Rev Walter Henry Hill

Pioneering Naturalist at Southminster

Rev Walter Henry Hill was born in 1796 to Walter and Clarissa Hill who were a wealthy family living at the Rocklands in Goodrich, Hertfordshire.

He took his MA at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University before following a religious career.

As a mark of his appreciation of his time at Emmanuel College in 1827 on his graduation  he presented the college with a claret jug to be included in their valuable plate.

In 1831 he married Elizabeth Isaacson who was descended from the wealthy Leigh family of Leatherlake House, Runnymead, Surrey although her branch of the family had moved to Monmouth, Wales where she was born.

Rev Hill and his new wife then took up residence at Southminster as the Curate for the Parish Church under the Vicar - Rev Alexander Scott.

Rev Hill was to remain at Southminster until 1839.

While at Southminster he became very interested in the wildlife of this area and became one of the first men to keep records of his finds which he shared with other enthusiasts.

His interest became well known and unusual specimens were brought to the Church by local residents.

An example of this was in February 1835 when he made the following observation to the Naturalist Magazine

CRUSTACEOUS ANIMALS The Spider Crab seen in a State Ecdysis or Moulting A few days since a spider crab was alive to me taken in the act of changing its coat The was singular The upper and lower shell being the legs were withdrawn from their old cases and as a lever to detach the under shell from the upper exertion of the legs was necessary to raise the upper this had been accomplished but it was not entirely from the body when brought to me The body was soft and the new skin of about the consistence of parchment in fact the change was almost completed .

Shortly after Loudens's Magazine published a list of Birds that he had observed in and around Southminster.

His pioneering observations were one of the foundations on which the work of the Essex Field Club was built nearly 50 years later.

In 1840 Rev Hill and his wife returned to the Welsh Borders owning 9 plots of land in Llangarren , Herefordshire .

The parishioners in Southminster presented him was a very handsome chased silver cup and cover when he left the parish.

He enjoyed a long retirement before dying at Monmouth in 1867.

He is reported to have died from drowning in a shallow stream while trout fishing, preseumably after a collapse of some sort.

The Hill family remained in the family home at Monmouth until Walter Guy Hill who was the son of Walter and Elizabeth died in 1906.

Rev Hill had to endure a national scandal concerning his mother’s Sister Isabella.

Isabella married a wealthy Danish Business called Lens Wolff who became the Danish Consul in London.

During this period she became very friends with a Sir Thomas Lawrence who was a prominent artist.

He painted a fine portrait of her in 1803 which was commissioned by Clarissa Hill

Rumours abounded of an affair especially when in 1810 Isabella separated from her husband and moved to Kent.

The gossip reached such a pint that in 1821 she moved to the family home in Monmouth and was only visited twice by Lawrence before her death in 1829 aged about 60.

On her death Lawrence was grief stricken although both continued to deny an affair.