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George Hill (1802–1883)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

George Hill (1802-1883), butcher, alderman and sporting patron, was born on 25 March 1802 at Parramatta, the eldest son of William Hill and Mary Johnson. His father, transported for life for felony, reached Sydney in the Ganges in 1797. Next year his mother arrived in the Britannia on a seven-year sentence. William became superintendent of the government slaughter-house, had an absolute pardon in 1813 and was a butcher in Pitt Street in 1828.

George had little education and at 10 ran cattle on the coast. In 1828 he was helping his father and by 1832 had three inns in Pitt Street. On 18 June 1832 at St James's Church of England he married a widow, Mary Ann Hunter. He accumulated real estate and in 1838-50 held Yanko, 56,000 acres (22,663 ha) on the Murrumbidgee, but his main occupation was a butcher with his own slaughter-house.

In 1842 Hill was elected for Macquarie ward to the first Sydney Municipal Council and in 1844 became a magistrate. In July 1848 he was elected to the Legislative Council for the Counties of St Vincent and Auckland but soon vacated his seat. In municipal politics he belonged to the Australian-born faction and in 1850 was mayor. He brought 'dignity and respect' to the office and was praised by Bell's Life in Sydney for reforming abuses in the police courts. He also dispensed liberal hospitality and was elected for a second term, but the Supreme Court declared his election invalid to the displeasure of Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy. In 1856 Hill was nominated to the first Legislative Council after responsible government and in May 1861 resigned in support of Sir William Burton. In 1856-57 he again represented Macquarie ward in the Municipal Council. He was a trustee of the New South Wales Savings Bank in 1850-83 and sat on the committees of the Benevolent Asylum and the Cumberland Agricultural Society.

In the 1830s Hill was treasurer of the Sydney races and a subscriber to the Parramatta races. In 1842 his horse Toby won a trotting match at Homebush. In the early 1850s he was several times on the Anniversary Regatta Committee. Known as a 'gentleman of the fancy' he backed Laurence Foley's fight at Echuca and later leased him a hotel in York Street. Hill's 'jovial face and bluff, kindly ways' were well known. He built a mansion, Durham Hall, Surry Hills, and died there on 19 July 1883 after his buggy had collided with a tram. He was buried in Randwick cemetery, survived by his second wife Jane, née Binnie, and by five sons and five daughters. His estate was valued at £59,200.

Hill was recognized as head of a large family closely connected with the Wentworths and the Coopers. One of his daughters married Fitzwilliam, W. C. Wentworth's eldest son; another married Sir William, second son of Sir Daniel Cooper. Hill's brother Richard was Wentworth's brother-in-law and his sister Elizabeth was Cooper's wife. Another daughter married her cousin James Richard Hill. His brother Edward Smith Hill (1819-1880) was a naturalist and a trustee of the Australian Museum; in 1874 he was largely responsible for the dismissal of the curator, Gerard Krefft, and served as a New South Wales commissioner for exhibitions in Philadelphia, Paris and Sydney. George Hill is not to be confused with his nephew, George (1834-1897), who was prominent in coursing and owned Malta which won the Sires Produce Stakes in 1875 and the Epsom in 1876; in 1891-92 he won the Epsom and Doncaster with Marvel.

Select Bibliography

  • C. H. Bertie, The Early History of the Sydney Municipal Council (Syd, 1911)
  • M. Roe, Quest for Authority in Eastern Australia 1835-1851 (Melb, 1965)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1853, 2, 617
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1862, 2, 493, 1866, 2, 69, 1869, 2, 463
  • Bell's Life in Sydney, 9, 16, 30 Nov, 7, 14 Dec 1850, 4 Jan 1851, 24 Jan 1852
  • Empire (Sydney), 4, 11 Jan 1851
  • Bulletin, 10 June 1882
  • manuscript catalogue and newspaper indexes under George Hill (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Hill, George (1802–1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 13 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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