Abraham Hill 1635 – 1721

Abraham Hill was a merchant in the City of London, who was a member of the Council of the Royal Society and named in the King’s Charter, dated 22 April 1663.

Abraham was baptised on 16 June 1635 at St Dionis Backchurch, the son of Richard Hill and Agnes Trewolla. His father was a merchant and Alderman of London, who was appointed by the Long Parliament as Treasurer of Sequestrations in the summer of 1642, and acted in that capacity until 1649.

His father’s family came from Devon, and his mother Agnes Trewolla, was the daughter of Thomas Trewolla of Mevagissey and related to the Rashleighs of Fowey (the 19th century Rashleigh Vicars of Horton Kirby are from this family).

Abraham joined his father and became a successful business man, and after his father died in January 1660 inherited “an ample fortune”. Hill does not seem to have attended any known London schools, so probably did not have a long formal education but he studied and taught himself several languages as well as natural and moral philosophy, and was a book and coin collector.

After his father’s death he hired chambers in Gresham College, where he had frequent opportunities of conversing with learned men.

When the Royal Society was granted it’s Royal Charter on 22nd April 1663, Hill was named as a member of the Council, and on 30th November 1663 he was elected as Treasurer of the Society, a post he held until 30th November 1665. Some 24 years later, on 1st December 1679 he was re-elected as Treasurer, and remained so until 30th November 1700.

At the accession of William and Mary in 1689, Hill became a Commissioner of Trade, and when John Tillotson became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1691 he appointed Hill his comptroller. In the next reign (Queen Anne 1702-1715) Hill resigned his seat at the board of trade, and retired to his estate of St. John’s in Sutton-at-Hone, Kent, which he had purchased in 1665. He died on 5 Feb. 1721, and was buried in the chancel of Sutton Church.

Abraham Hill had married first, Anne (d. 1661), daughter of Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke, knt., by whom he had a son, Richard (1660–1721), and a daughter, Frances (1658–1736). a spinster. He married again to Elizabeth (1644–1672), daughter of Michael Pratt of Bromley-by-Bow, Middlesex, but they had no children.

Hill wrote a life of Isaac Barrow, prefixed to the first volume of the latter’s ‘Works,’ published in 1683, and reissued in subsequent editions. A selection from Hill’s correspondence was edited by Thomas Astle from the manuscript in his possession, and published as ‘Familiar Letters which passed between A. Hill and several eminent and ingenious persons of the last century,’ 8vo, London, 1767. The manuscript of this correspondence, together with many other papers of Hill and his father, is now preserved among the Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum, where are also ten volumes of Hill’s commonplace books, his official memoranda as Commissioner of Trade, and his letters to Sir Hans Sloane, 1697–1720.

Hill was also the friend and correspondent of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys, and a kinsman of Abigail Hill, afterwards Lady Masham.

A portrait of Abraham Hill

An excellent article published by The Royal Society in July 1960 is available to download, and has a lot of information about Abraham Hill’s life and career.