HILL (formerly HARWOOD), Thomas (1693-1782), of Tern, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 1693, 1st s. of Thomas Harwood, Shrewsbury draper, by Margaret, da. of Rowland Hill of Hawkstone, sis. of Rt. Hon. Richard Hill, diplomatist and financier. m. (1) 14 Feb. 1723, Anne (d. 21 Dec. 1739), da. of Richard Powys of Hintlesham, Suff., 1s. d.v.p., 2da.; (2) 3 May 1740, Susan Maria, da. and coh. of William Noel, 2s. 2da. Assumed name of Hill 1712. suc. to a substantial part of Richard Hill’s estates 1727; to Attingham on d. of his mother 1734; fa. 1739; to Shenstone Park on the d. of his cos. Samuel Hill 1758.
Hill received a mercantile education on the continent directed by his uncle, Richard Hill; his letter books, 1740-59,1 show him engaged in extensive financial transactions on his own account, and possibly for others. He is seen lending nearly £8,000 to George Crowle, and considerable sums to Lord Lincoln, Velters Cornewall and others. On 1 Dec. 1753 he sent a message to Sir Edward Leighton: ‘I have not such a sum as £9,000 but if he pleases I will do my endeavours to procure it for him’; and on 17 Aug. 1754 wrote to his cousin Samuel Hill (another of Richard’s heirs) advising him to lend £20,000 to ‘a very honest gentleman’, Sir Thomas Mostyn. In October 1753, having consulted Bartholomew Burton, Hill invested £14,000 in Bank of England stock;2 and there is further correspondence with Burton and with Child and Backwell about other English stocks and even French ‘actions’—finance in great style carried on from Shrewsbury.
There is in the summer and autumn of 1753 a lengthy correspondence between Lord Powis and Hill about election prospects at Shrewsbury, where Hill had been returned unopposed in 1749. An opposition was apprehended from a ‘few capital merchants of commanding interest’ supported by country gentlemen under the leadership of the Windsor family. ‘I understand’, wrote Powis on 15 July, ‘that Windsor is now going to put his favourite scheme to a trial, (viz.) the getting a number of low people assessed, to suit his purposes. This must be prevented.’ Hill tried to influence the Tories through his nephew, Edward Kynaston; and wrote to him, 30 Aug.: ‘My Lord [Powis] cannot be persuaded but the leading gentlemen of the party’ might stop the opposition to his friends ‘if they were in earnest’; unless they do, he will immediately retaliate in the county. On 1 Sept. Powis announced his intention to ‘take such measures, as shall be most proper for the support of the Whig interest, and for their service in particular’—he obviously treated Hill as a ‘Whig’. On 5 Sept. Hill reported to Powis that a delegation from ‘a large body of burgesses’ had offered him ‘their votes and interest’ if he joined another candidate in opposition to the corporation, which he refused to do.
After Sir Richard Corbett had declined to stand again, Thomas Hill and Robert More were on 27 Oct. 1753 unanimously adopted candidates. Hill now looked after the Tories, and More, an arch-Whig by family tradition, after the Dissenters. Thus on 3 Dec. Hill told Richard Lyster that had his and Sir John Astley’s ‘intimate friends ... promised Mr. More and me their votes upon condition that the county Members ... were not to be disturbed it would have set a good example’—with which Lyster agreed; and on 19 Jan. Lyster thought he could ‘answer for all the gentlemen his friends that they will strictly adhere to the compromise’.3 In turn, when in February 1754 Benjamin Bathurst, hitherto Member for Gloucester, was in search of another seat, two friends of his, one a Dissenting minister, came to Shrewsbury and proposed to the Dissenters that if they voted for Bathurst, the Tories ‘would give an equal number of their votes to Mr. More’. But while they found support with the Windsor group, the Dissenters told them, wrote Edward Elisha to Hill on 23 Feb., that ‘they came here on a wrong errand for that they all had promised to vote for you and Mr. More and would keep their words’.4 On 16 Apr. Hill and More were returned unopposed, with Lyster and Astley attending in support.
In the House Hill was a regular follower of Powis, receiving through him Newcastle’s parliamentary whip. Thus on 10 May 1754, when only formal business was expected, Powis wrote: ‘It is therefore at your option whether you will be at the trouble of a journey to London on this occasion, or not.’ But on 16 Oct. 1755: ‘Give me leave to say, that though I doubt not of your present intention of attending the meeting of the Parliament on the first day, I shall be extremely glad to see you there accordingly, and shall take it as a favour if you will be so good as to let me know I shall certainly have that pleasure.’
When in 1759 More decided not to stand at the next general election, and a struggle ensued between Robert Clive, backed by Powis, and Lord Pulteney, son of Lord Bath, Hill again followed Powis. ‘I am informed Lord Pulteney is come to Pateshall’, wrote Powis to him, 1 Aug. 1759. ‘I long to hear what part the Tory party take on the present occasion.’ And when on 4 Aug. 1760 Clive gave a dinner to the Shrewsbury burgesses, Hill, together with other members of the Powis group, was asked to attend. Receiving scant support from any quarter, Bath gave up, and Hill and Clive were returned unopposed. And here is a summons of 13 Jan. 1761 to support Powis when attacked by Bath:
Lord Powis sends his compliments to Mr. Hill and acquaints him that the Shropshire gentlemen will meet tomorrow morning at the Bedford Coffee House in Covent Garden at nine o’clock (and Mr. More will be there) in order to proceed to the Duke of Newcastle’s from thence.
In Bute’s parliamentary list of December 1761 Hill is marked: ‘Tory, hitherto connected with Lord Powis’; and next, ‘Bute’—he probably went over to the court together with Powis in November 1762. In the autumn of 1763 Jenkinson classed him as ‘pro’.
When during the struggle over general warrants Edward Kynaston was whipping up Members on the Government side, he wrote of Hill that he very seldom stayed out a long day;5 and he was absent from the division of 18 Feb. 1764. Again, during the crisis over the repeal of the Stamp Act, Powis wrote to George Grenville, 16 Feb. 1766:6 ‘I will certainly use my best endeavours to obey your commands tomorrow in regard to Mr. Hill. I can generally engage his attendance on business, but I am not so fortunate at all times in regard to his staying it out and taking a part in the division.’ His name does not appear on 22 Feb. among those voting against the repeal; nor again in the division on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767. Rockingham in his list of July 1765 classed Hill as ‘doubtful’, in that of November 1766 as ‘Tory, perhaps not ministerial’; and Newcastle in March 1767 as ‘Tory’. There is no record of Hill’s having spoken in the House.
On 15 Jan. 1768 Hill addressed a letter to the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of Shrewsbury: ‘from my infirm state of health I find myself obliged to decline offering myself again, not being able to attend my duty there as I ought to do’; he recommended his son Noel for his successor. It was on Noel’s behalf that Hill fought the bitterly contested election of 1768 at Shrewsbury. He died 11 June 1782.