Hill, Alexander Staveley (DNB12)

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HILL, ALEXANDER STAVELEY (1825–1905), barrister and politician, was only son of Henry Hill of Dunstall Hall, Staffordshire, where he was born on 21 May 1825, by his wife Anne, daughter of Luke Staveley of Hunmanby, Yorkshire. Educated at King Edward School, Birmingham, in the house of James Prince Lee [q. v.], he was in the first form with Joseph Barber Lightfoot [q. v.] and Brooke Foss Westcott [q. v. Suppl. II]. Matriculating at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1844, he graduated B.A. in 1852, B.C.L. in 1854, and D.C.L. in 1855. From 1854 to 1864 he held a Staffordshire fellowship at St. John's College. The volunteer movement found in him an enthusiastic supporter, and he was one of the first to join the Victoria rifles in 1859. Admitted to the Inner Temple on 6 Nov. 1848, he was called to the bar on 21 Nov. 1851, joined the Oxford circuit, and took silk in 1868. He was elected a bencher of his inn the same year, and served the office of treasurer in 1886. He was recorder of Banbury from 1866 to 1903 and deputy high steward of Oxford University from 1874 until his death. Meanwhile he acquired a large practice at the parliamentary bar. This he was obliged to relinquish on entering the House of Commons in 1868. But until 1887 he enjoyed a good common law practice, besides holding a leading position in the probate, divorce, and admiralty division and frequently acting as arbitrator in important rating cases. He was leader of the Oxford circuit from 1886 to 1892. He was counsel to the admiralty and judge advocate of the fleet from 1875 till his retirement through failing health in 1904, A staunch conservative in politics. Hill, after two unsuccessful attempts, at Wolverhampton in 1861 and at Coventry in March 1868, was elected for Coventry in December 1868. He sat in the house for thirty-two years — representing Coventry (1868–74), West Staffordshire (1874–85), and the Kingswinford division of Staffordshire (1885–1900). He was created a privy councillor in 1892. One of the earliest supporters of the policy afterwards known as tariff reform, he pressed in 1869 for an inquiry on behalf of the silk weavers of Coventry into the effect of the commercial treaty with France, and in speeches delivered in 1869 and 1870 showed the weakness of Great Britain's position in endeavouring to maintain a free trade policy against the operation of foreign tariffs.

In 1881 Staveley Hill went to Canada to study its suitability as a centre for emigration. He formed a large cattle ranch seventy miles south of Calgary, then in the North-West Territory, and since included in the province of Alberta. To this ranch, which was called New Oxley, he often returned, and he published a volume descriptive of the life among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains entitled 'From Home to Home: Autumn Wanderings in the North West, 1881–1884' (1885), illustrated by his wife. Toronto University made him an hon. LL.D. in 1892. He died at his residence, Oxley Manor, Wolverhampton, 28 June 1905. Staveley Hill married (1) on 6 Aug. 1864 Katherine Crumpston Florence (d. 14 May 1868), eldest daughter of Miles Ponsonby of Hale Hall, Cumberland; and (2) in 1876 Mary Frances (d. 1897), daughter of Francis Baird of St. Petersburg. A portrait of him by Desanges belongs to his only child, Henry Staveley Staveley-Hill (b. 22 May 1865), who succeeded him as recorder of Banbury and became in 1905 M.P. for the Kingswinford division.

Besides the volume mentioned above Staveley Hill wrote a treatise on the 'Practice of the Court of Probate' (1859).

[The Times, 30 June 1905; Foster, Alumni Oxonienses; Foster, Men at the Bar; Men and Women of the Time, 15th ed. 1899; Dod's Parliamentary Companion, 1900; private information.]

C. E. A. B.