Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hill, Rowland (1744-1833)

HILL, ROWLAND (1744–1833), preacher, sixth son of Sir Rowland Hill, first baronet, was born at his father's seat, Hawkstone Park, Shropshire, on 23 Aug. 1744. Sir Richard Hill (1732-1808) [q. v.] was his eldest brother. Rowland was educated at both Shrewsbury and Eton. When still young he received deep religious impressions through the conversations and letters of his brother Richard. In 1764 he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, as a pensioner, subsequently becoming a fellow-commoner. He read diligently, but his religious views and his earnest efforts to do good exposed him to much scorn. He visited prisoners and the sick; preached wherever opportunity offered in Cambridge and the adjoining villages, and was often insulted by mobs. In January 1769 he graduated B.A. with honours, and endeavoured to obtain orders, but was refused by six bishops in succession, owing to his irregular preaching, which he refused to discontinue. On 6 June 1773, however, he was ordained by Dr. Wills, bishop of Bath and Wells, to the curacy of Kingston, Somersetshire. Here he was most diligent in the discharge of parochial duty, while at the same time he continued to make extensive evangelistic tours. On applying for priest's orders to the Bishop of Carlisle, with letters dimissory from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, he was, at the instance of the Archbishop of York, refused on account of his irregularities. He continued to preach wherever he could find an audience, in churches, chapels, tabernacles, and the open air, often to immense congregations, and sometimes amid great interruption and violence. A chapel was built for him at Wotton, Gloucestershire, and here he officiated for a part of every year during his life. In 1783 Surrey Chapel, London, was erected for him, and became henceforward the usual scene of his labours. His earnest, eloquent, eccentric preaching attracted large congregations. Attached to the chapel were thirteen Sunday schools, with over three thousand children on their rolls. In 1810 he issued his 'Village Dialogues,' which ran rapidly through several editions. In all the great religious and philanthropic movements of the time Hill look a prominent part. He was the first chairman of the committee of the Religious Tract Society', and an active promoter of the interests of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the London Missionary Society. Vaccination found in him a warm advocate at a time when it was not generally popular. He published a tract on the subject in 1806, entitled 'Cow-pock Inoculation Vindicated and Recommended from matters of Fact,' and himself vaccinated thousands of persons. He continued to work busily to a very advanced age. He died 11 April 1833, and was buried beneath the pulpit of Surrey Chapel. In addition to the works above mentioned, he published a number of sermons and several hymns, some of which received finishing touches from Cowper's hand. He married, in 1773, Mary Tudway.

[Life by the Rev. Edward Sidney, 1833; Memoirs by the Rev. William Jones, 1834; Memorials by the Rev. James Sherman, 1857.]

T. H.