Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hill, Richard (1810–1895)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Richard Hill (1810-1895), pastoralist and politician, was born on 22 September 1810 at Sydney, the third son of William Hill, emancipist butcher, and Mary Johnson. Educated at Wood's school and by William Timothy Cape, he was apprenticed as a carpenter. In the late 1820s he managed William Charles Wentworth's Vaucluse estate and later was agent for his city property. At St Philip's Church on 27 January 1832 he married Henrietta, daughter of Francis Cox, emancipist, and sister of Wentworth's wife. In 1842 he took over the Carpenter's Arms from his brother George, and like him was a butcher with his own slaughter-house. About 1848 he took up Mungyer, 76,000 acres (30,757 ha) on the Liverpool Plains, and in 1849 he and his brothers visited the Californian goldfields. In about 1839-60 he owned a large orchard, The Orangery, on the Lane Cove River and was often rowed to it by ten Aborigines; it was described by George Bennett in Gatherings of a Naturalist in Australasia (London, 1860). Hill set up a boiling-down works to provide manure, exported oranges to the Victorian goldfields and at its peak the orchard's profits were £50 a day.

A magistrate from 1855, Hill sat on the committees of several agricultural and horticultural societies and was a councillor of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales. In the early 1860s he went to New Zealand and took up a large run near Invercargill. On his return he acquired three runs on the Lower Macquarie, including Butterbone; they were largely managed by his sons. From 1866 he was a director of the United Insurance Co.

Hill was 'nurtured in politics' by Wentworth. In 1868-77 he represented Canterbury in the Legislative Assembly. Active and vigilant, Hill's imagery was 'most amusing, being purely Australian'. Fond of ornithological jokes, he described (Sir) James Martin's 1871 coalition as 'five kookaburras mixed up with one rosella—the Robertson rosella making the rest acceptable'. He mostly associated with other native-born politicians like Richard Driver and Edward Flood. In 1867 he tried to prevent the dismissal of William Duncan and in 1874 with William Bede Dalley and Driver urged the governor to release the bushranger, Frank Gardiner. In 1872 he helped to organize Wentworth's public funeral and in 1880 was appointed to the Legislative Council and a commissioner for the Sydney International Exhibition. In 1882 he was a commissioner for fisheries. Hill was a close friend and correspondent of Sir Henry Parkes and in 1887 told him 'knowing that you are a Good Catholic; & with a loving desire to eat fish on Friday's I have much pleasure in sending you a very fine Schnapper'.

From boyhood Hill spent much time hunting and fishing with Aborigines whom he regarded as his 'sable countrymen'. He found the Aborigine 'the life and soul of the party, full of humour, an excellent mimic' and a hunter with no superior in the bush. In 1881 he was a councillor of the Aborigines Protection Society and in June 1883 as a founding member of the Aborigines Protection Board helped to get a parliamentary grant for them. In 1892 with George Thornton he published Notes on the Aborigines of New South Wales. An Aboriginal boy lived with him all his life.

Survived by ten sons and one daughter, Hill died at his Bent Street home on 19 August 1895. He was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery beside his wife who had died on 27 September 1892. His estate was valued at £132,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1866, 5, 788, 1878-79, 7, 593
  • Australian, 26, 28 Dec 1842
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Oct 1857, 13, 30 Jan 1871, 18, 27 Oct 1877, 21 Aug 1895
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 17 Oct 1874
  • Bulletin, 15 Jan 1881
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript, printed catalogues and newspaper indexes under Richard Hill (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Hill, Richard (1810–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hill-richard-1141/text5951, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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