HILL, Sir Rowland (by 1498-1561), of London and Hodnet, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. by 1498, s. and h. of Thomas Hill of Hodnet by Margaret, da. of Thomas Wilbraham of Woodhey, Cheshire. m. (d.1550), s.p. Kntd. 18 May 1542.2
Warden, Mercers’ Co. 1535-6, master 1542-3, 1549-50, 1554-5, 1560-1; sheriff, London 1541-2; alderman 1542-d., mayor 1549-50, auditor 1550-2; j.p. Salop 1543-54, Mdx. 1547-54, Surr. q. 1557-d.; commr. of Admiralty in Nov. 1547.3
Rowland Hill was born at Hodnet, in north-east Shropshire, the eldest son in a cadet branch of a family which derived its name from the village Court of Hill in the south of the county. He was apprenticed to the London mercer Sir Thomas Kitson and admitted to the freedom of the company in 1519. He had already begun to trade to the Netherlands and in 1519-20 he imported customable goods, mostly linens and fustians, to the value of £426. He soon became an important merchant adventurer, treasurer of the company in 1523, and a very rich man: his subsidy assessment rose from £150 in goods in the mid 1520s to 5,000 marks in goods in 1541.4
In the 1520s Hill was assessed in two parishes, St. Pancras Cheapside and St. Stephen’s Walbrook: he was apparently then living in the first of them but he eventually made his home in the second. He had some experience of parliamentary business before sitting in the House himself. He was one of a number of commoners appointed by the court of aldermen on 27 Jan. 1536, before the final session of the Parliament of 1529, to discuss ‘such matters as shall be profitable for the commonwealth of this City’. In 1547, by then an alderman, he was nominated by the common council of London to draw up the City’s answer to a bill for the river Thames introduced into the Lords, and by the court of aldermen to join with three others in scrutinizing bills devised by the garbler of spices, Thomas Norton, the father of the Member of that name. In March 1553 he was appointed to accompany the mayor to the Parliament chamber, to solicit the Lords’ support for a bill put in by London concerning fuel, and to Chancellor Goodrich to request his ‘lawful favour’ in the same matter. Similar commissions followed his own Membership: thus on 12 Jan. 1555 he was sent to Chancellor Gardiner and Treasurer Winchester about parliamentary matters5.
As sheriff of London Hill was involved in the privilege case of George Ferrers. On 28 Mar. 1542 he and his fellow-sheriff and their officers were committed to prison by order of the House of Commons for arresting Ferrers, ‘being one of the burgess of the Parliament’, and resisting the serjeant at arms sent to liberate him. The next day the mayor and aldermen sued to the Lords and Commons for the sheriffs and on 30 Mar. they were released from the Tower by order of Parliament ‘without paying any fine saving fees and other charges, which stood them in £20’. It was probably to compensate him for the indignity that Henry VIII knighted Hill later in the year while the Parliament stood prorogued.6
A few days after Hill’s election as mayor at Michaelmas 1549 came the fall of the Protector Somerset. On 7 Oct. two letters were read to the common council of London, both written on the previous day; one was addressed to Sir Henry Amcotes, the retiring mayor, by the lords of the Council in London, the other to Amcotes and Hill by the King and the Protector at Windsor. This letter asked for 1,000 men to defend the King, but as the Earl of Warwick had already talked with the mayor and aldermen at Ely Place this demand could not be complied with. Hill’s own preference was probably for Warwick, at least in respect of religion; he has been called ‘the first Protestant lord mayor’. At the end of his year of office he went to a communion service in Guildhall chapel ‘sung like parish clerks according to the King’s proceedings’, and during his mayoralty the usual procession to St. Paul’s on Candlemas day was cancelled, although this was said to be ‘by reason of the late departure of my lady mayoress to the mercy of almighty God’, one of only two references found to Hill’s wife.7
Shortly before the death of Edward VI writs were sent out summoning a Parliament for 18 Sept. 1553. This Parliament never met but the four Members elected to it by London were re-elected to the first Parliament of Mary’s reign which met three weeks later, Hill being one of them. He had two bills committed to him, one for London tallow chandlers and the other for imported hats and caps, but his Protestantism did not move him to join those who ‘stood for the true religion’ against the Catholic restoration. He was none the less dropped from the benches in Middlesex and Shropshire on the issue of new commissions in 1554, although appointed to the Surrey one three years later after the lord mayor had invoked a privilege entitling all ex-mayors of London to be justices of the peace. It was perhaps as a quid pro quo that in 1557 he was also commissioned to inquire into heresies and seditious books. At the close of the same year he was one of those who heard the indictment of Sir Ralph Bagnall for treason. After the accession of Elizabeth he had the less uncongenial task of helping to put into execution the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity.8
In 1555-7 Hill was a governor of Christ’s Hospital and St. Thomas’s, Southwark, from 1558 surveyor general of all the city’s hospitals and from 1559 governor of Bridewell. By his will, dated 12 Nov. 1560, he made bequests to these three hospitals and to the poor of three parishes, St. Stephen’s Walbrook ‘where I dwell’, Hodnet ‘where I was born’, and Stoke upon Tern, Shropshire, where his brother William was parson. He had already founded a grammar school at Market Drayton at an estimated cost of £300, the salary of the school master and usher being paid by the city of London under an agreement sealed on 9 Apr. 1551. His heir was his brother William but he left most of his lands to his sisters’ children, one of whom married Reginald Corbet. His property lay in Shropshire and the neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Flint and Staffordshire: much of it he had acquired between 1539 and 1547 in a series of purchases of monastic land. He also had a house at Hoxton, Middlesex, left to him for life by Sir Thomas Seymour I. Hill died on 28 or 29 Oct. 1561 and was buried on 5 Nov. in St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, where an inscription later commemorated him as ‘a friend to virtue, a lover of learning’.