Hill, Richard (1732-1808) (DNB00)

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HILL, Sir RICHARD (1732–1808), controversialist, was eldest son of Sir Rowland Hill, who was created a baronet in 1727 as nephew of Richard Hill (1655–1727) [q. v.] Richard's mother was Jane, daughter of Sir Brian Broughton; and Rowland Hill, the preacher (1744–1833) [q. v.], was a younger brother. He was born at Hawkstone, the family seat, near Shrewsbury, on 6 June 1732. He was educated at Westminster School and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he matriculated 8 Dec. 1750, and was created M.A. on 2 July 1754. He travelled on the continent for two years with the Earl of Elgin, and on his return to England in 1757 distinguished himself as a champion of George Whitefield and the Calvinistic methodists. In 1768 six undergraduates were expelled from St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, for adopting methodism. Hill violently attacked the university authorities in a pamphlet called ‘Pietas Oxoniensis’ (Oxford, 1768). Dr. Thomas Nowell, principal of St. Mary Hall, and public orator, replied to Hill, who rejoined with much vigour in ‘Goliath Slain.’ Hill defended Calvinistic methodism against John Wesley, Fletcher of Madeley, and other methodist leaders in 1770. Towards the latter end of 1780 he was returned to parliament, unopposed, to represent Shropshire. His maiden speech was delivered on 19 May 1781, upon a ‘Bill for the better Regulation of the Sabbath.’ Throughout his parliamentary career Hill was an able and telling speaker. The ‘Public Advertiser’ characterised his speeches as uttered ‘with much wit and good humour.’ His habit of referring to the authority of holy writ excited much ridicule, and he was called ‘the Scriptural Killigrew.’

In the autumn of 1783 Hill succeeded to the baronetcy and estates of his father, who had died on 7 Aug. in that year. In 1798 Archdeacon Charles Daubeny [q. v.] published his ‘Guide to the Church.’ Hill attacked Daubeny in ‘An Apology for Brotherly Love and for the Doctrines of the Church of England.’ Daubeny replied in ‘An Appendix to the Guide to the Church,’ 1799, in answer to which Hill published ‘Reformation Truth Restored.’

In 1803 Bishop Tomline of Lincoln censured evangelical preaching somewhat severely in his charge, when Hill with much warmth defended the evangelical clergy from Tomline's accusations. Hill was a hearty supporter of the British and Foreign Bible Society, but failing health prevented him from appearing as its champion. Soon after the dissolution of parliament in the autumn of 1806 the same cause induced him to give up his seat, and he retired to Hawkstone. He died on 28 Nov. 1808, and was buried in a vault known as the ‘Sepulchre of the Hills,’ in the parish church of Hodnet, Shropshire, where a monument was erected to his memory. He was unmarried, and was succeeded as third baronet by his younger brother John, the father of Rowland, first viscount Hill [q. v.], and of Sir Thomas Noel Hill [q. v.] Among his friends Hill was held in the highest esteem on account of his simplicity and kindliness. Kenyon declared that he knew not ‘within the circle of human nature a better man than Sir Richard Hill.’ Hill's writings consist chiefly of religious pamphlets, the most remarkable of which are noticed above. Two of his works, ‘A Present for your Poor Neighbour’ and ‘The Deep Things of God,’ were long popular, and have been several times reprinted.

[Life of Sir Richard Hill, by the Rev. Edwin Sidney; Oxford Graduates; Public Advertiser, 22 March 1782; Alumni Oxon.; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ix. 427.]

W. C. S.