birmingham, where his father was headmaster. Rowland lectured in astronomy whilst there. He had an artistic ability, winning a national first prize for painting a landscape. He helped to support the family by constructing and repairing scientific instruments.
At the age of 15, Rowland went to work in the assay office in Birmingham, here he inspected and stamped silver items with an assay mark.
Rowland, along with his older brother Matthew, became strongly interested in educational reform, publishing Public Education in 1822 having introduced some of their ideas at Hill Top.
Rowland and his brothers became Benthamites* or utilitarian reformers of the early 1800's, after Matthew moved to London and became a barrister. (* from Jeremy Bentham)
Thomas Wright Hill (1763-1851), their father, had also been a type of reformer who came from a family of dissenting small traders. It was while serving an apprenticeship in Birmingham that Rowland's father came under the influence of Joseph Priestley (scientist, Republican and Unitarian radical). It was Priestley who obtained a position as a teacher for Rowland in a charity school. Thomas returned to this profession starting Hill Top in 1803 after a failed business venture manufacturing ponchos.
In 1818 at the age of twenty-three the Hill family decided to move to Edgbaston near Birmingham. Here in 1819 they established a new school designed by Rowland, called Hazelwood. In terms of physical conditions it was ahead of its time possessing a science laboratory, swimming pool, stage, library, museum, craft room, gas powered lighting and air ducted central heating.In 1822 Rowland and Matthew published a book elucidating the work they had carried out at Hazelbrook, this brought the school international fame, as a result, boys from many nations began to attend the school.
In 1827 the school was moved to Bruce Castle in Tottenham, North London.
With time Rowland became less and less satisfied with his position as a schoolmaster, he began to look for another occupation other than teaching.
|Sir George Rowland
Hill's little known foray into the world of Rugby
George Rowland Hill, not to be confused with Sir Rowland Hill, was involved in the organisation of Rugby Union, acting as president of the organisation for a period of time. This game drew its players originally from the middle class "public schools" (actually private, for some incongruous reason). The myth of the Rugby school student picking up the "soccer" ball and running was devised to retain the game exclusively as that of the middle and upper classes in Britain. The game was taken home to the British Colonies and the industrial North of England. This gave a chance for people in the working classes to mix with the middle to upper classes; churches and towns became involved in Union, it became the "works" game. However although Rugby Union was seen as a form of "play" by the well -to -do, the workers saw it as unpaid hard work on top of an already long and laborious working week. In addition the Northern Towns became far better at the game than those further south. Thus a breakaway group calling the "new game" Rugby League was developed. The rules of which were originally designed at the George Hotel in Huddersfield. There was also some involvement from Almondbury primary school8.
Sarah Clark was researching the Hill family out of interest - she is Sarah nee Hill, daughter of Terence Lowry Rowland Hill, deceased, neice of Desmond Hill and grand-daughter of Geoffrey Hill - She was scavenging Google when she came across some sites that reference Sir G Rowland Hill who is the RFU founder not the Penny Post Rowland Hill, it explains that there were two people with similar names with probably very different tastes:
"Sir G. Rowland Hill (1855-1928), President of the Rugby Football Union. Reading R.F.C. is an English Rugby Union club, which plays in National Division 3 South. The club is located in the village of Sonning, on the outskirts of Reading in the county of Berkshire.
Reading was formed as Berkshire Wanderers in July 1898 when RFU President Roger Walker, RFU Secretary G Rowland-Hill and Cambridge Blue G R Joyce held a meeting in Pangbourne. Their aim was to set up a rugby club in Reading and the first game was played at the County Cricket Ground, Kensington Road, in September 1898. The Wanderers led a nomadic existence until, shortly before the Second World War, they moved to their present headquarters at Holme Park, Sonning. The club’s name was changed to Reading in 1956 and the first trophy came their way in 1970 when they beat Marlow 16-3 at Maidenhead in the inaugural Berkshire Cup Final.
Here is a small extract of the seconding speech made by Mr. Rowland Hill, the then Secretary of the RFU:
'I have never felt it necessary to advise on matters which were so divided but the time has now arrived where I feel it is my duty to speak out. If the resolution is passed it must inevitably lead towards professionalism. What this resolution means is paying men of playing football. What would be the effect on the working man? The temptation to play rugby was too great already. The opportunities were so many that a man may be away a whole week, and thus earn his wages without doing a single stroke of work. Mr Miller has not given us one practical suggestion as to how his scheme would be carried out. If carried it must break up the Union, and much as I regret this it would be preferable to have division than professionalism'.
The Club was dormant during the Great War, but revived in 1919 under the presidency of George Rowland Hill, who was for 23 years the RFU’s Honorary Secretary, a Committee member for almost 50 years and its President from 1904 to 1907. It was also Rowland Hill who advocated the split of Rugby Football into Union and League. In 1926, Rowland Hill became the first man to be knighted for services to Rugby Football. The main gate at the RFU's Twickenham Rugby Ground is named after him."
With the assistance of Matthew, Rowland
was introduced to influential people in
London. He became interested in concepts such
as the ending of poverty and reduction strategies
for crime about which he wrote a paper but with no great
The proposals were not without their detractors such as Lord Lichfield
(P.M.G.)and Col. Maberly (Sec. to the P.O.).
The First Postal Codes
for the Royal Mail
states that there is evidence from literature available at the postal history museum that Sir Rowland Hill first put forward a proposal to divide London into various postal districts (SE, SW, N, NW, E etc) in 1856 to quicken the sorting process. This was then rolled out across other major cities and built
upon. The current postcode format was introduced in 1966 but is based on the initial template
Rowland Hill introduced.
The year 2014 marks
forty years since the roll out of the current post codes was completed.
|The Penny Black
Probably his best remembered icon. The Penny Black postage stamp, used to affix to the front of envelopes was introduced on the 10th January 1840. These stamps were designed to replace the Mulready wrappers when they were not available. [email@example.com state that the stamps and the Mulready wrappers were not available until 6th May 1840 whilst 10th January, 1840 was the reduction in postage rates to 1d per 1/2 Oz. Hill thought the envelopes and letter sheets would be preferred, but the convenience of the stamps was selected by the users]. However the wrappers due to their design were lampooned and denigrated by the public. The Penny Black was later changed to the Penny Red so that the postage mark could be seen more clearly.
The stamp printers were producing half a million stamps a day to have them ready for May 6th 1840. Besides the Penny Black the printers also made the Two-Pence Blue. Thereafter stamp collecting became a popular hobby as the number and variety of stamps continued to increase.
Brazil soon followed Britain's lead in introducing the reforms
and within ten years most other major economic countries
had adopted the reforms in one way or another.
He joined the London & Brighton Railway Company, but in 1846
with the return of the Whigs to power he
returned to the Post Office this time in
the position of Secretary
to the Post Master General, with Maberly
still Secretary of the Post Office. The two were
adversaries for eight years. In 1854 his ambitions were
partly realised when he became the only secretary. For the
next ten years he ruled the P.O. somewhat autocratically after
the years of frustration. Himself eventually ousted by other
younger would be reformists.
For his progressive services to the Empire, Rowland was knighted as Knight Commander of the Bath by Queen Victoria and made a Fellow of the Royal Society followed by an honorary degree from Oxford University. Rowland retired in 1864 due to ill health.
A little before his death in 1879 he was given the Freedom of
the City of London.
|Speaker required at Kidderminster
The Chairman of Kidderminster Civic Society has found a dearth of information about Sir Rowland Hill and is looking for someone who likes public speaking and has an interest in the history of Kidderminster and / or Sir Rowland Hill to give a talk.
If you have an interest or know someone who might please contact Nick Hughes by email or by post telephone or fax:
29 Church Street
Tel: 01562 822295
Fax: 01562 820083
Communications- the branches of Thomas Wright Hill, Sir Rowland Hill's father.
Tom Morris10 a descendant of Rowland Hill writes that a retired university lecturer is writing a series of books about famous Midlanders (Rowland Hill is one of them) and he has researched the current descendants. The lecturer contacted Tom's dad's uncle, and thus validated all those generations of family stories which they thought were just wishful-thinking.
Apparently there are stories of tragedy close to Rowland Hill's family, involving an elder son or grandson who was cut out of his will by a jealous sibling, who later ran away to America with an allegedly corrupt solicitor. It should make good reading when it comes out. It will probably be a book produced by the local library service, of the West Midlands' Metropolitan Councils, where the author and Tom's great-uncle live.
Valerie Hill, [email out of date] A descendant through one of the Kidderminster branches of the Hill family states that Rowland Hill's brother, Edwin had a daughter, Marcia who married a solicitor. Valerie believes that this solicitor [Mr. Walters] acted for Rowland Hill although as yet there is no confirmation that these are the same solicitors.11
A contemporary Rowland Hill [email out of date] says Sir Rowland Hill is his 5th great uncle and was born in the centenary of his death - which was why he was named after him!
Ros Plume finds she is related to Rowland probably via a paternal grandfather's maternal grandmother.
Pat Ness is researching her genealogy and found that she is related to one of Rowland's housekeepers, Susannah Fearey. Pat has found that Rowland Hill's brother, Arthur had a son, Albert Hill who lived at Priory Side, All Hallows, Tottenham. Albert had daughters, Helen B. and Clara M. who were both school teachers aged 19 and 17 respectively in the 1881 census. Arthur, who was a commercial clerk was succeeded at Bruce Castle Park School by Norman George Birbeck Hill. Priory Side became Parkside Preparatory School in 1903.
writes that his wife, Deborah Howarth-Hill,
is a direct descendant of Sir Rowland Hill and Lord
Hill of Alvarez [ Spanish Peninsula War]. The family's
origins are in Shrewsbury, Shrops. The former ancestral home,
Hawkestone Manor is now owned by the Catholic Church.
finds that his grandfather told him he was a
descendant of Sir Rowland Hill through the Rev. Matthew
Hill and Thomas Hill who lived at Sutton, Herefordshire.
Thomas was born 17th December 1772 and died 27th
January 1847, he was married to Sarah. When Richard visited
Kidderminster he saw the statue to Rowland Hill outside
the shopping centre, and nearly fainted, it was the 'spitting
image' of Richard's father who is now in his late sixties! [Could
these two descendants be Matthew Davenport Hill, brother to
Sir Rowland and their father and mother Thomas Wright Hill and
Sarah Lea? -T.M.]
Anna Stone, the
Group Archivist for Aviva plc has discovered
that Rowland Hill was an auditor for the 'Protestant
Dissenters'* and General Life and Fire Assurance company
from 1838 until 1839/1840 when their deed of settlement
was written. He then had to resign after being appointed
to the Treasury. In 1844 when there was a National Testimonial
promoted in his honour the board of the company subscribed five
Carol Cain is
researching a possible Sir Rowland Hill association.
Carol has a family history left by her mother who died
in the 1960's. The tree states as follows:
Catherine Green says
her father is Stanley Hill and that he conveyed to Catherine
that he was Sir Rowland Hill's 4 or 5X grandfather.
Judy M. Armson [nee
Hill] can show direct descendancy from Thomas Wright Hill
through Sir Rowland Hill's brother Arthur,
born 27 August 1798 at Bruce Grove, London, d. 18 June 1885. Arthur
married Ellen Tilt Maurice, their son Edward Bernard Lewin Hill
b. 13 Jan. 1834 at Tottenham, Middlesex became the Principal Clerk
at the General Post Office. This would indicate that Sir Rowland had
some influence on his nephew. Edward married Mary Emmiline Venn b. 1843.
Judy has a photograph of Mary.
Judy has also found two images of Sir Rowland in some books left by her father. These are rare in that one shows Sir Rowland and his wife Caroline, the other appears to be a photograph of a painting by J.A. Vintner. Permission has been granted for their reproduction here but if you wish to use these images for financial gain then you should contact Judy M. Armson
Arthur Bernard Lewin HILL, solicitor, was a son of Edward and Mary Hill. He was born in 1865 and died 1914, he married Eliza Cousins d. 1936. They had a son, Edward Bernard Lewin Hill, Judy's father.
Judy has also submitted information on Frederic Hill, a younger brother to Rowland (no 'k' in the name according to the biography written by his daughter, Constance, a barrister at law.) Frederic[k] married Martha Cowper and they lived at Hill Top, Gough Street, Birmingham. Her father was Professor Cowper who contributed to the diffusion of cheap literature by means of a printing machine which supplanted the old hand presses, her brother Edward practically invented the printing machine.
Frederic[k] and Martha had three daughters:
Ellen G. b. 1841, Ellen was an illustrator of books /artist
Constance b. 1844 , d.~ 1929A zipped GEDCOM file of the Rowland Hill Pedigree as pieced together from the above communications is here [modified 24th Feb 2008] download it and see if you can add anything? If so contact through the guestbook on the main page. You will need Winzip and also a genealogical software programme to import the Gedcom into.
Sir Rowland Hill is buried in Westminster Abbey.
The bust can be seen in the second chapel on the left after entering through the North Door and Transept.
Bibliography and contacts:
1. The Life of Sir Rowland Hill and the Penny Postage, R & George Birbeck Hill*
two volumes, 1880. * Rowland Hill's nephew.
2. Rowland Hill and the Penny Post, M.J. Daunton, History Today, August 1985
3. Jessica Midgley, unpublished study 1997
4. Stamp Collecting, S. Phillips
5. Techniques of Philately, L.N. & M. Williams.
6. Collecting Postal History, Prince, Dimitry, Kandasuroff.
7. The Life and Work of Sir Rowland Hill 1795-1879, Jean Farrugia.
8. "History of the Union" ABC T.V. 15th May, 1999.
9. E-mail communication from Rex Sweeny indicates however, that there were TWO Sir Rowland Hills! This other was knighted in 1926 according to "Who was Who".
10. E-mail contact with Tom Morris [Tom, this email address appears to now be invalid, could you please update, a number of persons would like to contact you regarding the publication] Rowland Hill's great x 5 grandson.
11. Valerie Hill of a Kidderminster Hill branch now resident in New York
12. David Drew-Smythe resident in Sydney Australia writes: Eleanor, daughter of Sir Rowland, married a Smythe. I wonder if you have this husband's full name and any background? I am interested because one of my great great grandfather's brothers was baptised (Bristol 1834) Josiah HILL Smith (Smythe) and I am trying to establish the identity of the particular Hill family that gave its name to this Smith/Smythe son. If you can help please contact David.
13. Penny Carpenter of Canada is Sir Rowland Hill's cousin 5 x removed. Sir Rowland Hill's mother Sarah Lea is Penny's 4 gr-grandmother's sister.
14. Richard and Betty Hopkinson in New Zealand think they have descendancy through Betty's great grandfather George Bedford who married Esther Hill born about 1852 but still looking for a connection.
14. Pam Ciriani who used to live in Kidderminster, has placed information on the I.G.I site [Latter Day Saints] re Rowland Hill and his descendants, this may solve some peoples questions.
15. Wikipedia page
16. By kind
permission of Judy M. Armson
Hey, Colin G. Rowland Hill, Genius and Benefactor 1795-1879. Quiller Press, London, 1989. - This includes pictures of Thomas Wright Hill and his sons Matthew, Edwin, Rowland, Arthur and Frederic.. There are also pictures of Hazlewood Scool and Bruce Castle. [Thanks go to Rob Brown in South Australia for that]