Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Hill, Rosamond Davenport

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HILL, ROSAMOND DAVENPORT (1825–1902), educational administrator, born at Chelsea on 4 Aug. 1825, was eldest of the three daughters of Matthew Davenport Hill [q. v. for family history]. In 1826 the family moved to the father's chambers in Chancery Lane, and thence, in 1831, to Hampstead Heath. Here they became intimate with Joanna [q. v.] and Agnes Baillie. At the age of eight Rosamond went to a day school, where she was taught practical botany, a subject which affected her future attitude towards practical education. Most of her education was acquired at home, where her mother's failing health threw much of the household management on her. During girlhood, on 1 March 1840, she had an interview in London with Maria Edgeworth [q. v.], of which she has left a long account (Memoir, p. 11). After a move to Haverstock Hill, where Thackeray and other distinguished men visited them, the family travelled abroad, in 1841 in France, in 1844 in Belgium, and later in Switzerland and Italy. In 1851 the father's appointment as a commissioner in bankruptcy took the family to Bristol, where Mary Carpenter [q. v.] enlisted Rosamond's services in her 'St. James's Back Ragged School.' Rosamund took the arithmetic classes and taught the children practical household work. Rosamond was soon acting as private secretary to her father, and eagerly identified herself with his efforts at educational and criminal law reform. In 1856 she visited Ireland and wrote 'A Lady's Visit to the Irish Convict Prisons.' In 1858 she and her father visited prisons and reformatories in Spain, France, and Germany. The temperance question and the treatment of prisoners occupied her pen. In 1860 Davenport Hill and his daughters published 'Our Exemplars, Rich and Poor.' Meanwhile in 1855 Rosamond and her father had inspected together the reformatory at Mettray, founded on the family system by M. Frederic Auguste Démétz, of whom Rosamond became a lifelong friend. After the ruin of the Mettray school during the war of 1870, she helped to raise nearly 2500^. in England for its restoration. In 1866 Miss Carpenter and Rosamond started at Bristol on the Mettray principles an industrial school for girls, which is still at work. On the death of her father in 1872 Rosamond and her sister Florence went to Adelaide on a visit to relatives named Clark, of whom Emily Clark was a notable worker on behalf of children. In Australia the sisters inspected schools, prisons, and reformatories with the aid of (Sir) Henry Parkes [q. v.]. Miss Hill gave evidence in Sydney before a commission on reformatory treatment, and the report issued in 1874 quoted her evidence and included an important paper by her, 'A Summary of the Principles of Reformatory Treatment, with a Special Reference to Girls' (printed in the Memoir). She argued that the treatment should aim at fitting the girls to govern themselves.

In 1875, after returning home by way of Egypt and Italy (in 1874), the sisters published 'What we saw in Australia,' and they completed in 1878 a biography of their father. In 1879 the two sisters settled in Belsize Avenue, Hampstead, and now added to their surname their father's second name, Davenport, in order to avoid confusion between Miss Rosamond Hill and Miss Octavia Hill (1838-1912), the active social reformer, who was no relation. Miss Hill at the same time left the Church of England for the unitarians.

On 5 Dec. 1879 she was elected as a progressive member to the London school board for the City of London, being second on the poll. She retained her seat till 1897, fighting successfully six triennial elections. As a member of the board, she showed an administrative capacity which was acknowledged by all parties to be of the first rank. At the outset she joined the industrial school committee and school management committee. She also acted as chairman of the managers of the Greystoke Place school in Fetter Lane, when it was the only board-school in the City of London, and there social or domestic economy was first made a school subject. In 1882 she became with admirable results chairman of the cookery committee, contributing a valuable article, 'Cookery Teaching under the London School Board,' to 'Macmillan's Magazine' (June 1884; reprinted in 'Lessons on Cookery,' 1885).

In 1886 she opposed the board's pension scheme for teachers, which in 1895 was abolished as actuarially unsound. She visited, in 1888, at Naas, Herr Abrahamson, the inventor of the Slöyd system of hand and eye training by means of woodwork, and described the system in the 'Contemporary Review' (May 1888). In the autumn of the same year she visited schools in the United States and Canada, and as a result she secured, in the face of much hostility, the introduction of pianos (for the purpose of marching and drill) into the London schools. With characteristic independence she resisted the provision by the board of meals for children, and in 1893 she opposed the denominational tendency of the board, though she was an ardent advocate of daily religious teaching. In 1896 she gave evidence before the departmental committee on reformatory and industrial schools and wrote a paper on 'How to deal with Children pronounced by the Authorities to be imfitted for Industrial Training' (Memoir, p. 132).

On her retirement from the board, owing to failing health, in 1897, she settled with her sister at a house near Oxford named Hillstow by Professor Skeat. The Brentwood industrial school was on her retirement re-named 'The Davenport-Hill Home for Boys.' She died at Hillstow after a long illness on 6 Aug. 1902.

To the end she was interested in the prevention of crime by education as well as in reformatories and industrial schools, which had first excited her philanthropic instincts, and she contributed two letters on these subjects to 'The Times' in her last days (24 Dec. 1900 and 16 April 1901). She was long a member of the Froebel Society, and was in 1894 made a governor of University College, London. She wrote in 1893 'Elementary Education in England,' at the request of the women's education sub-committee at the Chicago exhibition.

[Memoir of Rosamond Davenport-Hill, by Ethel E. Metcalfe (with three photographic portraits and a reproduction from miniature as a child); The Times, 7 Aug. 1902.]

J. E. G. de M.