HILL, Rowland (1800-1875), of Hawkstone, Salop.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

18 Oct. 1821 - 1832
1832 - 10 Dec. 1842

Family and Education

b. 10 May 1800, 1st s. of Col. John Hill of Hawkstone and Elizabeth Rhodes, da. of Philip Cornish, surgeon, of Exeter, Devon. educ. Harrow 1813; Oriel, Oxf. 1818. m. 21 July 1831, Ann, da. of Joseph Clegg of Peplow Hall, Salop and h. of her grandfa. Arthur Clegg of Irwell Bank, Lancs., 2s. suc. grandfa. Sir John Hill†, 3rd bt., as 4th bt. 21 May 1824; uncle Sir Rowland Hill† as 2nd Visct. Hill 10 Dec. 1842. d. 3 Jan. 1875.

Offices Held

Cornet R. Horse Gds. 1820-4.

Cornet N. Salop yeoman cav. 1814, lt. 1816, lt.-col. commdt. 1824-72; col. Salop militia 1849-52; lt.-col. commdt. Salop yeoman cav. 1872-d.

Ld. lt. Salop 1845-d.

Biography

Hill was born at Hawkstone, into a family renowned for their Protestantism and military service, who had long shared in the representation of Shrewsbury and Shropshire. He was baptized at Hadnal, 10 Oct. 1800, and educated by private tutor and at Harrow, which he entered in September 1813 with his brothers John and Richard Frederick. His father, the heir to Hawkstone, served with the duke of York in Flanders and died, 27 Jan. 1814, having entrusted the care of his seven children to their deeply religious mother and their paternal grandfather Sir John Hill, a former Tory Member for Shrewsbury. Their father’s unmarried brother Rowland Hill, the hero of the battles of Aboukir (1801), Talavera (1809), and Almaraz (1812), who represented Shrewsbury from 1812 until his elevation to the Lords as Baron Hill in 1814, also took a keen interest in their progress, and in 1816 he secured a special remainder to his nephews on his titles. Hill graduated in law with distinction in 1820 despite concern for his health, and was subsequently bought a commission in the Blues and introduced to estate business.1 His coming of age in May 1821 was a county occasion;2 and he wrote of his life in London at this time:

I dine out whenever I am invited, which is four or five times a week, when I am not, I find a friend, perhaps Frank Needham*, and dine at a coffee house; in short I go to every party and every dinner I can and when I can find nothing to do by invitation I am obliged to take care of myself.3

Shortly afterwards, on the advice of the Rev. Henry Pearson, dean of Salisbury, he set out for the continent with John Roger Kynnaston, the heir to Hardwick, and, passing through France, the Low Countries, Germany and Switzerland, reached Turin, where on 21 Sept. he learnt of the death on 24 Aug. of the Shropshire Member John Cotes and of the canvass organized by his grandfather on his behalf.4 He returned immediately, arrived shortly before the nomination on 15 Oct. and was elected unopposed on the 18th.5 Congratulating his mother, the Rev. Reginald Heber, the future bishop of Calcutta, observed:

You are now, I trust, convinced that he needs nobody to speak for him and I am happy to express a hope ... that when he has acquired more confidence in his own powers, and is less afraid of the sound of his own voice (a terrifying sound, as I well know it to be, in the case of all young beginners) he will in this as well as the other and far more essential requisites of good sense, high honour and attention to his duties, be a valuable Member of the House of Commons. I own I consider it a great advantage and, if properly employed, a great blessing to a young man of high expectations to be early in life initiated in the duties of a responsible and laborious situation; to have an object held up to him in the present life distinct from and superior to the amusements which, at his age, too often constitute the whole round of existence; to have an honourable and conscientious stimulus for exertion ever present and to find himself compelled, in the most agreeable and, at the same time, the most cogent manner, to the practical study of the rights, the duties and the interests of his country. Some of the greatest men of my acquaintance have had their characters in a great degree formed in the House of Commons, and, while I have every confidence that Rowland’s services will be long beneficial to and approved by his constituents, I cannot but hope that his early entrance there may be in the highest and most important sense of the words a source of happiness and blessing to himself.6

Hill’s election owed much to Lord Hill’s popularity as a military leader, and he was expected to act ‘with government’.7 He divided with them on distress, 11 Feb., and taxation, 21 Feb., and against reducing the salt duty, 28 Feb. 1822. He kept aloof from the controversy surrounding the Shropshire distress meeting of 25 Mar., but he confirmed the severity of the agriculturists’ plight when presenting their petition for remedial measures, 25 Apr.8 He presented petitions for tax reductions from the Shropshire ironmasters, 24 Apr., and the tanners of Whitchurch, 1 May.9 He voted against Catholic relief, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. His family acquiesced in the return of the Whig eccentric John Cressett Pelham at the Shropshire by-election in December 1822.10 Ostensibly because as a soldier he was obliged to wear military dress, Hill was passed over as a possible mover of the address in February 1823.11 He voted against inquiry into voting rights, 20 Feb., and the tax cuts sought by opposition, 10 Mar., but cast a wayward vote for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. At Canning’s request, he moved the address, 3 Feb. 1824, confident that he would secure its ‘unanimous approbation’.12 He praised post-war achievements in commerce, manufacturing and finance; spoke as an agriculturist of the recent gradual ‘amelioration’ of distress; defended the government’s foreign policy, especially its neutrality towards Spain, and attributed their proposed increase in military expenditure to the state of the West Indies, where ‘a steady and calm investigation will prove that the true interests of the colonists are inseparably connected with the moral improvement and meliorated condition of the slave population; and that the chief cause of the military augmentation will soon cease to exist.’ According to The Times, 4 Feb.:

In consequence of the low and faltering tone of voice ... only a few occasional words reached the gallery. After expressing a full sense of his inability to discharge the duty which he had devolved upon him, and bespeaking ... the full indulgence of the House, he glanced hastily at the various topics which the royal speech embraced, and concluded by moving the address, which was as usual an echo of it.

William Wilberforce, who was present, however, assured Mrs. Hill by letter on the 9th

that your son acquitted himself in such a way ... as to have produced in all who were present (at least all whose good opinion is worth having) a very favourable impression of his talents, and a still more favourable one of his moral character ... His very modesty may have made him send you a less favourable report of his performance than was just, and therefore I am the more desirous of stating to you the truth of the case.13

Hill is not known to have spoken or voted again that session, but he presented the Whitchurch petition for repeal of the ‘regulations relating to hides and skins’, 3 May.14 He resigned his commission on succeeding his grandfather in May 1824 to the baronetcy and 14,000-acre Shropshire estates, which, though worth £19,581 a year, were encumbered by £94,000 in mortgages and charged with providing over £5,000 in annuities; he received nothing as residuary legatee.15 He voted against admitting foreign corn, 8 May 1826. His return at the general election in June, when he chose to speak of his relations rather than his politics, was not opposed.16

Hill presented Shropshire petitions against amending the corn laws, 19 Feb., and against Catholic claims, 2 Mar., which he divided against, 6 Mar. 1827.17 Having served on the Kilkenny election committee, he was awarded three weeks’ leave on urgent business, 23 Mar. Lord Hill declined the Goderich administration’s offer of the ordnance in December 1827, but offered his support to the new Wellington administration in January 1828 and in February was appointed commander-in-chief.18 Hill is not known to have voted or presented petitions on the repeal of the Test Acts, but he presented several for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 29 Feb., and voted against Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. The patronage secretary Planta predicted that he would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation in 1829, but he remained ‘as firm as a rock’ against it, and expressed regret at Peel and Wellington’s decision to concede it when presenting a hostile petition from the diocese of Marchia, 16 Feb. According to his mother, he expected that ‘the Catholics will gain their cause and that in a division a hundred votes will not be found on the other side’.19 He presented and endorsed the Shropshire anti-Catholic petition before voting against the introduction of the relief bill, 6 Mar., divided against it on the 18th, but did not vote on its third reading, 30 Mar. He presented petitions against militia reductions, 4 May, and renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 22 May 1829. He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s reform proposals, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He presented petitions for repeal of the malt duties, 26 Feb., 2 Mar., against the truck system and renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 2 Mar., and for abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 27 Apr. As a shareholder in the Birmingham and the Ellesmere Canal Companies,20 he presented a petition against the Trent and Mersey canal bill, 3 May, and on the 17th moved the third reading of the rival Ellesmere and Chester canal bill. He divided against Jewish emancipation the same day. His return at the general election in August was unopposed.21 In October 1830 he entertained his regiment at Hawkstone following their exercises at Market Drayton.22

The Wellington ministry counted Hill among their ‘friends’ and he divided with them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He led the yeoman cavalry against the rioting colliers at Chirk Bridge, 5 Jan. 1831, and afterwards assisted the lord lieutenant, Lord Powis, in quelling incendiarism.23 He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. He presented several anti-slavery petitions, 23 Mar. Now projecting himself as a moderate reformer and supporter of the enfranchisement of large towns, he engaged in an arduous and costly canvass at the general election in May 1831 and topped the poll in a four-man contest.24 However, many squires found him ‘wanting’ as a Member and were disturbed by his decision to assist Cresett Pelham, a recent convert to Toryism, in preference to his kinsman by marriage, the moderate reformer William Lloyd of Aston Hall, who retired in third place.25 Hill voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and was afterwards said to be ‘in despair ... upon the subject of politics’.26 He divided against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, and the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., knowing that Lord Hill, who subsequently abstained, would not support it in the Upper House.27 Like Powis’s Members, he chose not to divide on the second reading of the final bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but voted against considering it in committee, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided against the Irish measure at its second reading, 25 May. Although disappointed, he took a pragmatic view of Wellington’s failure to form a government that month.28 He divided against administration on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. Afterwards he and his young wife, the heiress Ann Clegg, set out on a tour of the Lake District.29 She had been a regular guest at Hawkstone since being orphaned at the age of 13 in 1828 and made the ward of her grandfather, the Manchester merchant Arthur Clegg, who, ‘supposing himself to be on the point of death’, had her wedding to Hill, which was conducted privately at Irwell Bank, 21 July 1831, brought forward.30 Clegg died, 22 Sept., and, by his will, dated 3 Aug. 1831 and proved on 25 Feb. 1832 under £180,000, his estates were entrusted to the Hills and Edward Lloyd of Nanhoron, for the use of Ann and her heirs. Hill also gained control of the bulk of her fortune and the Peplow estate.31 The marriage should have remained unannounced for about a year or until Ann was 18, but it was soon the talk of Shrewsbury, where it was said that a local surgeon and corporator, Dr. Duggard, had demanded £2,000 from the Hills for arranging it. Writing in March 1832, William Mostyn Owen of Woodhouse surmised that

the general opinion is that if his [Duggard’s] hands are very dirty Mrs. Hill’s are not quite clean. A more disgraceful transaction has certainly seldom taken place, and at all events poor silly Sir Rowland is as completely sold as any slave or beast of burthen, and whatever he gains in money will lose, and ought to lose, in character.32

In May 1832 Sir James Scarlett* and Sir Edward Sugden* as counsel advised the immediate announcement and registration of the marriage. A settlement followed, 11 Aug. 1835.33

Hill’s return for the North Shropshire constituency as a Conservative was assured at the general election of 1832 notwithstanding the bitter contest for second place.34 He represented the constituency until December 1842, when he succeeded to the viscountcy awarded in August to his uncle. They had hoped for an earldom; and in a letter of complaint to the premier Peel, Hill defended his own silence in the House, stressed his family’s military record and loyalty ‘to church and king from time immemorial’ and included among his achievements educating and purchasing commissions for his brothers.35 He died at Hawkstone in January 1875 after a long illness and was buried in the family vault at Hodnet. He was remembered as a pioneer of eland farming and improver of smallholdings, and for his great skills as a sportsman, militia commander and county lord lieutenant, to which office he had succeeded the absentee duke of Sutherland in 1845.36 He left £30,000 to his younger son Jeoffrey and was succeeded in the peerage, baronetcy and 16,500-acre estates, mortgaged to the Bridgnorth banker John Pritchard with assets of £25,000 and liabilities of £23,200, by his elder son Rowland Clegg Hill (1833-95), who died insolvent. Hill’s widow died in Brighton in 1891, worth £9,203.37

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

  • 1. Salop Archives, Rev. J.C. Hill mss 549/121-2.
  • 2. Shrewsbury Chron. 11 May 1821.
  • 3. Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/1.
  • 4. Ibid. 549/123; 811/2-27; Shrewsbury Chron. 14, 21, 28 Sept.; Salopian Jnl. 10 Oct. 1821.
  • 5. Salop Archives 1066/125, diary of Katherine Plymley, 15, 18 Oct.; Salopian Jnl. 17, 24 Oct.; Shrewsbury Chron. 19 Oct. 1821; E. Sidney, Life of Lord Hill (1845), 326.
  • 6. Rev. J.C. Hill mss 549/125.
  • 7. NLW, Aston Hall mss C.460-1.
  • 8. Shrewsbury Chron. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Mar.; The Times, 26 Apr. 1822.
  • 9. The Times, 25 Apr., 2 May 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 18 Nov., Salopian Jnl. 4 Dec. 1822.
  • 11. Arbuthnot Corresp. 43.
  • 12. Salop Archives, Bygott mss 731/11/88-89; Salop Archives 6001/3055, p. 35.
  • 13. Sidney, 330.
  • 14. The Times, 4 May 1824.
  • 15. Gent. Mag. (1824), ii. 278; Bygott mss 731/5/3/46; 731/5/5/231/1; 731/5/5/246-7; 731/10/4-8; 731/11/28; PROB 11/1689/471; IR26/1004/893.
  • 16. Salop Archives 1066/137, Plymley diary, 12 June; Shrewsbury Chron. 16, 23 June 1826.
  • 17. The Times, 20 Feb., 3 Mar. 1827.
  • 18. Sidney, 331-4; Wellington mss WP1/914/25.
  • 19. Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/49.
  • 20. Bygott mss 731/10/4-8.
  • 21. Sidney, 342; Shrewsbury Chron. 6, 13 Aug. 1830.
  • 22. E.W. Gladstone, Shropshire Yeomanry, 86-87.
  • 23. Rev. J.C. Hill mss 549/354, diary of Catherine Kenyon, 3-11 Jan.; Salopian Jnl. 5, 12, 19, 26 Jan., 9 Feb., 16 Mar., 6 Apr.; Shrewsbury Chron. 7 Jan., 4 Feb. 1831.
  • 24. Salop Archives qD45/13; Aston Hall mss C.1248, C.5326-7; Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/51; Salopian Jnl. 4, 11, 28 May, 22 June 1831.
  • 25. Aston Hall mss C.527; C.5329; Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/52; Shrewsbury Chron. 3 June 1831.
  • 26. Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/54.