Hill, James (d.1728?) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26
Hill, James (d.1728?)

by Gordon Goodwin ‎
Date of death 1727 in the ODNB.

HILL, JAMES (d. 1728?), antiquary, a native of Herefordshire, was called to the bar as a member of the Middle Temple. Between 1715 and 1717 he issued proposals for publishing by subscription a history of the city of Hereford in two parts, devoted to its ecclesiastical and its civil state respectively, with ‘transcripts from original records,’ ‘geometrical plans of the city, churches, monasteries, and chapels,’ and engravings of monuments, arms, ancient seals, and portraits of eminent persons. He proposed to follow this, if successful, by another volume treating of the county. The plan is printed in Rawlinson's ‘English Topographer,’ 1720, pp. 71–3. Owing to Hill's premature death nothing came of the project. In 1718 he was elected F.S.A., and was admitted F.R.S. on 30 April 1719. He showed to the Society of Antiquaries in the year of his election a ‘vast collection of drawings, views, inscriptions, plans, and observations in MS., the fruits of his travels in the west of England that summer’ (Gough, British Topography, i. 410). One of his drawings, a west view and ichnography of Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, was engraved by J. Harris for John Stevens's ‘History of Antient Abbeys,’ 1723, ii. 57 (ib. i. 789). When at a meeting of the So- ciety of Antiquaries on 3 Jan. 1721–2 it was resolved to attempt a complete history of British coins, Hill undertook to describe the Saxon coins in Lord Oxford's possession, while his own collection was to be catalogued by George Holmes (1662–1749) [q. v.] (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iv. 543 n., v. 454 n., vi. 156 n.) During the same year he exhibited to the society an accurate survey of Ariconium and of Hereford (Gough, i. 417). A few years before his death, in December 1727 or in January 1728, Hill went to reside permanently in Herefordshire, but still maintained a correspondence with his brother-antiquaries, especially with Roger Gale and William Stukeley. To the latter he sent his picture, drawn by himself, in profile (Stukeley, Diaries and Letters, Surtees Soc., i. 132). At his dying request his father forwarded his Herefordshire collections to Gale for his perusal in March 1728. Gale found that although Hill had done more than was supposed, his work was ‘a mere embryo of what he had promised’ (ib. i. 204–5), and therefore unfit for publication. In 1752 Isaac Taylor of Ross bought the papers of Hill's brother, a schoolmaster in Herefordshire, for John Roberts, M.B., also of Ross, who indexed the volumes and made many additions in six duodecimo volumes. After Roberts's death in 1776 the whole collection, now increased to about twenty volumes of various sizes, again passed to Taylor, who sold them in 1778 to Thomas Clarke, F.S.A., principal registrar of the diocese of Hereford (Gough, i. 418*). On Clarke's death in March 1780 they came to the Rev. James Clarke, who still owned them in 1821. Clarke offered to sell them to John Allen the younger of Hereford, but they could not agree about the price. A collection of thirty-five ancient Herefordshire deeds, most of them marked with Hill's name, was given by Joshua Blew, librarian of the Inner Temple, a native of the county, to Andrew Coltee Ducarel [q. v.] Isaac Taylor had ‘a beautiful soliloquy of Hill's on hearing a parent correct his child with curses’ (Gough, i. 418*). A more ambitious, but unfinished, poem is mentioned by Maurice Johnson, junior, in a letter to Stukeley, dated 14 Oct. 1719 (Stukeley, i. 168). Verses on his death are in John Husband's ‘Miscellany of Poems’ (pp. 134–40), 8vo, Oxford, 1731, from which it appears that Hill wrote some lines on ‘Eternity’ about ten hours before his death.

[Rawlinson's English Topographer, pp. 70–3; Stukeley's Diaries and Letters (Surtees Soc.), vol. i.; Gough's British Topography, vol. i.; John Allen's Bibliotheca Herefordiensis, pp. viii–x; Nichols's Lit. Anecd.]

G. G.