History

Rowland Hill

History

Sir Rowland Hill, postal reformer and civil servant, was born on 3 December 1795 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, one of six surviving children of schoolmaster Thomas Wright Hill (d.1851) and his wife Sarah (Lea). His siblings were Matthew, Edwin, Arthur, Frederic and Caroline. In 1827 Rowland married Caroline Pearson (d.1881) and they had a son Pearson and three daughters. He had started work as a schoolmaster and later was appointed Secretary to the South Australia colonization commission. In 1837 his Post Office Reform was published and it is for his tireless work in this field that he is remembered. At that time recipients of a letter had to pay for postage based on the number of sheets and the distance it had to travel. He suggested stamps for pre-payment and the penny post allowed a letter to be sent anywhere in the country. Hill became a major public figure, a Fellow of the Royal Society and was knighted in 1860. He died on 27 August 1879 and was buried in St Paul's chapel in Westminster Abbey. The small gravestone reads simply:

SIR ROWLAND HILL 1879.

A life size white marble bust was erected near the grave and is by W.D.Keyworth, jnr., 1881. The inscription below the bust reads:

"Underneath is interred Sir Rowland Hill. Born Dec.3.1795. Died Aug.27.1879. Originator of the system of penny postage".

A photograph of the bust can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

For further information on Thomas and Rowland Hill :

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.