This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)
EARLY HILLS (11)
There were Hills in Colebrooke at least as early as the mid-1500s, and they appear thereafter in successive generations. So it is reasonable to assume that Thomas Hill , found there in the middle of the next century, was descended from them.
Colebrooke is a village four miles west of Crediton, set on a hill above the River Yeo and one of its tributary streams. A little to the north, within the same parish, is the hamlet of Coleford, and north of that Copplestone.
The Devon Subsidy Rolls for 1524-7 show how householders were assessed for tax. Their wealth might be reckoned in wages, goods or land. This list shows John Heyll assessed at goods of £4, a respectable sum, and Ralph Heyll less well off, with goods of £2?. The next generation shows men named both Hill and Heale, so these early ones may not be from the Hill family. The fact that they had goods, rather than wages or land, suggests they were craftsmen, or traders, or husbandmen renting a small farm.
In the Subsidy Rolls for 1543-5, only John Heyll’s name appears, and he is now worth £8.
The parish registers for Colebrook go back particularly early, to 1559, the year after the young Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne. The Hill family are mentioned from the very beginning.
The earliest Hill found is Roger. In 1559 he married Joane Eastbrooke. The couple had four children baptised in Colebrooke: Jane, Roger, Emanuell and Robert. There are burials too, probably of an older generation: Elizabeth Hill in 1560, John, possibly the man mentioned as John Heyll above, in 1562, Alline in 1573.
Some of these names appear again in the Devon Muster Rolls for 1569. Among the list of harquebusiers for Colebroke are John Hille and Roger Hille. A harquebus is a weapon combining spear and axe. Among the billmen is John Heale, who may or may not be from the same family. A bill is a pike or halberd with a narrow hooked blade.
The Subsidy Rolls for 1581 give more evidence about these men. John Hill and John Heale were both assessed at goods to the value of £3. Roger is not mentioned.
Richard, who was christened in 1589 appears to be the son of George Hill.
Roger Hill was buried in 1605 and his wife Joane in 1607.
Colebrooke also has a particularly rich inheritance of constables’ and churchwardens’ records, with few breaks from 1597 to 1737. In 1602, the parish constable’s accounts are signed by Richard Hill, who had received ‘The Sumbe of Eightinge shillings & eight pence to The Yous of The Parishe’ from the constable.
There is a gap in the accounts after this until 1618, and a gap in the registers from 1609 to 1622, including most of the reign of James I, but then we begin to pick up other evidence from the churchwardens’ records.
The accompt of John Baker and George Hill being wardens of the pishe of Colbrooke in the year of our Lord God Everlasting 1620.
In 1623 we read:
The names of those that are to pay uppon the Church Rate as followeth:
There are 21 names on the list, including: Thomas Hill viiij d.
The payments range from 4s to 2d. Thomas’s 8d puts him eighth highest on the list, showing that he had an above-average income for this parish, though a long way from the affluence of those who were assessed in shillings. The office of churchwarden was usually held by a householder, but George Hill, who was churchwarden the previous year, does not appear among these ratepayers.
It is likely that George and Thomas were related, but we do not know how. They could be brothers, father and son, or cousins.
The full list of ratepayers is rarely given. In 1626, there were no Hills among them, nor do they appear on the lists of recipients of charity. But George and Thomas continue to feature in the records, showing them taking a responsible part in the running of the parish.
1628 pd to Tho Hill for ye Church House Rent 0..0..8
This marks Thomas out as a man of some standing, with a property to let for the use of the parish.
Very little information can be gleaned about the Church House: it was a cob-built and thatched building standing on a site on the east side of the churchyard, and was rented for eightpence a year. It still stands and is now used as a farmhouse. . . As in other parishes it was no doubt the centre of parish festivities.
Colebrooke Parish Accounts, 1597-1737. Percy Morris, 1944.
There is then a period of ten years in which no Hills occur, so when we next meet the name of Thomas Hill in the churchwardens’ accounts it is not clear whether this is the same man or the next generation.
1638 Rec of Thomas Hill 0..7..2
The following year, the register records the burial of ‘Joane wiffe of Thomas Hill’.
George appears in the same accounts.
1638 pd George Hill for Carridg of stones and sand 0..0..10
George appears to have had a cart.
1642 Rec of George Hill for the use of 20 li for halfe a yeare of Mrs Mills Money 0..16..0 bestowed as followeth:
Mrs Mills Money was a charitable bequest from which parishioners could borrow. George seems to have distributed it among 17 people in small amounts.
In the same year, Wilmott Hill , ‘widowe’ , was buried. It is not known who her husband was.
George Hill died in the 1643, soon after the start of the Civil War.
1643 George Hill Buried 15 daye of June
In the same year, the churchwardens’ accounts show:
1643 Jone Hill for the buriall of her husband in ye Church 6..8
The accounts do not mention any burials in the church before 1623: from that year until 1737 they totalled one hundred. . . At Colebrooke, between 1628 and 1678, the burials in the church averaged 1.18 a year; but from then the average fell to 0.6 a year. During these periods the fee for ‘breaking the church’, as it is sometimes called, was six shillings and eightpence, which was the usual fee throughout England.
Colebrooke Parish Accounts, 1597-1737. Percy Morris, 1944.
Again, this burial is evidence that the Hills were people of some standing in the parish, if not amongst the wealthiest.
The Victorians recovered the floor of the church with red tiles. Only a few grave-slabs remain. Those in the chancel are for the local gentry. There are two in the nave and one in the north aisle, but they are so eroded with centuries of footsteps that little of their inscriptions can be distinguished.
The bill for George’s burial, however, remained unpaid for three years.
1646 Rec for the buriall of Georg Hill in the Church wch was left to pay before 0..6..8
Next Generation: 10. HILL