The Hill family Newspaper Publishers
by Linda Ayres
Rowland was born on 2nd March 1822 in Bedford and was one of the eight children of Joseph Hill and Susanna née Woodward. Susanna and Joseph were married on 26th November 1804 at St. Paul’s Church, Bedford. In 1843 Joseph became the secretary of the Bedford savings bank. Joseph Hill died aged 77 years at St. Paul’s Square in September 1858. He was buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Reference C7 49.
At age 15, Rowland was a printer living on Mill Street, Bedford, with his widowed father and his two sisters, Martha, aged 20, and Susan, aged 25.
In 1843 Martha married James Coombs, a well-known surgeon, chemist, and accountant in the town. After their marriage, they lived on the High Street, Bedford. They had five children, Rowland (1844-1929), Martha (1846-1937), Oliver (1848 -1920), and Frederick (1850-1862).
On 29 November 1853, Martha died giving birth to their daughter Helen. Martha was buried at Bunyan Meeting Burial Ground, Mill Street, Bedford. Helen survived the birth. James Coombs died, aged 91 years, at 26 Mill Street, Bedford, on 22nd July, 1905. He was buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery, Section D3 105
The marriage of Rowland Hill and Sophia Miller
Rowland married Sophia Miller on 26th January 1847 at the Old Meeting House, Mill Lane, Bedford, (now the Bunyan Meeting Free Church, Mill Street). The Rev. John J Jukes performed the marriage service. Sophia was the only daughter of Sophia and John Miller and was born in Bedford on 14th August 1823. She received her marriage portions (dowry) from the Harpur Charity on her wedding day. Before their marriage, Rowland lived on the High Street and Sophia lived in Mill Street.
Rowland Hill purchases the Bedford Mercury and Huntingdon Express
In 1847 Rowland purchased “The Bedford Mercury and Huntingdon Express” from George Robert Skene. George was the son of Andrew and Henrietta Skene and was born in 1802 in Devon. George was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (M.R.C.S). Before moving to Bedford in 1837, he ran two farms at Eakley, Buckinghamshire, and Hackleton, Northamptonshire. Before he arrived in Bedford, he sold the crops and livestock of the two farms at auction.
George Skene’s general printing office was on Howard Street, Bedford. He lived on the site of his publishing office on Mill Street. For many years it was the only newspaper printed and published in Bedford. Local people read other newspapers not printed or published in Bedford. These were The Hertford Reformer, Cambridge Independent Press, and Northampton Mercury. James Wyatt reported for each of the three papers, but mainly for the Hertford Reformer in connection with the Bedfordshire Times. By 1840 George became the proprietor of the Bucks Gazette, published and printed at the Bucks Gazette Office, Green End Street, Temple Square, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
George R. Skene left Bedford in 1855 and moved to 9 Haverstock Hill, Camden, London. He died in 1867 at Knaresborough, Yorkshire.
Samuel Woodward Hill
In 1837 Rowland’s older brother Samuel Woodward Hill printed and published the first edition of the Bedford Mercury for George Skene at his office in the old Market Place, Bedford. Rowland may have been apprenticed to Samuel.
Samuel had travelled to Melbourne, Australia, to visit relatives. On his journey home from Australia, Samuel became ill. Rowland received an urgent message to meet the ship “Dover Castle” on its arrival at Gravesend Docks. Rowland arrived just in time to talk to Samuel. He died on board the ship on 11 October 1860, aged 50. Rowland escorted Samuel’s remains to Bedford.
The funeral cortege set out from his home on the High Street to Foster Hill Road Cemetery. The Rev. John Jukes conducted the service. Samuel was buried in the grave beside his father, Joseph. Grave Reference C7 60
Rowland and Sophia Hill – Family Life and Careers
Sophia and Rowland had six children born in rooms above the printing business at 38 High Street. Rowland Jr. (1848-1945); Augustus (1850 -1912); Sophia (1854-1910), who died in Brighton; Luther was born in 1857; Russell (1861-1941) and Florence, born March 1859. Sadly, she died aged six months and was buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Reference C7 38.
The 1851 census records Rowland as a newspaper proprietor, Master printer, bookseller, stationer, binder, and paper hanger. Sophia worked alongside Rowland, selling books and stationery. They employed four men, two apprentice printers, a house servant, and a nurse.
In 1865 Rowland became the deputy Superintendent Registrar of births, deaths, and marriages, for the District of Bedford. He was also a member of the Harpur Charity Trustee Board.
By 1869 Rowland Jnr. and Augustus were working for their father as newspaper reporters. The firm became known as Rowland Hill and Sons.
Rowland and his sons Rowland Jnr and Augustus were agents for the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company. They booked passengers for all the leading Atlantic steamship companies. The Steamship Companies included the Cunard Line and the White Star Lines.
By 1881 Rowland had retired owing to ill health. He, Sophia and their youngest son Russell moved to 17 Marriott Road, Islington, London.
Rowland died aged 67 on the 15th November 1889 at 6 St. John’s Terrace, Willesden Lane, London. His burial took place at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Reference C7 92.
After Rowland died, his sons Rowland Jnr. and Augustus became joint editors of the Bedford Mercury and the Bedford Chronicle. Sophia returned to Bedford and took over the running of the Bedfordshire Mercury, including the Bedford Chronicle. Sophia lived at 5 Adelaide Square, and her son Augustus lived next door at 3 Adelaide Square.
Sophia died on 26th September 1891, aged 68 Years. Her burial took place in the grave with Rowland. Grave Reference C7 92.
Descendants of Rowland and Sophia Hill
On leaving school Luther, joined the firm and became a Master printer. He subsequently emigrated to New South Wales, Australia where he died. The date of death is unknown. There are no records confirming if Luther was married. Luther was buried at Gore Hill Cemetery, St. Leonards, North Sidney Council, New South Wales. Section L 19.
Rowland Hill Jnr.
In 1856 Rowland went to the Preparatory Commercial School (now known as the Junior Modern School.) He subsequently went on to the Upper School.
The marriage of Rowland Hill Jnr and Fanny Sarah Woodward
On 30th August 1871, Rowland married his first cousin, Fanny Sarah Woodward, at the Good Shepherd Church, Upton-on-Seven, Worcestershire. Fanny was born in 1847 at Longdon, Worcestershire, and was the third daughter of William Woodward and Mary née Haines Hill.
Mary Haines Hill was born in Bedford on 4th May 1812 and was the daughter of Joseph and Susanna Hill. Mary was the older sister to Rowland Hill, Snr. On 2nd November 1836, Mary married William Woodward at St Paul’s Church Bedford. William was born in 1811 in Worcestershire. William Woodward was a tenant farmer of 200 acres at Hook Farm, Upton-on-Seven, Worcestershire. He employed five men, one boy, one female and one male house servant.
When Fanny’s father, William Woodward, died, aged 79 years, in April 1890, her mother, Mary, had to leave the farm. She moved to Ryton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire, where she lived with her daughter Ellen and her husband, the Reverend Alfred Starkey. By 1901 Mary moved to Bedford and lived with Rowland, Fanny, and their two daughters at “Rosenlani” Park Avenue, Bedford. Mary Haines Woodward died in Bedford in 1902, aged 88 years. There is no record of her burial in Bedford. It appears she was buried alongside her husband, William, in Worcester.
After their marriage, Rowland and Fanny lived at 38 High Street, Bedford. They had two daughters, Annette, born on 15 June 1877, and Gwladys, born on 2 July 1879. Also living with them were Rowland’s father and his younger brother Luther.
Gwladys and Annette attended the Bedford Kindergarten School. After leaving school, Annette was educated at home. She was an Associate of the Royal College of Music (A.R.C.M) and a Professor of Music; She also studied with the London School of Music. Annette held music lessons at the family home ‘Rosenlani’, Park Avenue. Gwladys married Robert Guthrie Woodward in 1908 and eventually moved to Yorkshire.
Rowland Hill Jnr, President of the Charles Dickens Fellowship
From an early age, Rowland was a keen reader of Charles Dickens. He made special journeys to London to hear Charles Dickens give readings from “Pickwick Papers” and other books.
Rowland was the President of the Dickens Fellowship. Their annual meeting was held in the Bedford Library. One aim of the Fellowship was to help in the cause of people living in poverty, and in December 1926, they started a Tiny Tim’s Christmas Fund. Rowland read The Christmas Carol, and gifts were taken around on Christmas Eve and were much appreciated. He said it was amazing to find so much poverty still in Bedford.
These days the Dickens Fellowship is a worldwide association of people who share an interest in the life of Charles Dickens.
Rowland Hill Jnr, Unitarian Minister
From 1872 to 1934, Rowland Hill Jnr was the minister of the Bedford Unitarians. The Unitarians believed God is a single entity, not three forms, as expressed in the Trinity.
From 1877 the Bedford Unitarians held their meetings on Thurlow Street. Then from 1877 to 1911, they used the Bedford Rooms in Harpur Street for their meetings. The group subsequently met in Rowland’s house on Pemberley Avenue or other private homes in the town.
Rowland was one of the oldest Unitarian ministers in the country. When he retired in 1934, it seemed that a new minister could not be found, leading to the closing down of the only Unitarian congregation in Bedfordshire.
Famous Unitarians were Isaac Newton, English mathematician; Charles Dickens, writer and social critic; Louisa May Alcott, American novelist; and Thomas Jefferson, third President of America.
Rowland was also a noted temperance worker. For many years Fanny assisted Rowland in his work for the Band of Hope Union. Fanny was a Guardian of the Poor and Treasurer of the Bedford Women’s Liberal Association.
The final years of Fanny, Rowland Jnr, and Annette
The 1911 census records Rowland, Fanny, and their daughter Annette living at 13 Pemberley Avenue. Rowland’s wife, Fanny, died aged 69 on 10 January 1916 at 13 Pemberly Avenue, Bedford. There are no records of Fanny’s funeral taking place in Bedford.
By 1939 Rowland had moved to 57 The Grove, Bedford. His daughter, Annette, lived with him as his housekeeper.
Rowland died aged 98 years on 30 September 1945 at St. Mary’s Hospital Luton. His funeral Service took place at Cambridge Crematorium. There are no records of where his remains were scattered.
In October 1945, a memorial service to give thanks for Rowland Hill was held at the Howard Congregational Church, Bedford.
After her father died, Annette continued to live at 57 The Grove, Bedford. Annette died aged 73 years on 15 December 1949 at Bedford Hospital. There are no records of where Annette’s funeral took place.
There was no cremation facility in Bedford until 1955 when a crematory was installed at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Annette and her mother may have been cremated at Cambridge Crematorium. No records of Rowland or Annette’s remains are buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery.
The marriage of Augustus Hill to Elizabeth Amelia Jeffs
On April 13, 1874, Augustus married Elizabeth Amelia Jeffs at St. Paul’s Church, Bedford.
Elizabeth was born in 1852 in Bedford. The 1861 census records Elizabeth living at 26 Gravel Lane, Bedford, with her father, Henry, aged 41, who was employed in the clothing industry. Her mother, Eliza Jeffs, aged 40, was a laundress, and her elder brother, William, aged 12, was an errand boy. In 1861 Eliza gave birth to a son, Edwin, who sadly died aged seven months in 1862 at Tower Court, Bedford. He was buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave F10 75. Three weeks after Edwin died, Eliza died aged 47 years. Eliza was buried next to Edwin. Grave Reference F10 76. Henry Jeffs died aged 61 years in 1877 at Cauldwell Street, Bedford. He was buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave D10 48
Augustus mourns the loss of two sons and Elizabeth
After their marriage, Elizabeth and Augustus lived at 3 Alexandra Place, Bedford where their two sons were born, who sadly died in infancy. Their eldest son Edgar was born in 1875 and died in March 1878, aged two years and ten months. His uncle, Rowland Hill Jnr, performed the burial service at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Reference C7 49. Their youngest son Reginald was born in September 1877 and died in November 1877, aged seven weeks. Reginald is buried close to his brother, Grave C7 60.
Elizabeth and Augustus subsequently moved to 3 Adelaide Square, Bedford. On the 31st July 1887, Elizabeth died aged 35 years and was buried close to the graves of her sons Edgar and Reginald at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Reference C7 112.
Augustus’ second marriage to Edith Mary Carlow
In 1890 Augustus married his second wife, Edith, at Huntingdon. Edith was born in 1863 in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. She was the daughter of Charlotte and Thomas Carlow, a bank manager. They lived at Bank House, Ramsey, Huntingdon. After their marriage, Augustus and Edith lived at 3 Adelaide Square. They subsequently moved to 12 Cardington Road, Bedford.
In 1889 Augustus became the Chief Officer of the Bedford Volunteer Fire Brigade. He was one of the founders of the Bedford Fire Brigade. The last fire he attended was on 11th January, 1912, and probably the largest in Bedford, was at Longhurst & Skinners (now J. D. Weatherspoon, Pilgrim’s Progress). He suffered from some burns on his hands and face.
Augustus died on 19th March 1912, at his home at 1 Rutland Road. His funeral service at St. Paul’s Church preceded his burial at Foster Hill Road Cemetery in the grave adjacent to his first wife, Elizabeth. Grave Reference C7. 102.
Edith Mary Hill died on 25th January, 1941. Her burial took place in the grave with Augustus. Grave C7.102 Augustus and Edith had no children.
On leaving the Bedford Modern School, Russell began his apprenticeship at a firm of law stationers in London. After he qualified, he continued to work in London.
Aged 45, Russell married Jane Lloyd, aged 26, in 1906 at St George Hanover Square, London. Jane was born on 21st November 1880 at Clerkenwell, London, and was one of the five children of Marianne and Charles Lloyd, a foreman carman. The family lived at Jewell Street, Mile End Road, London. At the time of her marriage, Jane worked as a perfumer, producing fine perfume compositions.
They had two daughters, Margaret Nancy, born on 4th April 1907, and Olive Mary, born in 1909. The family lived at 84 Southcroft Road, Tooting, Wandsworth, London.
In 1912 Russell returned to Bedford when his brother Augustus died and carried on the shipping agency. He ran an agency for all the main steamship lines. His office was at the Union Bank Chambers, 11 St. Paul’s Square, Bedford. He subsequently moved his office to 2a Mill Street, Bedford.
Russell died aged 81 years at his home, 19 De Pary’s Avenue, Bedford. He was buried on 12th May 1941 at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Reference C7. 92
Descendants of Rusell and Jane Hill.Margaret married Stanley J Plumb in Bedford in 1935. They had two children while living in Bedford. Martin Hay Plumb was born in 1938, and Judith A Plumb was born in 1939. Jane, Margaret, Stanley and their two children, Martin and Judith, subsequently left Bedford.
Olive married Ian Carruthers and lived at 12 Rosamond Road, Bedford. Olive died in 1972, and Ian died in 1997. Their funerals took place at Foster Hill Road Crematorium. A memorial plaque was placed on the cemetery’s West Wall. Reference K 1 3
Researched and written by Linda S Ayres
George Skene Northampton Mercury 18 October 1834
George Skene Northampton Mercury 1834.
Death of Samuel Woodward Hill Bedfordshire Mercury 16 January 16 1860.
Bedford Mercury 18 April 1874.
Rowland Hill, Dickens Fellowship Bedfordshire Times and Independent 7 October 1927
Unitarian Bedfordshire Times and Standard 7 November 1947
Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London
Luther Hill burial. Family Search Historical Records
Pics: Augustus Hill, Carlyle Miller, Elizabeth Hill, Mary Ann Miller
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