Poundisford Lodge - near Taunton Somerset
© Copyright Nick Chipchase and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence
John Hill (1589-1657) was descended from the famous family of that name at Poundisford so I thought that I should start this short biography with a brief account of his ancestry. His pedigree is given in the Visitation of Somerset in 1623 so is fairly easy to establish:-
John HILL was born in 1589 (1) in Poundisford Somerset. He married circa 1617 Sarah Green (d. 1630/1) the daughter of John Green (d. 1615) Merchant of Dorchester and the widow of Thomas Davidge (d.1614) another Merchant of Dorchester. They had three children that I know of John Hill junior born 1622; and two older daughters Mary & Elizabeth. William Whiteway in his diary on 6th December 1630 records the birth of his own daughter Mary Whiteway and lists Sarah Hill as one of her godparents and also refers to her death as '5th January next' so she died in 1630/1.
He was an Ironmonger by trade but coming from a wealthy merchant family he moved in Dorchester's top circles. The earliest record that I can find for him in Dorchester is when he took on an apprentice, Thomas the son of William Keane of Pitminster for 7 years to help run his merchant business in the town, but he was probably well established by then as along with Dennis Bond he was made a constable of Dorchester in 1618 and he clearly knew William Whiteway the diarist as he is frequently mentioned in his diary. Although William Whiteway junior had been born in 1599 John Hill was present at the baptism of William's new brother James Whiteway born in Dorchester on 1st Oct 1619. John Hill named the child before the font together with Richard Savage and William's aunt Pitt from Bridport, who were all presumably therefore his godparents - a function taken a great deal more seriously in the 17th century and would mean John Hill was a close friend of William Whiteway senior.
John's standing in the community can perhaps best be judged from the offices he held. On 11th Sep 1621 for example he was appointed the first Governor of the Company of Freemen and is named as such in its constitution dated 22nd October that year. Two months later when the aged John Yeate died he replaced him as an Alderman of Dorchester and a week later was appointed to take his place as a Capital Burgesses as well(10) . Like everyone else he was an enthusiastic supporter of John White's schemes to create a godly community and invested in 1624 in the Dorchester Company and formed a part of the inner circle known as the New England Parliament which met in the 'Free School' in Dorchester. In October 1624 he was also elected as Bailiff and in 1628 became MP for Dorchester along with Denzil Holles.
John Hill also took on a number of other civic duties. When John White finally managed to sort out Ministers remuneration in 1631 he was elected steward of the Seaton Parsonage not only therefore responsible for holding funds, but also collecting tithes and the problems that arose when tenants refused to pay. His success in administering these accounts was probably the reason he was elected Treasurer of the County at the Quarter Sessions in Sherborne on 30 April 1633. In 1636 he was elected Mayor of Dorchester and he was particularly solicitous for the welfare of the sick and elderly; on one occasion entering orders for relief payments into corporation minutes in his own hand. Throughout this period John always had one eye on his business and owned several privateers which he used to good effect. The Seaton Stewardship was a position that he held until 1642, no doubt a task he was happy to lose although the reason was the start of the Civil War which brought with it a whole host of other problems. In 1643 when Dorchester was threatened by the Royalists John and other merchants in the town tried to get many of their goods away to safety in a ship leaving Weymouth, but it was captured and presumably plundered. Ever the businessman however John also saw the opportunities the war presented to make money and among other things sold provisions to the besiegers of Sherborne. The war however really saw the end of his actual presence in Dorchester as there is reference to him rarely attending Corporation Meetings in the 1650's and he removed to London where he died.
When he made his Will, however on 21st May 1657, it was still clearly in his heart as he left £100 for one of Whites pet schemes, an endowment to support a poor scholar from Dorchester at one of the universities. This became known as The Hill Exhibition. There is no mention of his wife so presumably Sarah pre-deceased him. His will was proved in London on 4th January 1657/8 and he was replaced as a Capital Burgess of the town on 18th Jan 1657/8.
Sources and Genealogical Notes:-
(1). Visitation of Dorsetshire in the year 1623 page 55 (gives his age as 34 in 1623): Visitation of Somersetshire 1623, pages 50 & 51. This visitation also records further ancestry in that Roger Hill is shown to be the son of William & Eleanor Hill but I have chosen not to research further back for this account.
(2). National Archives Will of Roger Hill, Merchant of Taunton, Somerset proved 8th Apr 1546 Prob 11/31: Will of Roger Hill, Gentleman of Pounsford, Somerset proved 24 May 1609 prob 11/113: Will of John Hill, Merchant of London proved 4th Jan 1657 PRO 11/272.
(3). National Monuments records re Poundisford Lodge
(4). Fire From Heaven by David Underdown ; pages 44, 133 ,150, 155, 165, 187, 204, 207, 210, 215, 227.
(5). Church of latter day Saints members record
(6). William Whiteway's his diary pages 16, 23, 27, 39,42,61,65, 95,107,118
(7). A2A Ref DD\X\VNL/1: Ref DD\X\WA
(8). Somerset Historic Environment Board - http://webapp1.somerset.gov.uk/her/details.asp?prn=43503
(9). Notes extracted from genealogical tree :http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/c/h/o/Kathleen-Choi-HI/GENE3-0095.html#ENDNOTEREF6673:: Source:- J. Gardner Bartlett's "John Hill of Dorchester, Mass., 1633, & 5 Generations of His Descendants" Printed for private circulation by Lew C. Hill, 1904 Unlike some editions of only 22 pages this one is 97 pages long and includes an account of the Hill family of Poundsford, Somersetshire, England:- WILLIAM HILL, born about 1515, established himself at Poundsford in Pitminster, where he died in 1594, having been granted in 1570 the coat of arms mentioned above. Three children of his large family were born before 1548, as per his mother's will. His own will, dated June 6, 1592, mentions daughter Eleanor Hill, and daughter Lucy Lawrence; sons Alexander and Gabriel; sons John, Thomas, and Benjamin; eldest son and heir Roger Hill. None of the children are mentioned as being minors. He married first about 1540, Anne, daughter of John Trowbridge of Colyton, Devonshire; she died about 1560; he married second, about 1563, Lucy, daughter of John Ryves of Dorset.
(10). The Municipal records of Dorchester Dorset by Charles Herbert Mayo 1908. (Note:- there were earlier John Hills in Dorchester but these pages refer to him) p.57, 64, 86, 370, 386, 391, 395, 408, 410, 464,
(11). Dorset Quarter Session Order Book 1625-1638 - Published by the Dorset Record Society Volume 14 p. 235, 275, 329, 343
(12). John White The Patriarch of Dorchester [Dorset] and Founder of Massachusetts' by Frances Rose-Troup published by GP Putnam's Sons in 1930. pages 63,263,449
(13). This fits with the information given in John Hills Will written in 1657 where he refers to his 'late brother William'. Of Williams 8 children listed in the 1623 visitation only William's son John (born 1618) is mentioned in the Will
(14). His brother Roger Hill was appointed as executor of his will in 1657 and appears to have died in 1661. Viz National Archives Will of Roger Hill, Gentleman of Taunton, Somerset proved 14 February 1661 - Prob 11/303
(15). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Roger Hill (1605-1667) and William Hill (d1642) of Poundisford by John Ferris
(16). Pedigree of 'The Hill Family of Poundisford Somersetshire England' compiled by J Gardner Bartlett Boston Mass - Five generations of his descendants with ancestral lines of some families inter-married with his descendants