William was born on 31st October 1886 at 10 Belvedere Cottages, Wimbledon. As explained in Week 56, his father was a well known newspaper editor and journalist. His sister, Jane (Week 54), was born in February 1889 when they had moved to 15 Dulka Road, Clapham Common. Sometime before the 1901 census the family had moved to nearby 15 Old Park Avenue, where his parents would both live until their deaths.
William attended the City of London School which had strong links with journalism. This link had been reinforced by the newspaper magnate, Lord Northcliffe, who owned both the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, when he made large grants to the School in order to commemorate the death of G.W.Steevens, the pioneer war reporter, who died during the Seige of Ladysmith in the Boer War.
Subsequently, William went to Trinity College, Cambridge - where I have attended many an Institute of Taxation conference. The Assistant Archivist and Manuscript Cataloguer at Trinity College Library told me that William was admitted to Trinity as a pensioner (a normal undergraduate) on 30 September 1905. He passed Part I of the Economics Tripos examination in 1907 and Part I of the Special Examination in Law in 1908. He had a special dispensation (excused part General exam) in respect of the former and passed the latter with a second class degree. He obtained his BA in 1908.
During his time at Cambridge he was elected a member of Trinity Boat Club on 14 October 1905, and his name appears in more than one team list in the Club's minute book. The minute book also contains an account of the Lent Bumps of 1908 which are a series of races between Colleges which take place on the river each year. Apparently William and his team-mates rowed in the fourth boat, which experienced considerable success.
He was elected a member of the Magpie and Stump (the college debating society) on 1 March 1907, but it does not appear that he took part in any debates.
Having left University, William married Alma Georgina Annie Haskins, or Georgie as she was always known, at St Leonards Church, Streatham on 28th January 1911 when she was 4 months pregnant with their first daughter, Peggy.
A couple of months after their wedding, on the 1911 census, William & Georgie are living at 30 Badminton Road, Wandsworth in a five room house. William is described as a journalist. Georgina Margaret Elizabeth Hill (Peggy) was born on 21st June 1911. To allay any questions over Peggy's birth, the daughters were always told their parents married in 1910.
As far as work was concerned, William worked on The Standard as a reporter and sub-editor before becoming chief sub-editor of, and contributor to, the Amalgamated Press, a relatively new newspaper and magazine publishing company. He was released by them in 1915 so that he could sign up for military service.
Having initially joined the Army Ordnance Corps, William was released at the request of the Ministry of Munitions and carried out some important roles over the next few years :
- he became technical assistant to the Nitrogen Products Committee and was mentioned in their Final Report to the Minister for "valuable assistance" and applying "his editorial experience with conspicuous success".
- he joined editorial staff in the Historical Records section of the Ministry of Munitions which was run by a friend of his father's, David Lloyd George, who had been appointed the Ministry's first Minister with the remit to solve the problem of the country being short of ammunition. William contributed to "The Official History of the Ministry".
- he subsequently moved to the Intelligence and Statistics Branch of the Ministry of Labour. His role was to translate, summarise and edit, information about industrial and labour matters from French and Spanish sources.
Back on civvy street William rejoined Amalgamated Press and he and his young family moved to 34 Crockerton Road in Wandsworth where two more daughters were born :
Jennie Sylvia Hill on 5th March 1918 (Week 46 : My Mum)
Pamela Noreen Hill on 10th January 1921
From what my mother told me, her father had DIED when she was very young and she didn’t remember him. Whether that was what her mother told her or whether she actually knew the truth but was too embarrassed to tell anyone, we will never know. The truth was very different and still too sensitive to be told and still covered by The Family Skeleton and Secrets Act.
Suffice to say, at this stage, William left the family home in 1921 when he can be found at 25 Loughborough Road, Brixton. A year later he had moved again and left a footprint behind at 12 St Martin's Road in Stockwell.
In 1924 he was adjudged to have "unlawfully deserted" his wife. She was given custody of the children and he was ordered to pay 70 shillings per week maintenance.
In 1925 he was living at 51 Nightingale Lane in Balham and, in 1932, 26 Deanville Court, Clapham. His father died in November 1932 and the death certificate gives the address for William, who was the informant, as being 15 Old Park Avenue. It looks like he moved back into his father's house because he was still living there in 1936 when his mother died in 1936.
William began to write under the nom de plume of William Wimbledon Hill (he had been born there). He was the author of the book, which is listed on Amazon, "One Hundred Years of Boat Racing - The official souvenir of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race 1829 - 1929." A copy was auctioned in 2010 with the added description - "portraits of the crews, history of the race etc. Excellent decorative colour wrappers. Good condition. rare." I don't know how much it sold for.
On 15th May 1946 William died aged 59 of a heart attack caused by arteriosclerosis.
One day I hope to tell the full story about William but I can't do this at the present time due to the sensitivities of others.