George Hills, 1st Bishop of British Columbia (1816 - 1895)

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Birthplace: Eythorne, Kent, UK
Death: Died in Parham (St. Mary's), Suffolk, England
Occupation: First Anglican Bishop of British Columbia, Canada - consecrated in Westminster Abbey, 25 Feb 1859
Managed by: Angela Tugwell
Last Updated:

About George Hills, 1st Bishop of British Columbia

First consecrated Bishop, British Columbia, western Canada

A writer in an English paper ....: "He could create enthusiasm in his workers and draw out their strong affection. This was partly due to his fine presence, his magnificent voice and his rare power of conversation, but chiefly to his wonderful energy, his great gifts of organization, and his unwavering faith that if a work was God's He would make it grow in His own time. [http://bcanglican.atspace.com/hretirement.htm]

Hills, George, born June 26th, 1816. Son of Admiral George Hills and Diana Hills (nee Hammersley)

Education: George passed his boyhood secondary school years at King William's College on the Isle of Man and left Oct. 23rd, 1833. He then entered Durham University.

Durham Univ. , B.A. (Hons) 1836, M.A. 1938 and D.D. D. 1839.

Ordained Priest on 6 December1840.

Curate North Shields (brief period)

Senior C. of Leeds, Parish Church Leeds under Dean Hook, (leading figure of Tractarian movement)

Incumbent of St. Mary’s and Lecturer of Parish Church, Leeds 1845 to 1848.

At age 33, from 1848 to 1859, he served at St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, the largest parish in England. [During the Commonwealth the Independents appropriated the chancel, the Presbyterians the north aisle, and the Churchmen were allowed the remainder of the building. The brick walls erected at this time to separate the different portions of the building remained until 1847: Source; Wikipedia]

Sat 16 Dec 1848 Norfolk Chronicle, Norfolk, England “ Rev. George Hills, Minister of (St. Nicholas) Great Yarmouth.

  • Sir, —Since the Yarmouth Church Organ stands amongst the foremost of the very finest in the kingdom, it ought to have not only organist of first-rate talent, but also an adequate choir....."

Hon. Canon of Norwich, 1850. Proctor of Norwich Convocation.

After his father died in 1850 at Ashen Hall, Essex, his mother and other siblings came to live with him in Great Yarmouth. His sister, Emily, met a fellow priest serving with him at St. Nicholas - the Rev. Herbert McSwiney - and married him in 1851.

1851 Census, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

  • George M.A. Hills (34) - Head of Household - Incumbant of Gt Yarmouth - born Eyethorn, Kent.
  • Diana Hills (68) - Mother - Fundholder, Annuitant - born St. James, Westminster, Middlesex.
  • Diana Hills (37) - Sister - born St. James, Westminster, Middlesex.
  • Lydia Hills (35) - Sister - born Tunbridge Wells, Kent
  • Emily T. Hills (29) - Sister - born Colchester, Essex
  • Thomas Hills (24) - Brother - Army late Ensign, East India Company - born Lexten, Essex

1854, February 12 ....his mother Diana Hills (nee Hammersley) died at the Rectory after returning from a church service.

Bury and Norwich Post, Suffolk, England Wed 21 Mar 1855 YARMOUTH “ Rev. George Hills has issued notices to the effect that collections will be made at all the churches and chapels, in aid of the National School Building Fund. ..."

In 1858 he became member of the Convocation and was granted an honorary D.D. (Jure Dignitatis) by the University of Durham.

He was a son of the Oxford Movement. This was a neo-Catholic revival in the Church of England, which emphasized ritual and elaborate dress in its services.

In 1859 Queen Victoria through the Archbishop of Canterbury constituted the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver's Island to be a Bishop's See called "the Bishopric of British Columbia". The appointment of a Bishop who could take the oversight of the colony and superintend the religious interest of the area was made possible by a generous endowment 15.000pounds established by the Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, one of the wealthiest people in Britain and benefactor of worthwhile causes around the world.

Hills shared the optimism of the Colonial Office, which predicted a railway and a million new settlers in British Columbia and Vancouver Island within the decade.

1859 Jan. 12th. The Greater Yarmouth history refers to George's Appointment a Bishop of the Colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver's Island. The ceremony was performed at Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Norwich and Oxford on Feb. 24th.

In Jan. Dr. Hills was presented with a handsome communion service by the members of his congregation, and on the 26th of May was presented at the Town Hall with a testimonial, value £400, as a token of esteem.

He reached his new diocese in March, 1860, but returned again upon a visit in 1863."

Worcester Journal, Worcestershire, England Sat 26 Feb 1859 LATEST INTELLIGENCE “

Rev. George Hills, D.D., was yesterday consecrated Bishop of British Columbia.

The ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey.===

In 1859 Hills became the first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of British Columbia, Canada and arrived in Fort Victoria in January 1860, two years after the 'gold rush' had brought a swelling population and social chaos of a frontier society. They also had to deal with evangelical, puritanical 'low church' Protestant regime established by Dean Edward Cridge in Victoria in 1854. [see Imperial Vancouver Island: Who Was Who, 1850-1950 By J. Bosher]

Three years later they were visited by one of George's first cousins Lieutenant Edmund Hope Verney 1818-1910 who had arrived as commander of the HMS Grapplier. At the same time the Rev. Lewen Street Tugwell arrived as a CMS missionary to assist Duncan at Fort Simpson, 1860-1862 ...and at Metlakahtla. (Both Bishop Hills and Lewen Tugwell are related to Tugwell 21st Century descendants through marriage).

George Hills was Bishop of British Columbia for 33 years.

Missionaries and Misery

"In all, there were between 2000 and 2500 Native people living on the outskirts of Victoria in 1862. In the spring of 1862 smallpox was present in San Francisco and considering the shipping activity between Victoria and San Francisco it was just a matter of time before the disease reached the shores of Vancouver Island.Smallpox was one of the most dreaded of diseases in the nineteenth century."

"Bishop George Hills also wrote about the epidemic. By the time the Bishop first visited the northerners’ camp, smallpox had been raging there for nearly a month. ..........while visiting the various camps Hills remarked, "I have never witnessed such horrible scenes of death, misery, filth, and suffering before. It seemed as if heathens had death and misery more terrible than Christian people... Besides small-pox, many were suffering from misspent lives and violence. They seemed handed over to judgment." It is clear from these passages that the missionaries saw the epidemic as the fault of the Native peoples themselves--smallpox appeared to have been visited on the Indians as a punishment for their lives of "treachery."

At the 1878 Synod he told delegates that " Cariboo, Kamloops, Nicola, Chilliwack, the Lower Fraser Valley and Cassiar are needing the ministrations of the Church, but we send them no supply..." The synod approved a resolution according to which the Diocese was divided into three separate dioceses: Diocese of British Columbia consisting of Vancouver Island; Diocese of New Westminster which included the Cariboo, the Kootnays and the Fraser, Thompson and Upper Columbia valleys, and the Diocese of Caledonia which included Northern British Columbia. The Archbishop of Canterbury approved the proposal.

Although Bishop Hills was not the first missionary to the Far West, he is called the founder of the (Episcopal) church in British Columbia. He was the first one who realized the need for other bishoprics in the province and he succeeded through repeated personal efforts and sacrifices and through the influence of his name in the mother country. He was also noted for his gift for administration, his energy, his power to create enthusiasm in his workers and draw out their affection

Bury and Norwich Post, Suffolk, England Tue 24 Jan 1865. <Dr. George Hills, Bishop of Columbia, who was recently married to a daughter of Lady King, of Madingley, Cambridgeshire, left England on Tuesday with Mrs. Hills for his distant diocese, in "the Shannon", from Southampton.>

Bishop Hills intended to resign and spend the remaining years of his life with his wife in Victoria. Her death in 1888 changed his plans. He plunged into work again.

When he finally agreed to retire in 1892 due to poor health, he returned to England as Rector of Parham under Bishop John Sheepshanks of Norwich, who had earlier been one of his more satisfactory choices for pioneer work in British Columbia.

There Hills organized a system of district visitors in the parish, tended his garden and greenhouses, conducted regular services, and voted Tory in the election of 1895.

An idealist, a man of courage and optimism, he was described by George H. Cockburn as “one of God’s extremists, limited only by his Anglicanism.” He was a man of firm church principles for whom the 19th-century expansion of both the British empire and the Church of England gave undeniable evidence of the wisdom of the divine will. Providence, equally, had enabled Hills to give his life in service of three masters: church, God, and country.

Bishop Hills Memorial Church of St. Mary the Virgin, located in Vancouver, is named for him.

He died in 10th December 1895 at Parham Vicarage, Parham, Suffolk

Evening Telegraph Mon 16 Dec 1895, Angus, Scotland DEATH OF A FAMOUS CLERIC. B The death is announced in Suffolk ot the Right Rev. George Hill*, D.D., Bishop “ Rev. George Hill*, D.D., Bishop Of British Columbia 1859-1892. After serving as a curate at the Leeds Parish Church, where he was also lecturer, under the famous Dr Hook, he was appointed vicar of St Mary's in that town..........."

Reading Mercury Sat 21 Dec 1895 Berkshire, England CHURCH NEWS “ Rev. George Hills, D.D., first Bishop of British Columbia, and lately Vicar of Parham, Wickham Market, has died at the Vicarage, in his 80th year.

Will dated 5th October 1895, with three codicils dated Dec 6 1895 - proved on January 28 1896 by George Herbert Bent McSwiney, nephew, and Arthur Charles Hammersley, the Executors - the value of the personal estate amounting to 18,006 pounds.

Notice in the London Gazette: "The Right Reverend GEORGE HILLS D.D. formerly Bishop of BRITISH COLUMBIA and late Vicar of Parham in the county of Suffolk Deceased. Pursuant to the Act of Parliament 22nd and 23rd Vic* toria cap. 35. NOTICE is hereby given that all creditors and other persons having any claims or demands against the estate of the Right Reverend George Hills D.D. formerly Bishop of British Columbia and late Vicar of Parham in the county of Suffolk deceased and of Parham Vicarage in the said county of Suf folk (who died'on the 10th day of December 1895 at Parham Vicarage aforesaid and whose will was proved-by George Herbert Bent McSwiney (nephew) of 68 Lansdowne-place Brighton in the county of Sussex Esquire and Arthur Charles Hammersley (relative) of 16 Charing Cross in tbe county of Middlesex Esquire the executors therein named in the Principal Registry of the Probate Division of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice on the 28th day of January 1896) are hereby required to send the particulars in writing of their claims or demands to the undersigned Solicitors for the executors on or before the 3rd day of March 1896 after which date the said executors will proceed to distribute the assets, of tbe said deceased among the parties entitled thereto having regard only to the claims and demands of which they shall then have had notice and they will not be liable for the assets of the said deceased or any part thereof which may be so distributed to any person or persons of whose claims or demands .they shall not then have had notice.—Dated this 4th day of February 1896. FLADGATE and CO. Craig's-court Charing Cross London S.W. Solicitors for the above named Executors. "

Sources:

KING WILLIAM’S COLLEGE REGISTER, http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/kw1905/p001.htm: http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=40283&query=hills http://aabc.bc.ca/WWW.angbc.archbc/display.ANGSYNOD-608, Anglican Network: British Columbia Archival Union List (BCAUL)

1. University of British Columbia, Vancouver School of Theology, Special Collections - George Hills - leather-bound manuscript diaries with transcripts of Bishop George Hills, dated from 1860 to 1895.

2. "No Better Land": The 1860 Diaries of the Anglican Colonial Bishop George Hills" by Roberta L. Bagshaw: "This diary of Hills' first year in the Columbia Territory is a very important cultural and historical document of the colonial period...on horseback, on foot, in a canoe. ."Most people have expressed their opinion that I am looking altered from the effects of this journey. I certainly have had a rougher time than I ever experienced and I have had to do some amount of hard physical labour. My dress has become tattered, my shoes worn out and my appearance anything but clerical... Yet I have enjoyed my journey very much. ___From the diary entry dated July 30, 1860

photos, map, 308 pp

Also in the Archives on the wall are three pictures:

  • An unsigned copy of the same Portrait engraving of Bishop Hills that is in his descendant family's possession
  • An oil painting of the Bishop's consecration in Westminster Abbey in 1859
  • A photograph taken in 1890.

Note also: Vancouver Public Library - branch close to the Cathedral and Vancouver Hotel - Northwest History section - has book, reference N.W.283.711, p.35a, "The Anglican Church in British Columbia" by Francis A Peake (Mitchell Press, Vancouver , March 1959)

http://bcanglican.atspace.com/index.htm: First Anglican Bishops of British Columbia "The Bishop himself traveled continuously from post to post, by canoe, by Hudson's Bay steamboat, or on horseback. Long, solitary journeys he took as he went about "confirming the churches." Great were the hindrances that he met with from the elements above, the sparse accommodation and the uncouth jargon of the Indians (called the Chinook), which, through an interpreter, formed the only means by which he could make known the message which was ever ready to break from his lips; yet he persevered, though the progress was unsatisfactory and slow." Bishop Hills thus spoke to his Synod in June 1892, of the progress of the Church: "From the census of 1891, it appears that the Church of England has made greater progress in British Columbia than any other religious body, the progress being thirty-one per cent of the whole increase of population during the decade. Considering how peculiarly cosmopolitan, from special circumstances, the Pacific province has always been, its population having been gathered from all points, rather than direct from the mother country, this result is an encouragement to both clergy and laity of the Church of England."

Bishop Hills Memorial Church of St Mary the Virgin, located in Vancouver, is named for him

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hills

CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY ARCHIVE: http://www.ampltd.co.uk/digital_guides/cms_section_v_parts_2_to_4/introduction-to-part-4.aspx?h=Fort simpson

Section V: Missions to the Americas

Part 2: North West Canada, 18211880

Part 3: North West Canada, 18221930

Part 4: British Columbia, 18561925 including the Original Papers, 1856-1925, the Letter Books, 1881-1925 and the Précis Books, 1881-1925.

The Original Papers, pre 1880 include letters, journals and Annual Letters sent by missionaries, bishops and schoolmasters to the Secretary in London. The early papers pre 1880 are listed alphabetically by bishops, missionaries and others. Bishops listed are George Hills, British Columbia, William Carpenter Bompas, Athabasca and William Ridley, Caledonia.

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George Hills, 1st Bishop of British Columbia's Timeline

1816
June 26, 1816
Eythorne, Kent, UK
1865
January 4, 1865
Age 48
Madingley, Cambridgeshire, UK
1895
December 10, 1895
Age 79
Parham (St. Mary's), Suffolk, England
????
- present
Durham
????
- present
Durham
????