Family History



My maternal grandfather Joseph Henry Hill was born in South Harting 17 April 1885. Most of his ancestors had been born in the parish for generations before. Joseph or Joe as he was known himself left Harting when only six so this is not a book about him, rather his forebearers who were born, married, toiled, celebrated life and died in Harting. Jo himself spent the rest of his childhood in Walberton briefly Eastergate then Yapton, all villages on the coastal plain between Chichester and Arundel. As a man he married and raised a family Walberton, supporting them by working as a builder. Harting however remained in the family memory. When I was a child we visited it more than once, paying particular attention the The Ship Inn and UpPark which had played roles remembered in our family’s past. We still have the silver plated teapot given by HG Wells’s mother, when house-keeper at UpPark to Jo’s parents my great-grandparents Henry Hill and Bessie Wild. My nephew has inherited the truncheon dating we believe to the reign of George IV which Henry Hill probably used when gamekeeper. As a child visiting my grandmother’s home I was terrified of the stags head half way up the stairs. I never thought to ask at the time but it probably came from Henry’s time as head deerkeeper at UpPark..

Joseph’s parent’s Henry Hill and Bessie Elizabeth Wild were married 28 August 1881 in the parish church of Harting, St Mary and St Gabriel. It was witnessed by Bessie’s father John Wild, sister Ellen Wild, half-brother William Wild.and Elizabeth Vick. She was probably fifteen year old Elizabeth Vick daughter of Charles Vick farmer and his wife Elizabeth who may have been a bridesmaid? Two children were born before Joseph, Bessie (obviously named after mother) 22 June 1882 and William John (who was given his grandfathers’ names) 9 July 1883. Who was Joseph named after? There was no other Joseph in either family so he must have been named after a family friend or simply because his parents liked the name. Henry was obvioulsy after his father. Two more children followed , Rosa born 27/7/1886 (the name of one of Henry’s sisters) and Robert Edward 6/1/1889 (again like Jo not named after family members).

The children were born in the Headkeeper’s Lodge situated in an isolated spot off the Compton road running to the south of UpPark. Its isolation from the village of Harting is testified by the withdrawl of Bessie Hill from Harting school 5/10/1886 (she had enrolled there 20/7/1886) because of the distance. Instead she went to the Compton school until 23/4/1888 when presumably her little legs were better able to take the long walk along the Harting-Comton road, or did the children have a short-cut through UpPark? Harting is a large parish and many of the other children drawn from West Harting, Nyewood, Hurst and the further reaches of East Harting had long wlks too. Brother William (Bill) didn’t start Harting school until 5, older than some of the children, probably due to the distance. In 1915 it was calculated that 80 children had to walk a mile or less, 38 one to one and a half miles, 41 one and half to two miles, 17two to two and a half miles and eleven two and a half to three miles.

The event which was to lead to Joseph into leaving Harting was his father’s untimely early death. His death certificate baldly states that he died 13/12/1889 of spasmodic asthma synecope.[ loss of consciousness due to lack of blood to the brain]. The death notified by brother-in-law Fred Wild 15/10/1889. I am more moved by this lyrical reference to Henry’s illness in the West Sussex Gazette by the Reverend Gordon, Vicar of Harting at the time

’In the sunlit glades of Uppark slope never more beautiful than now under golden foliage the nuthatch was flitting (Oct 12th) near the headkeepers lodge (Mr Hill) whose present illness commands wide sympathy and north-west of the northern lodge the looped flights of the butcher bird shrike making for the bushes of Maindown near Foxcombe shewed that was sometimes trenches on scenes of peace (17/10)’

The following week in the West Sussx Gazette the Revd Gordon reported on the funeral which he conducted

THE LATE MR. HENRY HILL, HEAD KEEPER, UPPARK – The funeral Mr. Hill, who died of bronchitis on Sunday week , and was buried on Thursday [17th October] , was the most numerously attended within the recollection of any here. Through the kindness of Miss Fetherstonhaugh, all those employed on the UpPark Estate were permitted to attend, and thus there were more than 200 who actually followed, besides a good many groups who joined at the Churchyard gate, in all we think about 200. Mr Frisby played "O rest in the Lord "(Mendelssohn) and the "Dead march" in "Saul" on the organ in our Church. This large concourse of people some being present from Compton and Petersfield, testified to the wide respect that faithful discharge of duty, English truthfulness of character, and kindly, manly bearing have commanded. It has been said locally that those who knew him best and longest held him in the greatest esteem. There is also widespread sympathy felt for his widow, a brave and devoted wife, who is left with five little children, the eldest being six years old…. Three brothers George, John and James Hill and George Harris, brother-in-law, lowered his brother into the grave’

The story passed down in the family is that Henry became ill and died in the West Country whilst there with his employer (presumably on a shooting trip). This obviously wasn’t so and even the possibility of the start of illness there seems unlikely. Miss Fetherstonhaugh was his employer, and unlikely person to go on a hunting trip.

Following her husband’s death Bessie and the children would have had to have left the Gamekeepers Cottage. It would seem they returned to Bessie’s old home The Ship Inn. The timing was fortuitous. Bessie’s father John Wild had died the previous year leaving the Inn to his widow, Bessie’s stepmother Joan. However Jane was to die in February 1891 and her young son twenty-two year old Fred became the new landlord. Housekeeping in her old home would have been a role Bessie would have easily slipped into. For the children used to the isolation of Head keepers cottage and the quietness other than the noises of birds and animals living in an Inn in the centre of the village must have been very different, and exciting. There would have been the noise and the comings and goings in the Inn and the traffic up and down the main village street, horse and carts, pedestrians and even the odd motor car. And the school was just across the road. Joseph started there on 11 November, a few weeks after his father’s death.

However their stay in The Ship was short. Fred Wild married Martha Collins that summer and probably the new wife didn’t want a family of six in her new home.. Maybe Bessie heard through brewery contacts that the Royal Oak Walberton needed a new licensee. According to the Harting school register the family left on 7 August 1891. Bessie kept in touch with her Harting family, for example daughter Rose spent some months back at the Ship Inn and attended Harting school January to April 1798.

Here we leave Jo Hill as he leaves Harting. His story and that of his brothers and sisters belong to other villages.