Piano made by John Hills about 1810
Photo courtesy Period Piano Co. Biddenden, Kent

Detail of Name Board

John HILLS was born in Lambeth, London in 1783 to John and Mary Hills, one of four sons of whom only John and a brother Thomas survived. Their grandfather was Mark HILLS. We know this because his father John Senior left a shilling in his will to his father; what Mark did to deserve this we have yet to discover and we know nothing more of Mark at this stage, though we believe that he had other descentants of whom we know nothing.

John Senior died in 1786 so the pianomaker did not know his father. In 1796, the same year that John Jr was apprenticed to Mr Edwards of Lambeth as a musical instrument maker, his mother Mary married a wealthy local bachelor named Samuel Sharp, who owned much property, including the building at Obelisk which was later to become John's pianoforte factory and shop.

John HILLS operated as a pianoforte manufacturer in the Southwark (Obelisk; St George) and later the Kennington areas of London from around 1805 until his death in 1831 aged just 48.

The business was then run by his wife, Ann HILLS nee AGG, with assistance from her eighteen year old son, William. William eventually took charge and ran the business until around 1845, when it closed.

William (1813-1894) then took to teaching music, styling himself, in the manner of the day, 'Professor of Music', as did his older brother, great-great-grandfather John HILLS (1808-1870), who married his first cousin Caroline Haynes in 1846, following the death of his first wife, Kath Frazer (b. Edinburgh) in childbirth.

We are keen to find descendants of William HILLS (born 6 Jul 1813, Newington, London) and Elizabeth CHERRY who was born at New Brentford, London on 3 May 1839, dau of James CHERRY and Elizabeth VOLCHMAN. Children were : Margaret born c1865 [married Wardle], Noel c 1868, Frank c 1870, and Frederick Herbert "Bertie" HILLS 1873. Living members of this family were all in Essex in both the 1881 and 1901 censuses. William Hills died at Bishop's Stortford in 1894; his wife Elizabeth HILLS nee Cherry, one of the first female graduates from the University of London, was listed as a schoolmistress, living in Ilford, aged 61, in the 1901 census.

I am delighted to say that descendants of John and Caroline HILLS son (William's nephew), John Leslie HILLS (born 26th September 1847) have been found in South Australia. That leaves possible descendants of William Haynes HILLS (born 1870 - son of John Leslie and Maria HILLS) who was last seen around 1900 heading for Canada.

We are also keen to find descendants of pianomaker John's brother, Thomas HILLS and Hannah Sarah COLLINS. Thomas was a carpenter also in the Lambeth area at the same time as John was making pianos. Thomas died in 1836 in Lambeth. His son, Thomas, married Matilda GATLAND in 1836 (Camberwell) and they had three children, Hannah, Emily and Thomas.

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Last Updated 24 September 2012